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The University of Reading is part of the South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS), a prestigious doctoral training partnership funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). SeNSS will be offering a number of fully funded ESRC doctoral studentships to start in autumn 2023.

SeNSS studentships include a UKRI stipend / living allowance (currently £ 17668 forr 2022/3), tuition fees at the UK/Republic of Ireland rate and provide innovative and challenging doctoral training in an interdisciplinary research environment.

This includes a wide range of subject-specific, generic and advanced training tailored to your individual needs, as well as opportunities for overseas visits and fieldwork. As a SeNSS doctoral student, you will become part of a cohort of fellow SeNSS students which will offer support and networking opportunities.

Studentships are available as three- (PhD) or four-year awards (master's and PhD) and on a full- or part-time basis. You do not need a Master's qualification to apply for a SeNSS studentship. 

The University of Reading participates in nine ESRC SeNSS subject pathways.

How to apply

1. Make contact early 

In order to develop a successful application it is  very important for you to identify an appropriate supervisor at an early stage. As a first step, contact the pathway lead for your subject area from the list below to let them know you are interested in applying. Provide brief details of your area of research interest and prior qualifications. (Note that it is not always necessary to hold a master's degree.)  As well as ensuring your pathway lead is aware of your interest, you can also contact prospective supervisors directly by consulting the staff pages of departments relevant to your area (see subject pathways). You are strongly advised to complete this step as soon as possible.  

2. Develop your research proposal with a prospective supervisor

Over the autumn term you will need to be developing your application and a research proposal proactively. A well-developed research proposal will need to be ready by early January. In this competition, research proposals must be the work of the student applying or your application can be disqualified. However, it is expected that your supervisor will review a draft of your research proposal and application and provide guidance to develop and strengthen your application as appropriate. This support and guidance is essential for a successful application – if you are having difficulty identifying a supervisor it is best to discuss this with a pathway lead. 

The next steps will be to apply separately for a place of (a) admission on a PhD programme and (b) SeNSS funding.

3. Apply for a place of admission

An application for a place on a PhD programme is a separate step to applying for SeNSS funding. Apply for a place of admission on your chosen PhD programme at Reading as soon as possible to enable time for application processing and interview. If you are uncertain of the correct PhD programme, this can be discussed with your prospective supervisor or a School Director of Postgraduate Research Studies for your subject. The online application process will request a research proposal be uploaded; this need not be the final version developed with your prospective supervisor. You may upload an earlier version of the proposal with a note that you are developing it for application to SeNSS. In the "scholarship applied for" box, write "SeNSS".  At the very latest, your admissions application must be completed by Wednesday 11 January 2023 but it will be beneficial to your application to apply well before this deadline.  When you have applied, keep a note of your applicant ID number.

Apply for a place on a PhD programme 

4. Apply for SeNSS funding via HEIApply

The application for a SeNSS award will need to be submitted via an external online platform called HEIApply. This is a separate step to applying for a place on a PhD programme; if you have not applied through HEIApply by the stated deadline you will not be considered for SeNSS funding. The HEIApply application must be finalised and submitted by 12.00 noon on Friday 20 January 2023.   

We advise you set up your account in HEApply, enter basic details of your application and provide early details of your referees about a month before the final deadline. HEIApply will contact your referees to ask for references.  

You may find it easier to do detailed work on your application offline at first. A Word document capturing all the questions will be provided here shortly. This can be used to help develop a draft application. When your draft application is finalised and polished, copy and paste responses into HEIApply and submit your application. 

Various application guidance documents for students and supervisors are available on the SeNSS website

After the deadline, pathway leads in the University will shortlist candidates in each pathway to progress to the next stage of the competition.  


Results will be available in spring 2023.


Eligibility criteria

In order to receive ESRC studentship funding you must meet the eligibility criteria set out by the ESRC; see SeNSS eligibility criteria ( for further information. Individual departments can advise about the English language requirements for your chosen PhD programme at Reading.

Applications are open to UK and international applicants. ESRC and University  of Reading funding covers tuition fees at the UK/Republic of Ireland rate; for international candidates offered a SeNSS award, the difference between UK/Republic of Ireland and international fees will be covered by the University of Reading. The studentships do not fund professional doctorates (e.g. DBA, EdD) or PhD by distance.

Applications from under-represented groups are encouraged.   


Subject pathways

The University of Reading participates in the nine SeNSS subject pathways, listed below. Interdisciplinary applications spanning two of the nine pathways are welcomed. If you are seeking a supervisor, use the links and contacts below to help you.


Business and Management

Schools/Departments:Henley Business School, School of Agriculture, Policy & Development.

Pathway contact:  Davide Castellani,


Development Studies

Schools/Departments: School of Agriculture, Policy & Development; School of Politics, Economics and International Relations; Department of Geography and Environmental Science.

Pathway contact:  Dr Alex Arnall,, Professor Henny Osbahr,

See some of Reading's research in this area.  See Global Development Division.



Schools/Departments: Department of Economics

Pathway contact:  Dr Stefania Lovo, 

See Reading's research and supervisors in this area. 



Schools/Departments: Institute of Education

Pathway contacts: Dr Naomi Flynn,

See some of Reading's research and supervisors in this area here and here.


Human Geography

Schools/Departments: Department of Real Estate and Planning; School of the Built Environment.

Pathway contacts: Professor Kathy Pain,, Dr Richard Nunes,, Dr Florence Phua, .

Reading's research and supervisors in this area: Real Estate and Planning research and supervisorsBuilt Environment Research Divisionsupervisors in Architecturesupervisors in Construction Management.



Schools/Departments: Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics; School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences.

Pathway contacts: Dr Ian Cunnings,; Professor Rodney Jones,                     

See some examples of Reading's research and supervisors in linguistics: Centre for Literacy and MultilingualismPsycholinguistics Labsupervisors in the Department of English Language and Applied LinguisticsSupervisors in the School of Psychology and Clinical Languageresearch in Language, Literacy and Education.


Politics and International Studies

Schools/Departments: School of Politics and International Relations

Pathway contact: Dr Alan Cromartie,

See Reading's research in this area.



Schools/Departments: School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences

Pathway contact: Professor Judi Ellis / Dr Julia Vogt,

See Reading's research and supervisors  in this area. 


Socio-Legal Studies

Schools/Departments: School of Law

Pathway contact: Professor Grace James,

See Reading's research in this area.


SeNSS postdoctoral fellowships 2023

We invite expressions of interest for the ESRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellowships to start in October 2023. The fellowship is aimed at providing career development opportunities through producing publications, building work networks, and strengthening research and professional skills for those who are within 12 months of completing their PhD. Proposals are welcome from both single disciplines and combinations of disciplines, but the fellowship activities must be based at least 50 per cent within the social sciences.  Funding is provided for up to one year full-time, or up to two years part-time. In exceptional cases, applicants can apply for a fellowship for up to 18 months; however, this must be fully justified by the programme of activities being proposed. Funding for this fellowship is available at 80 per cent of the full economic costs covering the Fellow's salary, indirect and estate costs and up to £10,000 of other costs (e.g. mentoring, travel and subsistence, conference attendance, networking, training and fieldwork). 

Applicants to the University of Reading can apply to the following pathways: 

  • Business and Management Studies
  • Development Studies
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Human Geography
  • Linguistics
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Socio-legal Studies

To apply applicants need to meet the following criteria: 

1) completed a PhD at a research organisation that is part of a current ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP

2) been awarded a PhD or submitted the thesis and passed the viva voce by 23rd March 2023 (PhD must be awarded by 1 October 2023) 

3) have no more than 12 months of active post-doctoral experience (excluding career breaks) 

4) have secured the support of 2 mentors, one based at the home institution, and one at another SeNSS institution 

More information on the scheme with the guidance and the necessary documentation, including the EoI form, can be found at SeNSS Postdoctoral Fellowships website. 

For more information contact Sally Caldwell at including their name and proposed SeNSS pathway in the first instance. 

Deadline for Expression of Interest (EoI): 4:00pm GMT 16th January 2023. Full stage application is to be completed via HEIapply by 23rd March 2023 and is by invitation-only.