There's a few things I just can't work out about these despite looking through all the literature on the ESRC website. The thing I'm unclear about is who actually selects who wins funding. As I understand it unis nominate students and then the ESRC chooses who will win funding from these nominations. But how many students do the unis nominate for each award? As many as are offered a PG place? And wouldn't unis decide themselves internally who they want to win funding then simply nominate 1 person for the award available, then they are guarenteed, right? This way the uni has the power to chose over the ESRC.
Supposing that a number of unis are willing to nominate you. How best to decide who to go with? Surely this depends on how many nominees the uni is putting forward for each award. Is there any way of finding out this information, even asking them? Else it would be a gamble: go with the more prestigious uni, risk not getting a place becaues there's likely to be many nominees the uni puts forward.
Go with a less prestigious uni, more chance of getting a place but if you do the uni isn't as good. How do you decide such things?
Also, if anyone has any other knowledge about ESRC quota funding I'd love to hear it! I'm applying for a +3 award if that makes a difference. What things decide who is most likely to win. UG grade, references, proposal, fit between supervisor/topic?
well as you know by now, it is complicated!
There are two kinds of nominations. a) quota nomination and b) open competition nomination.
a) in relation to the last RAE results, every department got allocated a specific number of quota awards. at my department, that was 2 (compared to about 20 new PhD students every year). The department now decides independently who should get those awards. They can invite applications and then choose from those, or they can contact promising Masters students (or undergrads, for the 1+3), or nominate existing 1st year PhD students. They forward these nominations to the ESRC. The ESRC checks the nominations for formalities but NOT for quality. That means, if the department selected you for a quota nomination, you are as good as set.
b) further to those (for example) 2 quota nominations, the department can nominate 1 or 2 other applicants for the open competition. the ESRC has about a 100 (i think) studentships that are not distributed by the quota system. about 300-400 students from all britain compete for these awards. but as far as I understand, you can only compete if your department nominates you for the open competition. so a department that has 2 quota places might nominate the third best candidate for the open competition. this means you have two hurdles to take: first, you need to be selected by the department as third best. second, you need to be selected by the ESRC as a highest-priority applicant.
so as to your strategic questions:
- if more than one university offers you a quota place, you can simply choose which one you like better. quota places are as good as guaranteed.
- if a prestigious uni offers to nominate you for the open competition, but a less prestigious uni offers you a quota place, it gets harder. take the sparrow in the hand or the dove on the roof? do you want the funding for sure, or the "maybe-funding-plus-prestige"?
- if more than one uni offers to nominate you for the open competition, you need to decide for yourself which one of those nominations bears more chances. it has, however, nothing to do with how many other students are nominated by these universities.
- you can apply for quota places/open competition nominations to as many universities as you want. however, you can accept only ONE nomination (either for a quota place or the open competition). only one of your applications can go forward to the ESRC.
and finally, about the criteria: - first, when applying on department-level, the criteria of the department count, and they can vary. if you can convince a department to give you a quota place, you don't need to worry about the ESRC criteria. if you can "only" convince them to give you an open competition place, your next step is to match the ESRC criteria for highest-priority projects. you will get a chance to re-write your project for that. - second, on ESRC level, if you have a quota place, you are as good as set. if you have an open competition nomination, criteria are NOT primarily grades, supervisor match, etc. but rather: does your project match the ESRC priority topics (can be found on their homepage)? Does your project promise some economic profit - can it be used for "applied" social science, will the expected results be "useful"? (sad but true). There are other criteria of course.
so, if you get an open competition nomination, i would advise you to ask your department for previous students' successful applications in the open competition. that way you can get an idea of what is expected, what detail of project description for example.
if you are nominated for the open competition, your department WANTS you to win the place, because that means additional funding for THEM, too. so they will support you and help you to put together a good application.
i hope that helps. good luck!
This funding is very pretigious and only offer to graduate who are most promising. Shani was spot on with the scheme /allocation of funding. Your supervisor/department only chooses the student with very good chance in gaining the studentship to complete . And Yes there are 100 studentship per year but it can also offered to the students who are currently studying a Phd . To apply, you would need at least a 2.1 undergrauate degree and 70% in the key subjects from your previous degree (e.g Biochemistry modules ) from a recognise university .
You would also need some experience in research, but it would be provided if you were chosen . To be honest , there are much greater chance in obtaining a studentship from Wellcome trust (but they are mostly 4 year course ). I would contact your supervisor on the day of the interview !
Thanks very much for all that info shani, very useful :)
I'm glad to hear that it's more or less down to the unis who gets the funding. This means that applying to quite a few as I am (about 4-5) means that you have a greater chance, because if it was the ESRC who decided you would apply to different unis, they would all more or less accept you, then you would have to go with *one* uni.
Just to clarify, I do have this right don't I? As you said:
"you can apply for quota places/open competition nominations to as many universities as you want. however, you can accept only ONE nomination (either for a quota place or the open competition). only one of your applications can go forward to the ESRC."
But with quota it isn't an issue only being able to accept one nomination, because that is the only hurdle to winning the funding?
By the way shani I'm going the nomination route, so the open competition isn't an option for me! You're only allowed to go one way or the other right?
The other thing that worries me is you said your department has two nominations for 20 new students... is it this competitive everywhere?!
masters: The Wellcome trust seems mainly to be for natural sciences?
glad to hear the info was useful.
yes you can apply to many universities. but only one of those applications can go forward to the ESRC. but if you are offered a quota place, that doesn't matter as it is as good as set. just take care to inform any uni that offers you a quota place which you don't want (because you have another one that you like better) very quickly, so that they can offer it to someone else.
the open competition might yet become important - if none of the unis offers you a quota place but some do offer you a competition place instead. it is not a separate application on that level. you apply for quota but are just third-best, you get the open competition instead.
about the 20 students for 2 quota places: well the majority of those 20 aren't eligible for ESRC funding. or, they go ahead selffunded although they didn't get it. i heard that there are usually 8-10 applications for those 2 quota places and one open competition place at our dept.
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