Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (NERC)

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Run by Faculty of Science Faculty of Life Sciences
Awards available PhD
Programme length Three-and-a-half years full-time (minimum period of funding), four years full-time (maximum period of study)
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Start date September 2021

Programme overview

The Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP) comprises the University of Bristol, University of Bath, Cardiff University, University of Exeter, British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

The partnership provides a multidisciplinary training environment for postgraduate students in NERC sciences. Due to the nature of the funding, this programme is open primarily to UK students. EU student eligibility is still to be confirmed. There will be a limited number of studentships available to international students.

This NERC-funded doctoral training partnership programme offers studentships for 42 months within three research themes: Dynamic Earth, Living World and Changing Planet.

As part of your PhD studies, you will be offered training that equips you with a range of skills for future employment in many different working environments. You will be expected to attend training during your PhD and are encouraged to take up work placements. Details of training can be found at

PhD projects are available in earth and environmental science topics within the Schools of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Geographical Sciences. New projects are advertised annually from October on each school's website: 

Fees for 2021/22

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2021/22 are as follows:

UK: full-time
UK: part-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2021/22

Full studentships start September 2021.

International applicants (including EU)

UKRI have recently updated their policy for funded studentships for international students and we are currently waiting on guidance from UKRI and our GW4+ partner institutions.

For the time being, and until that guidance emerges, we cannot accept applications from international applicants for these funded studentships.

Please be understanding that this is a complex policy change. It is also important to note that, should the situation change and we move to accepting applications from international applicants, there will be, at best, a very limited number of funded studentships available for international applicants and the applicant may need to provide substantial additional funding (eg the balance between 'home' and 'overseas' fees).

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class degree or higher (or international equivalent) in a discipline related to the PhD project for which you are applying, such as geology, biological sciences, environmental sciences, chemistry or geography. Some projects may be suitable for those with computing, mathematics, engineering and physics degrees. Applicants with additional relevant experience and/or a master's degree are encouraged to apply.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile E
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

Our approach to training is centred around our three research themes:

  • Dynamic Earth
    • Natural hazards
    • Solid earth and planetary geology
    • Resources
  • Living World
    • Ecology, conservation and biodiversity
    • Genomes and evolution
    • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Changing Planet
    • Atmospheres, oceans and ice
    • Climate change impacts and sustainability
    • Water

Staff profiles

For information about potential PhD supervisors in Bristol, please see individual project entries relevant to the school to which you wish to apply.

Application deadline:

8 January 2021

To apply for this programme, you must select 'Faculty of Science' and then 'NERC Great Western Four plus Doctoral Training Partnership (PhD)' within the online application form. You should refer to the project and supervisor in your application, indicate in the funding section that you will be funded by the GW4+ DTP, and choose the correct school of study. We welcome and encourage student applications from under-represented groups. We value a diverse research environment. If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement. Please note that although an applicant may be successful in being nominated by a supervisor for a particular project, they are not guaranteed a studentship until they have been successful following an interview.

Open days and visits

Find out how to attend one of our upcoming online events.

Get in touch

Frances Robertson Bristol NERC GW4+ DTP Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 331 5426 Email:

School of Earth Sciences
Wills Memorial Building
Queen's Road
Bristol BS8 1RJ

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

REF 2014 results

Please see full REF 2014 results for the University of Bristol; in particular, the scores for subject areas 7, 8, 9, 10 and 17a.

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.


Important disclaimer information about our programmes.

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