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Sussex wins bid for ESRC Doctoral Training Centre

The University of Sussex has been successful in its bid to be accredited by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as a Doctoral Training Centre.

The ESRC is establishing a national network of 21 Centres to deliver postgraduate training in the social sciences. Nine of them involve a consortium of collaborating institutions.

Professor Stephen Shute, who led the Sussex bid, says: "The competition was intense. Only 21 applications were successful, and only 12 Doctoral Training Centres have been awarded to individual institutions that are not part of a consortium. I'm delighted that we're one of them."

The Doctoral Training Centre at Sussex will receive around £3.5m in funding. With matched funding, this allows the University to provide up to 110 three-year studentships (covering fees and living costs) over the next five years, with the first ones starting in October 2011.

The Centre will encourage the development of a coherent University-wide infrastructure that draws on expertise in the social sciences across campus - including anthropology, law, politics, sociology, economics, psychology, education, social work, migration studies, science and technology policy, and development studies.

This should lead to greater opportunities for Sussex to develop innovative approaches and the interdisciplinary training required to address increasingly complex research questions.

The bid was structured around six innovative, thematic 'pathways'. These map directly on to ESRC research priorities and each of them incorporates individual programmes that build on existing ESRC-recognised provision.

A Director will now be appointed and will develop a five-year project plan for the Doctoral Training Centre.

The new Director will be supported by a board containing (among others) leaders from the six pathways, and will report to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Bob Allison.

Professor Allison says: "There is a strong interdisciplinary tradition and practice at Sussex and our successful bid provides evidence of a future commitment to this.

"This Doctoral Training Centre will be extremely important for Sussex in terms of our research standing and the recruitment of postgraduate research students in the social sciences."

His comments are borne out by the ESRC, which says: "We only considered accrediting institutions which demonstrated true excellence.

"Accredited institutions have provided clear evidence of high quality in their proposed training provision and have also shown a willingness to innovate both in its content and structure."

The ESRC's main objective is to raise standards of postgraduate training across the social sciences, delivered through the creation of a new national Doctoral Training Network. This moves the ESRC away from its previous system of accrediting courses at individual universities.

In addition, the ESRC is keen to encourage Doctoral Training Centres to develop innovative methods of collaboration with public, private and third-sector organisations. It has also said that 10% of all awards should have a strong focus on advanced quantitative methods.

Full list of accredited Doctoral Training Centres

The ESRC Doctoral Training Centre at Sussex comes alongside other Research Council funding already secured by Sussex:

  • Doctoral Training Grants from the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and the MRC (Medical Research Council);
  • Block Grant Partnership funding from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council);
  • and quota studentships from the STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council).

By: Alison Field
Last updated: Thursday, 27 January 2011

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