Open Studentship Competition – the application process

Updated: 25th October 2021

The LISS DTP Open Studentship Competition for October 2022 entry – Apply now!

Deadline for applications: Friday, 28th January 2022 (17:00 GMT)

The steps below guide you through the application process for either the 1+3 (Master’s + PhD) or +3 (PhD only) award format.

How to Apply

You should apply for EITHER a 1+3 OR a +3 studentship; DO NOT apply for both formats. 

Deciding whether to apply for a 1+3 or +3 studentship will depend on three things:

1) Do you already have a Masters degree?  If not, you should apply for a 1+3 studentship and simultaneously apply for the Masters programme you wish to undertake at the institution of your choice.  Look at the LISS DTP Thematic Pathways webpages to determine a Masters programme that best fits your research interests.  If you are interested in a Masters programme that is not listed under a LISS Thematic Pathway, please contact your supervisor to discuss whether it falls within LISS DTP’s research remit and contains the required amount of core social science methods training.

Please refer to the Core Training Requirements page to better understand the kind of well-rounded social science training expected by the ESRC for its funded students.  If your Masters programme of choice covers at least 75%  of these core training elements within its module options, you will be able to take additional modules from the LISS DTP programme to make up the remaining 25%.

2)  Is your existing Masters degree in a significantly different field of study from your proposed doctoral project?  Please consult your proposed academic supervisor if you are unsure of this.  If the change in fields of study is significant, you should also apply for a 1+3 studentship and follow the process  above, choosing and applying for a relevant Masters programme at the institution of your choice to gain the necessary background knowledge to then undertake your PhD.

3) For a limited number of doctoral programmes affiliated with certain LISS DTP Pathways, a MRes degree is required for entry onto the doctorate.  If this is the case for your doctoral programme of choice, you should apply for a 1+3 studentship to cover the MRes plus PhD degrees.

Please note: your MPhil year is generally considered to be the first year of your doctoral degree (before your upgrade process).  You should not apply for a 1+3 degree to cover a MPhil year.

If you have a Masters degree in a relevant discipline to your proposed doctoral research: if you already have a Masters degree in a relevant research area to your proposed doctoral project and there are no MRes requirements for your doctorate of choice, you should apply for a +3 studentship, provided that your Masters degree has provided training in approx. 75% or more of the Core Training Requirements specified by the ESRC.

On the +3 Studentship Application Form, you will be asked to outline your existing research methods training, gained from past academic study, work or professional experience.  If, after reviewing the Core Training Requirements page, you feel that you cannot demonstrate on your application form that you have covered at least 75% of what is outlined, please discuss your options with your supervisor.   It is likely that you will be required to undertake additional Masters level study (apply for a 1+3 award).

On the  LISS DTP application form you will be asked which LISS DTP Thematic Pathway your work is most closely affiliated with.  This does not have to be a perfect fit, but you can use the descriptions on those pages and the content of the linked Masters programmes as a guide. If successful, this is the pathway you will be aligned with when you join the LISS DTP.

Important Note: you must simultaneously apply for the masters or doctoral programme at the institution and department/research centre/institute that best fits your research interests as well as submitting your LISS DTP application Form. This should be where your primary supervisor is based.

1+3 and +3 studentships awarded as part of LISS DTP’s Open competition are applicant-generated, ie. there is not an existing project catalog created by academics from which to choose a project.  You need to develop a general sense of the research project you want to pursue and then approach an academic at one of our three partner institutions to see if they will act as your supervisor and help you to refine your project idea as necessary.  As you’ll see from our application forms, if you are applying for a 1+3 award you are not expected to have as fully-formed a research proposal as someone who is applying for a +3 award and already has a Masters degree.

Staff bios on departmental websites are a good place to start to find academics who share your research interests.  You can also approach academics within departments who are designated as ‘PGR or PhD tutors’ or administrative staff responsible for PGRs.  It is relevant to do this even if you’re applying for a 1+3 award and will need to undertake a Masters first because a condition of a 1+3 award is that you’ll continue immediately into a PhD programme after your Masters is completed.  It’s therefore strongly advised that you choose a supervisor for your Masters degree/thesis who will continue to act as a PhD supervisor for you.

If you will be undertaking a Masters programme, you can also look at the modules on the Masters programme for which you’re applying: who teaches those modules?  Those academics are likely well-placed to supervise or suggest colleagues with similar interests who might be willing to supervise your project.

To apply for a LISS DTP studentship, YOU MUST ALSO apply to join the Masters or a doctoral programme of your choice at King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London or Imperial College. 

Your university application through their online admissions system must be completed before the LISS DTP studentship application deadline.  It is your responsibility to ensure that your admissions application and all related material including transcripts and your reference are available by the LISS DTP’s closing date for applications. LISS DTP will download your transcripts and reference from your university application to be included in your studentship application.

Please check your individual degree programme deadlines, as they may be earlier than the LISS DTP one, and ensure that you meet those as well.

Students who have already applied to their host university via the admissions process and those who have applied in the previous academic year but have deferred entry do not need to re-apply.  Current first year doctoral students are not required to submit a new admissions application.  Your primary supervisor will still need to complete a supervisor reference form on your behalf for your LISS DTP application.

In the section of your institutional admissions application form labelled ‘Funding’, please indicate that you are applying for ESRC studentship funding.

Apply to a King’s College London Masters or PhD programme.

Apply to a Queen Mary University of London Masters or PhD programme.

Apply to an Imperial College London Masters or PhD programme.

Each LISS DTP application has four parts and all must be submitted by the LISS DTP closing date, 28 January 2022, 17:00 GMT:

  1. An online LISS DTP student application form (either 1+3 or +3).  A link to the form is given under Step 6 below.
  2. A supervisor statement. The applicant’s proposed primary supervisor must complete the appropriate (1+3 or +3) online form. A link to the form is given under Step 6 below.
  3. A copy of your degree transcripts (or interim transcript) should be emailed as attachments to with the subject surname_initial_transcript .  You should request your transcript from the relevant university well in advance as they can take some time to be supplied.  If you are unable to supply a final transcript you  should include an interim transcript to show your progress to date.   If you are applying for a +3 (PhD only) studentship, we would expect to see transcripts for both  undergraduate and masters degrees.  Degree certificates are not acceptable; we need to receive transcripts with your module names/credits/grades listed on them.  If your transcripts are in a language other than English please have them translated.
  4. A reference from a person other than your supervisor who can testify to your potential to undertake doctoral study should be emailed as an attachment to  with ‘student surname_referee surname_reference’ in the subject line.

All four parts must be submitted buy the deadline of 28 January 2022, 17:00 GMT.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure all components of the application are submitted by the deadline. Incomplete applications will be rejected.

The Open Competition Application Form

Guidance on answering each question is provided in the ‘extra info’ under each question.

We strongly recommend that you consult with your proposed primary supervisor, who will provide a supporting statement for you, before starting the online form and prepare all the materials you need to answer the questions in advance of starting to work on the application form.  PDFs of the application form are available under ‘Step 6’  so that you can prepare answers in advance, adhering to character limits.

Once you start the online form, data you enter WILL NOT be saved unless you click the ‘Finish later’ link at the bottom of the form page where you are working.

If you click on the ‘Finish later’ link (at the bottom of each form page) you will be taken to a page giving the application form’s closing date and a ‘finish later’ URL.  You can use this URL to return to the application at the page on which you clicked the ‘Finish later’ link.  You can either bookmark the URL in your browser, or ask for the URL to be emailed to you.  It is your responsibility to accurately enter your email address or bookmark the ‘finish later’ link to be able to resume the survey.  LISS DTP cannot reunite you with your unfinished application if you have lost your ‘Finish later’ link.

Your proposed primary supervisor should complete the appropriate ‘supervisor statement form’. Should they ask to see a copy of your completed application, please ensure you redact your form to exclude any equality and diversity data before you circulate to your supervisory team. Links to the statement forms can be found on the Studentships page.

Supervisor Statement

Supervisors must be submit their online statement form (either +3 or 1+3 as appropriate) by the deadline of  28 January 2022 17:00 GMT.   A link to the forms is under ‘Step 6’ below.

Links to the online 1+3 and +3 application forms and the supervisor statement forms are  below.  We would recommend that you download the PDF outline of your online application form (both available below), so that you can prepare in advance for the questions you’ll be asked in the online form.


+3 Forms

+3 Online Application Form for submission to the LISS DTP

+3 Online Supervisor Statement Form for submission to the LISS DTP

PDF LISS DTP +3 Application Form  (to allow you to prepare answers)

PDF +3 Supervisor Statement Form (to allow you to prepare answers)


1+3 Forms

1+3 Online Application Form for submission to the LISS DTP

1+3 Online Supervisor Statement Form for submission to the LISS DTP

PDF 1+3 Application Form (to allow you to prepare answers)

PDF 1+3 Supervisor Statement Form (to allow you to prepare answers)

After the 28th January 2022,  LISS DTP  will check that it has the full documentation for your application. You will be notified by email approximately a week after the submission deadline whether we have received all necessary materials for your application to proceed.

Eligible applications will then be circulated to academic reviewers in each Pathway for scoring according to assessment criteria (see step 8 below).  The scores and comments of reviewers are then used by Panels in each of five Research Clusters to produce a ranking of applicants.  The five Research Cluster Panel rankings are then used by a high-level Panel to decide on the final award of studentships.

Applicants who have been considered for a studentship will be informed of the outcome by 19th April 2022.

Successful applicants will be asked to accept/decline the studentship off by a given deadline.  If a successful candidate fails to respond by the deadline or declines the offer, their award will automatically be transferred to a reserve candidate who is next in line for the award.

Owing to the large number of applications we receive, we regret that we are unable to give feedback on unsuccessful applications.

Your application will be assessed by academic reviewers according to the following criteria.



Student Research Potential

(weighted 60% for 1+3; 40% for +3)

Scientific Quality of Proposal

(weighted 40% for 1+3, 60% for +3)


As evidenced in the personal statement, academic references; academic transcripts, degree results, and other credentials such as prizes, academic awards or publications; and, where appropriate, professional qualifications and/or relevant experience. (Some candidates may have developed relevant and rounded expertise in core research methods in other contexts, and panels may decide that this broadly equivalent background is sufficient.)

Relevant questions to consider include:

  • Does the proposal have a clear research question(s) and proposed methodologies/strategy to answer the question(s)?
  • Is the proposal clear and well-written?
  • Is the proposed work plan achievable in a 3-year PhD degree/1-year Masters + 3 year PhD?
  • Does the proposed research fill a gap in existing literature and offer an individual contribution/potential for contribution to knowledge in its field?
  • Does the proposal demonstrate the broader social value of the research?
  •  Does the proposed research fit within the strategic priorities of the department and institution where the applicant will be based, the fit of the project with LISS DTP’s remits, and the fit with the remit of the ESRC?


6 Outstanding:
Exceptional demonstration of progress through school and university education (1st in undergrad, distinction in Masters if applicable); top-class relevant degree(s) from departments renowned in the student’s field of study; awards/prizes for academic achievement; publication of student’s research, additional research experience (professional or academic) the proposed research is of exceptional merit and will make a very considerable scientific contribution and greatly enhance the research environment of the host department/research group
5 Excellent:
Excellent demonstration of progress through school and university education (1st in undergrad, distinction in Masters if applicable); top-class relevant degree(s); awards/prizes for academic achievement OR additional research experience (professional or academic)

 proposed research is of significant merit and very likely to make an important scientific contribution and  enhance the research environment of the host department/research group


4 Very Good:
Very good demonstration of progress through school and university education (1st or 2:1 with evidence of first class work in undergrad, distinction or merit in Master’s if applicable); relevant degree; possible, additional research experience (professional or academic).

 the proposed research is of merit and likely to make an important scientific contribution and enhance the research environment of the host department/research group


3 Good:
good performance through school and university education (1st or 2:1, merit in Master’s if applicable); relevant degree from a department relevant to the student’s field of study; possibly some evidence of additional research or relevant work experience. the proposed research is of some merit and has potential to make a scientific contribution and enhance the research environment of the host department/research group
2 Marginal:
a 2:1 or 1st ; merit or pass in Master’s if applicable; somewhat relevant degree the proposed research offer some limited merit but may not be of a consistently high quality and/or are less likely to make much of a contribution to knowledge or the research environment of the host department/research group
1 Reject:
partially relevant degree (e.g. joint honours); no other redeeming indicators of academic achievement; experience limited to undergraduate projects; pass grades obtained

the proposed research is not worthy of scarce funding and will not make a scientific contribution or enhance the research environment of the host department/research group