These Guidance Notes should be read before completing your online application for a PhD Studentship. Any queries should be sent to [email protected].

Contents

1. What is a Medical Research Scotland (MRS) PhD Studentship?
2. What projects are eligible?
3. Who can apply?
4. What must the Administering Institution provide?
5. What is an External Partner Organisation (EPO)? What must they provide?
6. How many Supervisors can be appointed? Can they be from another institution?
7. Can I supervise more than one Studentship?
8. What about other collaborators?
9. Will MRS fund projects involving animal research?
10. What information does MRS require about ethics, regulatory issues and consents for the proposed research?
11. What funding do the PhD Studentships awards provide?
12. What else does MRS provide?
13. Under what criteria will my application be assessed?
14. Who will assess my application?
15. How are applications submitted?
16. How do I complete an application?
17. Can I submit figures or tables with an application?
18. How do I sign an application and who has to sign it?
21. How is a student appointed to the PhD Studentship?
22. What happens at the start of the PhD Studentship?
23. When and how must progress reports be submitted?
24. How do we receive payments from MRS?

 

1. What is a Medical Research Scotland (MRS) PhD Studentship?

A four year fully funded (at UK/EU rates) full time PhD Studentships designed to provide a first-class PhD Studentship programme to research into any matter relating to human health. Each Studentship is a collaboration between an academic institution and an External Partner Organisations (EPOs) that can be commercial or non-commercial. The combination of academic PhD training and career development augmented by training and experiences delivered by the EPO give students excellent foundations for their future careers.

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2. What projects are eligible?

Proposed projects must be academically stimulating and address a question of relevance to human health or disease. They can be in any discipline.

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3. Who can apply?

The application must be made by a recognised Scottish University/Research Institution (the Administering Institution) working in conjunction with an External Partner Organisation (EPO) outside the University.

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4. What must the Administering Institution provide?

A minimum of two suitably qualified Supervisors (the Principal and Second Supervisors); an approved academic PhD programme of study, including training and transferable skills development; and appropriate facilities to successfully complete the research. See also the PhD Standard Conditions Applying to the Award of Medical Research Scotland Research Funding.

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5. What is an External Partner Organisation? What must they provide?

The EPO has to be external to the University where the Studentship is held; it can be a commercial trading company or other organisation with appropriate governance and financial infrastructure, able to provide supervision and opportunities for the student’s research programme and training which the student would not receive through a Studentship delivered solely by a university and which will enhance the student’s career prospects.

There is no geographical restriction for the EPO. Non-exhaustive examples include companies, charities, professional bodies, service divisions of the NHS, NGOs or other not for profit agencies and service providers. It cannot be another University.

The EPO must make a valuable and meaningful contribution to the research project, the specific nature of which will depend on the proposed project, but must be more than the provision of resources. It must provide an appropriate training programme and work experience. It is anticipated that training will be delivered at the EPO though the placements and interactions should be tailored to the nature of the project and collaboration. The arrangement should maximise benefit to the student and project.

The EPO must have the financial ability and resources to support, supervise and train the student. It must provide an annual top-up to the student stipend of £2,500 per year for the four years of the Studentship, as well as additional necessary Research Expenses; and essential travel and accommodation expenses, including expenses incurred in connection with training placements at and visits to the EPO.

If you are in doubt about the eligibility of a proposed EPO, please contact: [email protected].

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6. How many Supervisors can be appointed? Can they be from another institution?

There has to be two Supervisors from the Administering Institution and a Supervisor from the EPO. There may be projects where the expertise of additional Supervisors is advantageous, in which case the student should be provided with clear guidance at the outset of the project as to the responsibilities of each Supervisor.

Additional Supervisors from an institution other than the Administering Institution and EPO can be appointed, but the additional Supervisor’s Head of Department or authorised signatory must also sign the application form. By doing so they are:

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7. Can I supervise more than one Studentship?

A Principal Supervisor can only hold one active MRS PhD Studentship, though they can apply as Principal Supervisor for a subsequent PhD Studentship to commence after the completion date of their current one. A Principal Supervisor can be Second Supervisor on another Studentship. Supervisors can be Second (or additional) Supervisor on more than one PhD Studentship.

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8. What about other collaborators?

If the project is dependent on additional collaborations these should be outlined in the application form and a copy of a more detailed, signed letter of consent to that collaboration MUST be uploaded with the application.

Consent letters must:

  • describe the nature of the required collaboration;
  • provide the names and contact details of any other individuals whose collaboration is required;
  • provide the names and contact details of any other organisation whose collaboration is required;
  • state clearly that consent is given to the proposed necessary additional collaboration;
  • be signed by an individual authorised to provide consent on behalf of the collaborator(s).

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9. Will MRS fund projects involving animal research?

Yes, but wherever possible, procedures should be used which do not involve live animals. When it is essential to do so, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 must be scrupulously observed. There must be proper care, limitation of pain and use of the minimum number of animals to give valid results. Research proposals involving the use of animals must implement the principles in the cross-funder guidance Responsibility in the Use of Animals in Bioscience Research (http://www.nc3rs.org.uk/responsibility-use-animals-bioscience-research). Research proposals involving non-human primates must comply with the NC3Rs guidelines Primate Accommodation, Care and Use (http://www.nc3rs.org.uk/non-human-primate-accommodation-care-and-use). The species of animals to be used, the number of animals to be used and whether any genetically modified animals will be used or created must be specified when completing the application form.

Approvals and licences do not have to be obtained before an application for a PhD Studentship is submitted, but Supervisors and students carrying out research involving animals must hold the necessary licences (Project and Personal) from the Home Office and the project must have Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) approval before any work is done.

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10. What information does MRS require about ethics, regulatory issues and consents for the proposed research?

Approvals and/or licences do not have to be obtained before an application is submitted, but if one is awarded the Administering Institution must ensure that all necessary approvals and/or licences are obtained before any research requiring such approvals and/or licences is conducted. Details of those required must be provided in the application form.

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11. What funding do the PhD Studentships awards provide?

  • Student stipend: Years 1 and 2 – £17,500 per year, Years 3 and 4 – £18,000 per year.
    MRS will pay an annual student stipend (Years 1 and 2 – £15,000, Years 3 and 4 – £15,500) to the University at the start of each academic year, subject to satisfactory progress.
    The EPO must provide a top-up of £2,500 per annum for the student. The Administering Institution must undertake to make arrangements to collect the EPO’s stipend top-up and the Principal Supervisor must ensure the stipend top-up is received from the EPO and the student is paid their full annual stipend.
  • Fees paid at EU/UK rates for four years. MRS will pay the published EU/UK rate for university tuition fees for the first year and reasonable increases annually thereafter. Should fee increases be above 5% per annum, notification of and full justification for the increase must be submitted to MRS. If a non-EU/UK fee-paying student is to be appointed to the Studentship, MRS must be provided with evidence, prior to their appointment, that the student is able to finance the fee top-up required to the international fee rate for the duration of the Studentship. Salaries at clinician level for clinicians carrying out a doctoral programme are not covered.
  • Research Expenses: Years 1-3 – up to £10,000 per year, Year 4 – up to £5,000. Additional expenses must be provided by the EPO. Research Expenses include the cost of laboratory reagents and other reasonable expenses required to complete the proposed research, including animal housing expenses, if applicable. Computers, IT equipment and software expenses are not covered, except in the case of specialist equipment fundamental to successful completion of the proposed research, in which case, clear justification for the IT equipment must be included with invoices submitted for payment.
  • Travel Allowance: £3,000 over the four year PhD Studentship to cover justified travel expenses incurred in relation to attending conferences/scientific meetings of particular relevance to the student’s PhD Studentship – all costs can be claimed including registration fees, travel, accommodation and subsistence. This allowance does not cover expenses relating to placements at and visits to the EPO.
  • Virement: no transfer of funds between Research and Travel Expenses is permitted.
  • Open Access Publication Costs: MRS encourages open access publication of the results of the research it funds and has funds available for this. Application for these can be made to: [email protected]. Full reference details and an electronic copy of the publication must be provided.
  • EPO Contribution: £2,500 student stipend top-up per year, additional necessary research expenses; and essential travel and accommodation expenses incurred in connection with training placements at and visits to the EPO.

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12. What else does MRS provide?

Annual Researcher Development Events for all its PhD Students. These provide training and networking opportunities as well as social activities for the students. Students’ attendance at these is a compulsory component of their Studentship. MRS also provides public engagement opportunities – we take a keen interest in the students we support and pride ourselves on the supportive environment we offer.

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13. Under what criteria will my application be assessed?

Applications will be assessed against four broad criteria:

  • Scope of the Project and Resources
  • Programme of Work
  • Student Development

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14. Who will assess my application?

Members of an expert peer review PhD Studentship Panel, including representatives from academia and industry and at least two Trustees of Medical Research Scotland, will independently review applications, after which the PhD Studentship Panel meets in committee to discuss and assess the applications. The Board of Trustees uses the PhD Panel’s assessment of the applications when making the final award decisions.

Please note that the PhD Panel members’ scientific and medical expertise may lie in a different specialism to that of your proposed research, which should be taken in to consideration when completing the proposal: it is important to make the application understandable to scientifically literate but non-specialist reviewers.

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15. How are applications submitted?

By the Principal Supervisor through our online application management system (AMS).

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16. How do I complete an application?

The Principal Supervisor initiates the online application by clicking the “Apply Now” icon for the relevant PhD Studentship call under the “Awards Currently Accepting Applications” section of the AMS.

The Principal Supervisor is primarily responsible for completing the application form and must invite the other Supervisors and signatories to contribute to the application by clicking the “Add Collaborator” icon at the top right hand side of the application form. The role of collaborators in the application must be entered as one of the following:

  • Second Supervisor
  • External Partner Organisation Supervisor
  • Additional Supervisor
  • Administering Institution Signatory
  • Head of Department
  • External Partner Organisation Authorised Signatory
  • NHS R&D Director

In order to complete some sections of the application an individual must already have been added to the application form as a collaborator under the requisite roles. For example, the individual who will sign the form as the Head of the Department must have been added as a Head of Department collaborator in order to select them at Section 2.19 (see Section 18 Who has to sign the application and how is it signed?).

All sections of the application form must be completed. If a particular section is not applicable to your application, please say so. Applications will not be considered if information is missing.

When entering the name(s) of research institutions, the same format must be use eg University of Dundee, not Dundee University.

If the value of Research Expenses requested exceeds the maximum value of an award (see Section 11 What funding do the PhD Studentships awards provide?), the figure entered in the application form will automatically be changed to the maximum value of an award.

Information to assist in completing the application form is provided in the form and by clicking the information icons .

Please ensure you save your application frequently using the “Save Application” icon at the top of the application form. After 10 minutes of inactivity your application form will be saved and you will be logged out of the AMS.

You can save your application, logout of the AMS and return to complete it at a later date. Application forms in progress will appear on the left hand side of your AMS dashboard under “Your Current Applications” and can be updated by clicking “Continue Application”.

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17. Can I submit figures or tables with an application?

If absolutely necessary to support your application, two A4 sides of figures or tables can be submitted with your application by uploading a single file.

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18. How do I sign an application and who has to sign it?

Once all parts of the application are complete, the application must be signed by the necessary individuals (Tier 1 and Tier 2 signatories; see below) by the specified deadlines before the application can be submitted by the Principal Supervisor.

Tier 1 Signatories

  • All Supervisors named on the application

Tier 1 signatories must sign the application and the Principal Supervisor must submit the application by clicking the “Submit Application” icon by the published closing date for applications.

Tier 2 Signatories

  • Head of Department from Administering Institution where Studentship will be delivered
  • Authorised signatory from the Administering Institution
  • Authorised signatory from the EPO
  • Head of Department of Additional Supervisors from other research institutions
  • If required, an NHS R&D Director.

Tier 2 signatories must sign the application within one week of the published closing date for applications.

The signatories must be added as a collaborator, using the “Add Collaborator” icon at the top right hand side of the application form. Their role in the application must be entered as one of the following:

  • Second Supervisor
  • External Partner Supervisor
  • Additional Supervisor
  • Administering Institution Signatory
  • Head of Department
  • External Partner Organisation Authorised Signatory
  • NHS R&D Director

Once all collaborators have been added and the application is ready for submission, the Principal Supervisor should click “Submit Application”. An email will be sent to the Tier 1 signatories asking them to approve and sign the application by logging in to the AMS, opening the relevant application, and clicking the “Approve Application” icon at the right hand side of the application form.

By signing the application the signatories are:

If a signatory changes an application at the signature stage, all previous signatures are invalidated and the application must be reviewed and re-signed by all signatories.

If a signatory does not approve of the application at the signature stage they will have the opportunity to indicate to the Principal Supervisor why they are not approving the application.

The application will be submitted to the Tier 1 approval stage after all Tier 1 signatories have signed the application and an email will be sent to the Tier 2 signatories asking them to approve and sign the application by logging in to the AMS, opening the relevant application, and clicking the “Approve Application” icon at the right hand side of the application form.

When all Tier 1 and Tier 2 signatories have signed the application it is considered fully submitted and all the signatories will receive an email from the AMS indicating the application has been successfully submitted.

An application that is not signed by the requisite individuals by the required dates will be considered withdrawn and will not proceed to review.

 

 

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19. What happens after an application is submitted?

Applicants will be able to monitor the status of their application through the AMS. Eligible applications will be accepted for review and all Tier 1 and Tier 2 signatories will be notified of the outcome of their application by email.

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20. How do I accept an offer of an award?

If your application is successful, all Tier 1 and Tier 2 signatories will receive an email indicating the offer of award with directions on how to accept the award by completing an acceptance form, which will be available on the AMS dashboard. All Tier 1 and Tier 2 signatories must accept the award by logging on to the AMS and signing the acceptance form.

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21. How is a student appointed to the PhD Studentship?

MRS expects a student appointed to the PhD Studentship to have been awarded a minimum of an upper second class undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. All MRS PhD Studentships must be openly advertised and candidates interviewed in accordance with good recruitment practice.

After an award has been accepted the Principal Supervisor will be asked to complete a form providing details for MRS to arrange for advertising of the Studentship on FindaPhD.com.

The Administering Institution and/or EPO can arrange for additional advertising of the PhD Studentship, but the Studentship must not be advertised until MRS has acknowledged receipt of acceptance of the PhD Studentship award. Please ensure that Medical Research Scotland is appropriately acknowledged as funding the Studentship.

Candidates must apply to the Administering Institution through the Administering Institution’s usual application processes.

After the closing date for applications, and before the date of interview, MRS must be provided through the AMS with a record of

  • The number of applications received;
  • The number of shortlisted candidates to be interviewed;
  • The date on which interviews are to take place; and
  • The (a) name and (b) position of each Interview Panel Member; (c) their role on the Interview Panel; and (d) the gender of the Panel members.

As a minimum, the Interview Panel must comprise:

  • At least one of the Supervisors from the Administering Institution;
  • A representative from the Company; and
  • An independent Panel Member from the Administering Institution with appropriate expertise in graduate student recruitment.

A representative of MRS is not routinely required to be involved in the selection and interview of candidates, but can be at the request of the Administering Institution, the EPO or MRS.

When a candidate has accepted an offer of an MRS PhD Studentship, the Principal Supervisor must provide details, via the AMS, of the student to be appointed to the PhD Studentship and the start date of the PhD Studentship. No student can be appointed to an MRS PhD Studentship until their details have been registered on the AMS.

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22. What happens at the start of the PhD Studentship?

MRS will pay the Administering Institution MRS’s component of the Student Stipend. The Administering Institution is responsible for and paying the student the full stipend.

The Student must register on the AMS.

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23. When and how must progress reports be submitted?

The Principal Supervisor and Student will be notified at the start of the Studentship when progress reports will be due, which must be completed and submitted through the AMS by the Administering Institution, EPO and Student, as indicated in the various reports.

Funds will not be released for the next year of the PhD Studentship until a satisfactory progress report is received for the preceding year. Annual reports will be due before the anniversary of the Studentships to enable them to be review and assessed in advance of the next annual payment of funds from MRS.

The following reports are required.

  • Set-up Report                         Due 3 months after start date
  • Year 1 Annual Report            Due 10 months after start date
  • Year 2 Annual Report            Due 22 months after start date
  • Year 3 Annual Report            Due 34 months after start date
  • Final Report                            Due 51 months after start date
  • Post Completion Report       Due 60 months after start date

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24. How do we receive payments from MRS?

MRS will pay the annual student fees and stipend to the Administering Institution at the start of each year of the Studentship, provided the previous year’s annual report has been scored as satisfactory by the Board of Trustee.

The Administering Institution should submit fully itemised invoices quarterly in arrears to Katrina Muir, Trust Administrator to Medical Research Scotland at [email protected] for Research Expenses, Open Access Publication costs and Travel Expenses for attendance at conferences/scientific meetings. All claims from the Travel Allowance component of the award should include an explanation of the purpose and relevance of the travel to the PhD Studentship. Payment of Research Expenses and Travel Expenses cannot be made in advance.

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