Frequently Asked Questions

The Doctoral Training Alliance, or DTA, has been developed by a group of Alliance universities, in response to industry needs, which aims to produce independent, highly-employable researchers with knowledge, expertise and skills in strategically-important research areas. We provide doctoral training to develop skills and expertise across three programme strands, Applied Bioscience for Heath, Energy and Social Policy.

The MSCA Research Fellow Programme provides grants for doctoral researchers and encourages transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility. You can read more on the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions website.

The DTA3/COFUND Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD Fellowship is funded via the European Commission H2020 COFUND Programme and so the Terms and Conditions are reflective of the European Commission’s requirements. The Programme requires you to relocate to the country of the host institution for the majority of your research and to undertake a full-time PhD programme of study as an employee of the host university. Each PhD Fellowship will last a maximum of 3 years.

You must be considered an eligible candidate (see full criteria) and be suitably qualified to undertake PhD level study. In addition to successfully undertaking your PhD project, you will be expected to engage in all training activities provided through the DTA3/COFUND Programme. Where appropriate (and where the subject matter allows), you will be required to undertake an industrial placement and also an international placement which are aimed at maximising your acquisition of new and relevant knowledge and expertise.

Please note the minimum salary that will be paid is €2,597 per month, or €31,164 per year, from which UK employer’s National Insurance and pension contributions will be deducted. The exact salary, holiday entitlements and any other terms and conditions will be advised by individual partner universities. To note, employment contracts will outline the final amount to be paid over the 36 months equivalent to a € amount (as stipulated by the European Commission H2020 COFUND Programme) according to currency exchange rates. As an employee of the host institution DTA3/COFUND Marie Skłodowska Curie PhD Fellows will be expected to abide by the Terms and Conditions of the respective university.

See full details of the job description and person specification.

When considering applications we will apply the mobility criteria “Not have been resident, nor carried out their main activity, in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the call deadline, 14th October 2019. Applicants will need to provide details of the periods spent in the UK in the past 3 years (between 14th October 2016 and 14th October 2019) as part of their application.” This criteria is applicable to ALL applications regardless of the candidate’s nationality, you will need to demonstrate that you have not resided, carried out your main activity in the UK for more than 12 months in past 3 years. If you have resided, carried out your main activity in the UK (regardless of your nationality) for more than 12 months in the past 3 years you will not be eligible.

As well as benefiting from the world-class facilities, supervisors and support at their chosen institution, researchers on a DTA programme will be joining a much broader professional community – where they can enjoy the collaborative power, expertise and reach of the Doctoral Training Alliance.

By combining vital research skills such as critical reasoning and epistemology with practical innovation and entrepreneurial expertise, the programmes will produce postgraduate researchers who are job-ready and can apply the results of their excellent research to deliver real world impact.

Researchers on a DTA programme will be encouraged to collaborate on their work with colleagues in the cohort; attend annual induction, summer school and networking events; co-delivered training and development courses; as well as employer and industry events relevant to their chosen field.

To apply for a DTA3/COFUND Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD Fellowship you will need to be an eligible candidate (please read through the eligibility criteria found on our Eligibility page) and apply through our website by clicking on the How to apply? page. Please note, all applications must be submitted through this website and not through individual universities.


We cannot accept applications via email.

You may apply for a maximum of 3 project opportunities per call. The deadline for applications Monday 14th October 2019 (closing 23:59 BST/UK local time) with successful applicants starting April 2020.

In this call we are recruiting for a maximum of 23 Early-Stage-Researchers across our DTA3 partnership. Please note that some institutions are advertising more projects than they are recruiting for and it is possible that not all positions will be recruited for.

This is the final round of recruitment for DTA3/COFUND

The selection process will be a thorough one. After you submit your application it will be assessed by the DTA3/COFUND central panel to ensure you are eligible. Then it will be examined by the prospective host university alongside all other project applications received, to assess your qualifications and suitability to undertake the specialist research proposed in the project proformas (see Programme and Projects). A shortlist of suitable candidates will be drawn up and sent back to the central DTA3/COFUND panel for verification. Suitable candidates will be invited for interview at the host institution, face-to-face where possible. Applicants who have not been invited to interview will be notified. Candidates are responsible for their own interview travel arrangements with some travel costs eligible for reimbursement. We are currently working towards notifying interviewees from the 20th November, with interviews starting 27th November until 11th December. Successful candidates will be notified 16th December onwards.

The interview panel will be made up of relevant host university staff, a representative from the DTA3/COFUND Programme and independent panel members. The outcome of the interview will determine who the best candidate is and, subject to final ratification by the central DTA3/COFUND panel, the DTA3/COFUND Marie Skłodowska Curie PhD Fellowship will be offered to that person. The offer would then need to be formally accepted. Applicants who have not been successful at interview will be notified. Selection decisions are final and confidential, and no appeals will be considered. University Alliance is unable to enter into any communication on the selection decision.

Universities will be able to provide feedback to applicants who were not successful at interview.

The proposed start date is April 2020. This timescale will allow for the recruitment process described above to take place and any visa applications (if applicable) to be made.

We do not anticipate Brexit having any effect on our funding or our candidates ability to study the DTA3/COFUND Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD Fellowship. We are closely monitoring the situation and will update this page as necessary to reflect the latest information.

All eligible candidates will be classed as early-stage researchers (ESR), please see the European Commission’s guidance for a definition of an ESR. An ESR will be within their first four years of their research careers, this does not include time spent studying for an undergraduate or Masters programme, also we will not include time spent completing non-research related work as part of the four years.

No, this programme is not open to those who already hold a doctoral degree.

See the individual project proforma that you are applying for (all proformas are listed on the Programme and Projects page) for specific IELTS scoring. If none are listed, then please see the host institution’s website for further information relating to their minimum IELTS scoring to undertake doctoral study.

We understand that applicants may not have sat an IELTS test at the point of application, we required that provide as much detail and evidence as possible in relation to your English proficiency in your application.

Visas will need to be self-secure, and fees will need to be paid by the applicant themselves in the first instance but are reclaimable from the DTA3/COFUND central budget on presentation of evidence of expenditure.

IELTS examination costs are not typically eligible* to be claimed from the DTA3/COFUND central budget and will need to be paid for by the applicant themselves. For further details about IELTS see

The Immigration healthcare surcharge is not typically eligible* to be claimed from DTA3/COFUND funds. It will need to be paid for by the applicant and can range from £150 – £200 per year depending on the type of visa being applied for. Any dependants travelling with the applicant will also need to pay the surcharge if applicable.

*Individual partner universities will advise as to whether these costs can be borne by the host institution.

The costs of relocating to the UK are not typically eligible* to be claimed from DTA3/COFUND and must be borne by the applicant themselves.

*Individual partner universities will advise as to whether these costs can be borne by the host institution.

Partners/dependants/spouses can relocate along with the Researcher but are subject to UK Immigration regulations and therefore any visas (if required) must be obtained in the usual way and this is the responsibility of the applicant and their family. The DTA3/COFUND scheme does not typically* provide any financial subsidy for family/dependants.

*Individual partner universities will advise as to whether these costs can be borne by the host institution.

Successful candidates will be offered a contract of employment that will be conditional upon satisfactory references, the fulfilment of any conditions specified in the offer of a place on a PhD programme, and confirmation of the candidate’s right to work in the UK or ability to secure a valid visa, if required, from UK Visas and Immigration.


Successful candidates will need to evidence their right to work in the UK, recruits who are settled workers and EU/EEA citizens have the right to work in the UK without a visa. Successful recruits who do not currently have the right to work in the UK will need to secure a visa. Please note that as DTA3/COFUND PhD Fellows will be full-time employees of the host university, therefore a student visa (Tier 4) would NOT be counted as a valid visa for the position. The reason for this is that a Tier 4 visa only allows part-time working-hours and this is a full-time role.

Host universities are able to provide Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) for a Tier 2 visa to successful recruits who do not have the right to work in the UK. However, the CoS can only be issued to successful candidates who can be classified as a ‘New Entrant’ in line with the following requirements:

  • be under 26 years old at the point of application for the visa.


  • if aged 26 years old or over, hold a current Tier 4 visa. If switching from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa candidates will be classified as a New Entrant regardless of the applicant’s age.

(NOTE! Candidates currently holding a Tier 4 visa because they are currently studying in the UK must comply also with the MSCA mobility rule).


Host universities are unable to provide a CoS for a Tier 2 visa to successful candidates who are not classified as New Entrants, as the gross salary of £22,300 does not meet the threshold for an ‘Experienced Worker’. The role is for an Early-Stage Researcher therefore the pay reflects the expectation that the recruit will be in the early stages of their career. For further information in relation to the rates of pay for New Entrants please see the Home Office guidance.


Successful candidates may be able to self-secure a visa that permits them to work in the UK, examples of these include:

NOTE Successful candidates will be requested to proactively research, determine and evidence (in accordance with UKVI guidance) whether they meet the eligibility criteria for self-secured visas. The candidates will need to make the relevant applications themselves, without a CoS from the host institution.


Further guidance can be sourced from UK Visas and Immigration.

Industrial placements (where appropriate) will be undertaken to promote the exchange of knowledge and expertise between academia and industry/workplace. This will benefit the applicant by providing an insight into how their research can/will be applied within an industrial/workplace real life setting. It will serve to guide the direction of the research to ensure it is industry relevant and provides actual solutions to future challenges. Associated costs in relation to industrial placements e will be paid for by DTA3.

International placements can be undertaken with specific Universities or organisations overseas in order to provide a global perspective to the research being undertaken and to develop and foster future research collaborations. The Researcher will benefit from these international experiences and the exchange of knowledge and expertise. They will provide a platform upon which to base future international research collaborations. Associated costs in relation to international placements will be paid for by DTA3.

You will need to provide the names and addresses of at least three referees. These should ideally be academic staff from your current/most recent educational institution who are able to comment in detail on your ability to cope with the academic demands of a PhD. Always ask permission from the referee before providing their details.

NOTE we will only contact referees for successful candidates at the point of offer, we will not contact referees at application stage.

The call closes on Monday 14th October 23:59 BST/UK local time.

As you can imagine we will be very busy processing applications throughout October and November, we are working towards the following timeline, but this may be subject to change:

20th-21st November – Inviting candidates to interview

20th November onwards – Advising unsuccessful candidates

27th November to 11th December – Interviewing

16th December onwards – Advising interview candidates of the outcome

April 2020 – Successful candidates start

As you can imagine we will be very busy processing applications, we ask that if you have a query that you check the FAQ  and Eligibility pages first. Additionally, further details can be found in the Guidance to Applying document, the Job Description and the project proforma. If, having read through all the guidance available to you, you are still unclear only then should you email but please bear in mind that we are receiving a high volumes of enquires and there may be a delay in responding.

If you have a complaint or wish to raise an appeal then please email, this will be taken to the Chair of the Selection Panel for consideration to ensure due process has been followed. Where it has been identified that due process has not been followed the appropriate action will be taken. Where due process has been followed and no resolution has been found, it will be referred for a final decision on the resolution by the DTA3 National Training Group Chair with input from a Chair or the relevant Independent Advisory Group.



How to apply

Programmes and Projects