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Grand Union DTP

Grand Union DTP at Brunel University London: ESRC-Doctoral funded studentships in social science research.

An ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership uniting Brunel University London, the Open University and the University of Oxford. 

Our 'Grand Union' is a Doctoral Training Partnership between Brunel University London, the Open University and the University of Oxford. We are one of 14 ESRC Doctoral Training Partnerships across the UK, providing our postgraduate students with high-quality social science research training.

From 2017 to 2023, we will be offering more than 35 ESRC studentships each year for doctoral study on 24 pathways across our partner institutions. We are committed to a student-centred approach to research training, to widening access to postgraduate study, and to disciplinary and interdisciplinary research excellence.

Our Grand Union scholars are at the heart of our community of students and early career social science researchers. We are proud of the support we give this next generation of social scientists, and we work hard to give them every opportunity to develop as future researchers and professionals.

Social scientists at Brunel have a tradition of innovatory, high-impact research that drives forward academic knowledge and informs policy and practice.Our ESRC-funded DTP pathways are offered through our partnership with the University of Oxford and The Open University, and are available in two of our internationally recognised areas of research expertise – Health and Wellbeing, and Education.

Brunel DTP students on both pathways will be able to access specialist training and professional development opportunities provided across the DTP.  Current scholarship areas offered within the Brunel pathways are outlined below. Please follow the links for more detailed information about the areas available. All routes are offered part-time and full-time.

If you wish to gain further information on the Grand Union DTP, please take a look at the following recruitment guide  here and / or contact  emma.smith@brunel.ac.uk (Post Award Officer )


Grand Union Health and Wellbeing Pathway at Brunel

The Health and Wellbeing Pathway is led by Brunel and delivered in collaboration with Oxford University and The Open University. Students accepted at Brunel will be members of the GUDTP Health & Wellbeing Pathway. Brunel applicants can apply for a DTP studentship based in the Centre for Health and Wellbeing across the Lifecourse. The Centre offers students opportunities to address a wide agenda of the most significant national and global health and wellbeing challenges. Areas of expertise include sport, physical activity, health and wellbeing; health and wellbeing in older age; lifestyle behaviours and health inequalities; health and wellbeing among young people, including sexual health and anti-violence interventions; and evaluation methodologies for health and wellbeing interventions. More information on the doctoral opportunities available in each area is available here:

Grand Union Education Pathway

The Education Pathway  is led by  Oxford University in collboration with Brunel University London . Students accepted at Brunel will be members of the GUDTP Education Pathway

Brunel DTP students on the Education pathway will join the Department of Education. Education at Brunel is a leading department in the UK offering the full range of provision at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In common with the university as a whole the department has a rich ethnic mix among its student population and attracts a significant proportion of students from outside the European Union. The Education Department’s excellence is illustrated by being rated as 10th best in the UK by the Complete University Guide, 2016, and by both Primary and Secondary PGCE programmes being rated as ‘Outstanding in All Areas’ by Ofsted in their most recent inspection. In the last Research Excellence Framework, 60% of the Education Department’s research was world leading or internationally excellent and 90% of its impact was graded as internationally excellent. Students will benefit from Brunel’s diverse specialist expertise in the following four research groups:  

Interculturality-for-Diversity-and-Global-Learning  - please contact Prof Maria Tsouroufli maria.tsouroufli@brunel.ac.uk  

Our research on intercultural communication encompasses a number of local and global concerns across different disciplines including:

  • widening participation,
  • educational policy and practice within and increasingly global and digitalized higher education institutions,
  • transformative and effective leadership,
  • clinical communication,
  • science innovation,
  • forced migration,
  • eradication of gender-based violence for sustainable communities.
  • Gender, Identities and Intersectionality
  • School-related gender-based violence
  • Medical/health professional identities and inequalities
  • Critical pedagogies
  • Global citizenship
  • Language and intercultural communication
  • Development

The group has a strong and sustained research profile which sits at the intersection of Education, Sociology, Human Geography, Youth Studies, Gender and Feminist Studies and Digital Presence’. Our work covers all educational sectors and includes informal and alternative education settings. We would particularly welcome applications in the field of:

  • Access and widening participation
  • Embodiment and embodied learning
  • Family and parenting
  • Youth identities
  • Digital presence
  • Professional formations and professional identities
  • Power, resistance, and compliance
  • Education policy
  • Social Justice
  • Marginalised/excluded learners
  • Communities of Inclusive Practice

Pedagogy and Professional Education (contact Dr Deborah Jones)

The Pedagogy and Professional Education Research Group brings together researchers in education with work that involves teaching, teacher education, teacher development, curriculum development and enhancement, and professional education. The research carried out by the group generates both theoretical and practical knowledge which is disseminated to users, policy-makers and the wider community through knowledge transfer activities.

Research areas

Research topics include: teacher learning, professional creativity, policy, use of language, English subject knowledge, reflective practice, curriculum enhancement, and pedagogy. 

STEM Education (contact Professor Mike Watts)

The STEM Education research group, led by Professor Mike Watts, is a multidisciplinary group of educators with strong research and development established in the field. The group is a focal point for collaborative work in STEM education, with cross-group activities and initiatives, and is intended to create synergy and instigate and support individual, small group and wider collaborative projects. Our research and educational enquiry is largely practice-based and aims to inform debates on STEM education and professional learning, and contribute to programmes of excellent teaching in both formal and informal educational settings.

Joint Oxford-Brunel supervision will be available where beneficial, drawing on existing external co-supervision practices. 

Please note this webpage will be updated periodically.


Academic qualifications

Applicants must satisfy ESRC eligibility requirements and should normally have a masters degree.

Residential eligibility

Eligibility for Research Council funding is changing for students starting their course in 2021/22 onwards. Eligibility is no longer restricted to UK and EU students only.

Awards for UK/International will cover UK tuition fees and provide a stipend grant at the UKRI rate (with London weighting, £17,609, in 2021/22). UKRI funding will not cover international fees set by universities. However BUL will be covering any difference between home/international fees should they be succesful. Please see the UKRI website for further details. 

Please note that the student must live within a reasonable travel time of their Research Organisation or collaborative organisation to ensure that they are able to maintain regular contact with their department and their Supervisor. This is to ensure that the Student is not isolated and receives the full support, mentoring, training and access to facilities required to complete their research successfully and to a high standard. The only exceptions to these requirements are to cover periods of absence that are an essential part of their study e.g. fieldwork, study visits or conference attendance.

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must have successfully completed the English language IELTS requirements should be 7.0 overall, (7.0 for writing, and none below 6.5) in the last two years.


Subject to ESRC eligibility criteria, the studentship covers tuition fees and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses. The value of the stipend will be at the standard UKRI rate.

As a ESRC student, the person selected will have full access to the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership development activities and networking opportunities, joining a cohort of about 50 students per year from across 3 universities in London and the South East. ESRC students can also apply for additional funding to support individual or group training and development activities.

The Application Process


Before applying to ESRC, please note that all ESRC awards are subject to the ESRC and UKRI Terms and Conditions. Please ensure that you are familiar with them. They are set out in ESRC website: https://esrc.ukri.org/files/skills-and-careers/doctoral-training/postgraduate-funding-guide/

If you already know the name of a potential supervisor in these subject areas, you may contact them directly. Alternatively, you can email the following subject contacts, giving them a brief idea of what your PhD proposal is on. They will forward your details to appropriate members of staff within the subject teams and someone will get back to you discuss further. 

How to Apply

Complete the studentship application form first. Please do not complete the PhD application via the online portal just yet. This will be done once a decision on the studenship has been made.

1. 2000 research proposal including references.

2. Two written references, they should have a good knowledge of your academic record to date and your plans for the research project. They should be in a position to judge your suitability and preparedness for doctoral study. Only one of your two referees can be a member of your proposed (or actual) supervisory team. You may ask the supervisor of your Masters dissertation to be one of your referees. It is however not necessary for either of your referees to be a member of your supervisory team unless you have already started your PhD, in which case we would expect one of your references to be from your supervisor. References must include:

The referee’s name and their relationship to you and Comment on your previous performance/achievements

3. Your up-to-date CV;

4. Your single A4 page, single-spaced personal statement setting out why you are interested in undertaking this project;

5. Your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s);

6. Evidence of your English language capability to IELTS 7.0 or equivalent, if appropriate;

7.Completed Equal Opportunities form 

Data protection

Your information will be treated as strictly confidential and handled in accordance with the provisions of the GDPR. For more information please see the UKRI privacy notice.

Please email all completed documents to Emma.Smith@brunel.ac.uk with the subject header – Education/wellbeing ESRC Studentship application by no later than midday 14th January 2022. 

Please note that Interviews for studentships will be required. Applicants are advised to be available should they be called for interview.

Contact details

For advice of an academic nature, please contact Associate Director & pathway Lead Prof Louise Mansfield louise.mansfield@brunel.ac.uk for Health & wellbeing and Prof Maria Tsouroufli for Education maria.tsouroufli@brunel.ac.uk

 For all other enquiries, please contact Emma.Smith@brunel.ac.uk

The Grand Union Experience

The Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (GUDTP) provides a huge range of studentship opportunities for Doctoral students at Oxford University, The Open University and Brunel University London. The studentship awards individual students with funding to achieve their Doctorate, and provides support for those students to affect those not involved with the pathway through, for example setting up research groups for all students, going on internships and initiatives such as helping children get into higher education. 

Each year the GUDTP hosts a conference at Oxford University which allows students to exhibit their research, learn from the work of others, participate in workshops and listen to stimulating key note presentations. The 2019 conference was themed “Not Surviving, Thriving” exploring how to navigate and manage the changing nature of academia. Anne Butterworth (Open University) and Lucy Wray (Brunel University London) were invited to lead a Health and Wellbeing Workshop for students to contemplate their own health and wellbeing and discuss how they can manage this on their academic journey and beyond. 

Post Doctoral Opportunities 

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) also offers  applications to its Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF) scheme aimed at providing a career development opportunity for those in the immediately postdoctoral stage of their career, to provide the opportunity to consolidate their PhD through developing publications, their networks, and their research and professional skills. 

The PDF call forms part of ESRC’s strategy to support early career researchers and will be delivered through our national network of Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) which encompasses 73 research organisations across the UK. 

The fellows must be located on an accredited DTP pathway. Through being embedded within a high-quality environment for research and training, the fellows will have the opportunity to undertake a varied programme of activities supporting their continued development for careers both within and outside of academia. 

DTPs will have their own procedures in place to peer review the proposals and make funding decisions on behalf of ESRC. 

Call details 

The objective of these calls is to provide support to those who are within 12 months of completing their PhD, to support them in consolidating their PhD, and preparing them for the next stage of their research careers. For the majority this is likely to be a research career in academia; however, those with a clearly articulated programme of activities to support their transition to a research career outside of academia (eg a researcher in public, private, or civil society organisations) will also be considered. 

Fellows’ actual programmes or proposed programme of activities should reflect their prior knowledge and experience and be designed to support their longer term research career aspirations. Activities could include but are not limited to: 

  • Produce publications in order to help establish track record
  • Engage with a range of different audiences to communicate research findings
  • Build networks to develop impact opportunities and inform and support further development
  • Collaborate with users through an internship or placement to help develop professional and transferrable skills and understanding of users’ organisations, provided they are an integral part of the fellowship
  • Further training to improve research and related skills
  • Developing funding proposals
  • Carry out further limited research (up to 25% of the programme of work) related to their PhD
  • Teaching, if this is aligned with the wider purposes of the fellowship (up to a maximum of six hours per week);
  • Research visits to internationally leading research organisations – either in the UK or abroad – for the purposes of research collaboration, training, and/or access to data or other resources not available at the applicant’s host organisation.

Application deadline is yet to be published for 2022 , please check back here for further details.

Please contact emma.smith@brunel.ac.uk for further details.