Soils Training and Research Studentships (STARS) Centre for Doctoral Training


The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) fund the Soils Training and Research Studentships (STARS) Centre for Doctoral Training, a consortium of eight organisations comprised of four universities and four research institutes. 

The STARS programme aims to create a new generation of highly-skilled scientists with an expert understanding of soil, which is key to tackling many of today’s global challenges including food, water and energy security. The programme achieves this through a multi-disciplinary approach, designed to give researchers a unique and wide breadth of skills and knowledge.

Programme overview

Eleven students are recruited to the STARS CDT each year and gain an exciting and structured soils research experience. They are automatically enrolled into the STARS College which offers training opportunities delivered by top UK soil science institutions. They also attend workshops, summer schools, international field visits, courses and conferences as well as an international conference where they can showcase their talents.

Benefits of the programme include:

  • research and training grant to fund their research
  • networking opportunities with industry experts, leading research institutes and peers
  • able to bid into a cohort development and mobility fund 
  • student travel to partner sites to attend courses or other research-related activities, as funding such as travel bursaries are available 
  • opportunity to develop and lead programmes of community building or outreach events (e.g. student-led conferences, reading groups) 


The studentships are only available to UK or EU applicants who fulfil the NERC residence requirements outlined below.

To be eligible for a full award a student must:

  • have settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay
  • have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences)
  • not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals)

To be eligible for a fees only award:

  • students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award. To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU, in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK

Those students eligible for a full award will be supported by the tax free stipend (£14,057 in 2015/16), typically for 3.5 years.

Entry requirements

First or upper-second-class UK Honours degree in a relevant subject to the project students apply for.

How to apply

Applicants will need to submit an online application form via the STARS website.


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This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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