Our Recruitment Process

Project design

Studentship proposals from supervisors are requested by late September each year for the following year’s cohort (i.e. September 2022 for the 2023/24 intake). A sift of all proposals is carried out following the submission deadline, to ensure proposals fit to the ACCE remit, and to manage numbers up to an agreed limit for advertising. Only one project proposal can be made per lead supervisor per year.

We encourage supervisors to propose projects which incorporate genuine collaborations between academics and non-academic, end-user partners.

All projects are screened for implicit bias before advertisement.

PhD advertisement

ACCE projects are advertised from approximately October/November each year. Projects are currently advertised on the following websites:


Applications for ACCE studentships open when the projects are advertised in October/November each year. The deadline for applications is in early January.

Applications for all ACCE projects are made online through the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield or York, NHM or CEH admission systems.

There are no limits on how many ACCE projects applicants may apply for. However, applicants may only be put forward for interview shortlisting for one project. Applicants who are selected by supervisors for more than one project will need to choose which one they wish to move forward with, and supervisors will be informed whether the applicant does or does not wish to be put forward by them.

Prior to applying, prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact supervisors to discuss projects they are interested in. This gives applicants the opportunity to find out more about the project, as well as the supervisor, to ensure it is the right fit for them. Applicants with limited access to a university library or other resources can also ask supervisors to provide them with key literature for background on the project. Applicants can also confirm their eligibility for the project, and ask any questions they may have before applying.


Applicant rankings are then used as the starting point for discussion to identify which candidates to invite to interview. Applications around the cut off point for invitation to interview, as well as those where there are significant disagreements, are discussed in greater detail, and final judgements adjusted accordingly.


Interviews for ACCE studentships normally take place in mid to late February. For studentships based at the University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, and University of York, interviews take place online, to ensure fairness between home and international applicants. Interview panels consist of three members from that institution who are responsible for asking the interview questions and ranking the candidates, an external chair from a different ACCE institution who is responsible for overseeing the process, and a student representative. Where there is a conflict of interests (e.g. a panel member is a potential project supervisor) the panel member is removed from the interview panel and takes no further part in the discussion of that candidate.

Within the interview, candidates give a 5 min presentation (either pre-recorded or live) and then answer a series of questions to assess their knowledge, communication skills, engagement with the PhD project they applied for. and skills and experience relevant to doing a PhD. Each of the panel members categorises applicants as “outstanding”, “excellent”, “suitable” or “not suitable”. This categorisation is performed individually by the panel members.


Following the interviews, panel members engage in disucssion with a holistic view to assess the candidates according to the assessment rubric, drawing on evidence from both the application and interview for each candidate. All ranked candidates are discussed using the range of category scoring by each panel member to highlight any large discrepancies; this can lead to some limited modification of the categories following reflection of the quality of candidates. Where candidates are still equally ranked that in a way that would affect the offer process, those candidates are further discussed to distinguish a differential ranking. Where these discussions involve candidates with a conflict of interest the discussion will include the external panel chair to ensure an equal number of panel members are contributing to selection.

Following the final ranking, offers are sent out to the selected applicants. The deadline for accepting the offer is set by NERC for all DTPs (the ‘universal acceptance date’), typically in mid to late March. This universal acceptance date makes sure that PhD applicants who have applied for multiple studentships, and may receive multiple offers, do not have to make a decision on one studentship before knowing the outcome of all of their applications. If any candidates decline the offer of a studentship, an offer will be made to a candidate on the reserve list. Candidates who accept the offer of a studentship typically begin their PhD at the beginning of October.

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