The CENTA doctoral training partnership is committed to improving diversity in UK Earth and Environmental Sciences by recruiting and supporting a diverse set of PhD researchers. We regularly review and reflect on our current policies with the aim of incorporating new and better practices from education literature, from elsewhere in the sector, and from beyond.
- We understand that CVs and transcripts reflect applicant achievements, but also may reflect an applicant’s access to opportunities. We aim to evaluate applicants based on potential, not just previous track record. CENTA applicants are asked the same standardised short answer questions in our written application forms. These written answers are scored by a panel against a clear, pre-defined rubric to determine which applicants are shortlisted for interview.
- We offer ring-fenced PhD studentships for Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic applicants that qualify for ‘home’ student status, who are underrepresented in Earth and Environmental sciences in the UK. Similarly, in 2022 we trialled offering ring-fenced funding on our undergraduate Research Experience Placement scheme and will seek to offer this for future rounds of the scheme.
- In order to address a historical imbalance, we offer a preferred interview scheme for certain under-represented groups of Home-award-eligible students, as well as applicants who have previously taken part in CENTA’s undergraduate Research Experience Placement scheme, who meet the academic requirements (at least a 2:1 at UK BSc level or at least a pass at UK MSc level or equivalent and at least an appropriate fit with the selected PhD project), for up to half of the available interview numbers.
- In 2023 we trialled sending shortlisted applicants interview questions in advance along with guidance about what to expect at the interview, and will review this with a view to continuing this approach in future years. All PhD interviews are currently conducted online using closed captioning and this will be kept under review. Interview panelists are provided clear and comprehensive instructions to ensure that candidates are evaluated objectively and equitably. Interview responses are scored using a well-defined rubric.
- CENTA strives to ensure written applications and interviews are evaluated by diverse panels insofar as possible. These panels include academics with a range of subject area expertise as well as gender, ethnicity, (dis)ability, and career stage.
- One of the barriers to a successful application is unequal access to information about who, why, when, and how to apply for PhD funding. To reduce this barrier, our extensive FAQ page increases transparency about the application process. Where possible we also seek to host applicant webinars in conjunction with other DTPs, particularly targeted at prospective applicants from minoritised and underrepresented backgrounds. These are advertised on our webpage, our twitter feed and/or via LinkedIn.
- PhD opportunities are advertised as widely as possible, including via minority-serving and student-focused networks. In July 2023, as part of the EQUATOR team, CENTA staff co-organised the EQUATOR Research Summer School, a fully funded 5-day programme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students, to foster community and widen participation in research in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Click here to hear about EQUATOR students’ experiences in their own words.
- Applicant EDI data is collected from all applicants and reported annually to our funder NERC. CENTA also reviews this data to better understand who is (or is not) applying for our studentships and to check for biases in our selection processes.
At CENTA we understand that our students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and we design our training to reflect this. From the design of the training curriculum itself – which is based on skills that NERC, the Vitae Developer Framework, our research supervisors, and employers in the sector have deemed to be useful and in-demand – to the training topics that our students themselves request as part of their Training Needs Analysis, our aim is to develop highly competitive candidates with a range of skills broader than those they could simply learn as part of their day-to day training.
- Our trainers themselves bring diverse perspectives, with training being delivered by academics, industry professionals, professional skills trainers, and experts from different (and sometimes non-traditional) career paths, different career stages, and different backgrounds. We also run residential training such as the ‘Speed PhD’ and give students the opportunity to complete a CENTA placement in a non-academic research sector of their choice, allowing them to gain skills and experiences that can be instrumental in shaping their future careers.
- We understand that attending training can also be challenging for various practical reasons, and we accommodate our students by supporting financially with travel, accommodation and other expenses should they need to attend CENTA-organised training in person, with the aim of eliminating our student’s out-of-pocket costs as much as possible. We make every effort to ensure that all students can benefit from our training and residential trips, and work together with students to make sure nobody is excluded from these on the basis of disability, neurodivergence, parental/caring responsibilities or other reasons. As part of the CENTA Digital Education Framework (CDEF) we also strive to make sure that wherever possible, all CENTA training has some online-accessible component, ranging from online delivery to hybrid events, to online hosting of training materials and resources.
- Our students are at the heart of all we do, and we openly encourage student feedback – and act upon it. We want to create an environment where all students feel empowered to talk to us openly about all aspects of their PhD, positive or negative, and see us as allies in their personal development as scientists.
CENTA students are at different life stages, experience different health conditions, and shoulder various responsibilities alongside their studies. Flexibility is offered to accommodate individual needs during their PhD journeys.
- In accordance with the UKRI’s Terms and Conditions for Training Grants, CENTA ensures that provision is in place for all its doctoral students to access paid medical leave, maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave, and have the opportunity to study part-time if they wish.
- Paid medical leave can be granted for up to 13 weeks within any 12-month period and must be covered by a medical certificate.
- CENTA students are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave if the expected week of childbirth will occur during the period of their studentship. The first 26 weeks are paid at full stipend rate, pro-rated as necessary for part time Students. The following 13 weeks are paid at a level commensurate with statutory maternity pay. Partners are entitled to up to two weeks paid Ordinary Paternity Leave on full stipend. Partners are also entitled to an extended period of unpaid parental leave, up to a maximum of 50 weeks, with their studentship extended accordingly. Adoption leave should be granted on the same basis as maternity leave.
- CENTA offers all students the option to study for their PhD on either a full-time or part-time basis. If studying part-time, then a minimum of 50% of the full-time equivalent is required.
- All CENTA students are provided with a Student Handbook which contains further information on all these areas, as well as many covering many other aspects of their time as a student with us.
- For further information on the support we offer for CENTA students please also visit our Student Support page.