From 2024 our training pathways will be organised around a set of key societal challenges. These challenges were developed so that they represent the kinds of social science research that our students do and to reflect the themes of the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
What do need to know before completing your application
We want our pathways to give students the opportunity to develop capacity for interdisciplinary connections within the social sciences and beyond. In practical terms, we want our students to be able to communicate key disciplinary concepts and methods emerging from their own disciplines and specific research proposals to other researchers and to those outside academia. We also want students to learn from one another about new methods and theories and knowledge exchange networks. Each challenge pathway will be made up of students at different stages of their research and from different disciplines but with a broad interest in elements of a particular challenge. Training will be organised to encourage peer-to-peer learning and to bring in expertise from non- academic partners. Students from any discipline can apply to any challenge pathway.
We have assessed the university environments in which you will be undertaking the subject specific elements of your masters training and where you will do your PhD research. All SGSSS funded students will be studying in schools/departments where there is recognised disciplinary excellence. Furthermore, you and your supervisor can include any disciplinary gaps in knowledge or skills in your Development Needs Analysis. We shape our wider training programme (cross-challenge pathway) according to needs identified and we will also help you to find training run elsewhere if it can’t be delivered within Scotland.
We have 6 challenge-led pathways. Below we set out a brief description of what they cover and give some examples of the kinds of research that our students are already doing. As a reminder, all social science methods are welcome for each challenge pathway and each challenge can be explored from perspectives across the social sciences – for example, the issues might be explored from a sociological, psychological, management, socio-legal, political, historical, linguistic, human geography, social anthropological, policy or economic stance – or in combination with another discipline outside the social sciences. Students on the pathway will come together virtually and face-to-face to share peer-learning on theoretical, conceptual and methodological issues with a focus on communication of ideas beyond the discipline. The prioritisation of learning would come from students’ own development needs and those created collectively through early cohort development.
We recognise that many applications will align with more than one challenge pathway. In discussion with your supervisor you should decide which pathway fits best with your main ideas. You will not be disadvantaged by your choice of pathway. There is no quota system in place for each pathway so you don’t need to be concerned about the likely ‘popularity’ of any given challenge. Our intention is that the challenge pathways will be as broanclud and isive as possible so you don’t need to be concerned that your application will be judged a poor fit – what we want to hear about in your application form is what you think will be the contribution of your thesis to the challenge area, what you hope to gain from your peers as part of being included within a cohort and what you can give in return. In addition, you will be able to switch pathways once if you feel that you have made the wrong choice in year 1 of your studentship and can also attend events held by other pathways if these are of particular interest and there is space.
Because the challenge pathways were developed partly through a bottom-up process, looking at the research of our existing students, we are confident that the vast majority of likely proposals will fit at least one pathway. If, however, after reflection and discussion with your supervisor, you are unable to find a pathway description that fits your proposed work then you can signal this to us – you will not be penalised for this in the review process – the marking framework does not assess challenge fit. In your at-award Development Needs Analysis you will be able to discuss with us which pathway might offer the most fruitful learning conversations for you and your study.
SGSSS PGR Leads
From 2024, 14 of our 16 partnered institutions in Scotland are eligible to receive ESRC funding across 21 Units of Assessment (UoA). Each UoA is analogous to a subject area / discipline and each university has appointed an SGSSS PGR Lead for each UoA they are eligible for, see the lists below.
First supervisors must
- Have undergone supervisor training within their institution within the last 5 years and
- Be research active social scientists directly aligned to an eligible Unit of Assessment (with attention to publications, primary disciplines and grant funding particularly for Units of Assessment outside Panel C).
Applicants in both our supervisor-led and student-led competitions will be asked a question regarding the UoA for their supervisory team, please note this question will be used only to review the eligibility of the studentship’s supervisory team.
Guidance above was updated 24 November 2023.
A: We want to include those who were not eligible to be returned to the last REF but who are research active, whose work is aligned to an eligible UoA and who are demonstrably social scientists – as indicated by primary discipline, nature of research funding and publications.
A: Academics who have joined from a non UK institution and who were therefore not able to be returned to REF 2021 but who are research active, whose work is aligned to a relevant UoA and who are demonstrably social scientists – as indicated by primary discipline, nature of research funding and publications – will be deemed eligible.
A: You should speak to the Deans Network representative within your university or to the SGSSS PGR lead [see below].
A: You must have a member of your team who meets the eligibility criteria.
A: Your supervisors will need to read the guidance and seek a view from the Deans Network representative within your university.
A: We would advise that you highlight the guidance to your prospective lead supervisor and ask them to confirm that they meet the criteria for first supervisor (if they are unsure then they should check, as above). If your identified supervisor is not eligible then they could be second supervisor.