SPITFIRE Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)

General information

SPITFIRE - the Southampton Partnership for Innovative Training of Future Investigators Researching the Environment- is a NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) creating an innovative multi-disciplinary experience for the effective training of future leaders in environmental science, engineering, technology development, business, and policy. 

SPITFIRE students will be registered at the University of Southampton and will undertake their PhD project research within the University or one of the hosting partner organisations. Unique features of SPITFIRE include opportunities for placements at a range of prestigious international research organisations or industrial and policy partners. SPITFIRE aims to support a cohort of up to 30 students per year over 5 years.

Research Programme
A list of available SPITFIRE projects can be found here. Projects can also be searched according to research field and suitable first degree. We encourage candidates to list 2 or 3 projects in which they are interested with a provisional ranking of preference to help us circulate your application among the pool of potential supervisors. Please submit only one application. Multiple projects can be listed on one application.

Research fields: Coastal Processes and Shelf Seas, Geochemistry, Geology and Geophysics, Marine Ecosystems, Ocean Biogeochemistry, Ocean Technology and Sensors, Paleoceanography and Palaeoclimate, Physical Oceanography and Climate.

Training Programme
Training excellence within the DTP is built upon:

  • The scientific excellence and expertise of our supervisors drawn from across the University of Southampton and hosting partners
  • Provision of a comprehensive development programme and structure, with innovative content
  • Opportunities for gaining wide ranging experience, including sea-going and field based research and international, industrial, commercial and policy placements within the extensive partnership.
  • Robust mechanisms of supervision, monitoring and progression developed through ensuring active researcher and student involvement in the programme development, management and operation

In addition to developing their own research project addressing a key current environmental problem, SPITFIRE students will benefit from a range of development opportunities throughout the programme, commencing with the two week induction programme which will be undertaken by the whole cohort at the National Oceanography Centre campus in Southampton.

Why GSNOCS - Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton?
“If you want to take the pulse of any top-flight research institution then check out its PhD students” says Professor Paul Wilson, Head of the Graduate School.

GSNOCS is, by any measure, a strong and vibrant place to develop your research career. We are big, highly international, scientifically diverse and genuinely multidisciplinary with nearly 200 PhD students drawn from backgrounds in Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Geology, Geophysics, Mathematics, Meteorology, Natural Sciences, Oceanography and Physics.

As a PhD student at GSNOCS you will be a member of a critical mass of scientists undertaking cutting edge research in the ocean and Earth sciences.  The Graduate School seamlessly spans the spectrum of research interests of scientists from the University of Southampton's programme in Ocean and Earth Science and the Natural Environment Research Council's Division of Science and Technology (DST) based at the purpose-built Waterfront Campus.

Our postgraduate students are a highly valued part of our research-intensive community, and are central to thriving interdisciplinary collaborations between NOCS research groups and other research groups from across the University and from leading institutions elsewhere in the UK and overseas

Students from all over the world and from all science disciplines join us to research and use the unique facilities we have at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton.

We have invested in a first class, dynamic programme to support PhD students, with innovative training techniques, comprehensive student services and cutting edge research resources. We are currently on a drive to expand our Graduate School through the recruitment of high-calibre students from the UK, EU and overseas.

An energetic postgraduate committee represents the PhD community at departmental meetings and organizes regular social events throughout the year.

Research groups and facilities: Research at GSNOCS spans every aspect of the natural sciences, and the combination of field leading scientists, exposure to emerging ocean technology and access to research ships provides PhD students with an outstanding level of training and the opportunity to take their research to the highest level.  Within GSNOCS, research is split into seven research areas.

  1. Physical Oceanography and Climate
  2. Marine Ecosystems
  3. Ocean Biogeochemistry
  4. Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate
  5. Geochemistry
  6. Geology and Geophysics
  7. Coastal Processes and Shelf Seas
  8. Ocean Technology and Sensors
Contact Person: SPITFIRE Team (spitfire@southampton.ac.uk)


The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0532 - Marine Geology", "0532 - Physical and chemical oceanography", "0588 - Scientific modelling", "0521 - Ecology


Venue: University of Southampton
Southampton , United Kingdom


  • BSc/MSci 2:1
  • and/or Masters (MSc or MRes) at Merit/Distinction level (>60%)
  • and/or evidence of significant relevant professional experience equivalent to Masters level.

Application Procedure:

The application portal for submitting a PhD application for 2016/17 entry is now closed unless you are self funding. Please note that any independent project will need an appropriate Ocean and Earth Science academic as a primary supervisor, so please ensure you have secured this before submitting an application.

Projects for the 2017/18 entry will be advertised from October 2016.

Application Deadline for 2017/18 entry - to be confirmed. Information on how to apply will be available shortly

Our recruitment philosophy. GSNOCS seeks the best prospective research students regardless of their particular scientific interests. In other words we aim, wherever possible, to recruit the best students rather than to fill particular projects. We put a huge amount of effort into the recruitment process to meet this objective. We receive hundreds of applicants and interview around 100 candidates a year. Those candidates invited for interview spend a whole day at NOCS getting to know the institution, meeting supervisors, and going through the interview process. International candidates will be offered a Skype interview. Please check the projects(s) for any restrictions on applications i.e Eligibility criteria before applying.

Timetable. We welcome applications from strong candidates at any time outside the advertised application deadline dates if you self-fundng, and some funded projects become available throughout the year. But please note that the bulk of our funding is allocated during the interview-evaluation process concentrated in the spring (February through March/April). Short-listing for interviews begins in January so we strongly advise you to make your applications as early as possible. Typically we start to receive applications for this process in October and successful applicants enrol for the start of the new academic year in the following October.

Funding for UK, EU and Overseas students. GSNOCS typically recruits approximately 60 new students per year. Nearly half of these are funded by research council sources (mostly through various Natural Environmental Research Council awards).  A minority of studentships are funded by the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, The University of Southampton, European Union and industrial sources.

Non-UK/EU overseas students comprise over 25% of GSNOCS entry and are funded via a wide variety of international sources as well as through two schemes administered in Southampton.

University funding for overseas students. The Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award (DHPA) is a matching scheme awarded to academically outstanding candidates where approximately half of the overall fee and stipend cost for a three year PhD is funded by an industry partner.

Ocean and Earth Science International scholarships. There are a limited number of international student scholarships, awarded by GSNOCS, available for highly qualified non-UK/EU applicants to cover the cost of overseas student fees. Applicants must identify the project(s) in which they are interested and are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant supervisors directly prior to making a formal application.

Grant Opportunities:

Each SPITFIRE project comes with a fully funded studentship for UK students and EU students who meet the RCUK eligibility criteria. To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay and
  • Been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the grant. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
  • 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)

Some projects are open to strong applicants who do not meet the above eligibility and/or are using alternative funding mechanisms via the GSNOCS PhD programme.  These projects will contain a link to apply via GSNOCS.


Academic level: PhD
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