Feedback on applications to the Multiple PhD Studentship scheme

We received many high-quality applications to the Multiple PhD Studentship scheme, and we recently let applicants know the result of their applications. The overall success rate was 23%. Owing to the number of applications received, it is not possible to provide feedback on individual applications, however, themes that distinguished stronger applications and areas that could have been improved upon are listed below. We hope that this will prove useful in strengthening applications for future rounds of this call. Applications were assessed on a range of criteria as detailed in our Call Guidance Documentation.

High-scoring applications:

  • Clearly linked how the institutional strategic commitment to ageing research aligned with the Dunhill Medical Trust’s strategic themes and described how this specific award would contribute to meeting the Institution’s strategic aspirations in ageing research.
  • Incorporated multidisciplinary projects that were explicitly aligned to the Dunhill Medical Trust’s strategic themes and highlighted how these projects would address areas of unmet need. Additionally, these included the appropriate support for students to work across different teams/departments.
  • Provided a broad range of training opportunities including bespoke cohort-specific training and/or internships going beyond standard graduate school training.
  • Included Patient, carer and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) in the development of the proposal and described how it was intended to incorporate PPIE throughout the proposed studentships.
  • Planned innovative dissemination strategies that aimed to boost student career development.
  • Involved wider professional networks and aimed to support students to develop their connections within these networks and the wider field.
  • Incorporated equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) throughout the entire application, at institutional, supervisor, student, and project levels.

Areas for improvement:

  • Regarding equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), it was important not to focus only on organisational policies and to mention how EDI would be considered within the design of research projects. Additionally, it was important to state how exactly you intended to achieve the stated aims rather than simply stating aspirations.
  • There was often a lack of transparency about how the potential supervisors were/will be selected. It is vital to ensure that this is a clear process and so it is important that these details are included.
  • In many cases, there was insufficient detail in the budget to account for the resources needed to support the stated aims. For example, the provision of funds for students’ laptops, PPIE costs, dissemination, conference attendance. Additionally, overheads should not be included as part of the budget (you receive a contribution to overhead via the Charities Research Support Fund).
  • Occasionally, Patient, carer and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) was not considered. It is always possible to include PPIE into a proposal, even for projects that are lab-based. It is also important to state what the involvement will actually be. For guidance, see the UK Standards for Public Involvement.
  • Often, the potential impact of the projects was identified, but there was insufficient detail on how students would be supported to set themselves on the pathway to achieving impact.

In all sections of the form, it is important to include specific actions and examples rather than making broad statements/aspirations or relying only on organisational policies (e.g. in relation to EDI or PPIE) and many applications did not score highly as a result of this.

We appreciate the time and effort put into developing each application and wish those that were unsuccessful the very best for the future rounds of this scheme which we are planning.