E4 Doctoral Training Partnership

NERC DEI Flexible Funding Award

The E4 DTP secured funding from the NERC DEI Flexible Funding Award to support EDI activities between April 2022 and March 2023

The E4 DTP NERC DEI Flexible Funding Award

The E4 DTP has been awarded funding from NERC to organise a number of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion activities with the objectives of (1) demystifying PhD research for applicants from diverse backgrounds, (2) improving inclusivity within PhD programmes and (3) developing resources for widening participation in future PhD recruitments. This will include running a mentoring group scheme with high school, undergraduate and PhD students, realising professionally-produced videos showcasing PhD students in their daily lives and surveying PGR students on EDI and WP topics. The project will run from April 2022 to March 2023.

The Mentoring Group Scheme

We will recruit ten placement groups of three participants each: a current PhD student, a widening access undergraduate student and a Secondary 6 pupil attending a school eligible for the Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS, a widening participation programme which aims to encourage and advise students who are traditionally under-represented in higher education). Various subsets of these groups will meet for one afternoon a week during semester 1 of 2022-2023 (September – December).

All participants will be paid for their time spent on the placement.

The objectives of these placements are multiple and vary depending on each of the participants' perspective.

Students working on screen

High School Students

These Study Observation Placements aim to demystify university studies in Environmental Sciences topics (including research studies at PhD level) for high school students from under-represented backgrounds, who might be intimidated by pursuing their studies in Higher Education. By spending time alongside an undergraduate student mentor and a PhD student mentor to directly experience the university study environment, we hope that they can be reassured and encouraged to continue their studies and consider applying to Higher Education.

The high school student (mentee) will spend a total of 8 half days (8 x 4 hours) on campus, sharing their time with each mentor (an undergraduate student and a PhD student) to shadow their study activities (3 half days with each mentor). The activities that mentees will be able to observe with their mentors will include:

  • With the undergraduate student mentors: attending lectures and practicals (including labs if possible), observing study and project work;
  • With the PhD student mentors: seminar attendance, research group meeting, research observation, tutoring and demonstrating activities observation, fieldwork/lab experiment participation.

The mentees will also attend an introduction and conclusion session (2 half days), with all the mentoring groups. These sessions will include discussions around diversity, equality and inclusion in higher education, research and STEM studies. Students will also be given tools to make the most of their observation placements (observation notes, reflection on the experience and competencies gained throughout the process and how to use these in future applications, job/study interviews/CVs and UCAS personal statement).

Applications to this scheme are now closed.

If you are an high school student interested in the scheme, please read carefully the below document describing the scheme in details and check with your school contact (DHT or relevant guidance staff) if your school and you are eligible to participate before completing the form.

Undergraduate Students

Students working on laptop

As much as possible the undergraduate students mentors will be recruited from our widening participation groups: Widening access | The University of Edinburgh.

While spending time as mentees with PhD students, the undergraduate students will get an insight into research studies and what they are like on a day-to-day basis, in order to demystify research studies and encourage them to consider pursuing studies in post-graduate research degrees. They will gain experience in identifying and using research skills and learn how to develop these in the potential perspective of future research studies. They will also create a network when meeting with research students and academics and explore different aspects of research in Environmental Sciences.

While spending time as mentors with the high school students, the undergraduate students will get a chance to use and develop their mentoring skills by fostering a younger student, sharing their experience of the university and of higher education in general, in the topic of Environmental Sciences.

The general introduction and conclusion session will also be the occasion of networking with fellow students, reflecting on this double-sided experience, and looking at how it can be used in future study, placement (such as the NERC REPs for example) or job applications and interviews.


Applications to this scheme are open to UoE undergraduate students until the 9th of September 2022 via the below online form.

If you are an UoE undergraduate student interested in the scheme, please read carefully the below document describing the scheme in details and check your eligibility before completing the form.


Application form for Undergraduate students

PhD students

PhD students will only be mentors in this scheme and will get the opportunity to develop their mentoring skills with both the high school students and the undergraduate students, preparing and adjusting the level of activities they will be able to share with each of them. They will be tasked in showing in a very practical way what are research studies on a day-to-day basis, at least how their own PhD studies look like, as all PhD projects are different.

They will be encouraged to reflect on their mentoring experience and on ways to create a more inclusive community among PGR students and, more widely, among researchers in the Environmental Sciences.

They can also volunteer to be showcased in one of our "A day in my PhD life" videos.


Applications to this scheme are open to UoE PhD students until the 15th of September 2022 via the below online form.

If you are an PhD student interested in the scheme, please read carefully the below document describing the scheme in details and check your eligibility before completing the form.


Application form for PhD students

Students working with plants

"A day in my PhD life" videos

Preparation for the study observation activities and discussion within the groups will enable PhD students to reflect on what they could put in five-minute “A day in my PhD” videos, with an emphasis on diversity. These documentary-style videos will each feature a PhD student going about their activities on a typical working day, both on and off campus, including home life, research (lab, field and computer based work, supervisor meetings), tutoring and demonstrating. These videos will be professionally produced towards the end of the semester, and we will post them on the application page of the E4 website (and on various other university communication channels) to help with demystifying PhD work (along with recordings that our students have already made on their experiences of the application process).

PGR students EDI and WP Survey

Many initiatives have been started for increasing diversity and equity in PhD recruitment, but inclusion in individual doctoral training programmes and wider postgraduate communities has been barely considered yet. We will engage with an initiative already funded by the University of Edinburgh Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) that aims at determining key points of intervention required for creating a more inclusive culture for undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. To gain a better understanding of how inclusivity is experienced by E4 DTP PhD students, we will adapt an undergraduate student survey developed by the PTAS project to the postgraduate context. Our placement groups will pilot this survey to provide the perspectives of both current PhD students and those who have not yet applied for PhD studies. This initiative is designed not just to promote the participants’ sense of “belonging”, but also their sense of “mattering” to the group and being “valued”, making room for individuals who may perceive themselves as different or marginalised. By working with the PTAS project team, we can draw on their experience and contribute to a wider understanding of inclusive university cultures.


Please address any questions to e4dtp.info@ed.ac.uk

Stephanie Robin - NERC DTP Manager - School of GeoSciences

Kay Douglas - Widening Participation and Outreach Coordinator  - School of GeoSciences