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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

C-CLEAR DTP application assessment criteria

What are we looking for?

Applications to the DTP go through two stages of assessment: the first stage takes place within the potential host department; and the second by the C-CLEAR theme panel. Both stages typically involve an interview. The criteria listed here apply across the whole process. 

If you are unsure whether to apply, or want to chat with existing students or staff, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at

We are looking for students with outstanding research potential.  Listed below are the criteria we use as a framework for assessment.

Academic excellence

  • Degree results (or predicted results)
  • Academic achievements, for example authorship of published papers, recognition by scientific societies, invitations to speak
  • Evidence of particular achievement in key, relevant subject areas

Originality and independence

  • Ability to work independently
  • A high level of self-motivation
  • Evidence  of previous circumstances involving problem-solving and/or critical decision-making over the course of a project
  • Evidence of having thought through the proposed project and the appropriate approaches to it

Communication skills

  • Ability to communicate clearly 
  • Ability to give clear, logical, precise and detailed answers 
  • Enthusiasm for science

Preparedness for PhD

  • Critical self-evaluation of skills and skills gaps
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Ability to assess challenges and develop strategies to overcome them 
  • Ability to elucidate how the PhD fits into future career plans/outlook

We take into account contextual information related to these criteria, such as an upward trajectory in academic achievement, adversity and challenges encountered, other significant and unavoidable demands on your time whilst you were studying (such as caring responsibilities or the need to maintain a job throughout term-time to support yourself financially), and the availability to you, or your ability to take up, opportunities for academic endeavours such as research internships. We recognise that a range of factors can influence a student’s individual path into postgraduate study, and we are keen to ensure that we engage sensitively and fairly with such variation to identify the most talented applicants from all backgrounds. We strongly encourage applicants to provide contextual information when applying.