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The Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership (NINE DTP) is a collaborative enterprise that brings together seven esteemed universities across North East England and Northern Ireland.

The NINE DTP has successfully secured £20m from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), along with £8.5 million in match funding from the partner universities.

NINE DTP, led by Durham University, unites the academic expertise of Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teesside, Queen’s and Ulster Universities and each year admits a cohort of around 55 PhD researchers across the seven partner universities.

As a result, over the next five years the NINE DTP, which was first established in 2017, will be able to offer PhD places in 18 subject-specific training pathways and interdisciplinary areas across the full breadth of social science research.

The new funding will allow additional study opportunities in three new areas; criminology, policing and prisons; environment, climate and sustainability; and sport and society.

The partnership covers the full range of social science subjects and is home to research that explores challenging and societally important questions, with a strength in examining issues of regional importance to North East England and Northern Ireland.

Research examples include regional inequalities in educational provision, sexual violence within prisons, and the role of physical activity in the wellbeing of youth with disabilities.

Starting from 2024, all students will be expected to complete a 12-week placement, while the standard studentship period will be extended from three to three and a half years, offering more time for students to complete their research while putting their research into practice beyond academia.

Dr Conor Murray, Ulster University’s Institutional Director of the ESRC NINE DTP, emphasised the benefits of this initiative, he said: Ulster University’s PhD researchers that are successful through the competition will receive support to develop research skills, whether attending the wide range of DTP (Doctoral Training Partnership) events, or receiving funding to participate in national and international training courses and opportunities."

The ESRC NINE DTP encourages and supports research with partners and external organisations by funding activities which promote collaboration with partners, both academic and non-academic.

Dr Conor Murray will lead on 'Work Package 4' of the recommissioned DTP, focusing on the development of bespoke training for PhD researchers working in collaboration with external partners. Additionally, Ulster University will host the 'Collaboration Showcase' – a two-day event that will celebrate collaborative PhD research projects within the DTP. Dr Murray commented: “By encouraging research with collaborative partners the DTP allows our PhD researchers to develop and evidence professional research skills, and develop good practice in research dissemination, application and impact.”

Speaking about the new funding, Durham University Professor Philip Steinberg, who directs NINE DTP, said: “NINE DTP is a collaborative and energetic partnership drawing on the collective skills and resources of seven universities to deliver outstanding training, supervision, and support to the next generation of social scientists. 

“This new funding will allow us to not only continue this work, but expand it into new areas of study, broadening our reach, bringing new expertise and research questions to the partnership, helping us prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century research environment.”