Funding opportunities

Nuclear Waste Services Research Support Office PhD bursary call 2024

The Nuclear Waste Services Research Support Office (NWS RSO) will soon be opening the 2024 PhD bursary call for proposals. The scheme will provide funding to UK academic institutions for 4-year PhD projects that directly support NWS’s mission to deliver a UK Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

The aim of this NWS RSO PhD bursary programme is to develop a portfolio of people and research projects focused on key research priorities in line with the NWS safety case for the GDF. In addition, this scheme will train the next generation of geological disposal scientists, engineers, social scientists and other researchers, and expand all aspects of the geological disposal research community throughout the UK.

Webinar on the PhD bursary call 2023/24

This will be a joint session outlining both this NWS RSO PhD bursary scheme and the aligned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) bursary scheme. The two calls will run concurrently and open for projects over the coming weeks, concluding before the end of 2023 with announcement of results shortly thereafter.

Each scheme provides funding to UK academic institutions for up to 4 year PhD projects that contribute to the separate but related core responsibilities of both the NDA and NWS RSO:

  • For the NDA, meeting our mission to deliver safe, sustainable and publicly acceptable solutions to the challenge of decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy.
  • For the NWS RSO to build the underpinning knowledge and understanding to develop the safety case for geological disposal.

Each scheme is expecting to fund several new PhD projects, to commence in autumn 2024, across a broadening research portfolio and inclusive of any research that demonstrates benefit to the funding organisation’s mission. You are invited to register for an online webinar to allow any applicants the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the process, this will take place on

Thursday 5th October 2023 at 13.00

To register to attend bursary call webinar please register here on Eventbrite. This session will be recorded and made available online after the event.

Webinar Registration on Eventbrite

Specific to the NWS RSO, each project proposal should have a total cost to NWS of less than £145,000. Projects that can offer added value will be viewed favourably, for example by identifying co-funding from universities or third parties (either anticipated or confirmed) and/or in-kind contributions. Universities and research groups that have not previously received funding from NWS are particularly encouraged to apply. The contractual arrangements for the PhD studentships will be administered by NWS.

For the 2024 bursary call, NWS has developed project briefs in 10 research areas. These project briefs cover a range of disciplines including applied mathematics, engineering, geoscience, materials, radiochemistry, sustainability and social sciences. NWS is also inviting applications to the open topic, for any research project aligned to the NWS GDF safety case programme development.

As soon as the bursary call opens, shortly, we will give further details of the call on this page. To make sure you are informed when this opens please sign up to our newsletter which will keep you up to date on all our funding and activities.

If you would like to understand more about the RSO and the previous PhD bursary call, please watch the briefing webinar for last year’s bursary call below, recorded on 5th October 2022.



What is the difference between Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) and Radioactive Waste Management (RWM)? Who is awarding the funding?

Radioactive Waste Management Ltd is trading as Nuclear Waste Services. Any contractual arrangements will be with Radioactive Waste Management Ltd, however in most circumstances Nuclear Waste Services will be used. Nuclear Waste Services brings together the UK’s leading nuclear waste management capabilities and you can read more about it here.

Are we able to recruit international candidates if awarded funding for a PhD project?

There is normally no problem in recruiting an international candidate as long as there is no increase in budget required from NWS for this and you should explain how the budget for international students will be managed. We note that NWS have an expectation for all their funded studentships of a basic level of bursary to match UKRI minimum stipend amounts, and additionally there is a duty of care regarding the student self-funding. Depending on the subject area, the student may be required to apply to the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). You should raise this during your recruitment process as there are some cases in which this may not be possible.

Should we account for international fees in our application?

If you anticipate recruiting an international candidate then you can include contributions to overseas tuition fees in your costs, providing the total budget requested from NWS is not more than £145,000. We note that NWS have an expectation for all their funded studentships of a basic level of bursary to match UKRI minimum stipend amounts, and additionally there is a duty of care regarding the student self-funding. Once an agreement is in place the budget cannot be increased, but it can be reduced.

Do you accept collaborative applications from multiple partners?

Yes, multiple partners can submit a joint application which should be led from a UK University, and can include a range of project partners (e.g. additional universities, BGS, NNL, International organisations, industry). The agreement will only be between NWS and the lead university. Any additional collaborators will need to have an agreement with the lead university.

Is there a limit to the number of applications per university, or per supervisor?

No, we accept multiple applications per university and supervisors can be part of more than one submission. There is no maximum number of awards per university or supervisor.

What costs are allowed or excluded?

Further details on how to complete the budget part of the application can be found in the submission guidance. Please refer to the grant agreement template for a list of excluded costs.

How many PhD’s will be funded?

We anticipate around 8-10 projects will be funded, depending on the level of co-funding identified. For information, current co-funding levels are, on average, at approximately 50 % funding from NWS and 50 % funding from other sources.

The University may be able to secure match funding, is NWS interested in this?

Yes, co-funding and in-kind contributions are strongly encouraged and will be scored favourably. Please outline these clearly in the application.

How will the application be evaluated? What information is needed?

All evaluations are completed by NWS against the criteria outlined in the guidance document. We recommend ensuring you cover the following areas in particular as, based on previous years, these are sometimes missed out; ensure alignment to the brief or S&T plan is thoroughly described, ensure risks and mitigation measures are identified, outline how skills of the wider supervisory team will be developed through the project, and identify any co-funding or in-kind contributions associated with the project.

Once the applications are scored, awards are made to the highest scoring applications. If there are more projects than the budget allows for then awards will be made based on creating a strategic balance across discipline areas.

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