Frequently Asked Questions

I am a non-UK and non-EU national. Am I eligible to apply?

We are highly unlikely to be able to consider any international (non-EU) applications. The SUPER DTP programme has a cap of 10% for international recruitment across the full term of the DTP award, so about 1 student per cohort. This option is therefore generally reserved for projects that struggle to find qualified candidates.

I am a non-UK EU/EEA national. Am I eligible to apply?

EU nationals will be eligible for an award that covers the cost of tuition fees. However, to be eligible for the full award (which covers a maintenance stipend for living costs), you must also be resident in the UK for at least 3 years, counting back from the start date of the PhD (Oct 2020). Candidates from EEA countries that qualify as migrant workers are also eligible for the full award. Residency in an EEA country alone will not qualify for tuition fees-only award.

My degree is other than biology. Is my application going to be competitive?

Any related BSc/MSc level science degree is competitive when it is accompanied with good references and details about each area mentioned in the advert (scientific writing, interpersonal skills, working outdoors, data analysis, project motivation/suitability, and academic history). Related subjects could include, but are not limited to, veterinary science, statistics and geography. For project motivation/suitability, please consider how your education and skills are relevant or can be applied in the project.

Will the candidate be based in St Andrews?

Yes, the student will be based at the University of St Andrews but is expected to spend summer months in Shetland. There will be opportunities to visit and network with the institutional partners (SNH in Lerwick, and MSS in Aberdeen). We can consider options for remote working.

Does the University provide accommodation?

The University does have accommodation available, but there are also many options in the private market in and out of town.

What will the field work be like?

The field work will include land-based monitoring during the summer months (May-August) in Shetland; boat-based work is not planned at present. The duration of each field trip is not yet set, but the aim will be to cover key phases of the harbour seal breeding season. When the weather is good but there are no whale sightings, monitoring will be conducted at specific sites, including counting grey and harbour seals. When there are killer whale sightings along the coast, the work will include their tracking (focal follow observations) and photo-identification whenever possible. To learn more about the opportunities and challenges of this type field data collection, read the project blog that details preliminary field data collection The dedicated field effort will supplement citizen science observations (

The student will be expected to contribute to the design of the field data collection. Driving license, map-reading skills, self-organisation and ability to plan ahead will be essential to find and track the whales around the Isles’ complex landscape. As mentioned in the advert, we are also looking for interpersonal skills and ability to liaise with different stakeholders. The assistance and advice of local wildlife experts and enthusiasts will be key for successful field work and citizen science data collection.

What skills do I need?

PhD is a training opportunity and so we don’t expect you to master everything already. In your application it is important that you clearly identify both strong areas and desired training, and accompany listed competencies and skills with examples. A good way to demonstrate your potential to succeed in a science PhD is to stay factual and concise in your application.

We will assess all the areas mentioned in the advert (scientific writing, interpersonal skills, working outdoors, data analysis, project motivation/suitability, and academic history).

The project focus will be on integrating and modelling existing datasets. To demonstrate your potential in this, include example(s) of the most challenging data tasks you have completed to date. This could be anything from data entry, processing and standardizing, simulation to statistical modelling and critical interpretation of results. If you have any programming or statistical scripting skills, please provide examples of your experience with each language (e.g. R, Python) to demonstrate your current skill level.

Should I submit a research proposal?

No. Instead, please submit a scientific writing sample with bibliography, such as an extract from thesis or previous publication. Think about what makes good scientific text and then include your best example. A related topic would help us reading it but is not essential. The maximum word limit (1000) doesn’t include the bibliography.

The PhD project has a set of deliverables and plan to achieve them, and motivation to work on these is an essential criterion for project suitability. That said, there will also be freedom to pursue other related questions and we would love to hear your ideas about these in your cover letter and interview.

What fields should I used in the online application form?

Your documents are treated the same whichever field you use to uploaded them, so this is not crucial, but you can upload the cover letter as the ‘statement of purpose’, and leave the research proposal field empty. Informative file names that include your name and document type are generally helpful.

Are non-academic references OK?

Yes; after all, PhD is not only training for an academic career path. However, if possible, please include at least one academic referee. Consider including referee(s) that can speak about your character (such as interpersonal and team skills) as well as your research abilities.

Can I study part-time?

This is an option we can consider should you be offered the position. The funding requires a minimum of 50% effort, and from the project perspective full-time effort is required while on field work.

Does the position involve teaching?

Many St Andrews PhD students choose to tutor/ demonstrate classes but it is not compulsory.

How do I submit my application?

You must register and apply through the University system at:

Good luck! We look forward to receiving your application.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close