The £83 million investment, which will fund at least 1,180 students, was announced by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, at the Cambridge Science Festival.
Such studentships are normally distributed to 42 institutions according to their level of EPSRC grant income. They are distinct from studentships allocated to the Centres for Doctoral Training that the EPSRC has established in specific fields – as well as from the CaSE studentships for partnerships with industry.
Last year the EPSRC spent £76.5 million on doctoral training grants. Most of this year’s increase – £5 million – will be used to fund “doctoral prizes” to “maximise the impact” of PhDs and to help improve retention.
The EPSRC was heavily criticised in 2011 by some academics when it emerged that its scrapping of project studentships had led to 1,000 fewer research studentships being awarded overall in 2011-12.
The research council estimates that it will fund a total of 1,900 PhD students in 2012-13, compared with 2,900 in 2010-11.
Its total spending on PhDs will be £137 million in 2012-13, up from £133 million in 2011-12.
Mr Willetts said: “Quality in postgraduate training is paramount. Doctoral training grants are a key investment for creating the visionary thinkers and inspirational leaders of tomorrow.”