Sixteen “consortia” of universities and external organisations will provide PhD training through 11 “Doctoral Training Partnerships” and seven “Centres for Doctoral Training”.
Announced on 15 October, these will replace the council’s Block Grant Partnership scheme, which had in the past been awarded to a larger number of individual institutions.
The move brings the AHRC into line with other research councils which already fund PhD training through this model.
While partnerships will host doctoral students in the full range of arts and humanities disciplines, the centres are intended to provide training in the council’s priority areas - currently modern languages, creative and performing arts, and heritage.
Together the consortia will involve 75 higher education institutions - compared with 96 awarded under the block grant scheme - alongside 155 partners, including national museums and galleries, arts and culture organisations, bodies such as the Design Council and companies.
The council said that the new arrangement would provide greater flexibility for universities, as they would award partnerships a set amount of funding, rather than specific number of studentships.
Funding will also include money for placement opportunities and skills training, as well as “cohort development activities” to support joint supervision, sharing of resources between institutions and activities such as student events and networking.
“The new arrangements represent a consolidation of postgraduate provision; this consolidation means a significant enhancement of the opportunities for sharing resources as well as creating new and richer research training environment for students, both within disciplines, and in new interdisciplinary ways,” a spokeswoman for the council told Times Higher Education.
The council plans to spend £163 million in the coming five years on the schemes, subject to government spending allocations beyond March 2015, which equates to 495 new studentships a year.
This is a drop in basic funding spent on block grant partnerships over the past five years (£174 million), however in the new scheme more funding will be available for PhDs as standalone master’s are no longer funded.
A spokeswoman for the council added that universities had also already committed £63 million in matched funding, which would increase the total number of studentships available.
The AHRC added that it would continue to support postgraduate training through the Collaborative Skills Development scheme and Collaborative Doctoral Awards which equates to a further £6 million of funding per year.
“This is an important step forward in delivering the best possible training and support for postgraduate students in the arts and humanities, and in developing a collaborative approach which pools expertise and expands horizons for postgraduate researchers,” said Rick Rylance, chief executive of the AHRC.