Irish Research Council-European Southern Observatory Studentship Programme


IRC-ESO Studentship Programme

Background: European Southern Observatory (ESO) Studentship Programme

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere awards studentship positions each year, based in both Germany and Chile. The programme offers an invaluable training opportunity for the next generation of astronomers and users of ESO facilities. Studentships are open to students enrolled in a PhD programme, preferentially but not necessarily in an ESO member state. Depending on the number of available positions, there may be one or two annual application deadlines, in May and November.

Context: IRC-ESO Studentship Programme

Acknowledging the importance of Ireland’s membership of the ESO and the value of investing in Ireland’s next generation of astronomers, the IRC signed a five-year Partnership Agreement with the ESO in June 2019. The IRC considers the ESO’s Studentship Programme to provide a valuable opportunity for astronomers of the future to gain experience at the most productive ground-based astronomical observatory in the world. The IRC has agreed to fund an ESO studentship for an Ireland-based researcher in 2023.

Students enrolled in a PhD programme in astronomy or the related fields of observational, theoretical or fundamental astrophysics will be eligible to apply. They must be registered at a higher education institution in the Republic of Ireland that is eligible to receive Irish Research Council funding.

Applicants may be recent entrants to a doctoral degree programme or PhD candidates nearing the completion of their research degree. Applicants may be Council scholars or may be funded by another source (or self-funded).

Please note: applicants must have the equivalent duration remaining on their PhD programme for the duration of funding they are applying for. The studentship cannot be used to extend the duration of your PhD programme.

The Studentship will be of a one- or two-year duration. Applicants must specify in their application whether they are seeking a one- or two-year Studentship, as extensions will not subsequently be granted.

The successful applicant will be selected by the ESO and approved by the IRC. The successful applicant must be above the ESO’s threshold of excellence.

What we offer: IRC-ESO Studentship Programme

The Irish Research Council-ESO Studentship will consist of the following:

  • An annual stipend of €25,000
  • Annual research expenses of €4,500
  • A contribution to fees (up to a maximum of €5,750 per annum) will be made only if the applicant is already IRC-funded.

How to apply

Before you apply, please engage in advance with a local ESO sponsor. See further information below on how this can be achieved.

Applicants must apply through the ESO Portal and will adhere to the Programme’s existing application process, supplying the following documents:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum Vitae, including a list of publications, if any
  • Copies of the applicant’s university transcript and certificate(s) or diploma(s)
  • Summary of the applicant’s Master’s thesis project (if applicable) and ongoing projects, including the title and supervisor (maximum half a page)
  • Short description of the general scientific plan for the PhD, indicating the tentative title and the home institute supervisor (maximum half a page). The planned starting date and end date should also be included.
  • Outline of the proposed project for the Studentship (maximum one page), containing a clear timeline including the tentative start and expected end dates of the Studentship at ESO. The candidate should highlight how the proposed project fits in the context of the overall PhD plan and what are the advantages of coming to ESO.
  • The names and contact details of the applicant’s home institution supervisor and the ESO local supervisor. They will be automatically invited to submit a recommendation letter; however, applicants are strongly advised to trigger these invitations (using the web application form) well in advance of the application deadline (as it can be done before the final submission of the application).
  • Letter from the home institution that indicates whether the prerequisites to obtain the PhD degree at the home institution have already been met.
  • Non-Council-funded applicants only:
    • Letter of commitment from the home institution that will indicate that the applicant’s postgraduate fees will be waived or paid for by another source of funding during his/her time spent at ESO facilities.
    • Confirmation from the home institution of the financial support to be provided to the applicant for the remainder of his/her doctoral research after the period spent at ESO facilities.

All documents should be typed in English (but no translation is required for certificates and diplomas in other languages).

Key Dates - further information to follow on dates when the call opens

Call opens3 April 2024
Deadline for applications30 April 2024
Outcome of callTBD


Please read the ESO’s Frequently Asked Questions page, which includes contact details. Please contact the ESO regarding key dates and for any other information required for the next call. The key dates will be published here also.

This call is managed by the ESO, further contact details can be here.

Applicants are kindly asked not to contact the Irish Research Council directly.

Information for connecting with an ESO sponor

As part of the application process, an applicant is required to connect and engage with an ESO sponsor.

A previous recipient of the studentship provided this advice for connecting with an ESO sponsor;

“The initial conversation with my ESO sponsor was led by my supervisor, who had first met my sponsor a couple of years prior through collaborations with other colleagues. Once we had been introduced, my sponsor and I discussed my research goals and interests, available data and timelines for a potential project. With my supervisor, we discussed my overall PhD thesis and how such a project would enhance the thesis as well as providing a fantastic opportunity to expand my own professional network.


Reaching out to a possible sponsor is definitely not like a cold call, and I think it’s important for supervisors to be active in international collaborations to foster these connections naturally.”

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