It'll be one of these research council doctoral training centre jobbies right? LRD's advice is still completely right. The structure of how funding is allocated has changed but academics are creatures of habit and we are completely happy to be approached the old-fashioned way.
If it is a specific uni advertising scholarships through a DTC still get in touch with relevant academics to discuss your ideas and if they are likely to be any cop as a supervisor they will also hold your hand through the application process. Also although we have DTC funded places we also still have funding from other sources, so if you convince someone in the dept you are awesome and have a really good idea for a project they may have a Plan B or C if you don't get a DTC scholarship.
Don't talk yourself out of it! It sounds great. I think it's just scary working out who to contact (well, I found it scary, anyway. I didn't get any help writing a proposal from the university where I did my master's, so I got it all by approaching potential supervisors).
I don't know if you want to PM me the link to the website where it's offered, as I'm finding it a bit difficult to understand without that? But not if you don't like.
Is there a head of the project or a head of postgraduate studies whom you can email? You could just say you're interested but you're not sure which academics are prepared to supervise projects.
Meantime, I would think you need to look at the lists of academics who work in each of the parent departments - if it's interdisciplinary they will still have to get supervisors from each of those parent departments. I would guess one or two departments will most closely fit your interests? Then the lists of academics should have brief bios of each of them, telling you his or her interests.
When I did mine, I emailed a lot of people who simply got back to me saying that their interests didn't fit with mine, or they didn't supervise PhDs in this area, or whatever it was. But they were virtually all absolutely fine about being emailed (a couple simply didn't reply!), and one of them gave me loads of helpful advice about other academics who might be interested. So I really don't think they will mind you emailing with queries before you get down to working out a specific proposal.
As R2 says, get in touch with potential supervisors. To be honest, if they can't be bothered to take the time to discuss a research proposal, I would worry that they might not be very good supervisors!
I think it's normal for the university to know they have so-many funded places and to ask for your proposal, but usually you'd be able to get some sense, looking at the people in the department, of what sorts of projects they've supervised before and what their own research interests are - that can be really helpful just to get you narrowing down to a topic.
Sorry if that isn't helpful (I just think it's exciting working out a topic so I had to comment! ).
FWIW there are quite a lot of academics on MN and they've give me shedloads of helpful advice, so if you feel able to say what the specific area is, you might find someone who will know the field and be able to help? Obviously that might feel too personal, though.
I'm in a similar situation, coming back after a long long break. I wrote a list of all the areas I was interested in and read around as much as I could. I wrote down four potential ideas (very very broad) and emailed a potential supervisor who suggested we meet. We discussed my ideas and they suggested two areas that were under researched but related to my topics of interest. Before we met I sent a statement of interest about my background, why I wanted to return, what I expected to gain from a PhD, what I had been doing since I left university and why it was relevant (I am a SAHM so that was a bit tough).
I am currently working on my second draft proposal, my supervisor is enthusiastic and I am loving working at this level again; hopefully I will be starting in September. I can't help with the funding aspect though I'm afraid
I'm looking at applying to do a fully funded PhD but I graduated 12 years ago. I know friends who went straight from uni to post-grad stuff and they were all heavily guided on the subject of research themes when doing their applications or were applying for a very specific project.
I've been working in a related field for the past 5 years but I'm wondering how best to decide on a research theme from the very little information given, it's a fairly broad area of interest. Does the fact that I can't work out a research theme indicate it's probably not for me?