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Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships

For UK universities to fund up to 18 Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships in a priority research area for that institution

Please note the Leverhulme Trust does not accept applications directly from graduates wishing to pursue doctoral study.

Following a review, the Trust Board has decided to increase its commitment to the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships scheme, leading to the following changes:

  • Additional scholarship places are available to support students from underrepresented groups undertake a master’s plus doctoral programme.

  • Applications to the scheme will be accepted from consortia of a maximum of two universities.

  • A limited number of doctoral scholarships may be allocated to international students.

Further information is given in the guidance below, please read this carefully.

Value

Ten awards of up to £1.95m will be made to UK universities in each round. 

Each award funds fifteen four-year Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships, with five scholarships to be offered in each year of the first three years of the grant. 

Three of these fifteen places can be allocated to international students. 

To provide targeted support to ensure better progression of low income and Black students to doctoral study, universities can apply for additional funding, for up to three students, from these underrepresented groups to undertake a research master’s degree before progressing to a PhD. Please see the following sections for further details. 

Duration

Each grant runs over a period of 8 years.

Before beginning your application, please read the information below.

Institutional Eligibility

The scheme is open to applications from any UK university. 

To increase the reach of the scheme and the diversity of institutions the Trust funds, applications will also be accepted from consortia of a maximum of two universities. In the proposal, one university and one principal applicant must be identified to lead. The principal applicant will submit the proposal and, if an award is made, take lead responsibility for financial and reporting matters. The funding contract would be held by the lead university.  
 
A university may submit only one application as lead but may partner in multiple applications as long as they are in different subject areas. 
 
Once a university has selected their preferred bid, they should send the principal applicant’s name, departmental affiliation and email address to Katharyn Lanaro at grants@leverhulme.ac.uk. Access will then be granted to the Leverhulme Trust Grants Management System.

Eligibility for Additional Funding

In addition to the standard fifteen four-year doctoral scholarship places, institutions may also recruit three students to a master’s plus PhD programme. 

Students wishing to pursue the master’s plus PhD route need to fulfil the following criteria:

  1. Be a UK domiciled student
  2. Not already have a master’s degree from the host institution
  3. Be from a low-income household background evidenced by, for example, being in receipt of a full maintenance loan or Special Support loan during their undergraduate studies.

and/or

  1. Be one of the following categories of ethnicity:
    • Black African
    • Black Caribbean
    • Black Other
    • Mixed – White and Black Caribbean
    • Mixed – White and Black African
    • Other mixed background (including Black African, Black Caribbean and Black Other
What the Trust offers
UK Doctoral Scholarships

UK students undertaking a PhD will each be eligible for a fixed sum scholarship of £90,000 for up to 48 months of full-time doctoral study. This covers:

  • maintenance (at UKRI base levels)
  • tuition fees (at UKRI base levels)

Any remaining funds are to be used for the Leverhulme Scholar’s research and training expenses.

International Doctoral Scholarships

Up to three scholarships in each award can be made to international students. Each scholarship provides up to £172,000 per student for up to 48 months of full-time doctoral study. This covers:

  • maintenance (at UKRI base levels)
  • tuition fees (at the university’s standard international fee rate, up to a maximum of £25,000 per year)

Any remaining funds are to be used for the Leverhulme Scholar’s research and training expenses.

Master’s Plus Doctoral Scholarships

In addition to the fifteen standard PhD scholarships, universities can apply for up to three further studentships for a master’s plus doctoral programme. These students can be recruited at any time as part of the three cohorts.

Each scholarship provides up to £120,000 for up to 60 months of full-time study. This covers:

Research master’s degree (12 months of full-time study):

  • maintenance (at UKRI base level)
  • tuition fees (at the university’s usual UK fee rate, up to a maximum of £12,000) 

Doctoral Degree (up to 48 months of full-time study):

  • maintenance (at UKRI base levels)
  • tuition fees (at UKRI base levels)

Any remaining funds are to be used for the Leverhulme Scholar’s research and training expenses which can be incurred at any stage of the master’s plus programme. Please note that these funds are ring-fenced for supporting students from these underrepresented groups.

Topics

The awards are offered in a subject area or thematic area that applicant universities have identified as a research priority.
 
The chosen area should be sufficiently broad to sustain up to 18 doctoral students over the period of the grant, but it should also have a clear and coherent overarching thematic identity.

Ineligible research areas

The following are ineligible for funding by the Trust:

  • studies of disease, illness and disabilities in humans and animals*
  • research that is intended to inform clinical practice or the development of medical applications* 
  • research areas currently identified as a priority by the research councils or other significant public funders
  • policy-driven research where the principal objective is to assemble an evidence base for immediate policy initiatives
  • research where advocacy is an explicit component
  • research aimed principally at an immediate commercial application
  • proposals in which the balance between assembling a data bank or database and the related subsequent research is heavily inclined to the former

* excluded because substantial funding is available from other sources for applied medical research and the Trust’s priority is to support investigations of a fundamental nature. 

Assessment criteria
General criteria

When considering applications for this scheme we will use the standard Leverhulme Trust assessment criteria to identify applications of outstanding merit and that fit with the particular values of the Trust. These general assessment criteria are set out in detail in Our approach to grant-making.

Specific scheme criteria

There are several additional criteria that are specific to the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships scheme. For single university applications, these are:

  1. The strength of the case made by the university for the choice of subject area identified as a priority for doctoral training. E.g.:
    • Does the chosen subject area support a research priority identified in the university’s strategic plan? 
    • Does it contribute to an existing area of research excellence? Or will it enable the university to innovate in a new field of research?
  1. How well the proposed scholarships fit within the university’s current provision for doctoral training, and the extent to which the award would add value.
  2. The extent to which the scholarships will deliver a legacy for the university’s research in the chosen area, and how well this legacy will be sustained beyond the duration of a Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships grant.

For applications submitted by consortia, the following criteria apply:

  1. The strength of the case made by the two universities for the choice of subject area identified as a priority for doctoral training. E.g.:
    • Does the chosen subject area support a research priority identified in both universities’ strategic plans? 
    • Does it contribute to existing areas of research excellence? Or will it enable the universities to develop or innovate in a new field of research?
  1. How well the proposed scholarships fit within the two universities’ current provision for doctoral training and the extent to which the award would add value.
  2. The extent to which the scholarships will deliver a legacy for the two universities’ research in the chosen area, and how well this legacy will be sustained beyond the duration of a Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships grant.
  3. The extent to which the proposed programme is an equal partnership with mutual benefits for both universities. 
  4. The added benefit a consortium approach would bring to the two participating universities and the proposed Doctoral Scholarships programme. 
  5. The strength of the plans for the management of the Doctoral Scholarships programme between the two universities. 
How to apply

Universities may submit only one application as lead but may partner in multiple applications in different subject areas. 

Applications are not accepted from other UK institutions or organisations.

Applications must be submitted by a principal applicant, and for consortium proposals, a single principal applicant should be identified. 

There are three elements in the application procedure:

  1. A short application form and a detailed statement, submitted by the nominated principal applicant from the lead university. 
  2. A supporting statement from a designated representative of the university, e.g. the pro-vice-chancellor for research, or someone holding a similar role. Please note that for applications from consortia, supporting statements are required from a designated representative from both participating universities. 
  3. Institutional approval of the application: the lead applicant university’s normal procedure for approving Leverhulme Trust applications.
Short application form

The short application form requires the following information:

  1. Brief biographical details about the principal applicant
  2. The title of the programme
  3. A 250-word summary of each of the following: 
    • the rationale behind the choice of research subject area for doctoral scholarships
    • the relationship between the proposed Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships and any current doctoral training awards in the chosen research subject area or related disciplines
    • how the proposed Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships would provide added value in the chosen research subject area and to the university/universities. 
    • the legacy that will be delivered for the university’s/universities’ research in the chosen research subject area and details of how the university/universities intend(s) to sustain this beyond the duration of the Leverhulme grant
    • details of any relevant additional financial or other support or resources to be provided by the university/universities during the grant

These points should be elaborated on in the detailed statement.

The detailed statement

The detailed statement should address the following issues in detail and provide any other relevant key information:

  • the rationale behind the choice of research subject area for doctoral scholarships
  • the relationship between the proposed Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships and any current doctoral training awards in the chosen research subject area or related disciplines
  • how the proposed Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships would add value in the chosen research subject area and to the university/universities
  • the legacy that will be delivered for the university’s/universities’ research in the chosen research subject area and details of how the university/universities intend(s) to sustain this beyond the three years of the Leverhulme grant
  • details of any relevant additional financial or other support or resources to be provided by the university/universities during the grant
  • relevant information about key academic staff likely to be involved (e.g. the number of their doctoral supervisees) and about general research capacity in this area
  • the proposed mode of selecting the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars to ensure that those candidates chosen have an outstanding academic record and the potential to complete their doctoral studies successfully

For applications from consortia, the following additional information should also be provided in the detailed statement: 

  • the basis and any history for the partnership and the expected benefits of this to the doctoral programme and participating universities
  • a description of how any award would be managed across the partners (who would be the awarding university/ies, how studentships would be distributed, how the cohort would be developed across sites etc.)
  • a contingency plan in the event that a partner university could not continue to participate in the doctoral programme

The maximum length of the statement is 10 sides of A4 (font size 11pt or greater).  

The principal applicant can choose how to use this space in order to address these points. The statement should be uploaded as a Word or PDF document.

Supporting statement by designated representative: lead university

A supporting statement is required from a designated representative for the applying university. This should be the pro-vice-chancellor for research, or someone holding a similar role. The supporting statement should be no more than 500 words and provide:

  • an explanation of why the research subject area is deemed to be of importance to the university
  • key information about the university’s research capacity in this area (for example, numbers of staff and doctoral students, and grant income)
Supporting statement by designated representative: partner university

Applications from consortia should submit a letter of support from the partner institution, which in addition to the points required for the supporting statement from the lead institution, should outline their financial and support package to the Doctoral Scholarships Programme. The statement should be provided by a designated representative of the university, e.g. the pro-vice-chancellor for research, or someone holding a similar role. The partner university should provide the lead university with the statement to be uploaded as a Word or PDF document. 

Institutional approval

Once the designated representative of the lead university has provided the statement, the application form requires online institutional approval according to the normal procedure for signing off Leverhulme Trust applications. 

Please note that in the case of consortium applications, there is no additional approval stage for the partner university. 

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