The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is the main source of UK Government funding for doctoral students in Arts and Humanities subjects. An AHRC PhD studentship will cover fees and / or maintenance as well as providing additional training and development opportunities during your doctorate.
In this guide we've explained exactly how AHRC PhD funding works, who is eligible and how to apply.
The AHRC is one of the seven Research Councils that make up UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). These organisations manage UK budgets for funding research and training future researchers (like you!).
The AHRC funds PhDs in all Arts and Humanities subjects, including:
AHRC funding comes in the form of PhD studentships. There are two components to a PhD studentship from the AHRC:
(The value of both amounts rises annually with inflation: you'll get the increased amount in each subsequent year of your PhD.)
The fee payment is kept by your university who must use it to cover your PhD fees (they cannot charge you any more than this or require additional fee payments from you whilst you are AHRC funded).
The doctoral stipend is paid to you, tax-free, to cover accommodation and living costs. You don't need to pay any of it back at the end of your PhD.
Depending on your eligibility, you may get a full studentship (including the fee payment and doctoral stipend) or a partial studentship (which only covers your PhD fees).
Funding for a certain number of studentships each year is already allocated to universities and other organisations.
The funding opportunities described on this page are for Arts and Humanities PhDs. Other members of Research and Innovation allocate their own Research Council studentships for different PhD subjects.
Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) are the main way the AHRC allocates PhD studentships. Each DTP consists of a network of universities from the same region, along with non-academic partners such as museums, art galleries, theatres and other cultural organisations.
Studentships offered by DTPs are usually known as Open Doctoral Awards, because they can be allocated to any suitable project a student proposes.
The AHRC currently funds 10 Doctoral Training Partnerships across the UK:
Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE)
Lead by the University of Sussex, along with the Birkbeck College, the Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmith's College, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the University of East Anglia, the University of Essex and the University of Kent.
External partners include Bloomsbury Publishing, Canterbury Cathedral, the British Library, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the BBC.
London Arts & Humanities Partnership (LAHP)
Lead by University College London, along with King's College London, Queen Mary University of London, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the Royal College of Art, the London School of Economics & Political Science, and the University of London.
External partners include the Metropolitan Police, Google, the Wellcome Trust, the Museum of London, the National Archives and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Lead by the University of Nottingham, along with the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Coventry University, De Montfort University, the University of Leicester, Nottingham Trent University and the University of Warwick.
External partners include the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the British Museum, the National Trust, Boots Archives, the Birmingham Museums Trust, the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, the Warwick Arts Centre and the National Videogame Museum.
Northern Bridge Consortium
External partners include the BBC, TATE Liverpool, the British Library, the National Trust, Opera North and the Science and Industry Museum.
North West Consortium
Lead by the University of Manchester, along with Keele University, Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan University, the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of Salford.
External partners include Historic England, BBC Northern Ireland and the British School at Rome.
External partners include the BBC World Service, British Telecom and the National Trust.
Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities DTP
Lead by the University of Glasgow, along with the University of Aberdeen, the University of Dundee, the University of Edinburgh, the Glasgow School of Art, the University of St Andrews, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the University of Stirling, the University of Strathclyde and the University of the Highlands and Islands.
External partners include BBC Scotland, British Council Scotland and the Scottish Parliament.
South, West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWWDTP)
Lead by the University of Bristol, along with Aberystwyth University, Bath Spa University, Cardiff University, Cranfield University, the University of Exeter, the University of Reading, the University of Southampton and the University of the West of England.
External partners include the Arts Council South West, Historic England, the Bristol Old Vic, Cotswold Archaeology, the French National Archives, the Czech National Archives and the British Library.
Lead by Royal Holloway University of London, along with University of the Arts London, the University of Brighton, Brunel University London, Loughborough University, Roehampton University, the University of Surrey, the University of Westminster and Kingston University.
External partners include Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the National Archives, UNICEF, the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Historic Royal Palaces.
White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH)
External partners include Opera North, Revolution Games, Sheffield Doc Fest, Royal Armouries, the Marks and Spencer Archive, the National Railway Museum, Historic England, the Arts Council England and Leeds Museum and Galleries.
Each of these DTPs currently has funding for five cohorts of PhD students, with intakes running from October 2019 to October 2023. The next set of AHRC DTP studentships will begin in October 2020.
However, during your doctorate you will benefit from access to resources and expertise across the DTP network. This might include the chance to work with rare manuscript collections or historical archives, to draw on the expertise of academics at other universities, or simply to explore a much larger range of library resources and digital collections.
You'll also be part of a wider cohort of other Arts and Humanities PhD students acoss your DTP. You'll still have your own specific research project to complete, with support from your own supervisor(s), but studying alongside other students will help you form a scholarly and social network to help support your PhD.
Finally, you may receive additional DTP benefits alongside your AHRC studentship. These could include funding for additional research travel or skills training as well as unique internship opportunities and careers support.
The aim is for your experience at an AHRC DTP to help you become an exceptional Arts and Humanities researcher, well prepared for a range of academic and non-academic jobs.
Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDPs) are another way the AHRC funds PhD students. They are lead by non-university cultural organisations such as museums, archives, art galleries and heritage organisations who receive funding to host Arts and Humanities researchers on specific topics.
AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships usually have two intakes of students per year, in January and October. This means you may be able to choose when you start your PhD.
The deadline for January 2020 applications has already passed, but new CDP opportunities for October 2020 are expected to be advertised in February. Our newsletter will let you know when this happens.
Previous cultural organisations offering CDP funding have included: Historic England and English Heritage, the V&A, TATE and the Imperial War Museum.
Studentships offered by CDPs are known as Collaborative Doctoral Awards. They offer the same fee and stipend payments as a studentship at an AHRC DTP, but it is common for CDAs to also offer extended funding for practical training and professional projects alongside your PhD.
Cultural organisations collaborate with universities to offer CDAs (hence the name). You'll be based at the cultural organisation for a large part of your PhD, but will also be registered as a student at the university it is partnered with. You'll also have a supervisor from both partners: an academic mentor from your university and a representative of the cultural organisation you are working with.
Some DTPs will also offer specific CDAs lead by one of their external partners. This means you could apply for a CDA offered by a CDP set up by an AHRC DTP(!).
Don't worry if that all sounds like alphabet soup. The main differences between the two systems are:
The AHRC used to provide funding through other networks, known as Centres for Doctoral Training. These focussed on specific priority research areas rather than accepting general research proposals (as DTPs do). The AHRC isn't currently funding any CDTs and is focussing on DTPs and CDPs instead.
AHRC studentships are normally available to UK and EU students, subject to the same academic and residency criteria as other UKRI awards. There are also some restrictions on combining AHRC studentships with other PhD funding.
Eligibility for the different components of an AHRC studentship depends on your nationality and residency:
EU eligibility for AHRC PhD funding isn't affected by Brexit for doctorates beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.
In August 2020, the UK Government announced that in the 2021-22 academic year international PhD students would be eligible to apply for Research Council studentships, including the annual stipend and a contribution towards tuition fees.
International (non-EU) students aren't normally eligible for UKRI funding, including AHRC studentships. Some DTPs may have discretion to support any qualified applicants in target research areas, but this is rare for AHRC awards.
However, the UK Government announced in August 2020 that, starting in the 2021-22 academic year, international students would become eligible for UKRI funding. Find out more in our blog on Research Council funding for international students.
If you aren't sure whether you qualify for UK Government funding, check the resources provided by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA). You can also read more about specific UK PhD funding for international students.
All AHRC studentships are competitively awarded to the best applicants in each year. As a minimum, you will normally be expected to hold a Bachelors degree with a 2.1 or higher.
Most AHRC DTPs will also expect applicants to have a Masters degree in a relevant subject. This is particularly important for Arts and Humanities students as a Masters provides the training in independent research techniques and methodologies you will need to complete a PhD.
You can't work full-time during a full-time PhD that you are receiving AHRC funding for (including fees-only studentships). However, you can work part-time, provided you are also studying part-time.
In addition, you cannot have a UK PhD loan at the same time as an AHRC studentships (or any other form of UKRI funding).
AHRC Studentships are allocated to DTPs and CDPs, so students never apply directly to the AHRC.
How you apply for AHRC funding depends on the type of studentship you are seeking:
Collaborative Doctoral Award studentships will be allocated to a specific PhD project, as host organisations pre-define the work they want PhD students to do with them. Those projects will then be advertised and the students who apply successfully will get the funding.
The majority of AHRC studentships are awarded to fund projects that students have proposed themselves. These studentships are usually referred to as Open Doctoral Awards (as they are open to any project idea).
To apply for one of them you'll first need to have your PhD accepted by a university within a DTP. You can then be considered for one of its AHRC studentships. This may be an automatic part of the admissions process for eligible students, or you may need to submit a separate funding application.
Applications for an AHRC studentship will normally need to provide a new statement or proposal that makes the case for why your PhD should be funded (there are some tips for doing this below).
The ultimate decision about which projects to fund will be made collectively by all of the universities within the DTP.
Each DTP (and CDP) will set its own application window for AHRC studentships. These are usually open between November and January for PhDs that begin in the following autumn.
Here are the upcoming application deadlines at AHRC DTPs for Open Doctoral Award studentships beginning in the 2020-21 academic year:
These dates are provided as a guideline for 2020 applications only. They will probably change for 2021. Bear in mind that you'll need to complete your main PhD application and be accepted by your university before you can apply for an AHRC studentship.
Always check advice from your university and DTP and follow their directions when applying.
AHRC funding is very generous and, unlike a PhD loan, you don't need to pay it back. With that in mind, it's no surprise that selection for studentships is very competitive and not all students are successful.
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success though:
Finally, remember that not getting AHRC funding doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with your project or that you yourself aren't capable of completing a PhD. The reality is that there are more fundable projects than there are studentships to fund them.
Other types of PhD funding are available. Most DTPs will also let you make a second AHRC funding application provided you will have at least 50% of your PhD left to complete when the studentship starts.
As well as checking individual DTPs and CDPs, you can search for some AHRC-funded PhD opportunities here on FindAPhD.com.
Our free weekly newsletter will also keep you informed of application deadlines and new funding opportunities.
Last updated - 20/08/2020