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AHRC PhD Funding

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.

On this page

What is the AHRC?

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!).

Which PhD subjects does the AHRC fund?

The AHRC funds PhDs in all Arts and Humanities subjects, including:

What PhD funding does the AHRC provide?

AHRC funding comes in the form of PhD studentships. There are two components to a PhD studentship from the AHRC:

  • A fee payment of £4,327 per year
  • A doctoral stipend of £15,009 per year (you will receive slightly more if you are based in London)

(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).

How is AHRC PhD funding allocated?

Funding for a certain number of studentships each year is already allocated to universities and other organisations.

These form part of special networks called Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDPs). Students apply to them for PhD funding.

UKRI funding for other subjects

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.

AHRC Doctoral Training Partnerships

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.

AHRC DTPs for 2020

The AHRC currently funds 10 Doctoral Training Partnerships across the UK:

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.

Studying your PhD at an AHRC DTP

You will still study your PhD at a specific host university within your DTP (this is the university you should apply to with your initial research proposal).

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.

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships

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 CDPs for 2020

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.

Studying your PhD at an AHRC CDP

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.

CDPs vs DTPs

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:

  • CDP projects are pre-determined – you apply for a Collaborative Doctoral Award to complete an advertised project with a CDP, rather than seeking an Open Doctoral Award for a project that you have proposed
  • There are usually fewer CDPs – CDPs run for a shorter period of time and their projects are 'refreshed' more regularly; DTPs are set up to accept new PhD students every year for five years
  • CDPs may be more vocational – you'll still gain a full doctoral degree at the end of your project, but working closely with an external cultural organisation may help you if you plan to pursue a non-academic career after your PhD

What about AHRC CDTs?

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.

Eligibility

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.

Residency (and funding amounts)

Eligibility for the different components of an AHRC studentship depends on your nationality and residency:

  • UK students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years will be eligible for a full studentship (covering fees and including the doctoral stipend)
  • EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least three years will just be eligible for a fees-only studentship (unless they have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years)

EU eligibility for AHRC PhD funding isn't affected by Brexit for doctorates beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.

AHRC funding for international students

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.

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.

Academic qualifications

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.

Combining an AHRC studentship with work or other funding

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).

Applications

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:

Applying for Collaborative Doctoral Awards (at CDPs)

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.

Applying for Open Doctoral Awards (at DTPs)

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.

Application deadlines

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:

  • CHASE – 27 January
  • LAHP– 13 January
  • M4C – 14 January
  • Northern Bridge – 13 January
  • North West – 7 February
  • Open-Oxford-Cambridge – January-February
  • Scottish Graduate School – February
  • SWWDTP – 27 January
  • Techne – 20 February
  • WRoCAH – 29 January

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 application tips

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:

  1. Give yourself enough time – There's a good chance you'll have two applications to make: one for your PhD itself, and one for the funding you want to win for it. Give yourself time to do both well. Even if your university automatically considers you for funding you should still allow enough time to make sure your PhD application has the best chance of winning it.
  2. Focus on what makes your project worth funding – The harsh truth is that a PhD can be worth doing and still not be worth funding (a project can be academically worthwhile, but still not be a priority for the limited financial resources that are currently available). You need to explain why yours is both. Why is your project important right now?
  3. Think about impact – All PhD projects should make an original and worthwhile contribution to academic knowledge (otherwise they wouldn't be a PhD). But what else is your project going to achieve beyond the university? Is it going to help support important heritage work? Could it improve public understanding of important issues? Will the results be of interest to cultural and creative industries? All of these things are possible in the Arts and Humanities and they represent value for money to funders like the AHRC.
  4. Tailor the application – All CDPs and DTPs are different, just as all universities are different. Applying for an advertised CDA studentship is a lot like applying for a job: the role and expectations are already set out for you, you just need to prove that you fit them (by reading the project specification carefully and addressing it in your application). You should also tailor your application for Open Doctoral Awards at DTPs: what is it about this DTP, its resources, staff and research objectives, that make it the right fit for you and your research (and vice versa)?

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.

Search for AHRC PhD funding

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.

Further information

Check the AHRC and UKRI websites for additional funding details.

Last updated - 28/11/2019

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