Research Council funding competitions (University Graduate School)


This is an annual funding competition to award Economic and Social Research Council funding to the best PhD candidates in a way that is more student friendly and accessible.

Summary of initiative

The project involved a review of previous competition processes which identified that applicants for funding were subject to variances in timescale and process dependent on which School they were applying to for a PhD. The review suggested an amended competition process that was centralised, giving a single point of contact and a unified process for students to follow. This new process also ensured that all applications for funding were judged on academic merit.

Who was involved?

  • Pete Mandeville, University Graduate School
  • College PGR leads
  • ESRC DTC Management Group

What was the impact?

The new process does require a greater amount of time to facilitate centrally. However, this additional time is more than saved due to the efficiency of the new system and because all processes are unified, as well as removing ineligible applicants at the start of the process.

The wider benefit is in equality and diversity; there is confidence that the new system offers funding based on academic ability rather than any other measure.

Lessons learned

Barriers were as expected implementing a new system that was significantly different to previous years, however these were largely overcome through good communication of the changes and engaging partners in the development of the new competition process.

Learn more

You can visit the following websites for more information on this initiative:

  • Economic and Social Research Council funding