Next steps for AHRC funding for doctoral landscape awards

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This blog provides an update on the next steps for implementation of the AHRC landscape awards component of the Future of Doctoral Provision (FDP) programme.

In our last update in September 2023 we outlined the upcoming changes to our funding to support doctoral training which form our FDP programme.

The FDP has been developed at a time when UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as a whole is transitioning to collective talent funding model and, since making this commitment in May 2022, UKRI has invested significant time and effort in simplifying and harmonising how we invest in doctoral training.

This work led to the launch of UKRI’s new Doctoral Investment Framework in January 2024, which introduced two award categories that we know today as doctoral landscape and focal awards.

This will ensure we can create more consistency in the assessment and management of awards across councils and individual funding opportunities while provide the flexibility to support innovative training approaches and disciplinary needs.

These two award types underpin the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Future Doctoral Programme.

Collectively, the FDP award schemes will provide support for a balanced and sustainable funding offer for doctoral study across the arts and humanities disciplines.

In this blog we provide further details on the implementation of our formula-based doctoral landscape awards.

What are landscape awards?

Landscape awards are intended to support the UK’s overall doctoral capability and capacity needs.

Their key features include:

  • broad, flexible funding
  • overall awards and studentships shaped to fit the needs of the relevant disciplines or sectors
  • studentships tailored to meet the needs of the individual project, student, and supervisors or supervisors and project partners

AHRC’s landscape award formula-allocated funding is designed to provide higher education institutions (HEIs) with a stable baseline of funding to support arts and humanities doctoral study.

As highlighted in Christopher Smith’s blog, AHRC’s funding for doctoral study will be directed more explicitly towards widening opportunities and welcoming innovative and diverse routes to doctoral training.​

Landscape awards will give HEIs the freedom to innovate and allocate funding to studentships which will have the highest impact within their unique contexts. A strength of our approach is to enable local strategies to be developed and implemented.

AHRC landscape awards will use a formula-based approach to allocate funding directly up to 50 HEIs to support a cohort of 15 full-time PhD students, three per year, for a five-year period.

The per-student funding will be allocated at the level of the standard AHRC studentship including a stipend, fees, and research training support grant.

This funding will complement the strategically targeted investment of the focal and Collaborative Doctoral Partnership awards.

Why use a formula?

In place of a competition, the HEIs will be selected to receive a landscape award by a formula. We are committed to working as transparently as possible and our web page on Training and support within the Future Doctoral Provision Programme gives further information on how the formula has been constructed.

The formula will ensure that PhD students directly funded by AHRC are placed in a strong research environment, with evidenced success in securing AHRC competitive funding, and with a critical mass of arts and humanities research staff.

Geographical balancing will then be applied to safeguard the broad distribution of funding across all the regions and nations of the UK.

Supporting collaboration

Around 50 HEIs will receive support through the first iteration of formula-based landscape awards, with students commencing from October 2026 onwards.

Huge progress has been made by the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) in encouraging collaboration to improve and expand the quality of arts and humanities student support and training. Widening participation has also been a key focus for this collective learning. While AHRC’s implementation of formula-based landscape awards are distinct form of funding from the AHRC DTPs, we are keen that these collaborative relationships are sustained in the future.

We also recognize a clear benefit in cohort-based activities to add value in training for students, providing them with further opportunities for networking and a route for sharing ideas, experience and good practice with peers based outside of their host institutions.

To establish the best way forward for a given region and, recognising that a uniform approach across the UK might not provide an optimal outcome, our intention is that once landscape funding has been confirmed we will work with those HEIs on a regional basis to establish an appropriate way to support and fund this collaboration.

Next steps

To aid HEIs with their planning, we intend to write to those who will receive an AHRC formula-based landscape award by the end of July 2024. After funding is confirmed with those HEIs, we will make public the list of HEIs receiving this funding in December of 2024.

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