Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Doctoral focal awards in the arts and humanities

Apply for a doctoral focal award in the arts and humanities.

Formerly pre-announced as focused Centres for Doctoral Training, this is the same funding opportunity but under a new name to align it with other upcoming UKRI doctoral funding opportunities.

To be the lead applicant, you must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for AHRC funding with capacity in the arts and humanities for creative economy or for a healthy planet, people, and place.

Each proposal must include:

  • doctoral training and professional development
  • mechanisms for increasing representation of students from underrepresented groups

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

Applications are invited from eligible UK higher education institutions (HEIs) that can demonstrate the ability to host a consortium-model doctoral training grant in one of the following themes:

  • creative economy
  • arts and humanities for a healthy planet, people, and place

We invite consortia applications. Applications from individual HEIs are not eligible.

Your proposal must involve a minimum of one other higher education institution, and a minimum of one partner beyond academia.

It is expected that this Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding opportunity will be in high demand. Therefore, each HEI may submit a maximum of one application as the lead applicant.

HEIs may participate in an unlimited number of applications as a consortium member.

Current AHRC training grant award holders, past AHRC training grant award holders, as well as HEIs which have never had AHRC training grant funding are all eligible.

We particularly welcome applications from small specialist institutions. This could be as leads, as co-lead HEIs or as consortia members.

We are hosting an information webinar specifically for small specialist institutions (SSI) on 28 February 2024. We are keen to understand the barriers that specialist institutions may face in being involved in applications, and to encourage them to apply. We recognise that there might be specific challenges for SSIs in leading doctoral focal awards, and we invite potential applicants to attend the webinar or surgeries, or to contact us by email. If you work at such an institution, go to Additional Information to find the webinar registration link.

To apply to be a lead of a proposed training grant consortium-based award, you must:

  • be based at a UK HEI which is eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding
  • be dedicated to training the new generation of arts and humanities researchers and have the vision to lead a consortium of organisations to deliver doctoral training within the thematic area
  • possess the leadership, project management and stakeholder management skills to deliver the proposed training and development strategy and engage partner organisations throughout
  • provide evidence of relevant experience (appropriate to career stage)
  • have the appropriate management skills and the administrative capacity to deliver the proposed doctoral provision
  • demonstrate how you have contributed to developing a positive research culture and wider community to date
  • secure the commitment of at least one more HEI and at least one non-HEI partner, and form a consortium, to prepare your application and jointly deliver training if awarded a grant
  • co-create a strategy with non-HEI partners to ensure that your proposed training grant consortium’s aims for student skills and career development will meet sector needs

A demonstrable track record of involvement in postgraduate provision from the lead HEI or the co-lead is essential.

Project co-leads must be from organisations eligible for UKRI funding. This includes eligible organisations beyond academia, such as independent research organisations.

Who is not eligible to apply

  • single higher education institutions
  • researchers and higher education institutions with no capacity in arts and humanities doctoral training within the two research themes listed in this funding opportunity
  • researchers and higher education institutions based outside the UK
  • higher education institutions seeking AHRC funding for master’s level training

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI and AHRC’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy.

What we're looking for


This Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) scheme has been designed to meet the following objectives:

  • deliver world-class doctoral training and development including cohort experience
  • provide opportunities for students, preparing them to follow a diversity of career paths within and beyond academia
  • focus on supporting research capacity in specific strategic areas, addressing societal challenges through arts and humanities doctoral research and involving interdisciplinary approaches
  • advance current understanding, generate new knowledge, and develop the breadth of expertise for the future of the research and innovation workforce
  • address underrepresentation in the AHRC-funded doctoral community
  • address skills gaps identified across specific research areas within and beyond academia
  • enhance collaboration and knowledge exchange within academia and between academia and other sectors for the benefit of the students, consortia members, and wider society


There are two broadly defined priority research themes or areas for this funding opportunity:

  • arts and humanities for a healthy planet, people, and place
  • creative economy

Each application must focus around one of these themes.

We encourage interdisciplinary applications.

Use the AHRC remit query form prior to submitting your application if you are unsure whether the proposed doctoral focal award falls within the remit of the AHRC and within one of the two themes.

Research theme: arts and humanities for a healthy planet, people and place

Health is at the heart of a resilient society. The UK government has set an ambitious target of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, and the UK’s levelling up agenda strives for everyone to live longer, healthier lives. Led by arts and humanities disciplines, with interdisciplinary collaborations, the theme will facilitate systematic exploration of the inextricable links between human health, ageing and wellbeing, environmental change, and place.

The health of the environment is closely linked with the health of people, and the health of the people benefits from creative activities, often inspired by the natural environment. AHRC is aware of the increased emphasis on the need to better understand human health in relation to global issues such as climate change, the ecological and biodiversity crisis, and zoonotic diseases. To this end a range of concepts and approaches are relevant, including Planetary Health, One Health, Ecological Public Health, and Ecosystems Services, with a focus on the divide between nature and culture.

Therefore, the theme will address the interaction between environmental change, environmental factors that refer to the natural and socioeconomic conditions in which humans interact with each other (such as pollution and access to health resources, nutrition, and recreational activities) and wellness and wellbeing for all. It will consider different socio-economic backgrounds and demographics (including age, gender, disability, and all other protected characteristics).


The theme’s ambitions, to be achieved using arts and humanities research, narrative, and innovation at doctoral level, are:

  • address known and anticipated research skills gaps and shortages in this thematic area
  • facilitate employability of doctoral graduates
  • explore how arts and humanities contribute to a whole systems approach

We particularly encourage applications which:

  • enable the students to explore creative health and arts-nature connectedness as well as how the arts and humanities contribute to understanding the complexities of the natural environment
  • use the lens of intergenerational justice and interconnected social, cultural, and ecological systems to investigate issues relating to health, ageing and wellbeing and the health of the environment
  • explore how doctoral researchers can use deep storytelling methods and narrative methodologies to represent and engage with different perspectives on the theme
  • explore the ways in which a place-led approach can improve our understanding of the complex relationship between people and the environment, and support the implementation of better outcomes for people and planet
  • explore how arts and humanities disciplines, in combination with other disciplines, can utilise data, machine learning and technology to improve our understanding of areas such as:
    • the role biodiversity and ecosystem processes play in human health and wellbeing
    • the role society plays in managing the natural capital
    • interconnectedness of humans and nature, for example in relation to infectious diseases and zoonosis

We hope that the outcomes of the provision will include:

  • strengthening and diversifying the arts and humanities research talent pipeline, especially within the health humanities and environmental humanities
  • a cohort and community of researchers well equipped with tools and knowledge to use arts and humanities approaches to address some of the complex and intersecting contemporary challenges, and to use methodologies from and work in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines, for example environmental and social scientists
  • rethinking the future aligned to a vision for responsible humanity

As there are potential intersections with other strategic priorities for AHRC, including our work in cultural assets and supporting a thriving creative economy, applications could explore links with existing major AHRC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) programmes, for example Health Inequalities, AHRC Place-Based Research Programme, StoryArcs, The Future of UK Treescapes, Landscape Decisions, Valuing Nature and Future Observatory.

Studentship goals:

Possible areas that students might pursue through the theme include the following, noting that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • exploration of how the health, ageing and wellbeing of humans and the health of the environment are inextricably linked and how a place-sensitive lens, including local context and local knowledge, can ensure that we achieve better outcomes for people and the natural environment
  • address the challenges that climate change and the ecological crisis pose to population health and wellbeing, in a way that enhances positive outcomes for people and the environment
  • deepen our understanding of the role of the environment within the process of ageing, including the natural and built environment, and how ageing can be supported to ensure wellbeing across all stages of life
  • use the link between human and environmental health to shape ethical solutions to mitigate climate change impacts on health and wellbeing, and to support resilient communities

Research theme: creative economy

This theme builds on our growing portfolio in the creative industries and creative economy, contributing directly to our creative economy and cultural assets strategic priorities.

The theme takes a broad view of the skills and expertise that contribute to a thriving cultural and creative sector and help to grow the creative economy. It explores how doctoral training can develop and enhance creative practice in different settings and contexts with positive impacts for diversity, skills, and growth. It is expected to utilise creative methodologies and collaborative approaches, widening the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of arts and humanities research for the creative economy.


The theme’s ambitions, to be achieved using arts and humanities research, narrative, and innovation at doctoral level, are:

  • address known and anticipated research skills gaps and shortages in the creative economy
  • diversify and grow the research talent pool for the benefit of the creative economy
  • diversify the outputs and audience of the creative sector

We particularly encourage applications which:

  • creatively explore, critically examine, and inclusively open up practices and methods of undertaking research, to involve artists, creators and relevant communities in design and delivery of creative economy research
  • enhance innovation and contribute to wider impacts of the creative sector, such as cultural, economic, environmental, and social impacts
  • build on the current developments in digital technologies and research methodologies
  • enable the sector to be more sustainable and resilient

All applications within this theme should directly address underrepresentation, in response to recent independent reports which provide evidence of barriers and levels of underrepresentation in the sector in the UK. All application should also address skills gaps identified across the creative economy, looking to the future of the sector and the employability of AHRC-funded doctoral graduates.

Applications could explore links with existing AHRC major programmes, from the development and applications of AI and digitising heritage to environmental sustainability. Applications are encouraged to build on recent investments in research infrastructure and on the knowledge base created through some of our bigger investments in creative industries, such as:

Studentship goals:

Possible areas that students might pursue through the theme include the following, noting that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • improve accessibility, visibility, and participation in the creative economy and in the sector’s outputs for a range of diverse groups, especially those that are currently underrepresented
  • use creative disciplines in a range of challenge areas, for example to deliver environmentally sustainable solutions, tackle health inequalities and inform place-based policies and practices
  • apply arts and humanities methodologies in ways that improve the resilience and sustainability of the UK visitor economy
  • meld arts and humanities skills and expertise with technological developments, employing technology, including its new forms and tools, in a constructive, responsible, and ethical way
  • to apply arts and humanities methodologies in ways that improve the resilience and sustainability of the UK creative economy

Students are expected to develop active connections to the creative sector to support the doctoral research projects, for example to galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM), design, crafts, fine arts and performing arts, fashion, film, media, as well as other areas of the creative economy.

Project management

You will need to set out clear plans for the vision, delivery and governance of your training grant.


In the context of this funding opportunity, a project partner is defined as a collaborating organisation beyond academia which will have an integral role in the proposed doctoral training and development.

Each application must include at least one non-HEI partner. Partner organisations may support the training grant throughout the entire lifetime of the award or for a shorter period, depending on their resources and their agreement with the HEI leading the application. New partners can be brought in later or may engage on an ad hoc basis.

We encourage equitable, flexible, and mutually supportive HEI and non-HEI partnerships. It is expected that HEIs will engage with partners and draw on their expertise and experience in both development and, if successful, delivery of the doctoral focal award.

We welcome applications including partner organisations from any sector of the economy and of any size if they have the capacity to support the training grant. Partners can be local, regional, or national, appropriate to the needs of the research theme. We particularly welcome partnerships with local and regional organisations which contribute to cultural place-making and strengthening local communities and economies.

AHRC strongly encourages Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDAs) as one of the forms of partnership you may want to include in your application.

International partnerships, for example to host student placements, are encouraged. However, international partners cannot be hosts for CDAs under this scheme.

In-kind support from HEI and non-HEI partners is mandatory. Financial contribution from partners is welcome but optional.


The consortia will train four cohorts of students doing a four-year doctorate on a full-time basis, or equivalent part-time. The first cohort will start in the 2026-27 academic year and the final cohort will start in 2029-30. The duration of this award is a minimum of seven years.

Funding available

You can apply for between 20 and 30 studentships over the lifetime of the award but the profile of new starters across the four years needs to be in the ratio of 3:3:2:2.

The number of studentships requested must be fully justified. To enable portfolio and budget balancing, AHRC reserves the right to offer successful applicants a different number of studentships than the number requested. See ‘How we will assess your application’ for information about portfolio balancing.

There is potential for co-funding from other parts of UKRI for successful interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary awards, dependent on research area and remits. This will be confirmed once the funding opportunity has closed for applications.

What we will fund

We are providing funding based on four years per student (stipend and fees). This includes:

  • individual training and development activity for the student
  • cohort-based training and development activity
  • additional stipend for collaborative awards and London weighting where applicable

AHRC will provide funding for studentships at UKRI indicative fee levels and UKRI minimum stipend rates. These are updated annually and details are available on the UKRI website.

As of February 2024, additional funding of £300,000 to £500,000 each year will also be made available for one or two of the successful focal awards led by small specialist institutions (SSIs). This is to support:

  • development of an ‘SSI doctoral research community’ which will bring together all SSIs funded through the AHRC focal awards. This will be a community of students and those who support them for example, supervisors and support staff. The funding is to enable creation of this community and might be used, for example, for networking and engagement events in line with the community’s needs
  • design, development and delivery of a programme of student-led activities to facilitate the sharing of good practice, skills, knowledge and research between SSIs.  The programme will be tailored to meet the SSI student needs and complement the cohort activities included within individual focal awards. Given the overlap between the cohort activity provision within the focal award and SSI doctoral research community programme, the administrative costs provided can be used to cover both activities
  • design and development of resources, materials and activities to build understanding of SSI-led research practices (across all career levels) and the contribution of SSIs to research, innovation and the wider economy. This will be a separate project which will go beyond doctoral research and training.

This additional uplift is to fulfill AHRC’s ambition to tangibly support small specialist institutions as a key constituent of the arts and humanities community that are acknowledged as world-leading, but have historically felt unable to lead on doctoral training grants because of resource and other constraints.

The funding for the ‘SSI doctoral research community’ awards comes from the AHRC world class labs allocation and will only be made to SSI-led consortia whose applications are deemed fundable by peer review and moderation panel.

Once the focal award funding decisions have been made, AHRC will contact successful SSIs with more detail on the level of funding and the process for allocating this additional support.

We strongly encourage Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA) as part of the offer. These are doctoral research projects which are collaboratively and equitably developed and delivered by a HEI and non-HEI partner, align with the non-HEI partner’s area of activity, and have impacts beyond academia, including the not-for-profit third sector. They are student career focused, with the student spending up to half their time in the non-HEI organisation and benefitting from the support of two supervisors, one within and one beyond academia. We will provide additional stipend for these students and funding is available to support one or two CDA awards per cohort (subject to demand). You can support more CDAs through co-funding, which is also encouraged. Please indicate in your application if you wish to support CDA awards and, if so, how many per cohort.

Funding for cohort-based training and development will also be provided. We will calculate this as a set cost, based on the number of studentship awards. To enable you to develop your provision, and to include a justification in the resources section of your application, please multiply the number of studentships you are applying for by £1,200 per student per year to give you an estimate of the cohort funding that will be provided.

Please note, this funding is for cohort activity and should not be allocated on a per student basis if the application is successful. The purpose of cohort funding is to support innovative training and development activities for the wider cohort of AHRC-funded students. These activities should be accessible to the entire cohort. In some cases, subject-specific activities may be provided, but these should be open to all eligible students. The funding may be used to cover the travel costs of funded students travelling to cohort events.

We are not providing a list of eligible and non-eligible uses for the cohort-based training and development funding in order to allow consortia the freedom to address the needs of their distinctive cohorts. The only caveats are that we would not expect this funding to be used to support any existing infrastructure, to reimburse the costs of university or partner staff resources such as travel and subsistence, or to be used to support activities that would normally be supported by universities. Further, these costs cannot be used to support costs of administration, for example staff costs to run the cohort programme.

What we will not fund

We do not provide funding for administrative costs of setting up and delivering the training grant.

Supporting skills and talent

We expect applications to outline an innovative, unique, and specific training and development approach to address identified skills shortages within the research theme.

Your application must describe how the proposed consortium will:

  • support four student cohorts on a four-year (or equivalent part time) doctorate, undertaking studentships in one of the two specific research areas of AHRC’s remit described earlier in this funding opportunity
  • provide opportunities for significant and original doctoral research projects, leading to the award of a doctoral level degree in accordance with the university’s standard regulations
  • create a unique and innovative training and development offer which will attract students seeking a career in the thematic area
  • deliver a cohort development package, appropriate to the theme and the needs of the cohort, creating a group identity and opportunities for peer networking, and, if possible, open to students beyond AHRC-funded students to maximise benefits of training within the scope of the thematic area and in an inclusive way
  • provide appropriate research environments for students in terms of location, facilities, equipment, supervisory expertise, partnerships, student services and work culture
  • support supervisors to empower students to carry out their research projects and undertake disciplinary and transferable skills training
  • provide training and development opportunities to broaden transferable skills of students in all the areas listed below, from which the students will select depending on their needs:
    • in-depth subject area training
    • responsible research and innovation, ethics, reproducibility, research integrity and open research methodology
    • analytical skills
    • project management and organisational skills
    • public engagement skills
    • routes to impact
    • engagement with policymaking
    • entrepreneurial, innovation, and commercialising research skills
    • digital, software, technical and data skills, where gaps have been identified in the recent AHRC-funded report by the Software Sustainability Institute
    • communication, media, and storytelling skills
    • teamwork, and the ability to collaborate across teams
    • skills for practice-based research (including the use of relevant infrastructure)
    • interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary working, grounded in the arts and humanities as the foundation for working across disciplinary boundaries

You should indicate which element of your training and development provision will be mandatory for all your students, and which elements will be offered on a voluntary basis, depending on the students’ background, baseline skills, and career ambitions.

Supervisor support and development

Each application must indicate how the consortium will prepare, support, engage and value staff supervising doctoral students for the benefit of students, supervisors, and the wider research and innovation community.

We expect you to describe how you will:

  • provide appropriate training and support for supervisors
  • facilitate close collaboration between supervisors and co-supervisors if applicable
  • catalyse a network of supervisors for sharing of good practice and peer support
  • recognise and value the workload associated with excellent supervision, and ensure staff are given sufficient time for supervisory duties
  • support the required continuous professional development excellent supervision entails
  • equip colleagues new to supervising doctoral students with the right depth of training, including enabling colleagues from non-traditional career pathways to co-supervise
  • through all the above, create a positive and inclusive culture of research supervision

Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in your application

You will need to submit a mandatory EDI action plan alongside the training grant application.

Your plan must be evidence-based, that is include baseline data and be updated throughout the lifetime of the grant in line with data you regularly collect, including emerging impacts and needs.

Please include the following headings in your EDI action plan:

  • increasing access to doctoral studies
  • recruitment
  • working practices
  • supervision and supervisory teams
  • mental health and wellbeing support

You are encouraged to use the bullet points but not limited to them. Please include any additional areas of EDI activity.

Doctoral studentships

Each application must set out how it will support students to focus on developing research capacity while preparing students to follow a diversity of career paths.

At the student recruitment stage, each training grant consortium must:

  • support candidates with a range of experience. For example, mature students who may have already had a career in any sector, including those from technical backgrounds. For the latter, we encourage you to follow the principles of the Technician Commitment

When establishing the scope of student research projects and throughout the duration of the studentships, each consortium must:

  • enable doctoral research projects which are student-driven, where students have agency to develop their doctoral proposal
  • enable students to engage partners in developing their doctoral research ideas
  • equip supervisors with information and training to empower their students to engage with the opportunities offered
  • provide an interdisciplinary environment and support students to maximise translation of their outputs into outcomes and impacts

Studentships may be practice-based.

Projects may be co-designed by candidates in collaboration with potential supervisors, but this is not a requirement. Projects developed by future students without input from a potential supervisor should be possible.

Projects to be delivered as collaborative doctoral awards (CDAs) should be co-developed by the supervisors from the HEI and non-HEI before the student is recruited but there should be enough scope for the student to make the project their own.

While not all doctoral projects need to be interdisciplinary, we encourage interdisciplinary projects, as long as a minimum of 50% of the doctoral proposal is based on arts and humanities disciplines, methodologies, and approaches.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all proposed team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email
    Please allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. You should:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • ensure files are smaller than 8MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:


Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) must receive your application by 2 July 2024 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

AHRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your Funding Service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

AHRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity on our Panel Outcomes and Attendance Tableau site.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.


Word limit: 550

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • research theme of the proposed training grant
  • aims and objectives
  • proposed doctoral training and development opportunities
  • partnerships within and beyond academia

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • technician

Only list one individual as the project lead. You can list multiple co-leads.

If applicable to your team, please list consortium members without the project lead or co-lead responsibility as ‘professional enabling staff’.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Discipline classification: primary

What is the high level or primary research discipline your proposal belongs to?

You must select it from one of these research disciplines:

  • archaeology
  • area studies
  • classics
  • cultural and museum studies
  • dance
  • design
  • development studies
  • drama and theatre studies
  • education
  • history
  • human geography
  • information and communication technologies
  • languages and literature
  • law and legal studies
  • library and information studies
  • linguistics
  • media
  • music
  • philosophy
  • political science and international studies
  • social anthropology
  • theology, divinity and religion
  • visual arts

This information will be used for the purposes of processing your proposal and in the selection of appropriate assessors.

Discipline classification: secondary

What is the specific research area of your training grant proposal?

Please describe, using keywords, the research area of your training grant proposal. Please include keywords which clearly indicate of the two research themes your training grant will focus on. You may use categories from the AHRC Research Funding Guide section ‘Proposal classification’ but you are not restricted to it.

This information will be used for the purposes of processing your proposal and in the selection of appropriate assessors.

Application questions


Word limit: 500

What is the training grant going to achieve and why is it important for AHRC to support it?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed training grant:

  • has a clearly defined vision, objectives and measures to track their delivery
  • is grounded in a model of a highly skilled doctoral graduate, employable across a range of sectors and careers
  • is underpinned by research and innovation expertise in designated disciplines to provide training for students and address skills needs in the research ecosystem
  • has potential to generate outcomes and impact for society or the economy
  • includes measures to secure its future legacy
  • fits within one of the two themes of this funding opportunity and will provide student training and development specific to the selected theme

Please specify how you will gather and demonstrate evidence of the societal and economic outcomes.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.


Word limit: 1,000

How will your governance processes and training and development programme realise your vision?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You must demonstrate how your consortium will:

  • deliver the vision outlined for this doctoral training programme
  • follow an appropriate timeline for delivering recruitment and a package of training and development opportunities, and has provided an outline of these training and development opportunities in the application
  • catalyse student research of excellent quality and importance
  • deliver appropriate, tailored, and innovative training, opportunities to enhance students’ skills development, and advice which recognises and promotes the diversity of careers
  • provide an appropriate research environment for students in terms of location, facilities, equipment, supervisory expertise, partnerships, student services and work culture
  • have established a clear governance structure for the training grant award, with responsibilities outlined, and processes in place to ensure the training grant is well governed and all relevant partners as well as the student community are engaged
  • have established an approach to risk management, continuous improvement, monitoring and evaluation
  • ensure you maintain links with your doctoral graduates to track career pathways and to benefit current and future student cohorts
  • follow suitable data management processes in line with personal data protection legislation
  • prepare researchers to operate across interdisciplinary, collaborative, and challenge-led environments

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant, for example a timeline. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)

Word limit: 1,500

How will you follow best practice to support staff and students from a diversity of backgrounds to participate in doctoral study?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You must demonstrate how:

  • you will create and maintain a positive, inclusive, and supportive culture and environment for all those involved in the training grant, including people with diverse needs
  • you will champion equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and support physical and mental health and wellbeing across all stages and aspects of your proposed training grant throughout its lifetime, including planning, recruitment of students, supervision and student support
  • your EDI approach is grounded in baseline evidence, and you will continue to gather relevant data to monitor and improve your EDI activities across the lifetime of the award
  • you will manage personal data within the training grant in line with relevant legislation

We require the above information to be structured in a form of an EDI action plan. We encourage you to use relevant headings as follows to structure your plan:

  • increasing access to doctoral studies
  • recruitment
  • working practices
  • supervision and supervisory teams
  • mental health and wellbeing support

You are encouraged to use the bullet points above but not limited to them. Please include any additional areas of EDI activity.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant, for example a timeline. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Capability to deliver

Word limit: 2,000

Who will lead and deliver the training grant?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide evidence that you and your team collectively have:

  • relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to lead the training grant
  • appropriate skills, including project management, leadership, stakeholder management, administrative skills and pastoral capacity to support the number of studentships you are applying for
  • contributed to positive research culture
  • relevant experience in delivering postgraduate training programmes by either the project lead or the project co-lead

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

The word count for this section is 2,000 words: 1,500 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 300

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed training grant, both in terms of research focus of individual studentships, and the training and development offer?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations for your doctoral training grant consortium
  • how you will manage these considerations

If you do not think that your proposed training grant raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 1,000

What will you need to deliver your proposed training grant activities?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Download the resources requested template (DOCX, 109KB), complete it and then upload to the UKRI Funding Service. Upload guidance will be provided in the UKRI Funding Service.

Using the text box describe how you will use the resources in an optimal and flexible way to support student experience and ensure students receive an appropriate balance of research skills training and broader development opportunities.

You should use this section to justify:

  • the number of studentships you are requesting in the award
  • the number of studentships which will require London weighting
  • the estimated cost of development activities that you will organise and deliver for the cohort, calculated based on £1,200 per student per year
  • whether you are requesting funding for collaborative doctoral awards (CDA) and if so, how many such awards you propose to support from AHRC funding

We do not expect all development activities to be fully costed but you should set out broadly what the activity will achieve, the scale and frequency of the activity, and the associated cost. We may require further information at award stage.

Take account of funding being requested from UKRI and any co-funding which will be deployed.

You must add the justification narrative in the text box below and also complete the table. Applications where the table is missing will not be considered in assessment.

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed training grant:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

Higher education institutions’ support

Word limit: 10

Provide details of support from your research organisation.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

The assessors will be looking for a strong statement of commitment.

Provide a letter of support from the lead higher education institution which demonstrates:

  • a strong commitment from all HEIs to the training grant consortium
  • alignment of the HEI strategy to the vision of the proposed training grant
  • additional value HEI contributes to the proposed training grant, including cash and in-kind contributions

If your application is from a consortium, you must provide such a letter from each consortium member.

Each consortium member institution which considers themselves a small specialist institution (SSI) should include such self-identification in their HEI letter of support.

We encourage SSIs to lead applications and we recognise the challenges. If your higher education institution is a small specialist institution and it is unable to lead without the additional support we are offering for such institutions, please include this sentence in your application: “Successful delivery of this programme is predicated on our being allocated additional funding as set out by AHRC at the Focal Award webinar for SSIs on 28 February 2024”.

Each letter should be no more than two pages A4, font size 11. Assessors and panel members will be advised to disregard information that goes beyond the page limit.

You must include the following details:

  • a name and their position of an official representative from the postgraduate school or research office, or another relevant function within your HEI who can confirm the commitment on behalf of the HEI
  • office address
  • an indication whether your institution is a small specialist institution

Upload guidance will be provided in the Funding Service.

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation beyond academia who will have an integral role in the proposed training grant delivery. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Add the following project partner details:

  • the organisation name and address (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • the project partner contact name and email address
  • the type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If a detail is entered incorrectly and you have saved the entry, remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Project partners: letters (or emails) of support

Word limit: 2

Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the ‘Project partners’ section.

Each letter should be no more than two pages A4, font size 11. Assessors and panel members will be advised to disregard information that goes beyond the page limit.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box. Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the proposed training grant
  • clearly explain the value, relevance, and possible benefits of the training grant to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the training grant

Save letters or emails of support from each partner in a single PDF no bigger than 8MB. Unless specially requested, please do not include any sensitive personal data within the attachment.

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Project partner’.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply.

Ensure you have prior agreement from project partners so that, if you are offered funding, they will support your training grant as indicated in the contributions template.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Do not provide letters of support from host and project co-leads’ research organisations within this section. Please see section ‘Higher education institutions’ support’ for where these letters can be added.

Partnership management narrative

Word limit: 500

Add details about any project partners’ contributions.

You must have at least one non-HEI partner to be eligible for this funding opportunity.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide evidence that you and your project partners:

  • have co-created the training grant application, especially vision and goals
  • have a strong commitment to working together throughout the delivery of the training grant award
  • have established a clear strategy for managing partnerships between and within organisations
  • will add value to the breadth and provision of high-quality doctoral training and development

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

The process will involve portfolio balancing based on categories listed within the ‘Panel’ section.

Peer review

We will invite peers to review your application independently, against the specified criteria for this funding opportunity.

You will not be able to nominate reviewers for applications on the new UKRI Funding Service. Research councils will continue to select expert reviewers.

We are monitoring the requirement for applicant-nominated reviewers as we review policies and processes as part of the continued development of the new Funding Service.

You will be provided with a right to send a project lead response.


We will recruit and invite panel members to a meeting to use the evidence provided by reviewers and your applicant response to assess the quality of your application.

The panel will allocate an overall score to each proposal.

Portfolio balancing at the panel stage

The panel will then undertake portfolio balancing. This means the panel will provide advice to enable Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to create a balanced portfolio from the highest quality proposals. In balancing, the panel will consider the following:

  • diversity of higher education institution types and non-HEI partner organisations, to ensure all funded consortia are diverse and collaborate with a diverse group of partner organisations
  • research focus, to ensure we fund consortia which have a distinctive research focus, and the portfolio is balanced across the two themes
  • geographic coverage, to ensure the new training grant awards are located in a range of regions across the UK

As part of portfolio balancing, we will also consider how to maximise any available engagement of other UKRI councils.

Following portfolio balancing, the panel will make a funding recommendation to AHRC.


We aim to complete the assessment process within 6 months of receiving your application. This is subject to change depending on the availability of reviewers and panel members.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment areas

The assessment areas we will use are:

  • Vision
  • Approach
  • Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)
  • Capability to deliver
  • Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)
  • Resources and cost justification
  • Higher education institutions’ support
  • Partnerships

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UKRI Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact Details

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.


Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

You can also find information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact

Include in the subject line: [AHRC doctoral focal awards; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info


This opportunity is part of the AHRC Future Doctoral Provision Programme. Visit our website to find out more about the programme.

Formerly pre-announced as focused Centres for Doctoral Training, this is the same funding opportunity but under a new name to align it with other upcoming UKRI doctoral funding opportunities.

Find out more about:

Webinars for potential applicants

We will hold two information webinars for potential applicants and partners, and two online surgery events for applicants who are in the process of preparing their proposals. This will provide more information about the funding opportunity and a chance to ask questions.

These online events will last 60 minutes each and take place on the following dates:

Register for the webinars by completing a form on Eventbrite.

A webinar was held on 5 December 2023. Watch the webinar recording on YouTube.

A webinar was held on 28 February 2024. Watch the webinar recording on YouTube.

Frequently asked questions from the webinars (PDF, 391KB)

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 232KB)


  • 25 June 2024
    In the 'What we're looking for' section under the 'Duration' heading, have corrected the duration from 'eight years' to 'seven years' at 'The duration of this award is a minimum of seven years'.
  • 26 March 2024
    Webinar frequently asked questions document updated in the 'Additional info' section.
  • 21 March 2024
    New content added under the 'Higher education institutions’ support' heading in the 'How to apply' section and under the 'What we will fund' heading in the 'What we’re looking for' section about small specialist institutions and AHRC world class labs funding for such institutions within this focal funding opportunity.
  • 1 March 2024
    Info about small specialist institutions added under 'How to apply'
  • 8 February 2024
    Uploaded the 'frequently asked questions from the webinar on 5 December 2023' document under 'Additional info'.
  • 12 December 2023
    5 December webinar recording added under 'Additional info'
  • 5 December 2023
    Discipline classification: primary and resources and justifications section guidance added under 'How to apply'.

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