We are looking to fund a Centre for Law and Social Justice which will, over five years:
- deliver collaborative, interdisciplinary, challenge-led research in the area of law and social justice on themes including trust, accountability, vulnerability, and citizens’ rights and which leads to positive changes including in local, national, and, where relevant, international policy and practice
- champion arts and humanities methods and approaches to legal scholarship in a way which enhances the interdisciplinary nature of the discipline
- develop support for legal scholars at all career stages and following diverse career routes to strengthen and diversify the existing, vibrant, community of scholars
We break down our expectations for each of the objectives and other key considerations below. We also recommend you make use of the blog and scoping report linked to in Additional information.
We want you to respond to these objectives flexibly in your applications, reflecting the priorities of your consortium. This is tied to our belief that the best applications will be driven by practices of equitable partnerships.
Challenge led research
For this objective we want the Centre to work collaboratively with relevant stakeholders, including engaging with the public, to identify opportunities and drive forward changes across policy, practice, and provision for a range of social justice issues which will lead to positive impacts on people’s lives. This research will be rooted in legal studies but will reach out across the arts and humanities and beyond.
We have identified four broad research themes which we expect the Centre to work on and a number of potential topics under each.
You may bring in additional research areas and topics and shape your responses to the four we have identified in discussion with your partners and the priorities identified by your consortium.
For each of the four themes and any additional research themes you bring in, you will need to clearly demonstrate the potential for policy links and impacts and routes to realising change. This includes clear plans for how the public, particularly those with lived experience, will be actively engaged in shaping, delivering, and communicating the Centre’s research, helping to make it more relevant, more impactful, and more useful.
This theme covers public engagement and disengagement with and trust in publicly funded services and agencies, state structures, corporate decision making, and bureaucratic apparatus. This would include research into barriers to participation and discrimination faced by different groups (and groups within groups) and mechanisms for reducing these and the disengagement and distrust they can lead to. Topics could include:
- trust deficit and transparency in decision making processes and public bodies
- democratic decline
- political and civic participation
- accessibility of the law
This theme covers the accountability of both public and corporate provision of services, including support services provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community groups, and public perceptions of entitlement, fairness, and legitimacy. This includes aspects like building sustainable relationships and social trust. Topics could include:
- the ‘glocal’ role played by corporations and others in the provision of services
- national and international regulation of private actors
- the fragmentation of services
- what happens when services fail to provide what people are entitled to, including where this disproportionately impacts marginalised groups
- the impact of different funding sources and models
While accessibility, accountability and regulation of technology were highlighted in the scoping report, this is an area AHRC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have already funded a lot of work in. See, for example, the work of AHRC’s Bridging Responsible AI Divides programme. If you include this in your plans you would need to be very clear how the Centre would add value to or address gaps in existing investments.
This theme covers understandings of vulnerability and discrimination and the role that law can play in mitigating and managing these. This includes research into the roles played by the state, public bodies, third sector organisations, and corporations, the impact of inaccessibility of services and support, and the impact of contemporary factors such as COVID-19, EU exit, or climate change. Topics could include:
- the role of law in mitigating vulnerabilities, particularly those that are hidden from the state and service providers
- the role of law in addressing systemic discrimination
- the impact of COVID-19 and other contemporary challenges
- vulnerability, intersectionality and multilayered exclusion and discrimination
- corporate vulnerability
- corporate citizenship
This theme covers citizens’ awareness of their legal rights and their ability to assert them. This includes consideration at different scales from the local to international and across different communities. Topics could include:
- awareness of legal rights and how this could be increased
- availability, quality, and accuracy of information and guidance
- routes of access to information and guidance
- routes of access to asserting legal rights
- the points at which people enforce their legal rights and the impact on process and outcomes
Championing arts and humanities methodologies
For this objective we want the Centre to increase the knowledge and use of arts and humanities methods and approaches to legal research and build connections between legal research and wider arts and humanities disciplines. In so doing, we hope legal researchers will contribute to and lead in the innovation of arts and humanities methods.
While there is a history and strong foundation of arts and humanities methodologies being used in legal research, our scoping revealed that this is more limited than it could be. We know that creative practices, for example, can help break down barriers, increase accessibility and help to engage a wider range of people which could support our ambitions around public engagement, equitable partnerships, and EDI. The Centre will help explore what this means and how it works in a legal context.
The Centre will develop new or bring existing but unused or under-used arts and humanities methodologies to legal research, drawing where possible from the rich work that takes place across the full spectrum of arts and humanities research from history and philosophy to the creative arts and practice to literature, language, heritage, and design.
We are particularly keen to see the Centre foster a two-way dialogue and new collaborations between legal researchers and researchers in other areas of the arts and humanities.
The Centre will work to bring arts and humanities methodologies in legal research to the wider discipline and beyond to legal practice, policy and other relevant stakeholders. This could be through developing approaches to public engagement, events, training, networks, publications, or any other means that can be demonstrated to be effective.
This must be done in a way which will not create silos of researchers, but which instead strengthens the discipline as a whole and increases the connections between researchers within and beyond the discipline.
We recognise, for example, the social sciences play an important role in legal research and will expect the Centre to have clear plans for how it will engage with the social sciences while enhancing arts and humanities methodologies and activities.
Supporting the careers of legal scholars
For this objective we want the Centre to work with the discipline and wider sector to identify challenges and barriers to career development, particularly where these intersect with issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion, and develop and implement sustainable solutions which will lead to long term, positive changes.
We will expect the Centre to have clear plans to support the development of legal scholars at all career stages, both within and beyond the Centre itself. This includes a requirement that the Centre must include early career scholars as part of its core team and have clear plans in place for their career development.
These plans should go beyond project management to include a capacity to enthuse, ignite and sustain an intellectual vision that is inclusive, flexible and open to challenge.
We also want the Centre to work across the wider discipline and sector to build capacity, help create new infrastructure, and develop existing infrastructure to support career development and progression. Through, for example, the development of both academic and non-academic skills for research staff and technicians at all career levels, from PhD students to early and mid-career academics to established professors.
We are also keen to see support for alternative career routes which meet the needs of different people and allow people to move more freely within and between research and, for example, policy and practice.
A crucial part of this will be working with the sector to identify barriers to progression, to understand how they intersect with each other and with different characteristics such as age, gender, and ethnicity, and to develop solutions to address these.
Flexible funding pot
You can include in your Centre budget a line for flexible funding which can be used to respond to emerging opportunities or needs and to run funding opportunities. This can be no more than £500,000 and will be funded at 100% FEC. This could be used to support activities such as:
- commissioning of research or reports to respond to identified evidence gaps or partner needs
- supporting the participation of groups or organisations not identified at the application stage
- utilising new opportunities for public engagement
- extending outcomes to or from new international audiences
- funding opportunities for early or mid-career researchers to deliver research or undertake training
With the exception of planned funding opportunities, these funds will be used to support new activities not anticipated at the application stage or to extend activities in new, unanticipated ways which cannot be covered by the wider Centre budget.
The use of these funds will be subject to discussion and agreement with us through the project board (details on the project board are further down). The funds will also need to be spent in the lifetime of the Centre and you should ensure that your plans include adequate time for any relevant processes such as procurement or application periods.
In your outline application, you must outline how much you are allocating to the flexible funding and your initial plans for using this funding. For example, where you know you plan to run a funding opportunity which will use this budget, or where there are particular sectors or places you anticipate developing new partnerships and which might require flexible support, you should indicate these.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Promoting EDI is an integral part of UKRI’s vision to deliver new knowledge and an enriched, healthier, more sustainable and resilient society and culture, and to contribute to a more prosperous economy. EDI is also strongly embedded in AHRC’s Theory of Change and Strategic Delivery Plan for 2022-25 and we have recently refreshed our EDI Action Plan.
We believe that a nuanced, deep consideration of EDI is essential for the success of the Centre and for delivering against the three core objectives. It is essential that throughout your outline proposal you clearly demonstrate how you have considered and will address challenges and opportunities related to EDI, how it is built into your proposed work and consortium, how you will continue to consider it through the lifetime of the Centre, and how the Centre will contribute to positive changes in relation to EDI.
The Centre will also play an important role in helping us deliver against our EDI commitments in our Theory of Change, Strategic Delivery Plan for 2022-25, and EDI Action Plan.
We believe that effective, equitable, two-way public engagement throughout the lifecycle of the Centre for Law and Social Justice will significantly contribute towards its success.
Social justice has the potential for wide-ranging impact with many people, and as such will be of significant interest to the public. This is particularly true for people with lived experience related to the four thematic research areas highlighted. They will help to make an important contribution to make to any research that the Centre conducts.
Your outline proposal should clearly demonstrate:
- your overall vision for public engagement throughout your project (with a particular focus on collaborative or consultative public engagement)
- how you have engaged the public in the development of your proposal
- how you will continue to enable public participation in your project at every stage, including delivery, outcomes, and evaluation
UKRI and AHRC are committed to breaking down the barriers between research, innovation and society, with the three goals of:
- building a sense of shared endeavour
- making sure the benefits of research and innovation are shared widely and supported by collaboration and diverse forms of knowledge
- creating opportunities for all by inspiring and engaging the next generation.
Partnerships within and beyond HEI’s across the third sector, community groups, businesses, and the public sector are essential for the Centre. These partnerships could be new or existing. You have flexibility to work with potential partners in whatever way is best for that particular collaboration. This might be including them as project co-leads, project partners, or collaborating organisations, that could, for example, help to deliver public engagement activity for the Centre.
Whichever form the partnership takes we expect you to demonstrate in your outline proposal that the partnerships are equitable in nature. How they are equitable will depend on the nature of the collaboration and the needs of the partners involved. As a minimum we expect you to show how partners have supported the conceptualisation and development of the proposal and will contribute to the delivery and leadership of the Centre, how their knowledge, expertise, and time are being valued and supported, and how the relationship is mutually beneficial.
We are also keen to see evidence of how your institution will support these partnerships through, for example, flexibility in payment processes and practices, which have often been raised as a barrier to participation, and engagement and capacity building beyond the work on the Centre.
With the exception of the allowance of project co-leads from UK business, civil society, community, or government bodies, our normal rules around project partners apply. Broadly, project partners are those organisations who would make a significant direct or in-kind contribution to the cost of the Centre. Collaborating organisations are those whose costs would be covered by the grant provided by us.
We acknowledge that the use of the ‘project partner’ and ‘collaborating organisation’ terminology is problematic and can undermine the relationships you build up, particularly with those organisations and groups which would rely on the funding to enable their participation, but who are nonetheless essential to your proposed work.
We hope the inclusion of the additional types of project co-leads helps with this by providing the opportunity for both funding and recognition. Where this is not possible, we want to emphasise that the ‘project partner’ and ‘collaborating organisation’ terms are only used to help with the assessment where we need to confirm the validity of any proposed contributions.
When developing your proposal and in delivering your Centre you are free to refer to your partners in whatever way best meets the needs of those partnerships.
Management and structure
Taking into account the above requirements around EDI, public engagement, broad consortiums, and equitable partnerships you should carefully consider the structure of your proposed centre to ensure it is best positioned to successfully deliver meaningful and impactful progress against the three objectives.
The Centre will need to have clear plans for:
- how leadership will be managed across the collaboration, including the role that partners will play in leading the centre
- how the management of the centre and its activities will be carried out, including details of project management and administration resource
- how existing partnerships will be managed and new partnerships explored in an effective, equitable, and sustainable way.
Advisory group and project board
We will work with the appointed Centre to set up an advisory group. The terms of reference for the advisory group will be agreed with the Centre and the group itself, but we expect it will support the work of the Centre through its knowledge and access to wider networks.
This includes having the expertise and links to guide and support the Centre with regards to aspects like public engagement, EDI, and equitable partnership development. This group will be a mix of academics, stakeholders, and policymakers, and will include a diverse group of people. The final membership will be agreed between us and the appointed Centre. The group will meet at least three times a year and will use a mix of virtual and in-person meetings.
The Centre will need to have clear plans for how it would make effective use of the advisory group. To avoid key partners being inundated with requests, you do not need to specify particular individuals or evidence their commitment to joining the group in your application.
The Centre will have to include capacity for organising and supporting the meetings and the costs will be covered by the Centre’s budget. Costs would include travel and subsistence for members attending meetings, as well as any other costs related to hosting the meeting such as venue, technology, and refreshments. We would advise budgeting for at least one in-person meeting a year. This should be factored into your proposal.
In addition, we will appoint a project board which will include the senior responsible owner in AHRC, the project lead for the Centre, and other members of AHRC and UKRI staff. The project board will be responsible for monitoring the progress of the Centre and ensuring it delivers against our objectives. The board will meet monthly for the first three months before reviewing the frequency.
We anticipate reducing to frequency of the meetings to bi-monthly or quarterly after the start up period but will discuss with the appointed Centre. The meetings will use both virtual and in-person settings. We will be responsible for running this board, but the Centre will need to budget for travel for the project lead to join at least two in person meetings at the UKRI office in Swindon per year.
Expertise and capability
To be successful in progressing against the three objectives and becoming an internationally recognised centre of excellence, you will need to bring together the right resources in the right way. This includes having the experience and interdisciplinary expertise to collaboratively build the Centre and deliver work against all three objectives
You need to demonstrate that you have the right people from across the arts and humanities and social sciences, where relevant, and that your proposal can deliver the resources needed including developing the people, producing the research, and creating the infrastructure needed.
We expect to see interdisciplinary teams which extend across the arts and humanities and social sciences and beyond, and there must be strong leadership and expertise in both the arts and humanities and social sciences.
Law is a shared space which cuts across the arts and humanities and social sciences. While we are expecting the Centre to play an important role in building up arts and humanities expertise, capacity and approaches in law, this should be done in an inclusive way which builds on the breadth of approaches in the discipline. Similarly, we recognise that the research the Centre delivers will benefit from interdisciplinary approaches which bring together different methods.
You must demonstrate how you have considered this in developing your outline proposal, how it is incorporated into the work of your proposed Centre, and how you would monitor this to ensure you are delivering against the objectives in an inclusive way.
We expect the Centre to deliver clearly defined, positive impacts across all three objectives. Impact should be a major consideration throughout the scoping of your proposal, and during and beyond the lifetime of the centre. Impact should be multisectoral, with evidence of user engagement from inception throughout all stages of the planned timeframe for the award.
We are particularly keen to see clear, well evidenced plans for translating the work of the Centre into policy impacts and outcomes. These could be local, national, or international in scope and should draw on the priorities of relevant, for example, policy makers, NGOs, and community groups. This work should be informed and supported by a robust programme of public engagement activities, particularly engaging people with lived experience.
You must demonstrate how you will deliver significant impact within and beyond research. As part of this you must include a logic model in your outline application demonstrating the changes the centre will bring about, and how your centre will bring about those changes.
Reach beyond the centre
For the Centre to achieve progress against all three objectives it is vital that it does not work in an insular way. The Centre will need to work with and in, and have impact across, the four nations of the UK and, where relevant, internationally. It will also need to work across relevant disciplines, sectors, partners, and practices to enact and embed change.
It is also clear that factors such as place impact on people’s experience of social justice through their lived and felt experience. The work of the Centre will need to account for these differences and engage with relevant local partners to understand and effectively respond to the challenges of a particular place or sector, while drawing out opportunities for shared learning and translation to different places and scales.
While we do not expect the Centre to be able to reach every place in the UK or internationally, the Centre will need to have clear plans for which places it will work in and how it will maximise its reach and impact beyond core activities, institutions, and partners.
Building on existing investments and infrastructure
We expect the Centre to leverage and add value to existing infrastructure and investments, within and beyond AHRC and UKRI, to maximise value and impact. We are aware, for example, that there are already national and international networks of researchers and practitioners which do not necessarily need to be duplicated and which could support the work of the Centre.
Similarly, AHRC and UKRI have made investments which could engage with and support the work of the Centre. For example, the work of AHRC’s programme directors link to many of the themes and requirement for the Centre.
There are also potential links to Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Vulnerability and Policing Research Centre and investments made under UKRI’s strategic theme ‘Creating opportunities and improving outcomes’ such as the Local Policy Innovation Partnerships.
Where relevant in your outline proposal you should identify any key existing investments and infrastructure the Centre would look to work with and how this would add value.
While we see this as primarily a UK focused investment, we recognise there are opportunities and benefits to engaging with international research, practice and networks and that for some areas of law and social justice an international approach would be more effective. International project co-leads are eligible for the Centre, and we would encourage you to identify where an international approach could most effectively enhance the work and impact of your proposed Centre. This could include identifying any potential alignments with UK government’s international and diplomatic ambitions.
Any international partnerships should follow the same equitable principles we’ve set out above and you will need to demonstrate how they have contributed to the conceptualisation and development of the proposal and how they will contribute to the leadership and delivery of the Centre.
If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.
We will be looking for evidence of long-term strategic and financial institutional commitment to the proposed centre, above the required 20% (as we fund at 80% FEC). This should be through the provision of grant-associated parallel activities.
Examples include but are not limited to:
- new studentships
- research leave
- additional staff roles
- summer schools
- refurbishment of facilities for the centre
- provision of equipment
- new lectureships
- additional support from professional services such as a public engagement professional or a member of an institutional communications team
Contributions could be made by any institution (for example. project lead, project co-lead, or project partner) involved in your consortium and should be commensurate with their scale, financial capacity, and relative role in the application. For smaller partners, such as small charities, this could be as simple as providing desk space. Collaborating organisations do not need to provide any institutional support.
We are not just looking for the largest contribution and welcome applications from and involving all types of eligible organisation. What we are looking for are contributions which demonstrate an organisation’s long-term commitment to the Centre relative in scale to their size and level of involvement in the proposed Centre.
Long term sustainability
We do not expect the Centre to be completely self-sustaining after five years, but we do expect you to have plans from the start to build up that sustainability over the five years. We see this investment as an important long term one which we hope to continue in some form beyond the initial phase. We will work with the Centre over the five years to understand next steps and how those might be supported to ensure a smooth transition at the end of the initial five years of funding.
The Centre will need to have clear plans for how it will build towards a self-sustaining position including where it will be in five years, what it will have achieved, and what its longer-term role will be. The Centre will also need to have plans for how it will sit as part of the institutions and partners involved as well as any potential revenue streams, additional funding opportunities, and sponsorships, as well as potential opportunities for new partnerships.
You must ensure that the activities and research of the centre will be carried out to a high ethical standard. Social justice and the themes and topics we have highlighted have the potential to be very sensitive and we expect you to have carefully considered all potential issues, safeguarding requirements, and best practice.
You must clearly state how any potential ethical, safeguarding and health and safety issues have been considered and will be addressed, ensuring that all necessary ethical approval is in place and all risks are minimised before the Centre commences. This is particularly important in the context of any planned public engagement activity.
We encourage applicants to make use of relevant resources on UKRI’s Good Research Resource Hub.
Monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL)
We will work with the successful Centre to agree a monitoring and evaluation plan in the starting phase of the award. In addition to standard Research Fish reporting, this is likely to include light touch quarterly reporting, including providing data required for internal reporting mechanisms, and more detailed annual reporting.
We are also likely to draw on the expertise of the Centre to respond to other internal and external ad hoc reporting requests. You should ensure your proposal includes sufficient staff time to support this.
You will need to demonstrate how you will measure progress against the three objectives and your own logic model, track impacts, and share learning with us and others. This should include plans for how the Centre will measure a baseline against which any progression can be compared.
Costs associated with international project co-leads
Costs associated with international project co-leads should follow our standard policy as set out in our Research Funding Guide.
Costs associated with project co-leads from UK business, civil society, community, or government bodies
The costs which can be claimed for project co-leads from business, civil society (including third sector), community and government bodies vary depending on the type of organisation the project co-lead is contracted to.
All costs for project co-leads from business, civil society, community and government bodies which are to be charged to the grant must be listed as exceptions and must be directly related to delivery of the Centre. Costs requested must also not duplicate any existing funding.
Project co-leads from businesses and civil society organisations in receipt of a subsidy
Applications which include project co-leads from UK business or from civil society organisations must ensure that the involvement of these organisations comply with the UK Subsidy Control Act 2022. This Act regulates how public funding is used to manage any advantage which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the UK or any other country or countries (“UK Subsidy Control Regime”).
Both businesses and civil society organisations may be within the scope of the act as the test is whether the organisation is engaged in economic activity.
Project co-leads from businesses and civil society organisations in receipt of a subsidy may claim the following costs:
- staff salary
- travel and subsistence
- other direct costs
Project co-leads from civil society and community
Project co-leads from civil society and community organisations may claim the following costs:
- staff salary
- staff national insurance and superannuation
- travel and subsistence
- other direct costs
- overheads and indirect costs
Project co-leads from government
Project co-leads from government may claim the following costs:
- staff salary (subject to note below)
- travel and subsistence
- other direct costs
We would not normally expect to see salary costs for government project co-leads applied for; however, we would allow it in some circumstances, for example:
- where they are part time and the work related to the Centre would be in addition to their usual contracted hours
- where they are required to secure external funding in order to conduct research
- where their organisation only agrees to release their time, provided they can secure funding for a replacement to cover their work
The selected Centre will be appointed for an initial period of five years.
The selected Centre must start by 1 May 2025.
The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £4.75 million.
We will fund up to a maximum of £3.8 million.
Costs associated with international project co-leads and project co-leads from UK business, civil society, community, or government bodies, as well as for the flexible funding line should be included as exceptions at 100% of the FEC.
All other costs should be costed at 80% FEC in line with standard UKRI terms and conditions.
Depending on how much funding you allocate to costs funded at 100% FEC, you will need to adjust your budget to ensure the funding requested from us does not exceed £3.8 million. We have taken this approach to allow you to shape proposals in the way you see best, while taking into account the limit of funding available.