Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Place-based research programme director

Apply for funding to be a programme director for AHRC’s place-based research.

You will:

  • build a programme around new and existing investments
  • demonstrate the effectiveness of arts and humanities research for addressing the needs of different locales
  • make the case for further investment.

Your full economic cost can be up to £300,000. AHRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

This funding can be used to:

  • support your time (up to 60% full-time equivalent)
  • provide postdoctoral research assistant support
  • fund scoping, impact and engagement activities.

The role will start in October 2021 and last 18 months.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this opportunity as set out in the AHRC research funding guide.

Applicants must also be able to start the role in October 2021.

The successful applicant will be expected to contribute to the assessment and selection process for the call for knowledge exchange projects. This will launch soon, with assessment and selection taking place through October and November.

We will accept applications that involve two co-applicants in a proposed job share. Job share applications should have a clear rationale and explanation of how the work will be managed between the two people if they were to be successful. The co-applicants do not need to be in an existing job share with each other to apply on this basis.

To avoid conflicts of interest, the programme director will not be permitted to apply for, or be involved in, other applications for funding to calls that take place within the broader AHRC place programme (including the call for knowledge exchange projects). This restriction only applies to the programme director and does not apply to other individuals at their institution.

The programme director will continue to be eligible to apply to UKRI funding calls that are not linked to the place programme, including to responsive mode schemes and calls under other initiatives. Where further funding is sought from UKRI for other opportunities, the programme director’s total time commitment on UKRI grants cannot exceed 100% of their contracted hours.

What we're looking for

AHRC is seeking to appoint a programme director who can offer intellectual leadership, clear communication and engagement skills. They will be a leader and collaborator who is confident working with, coordinating across and bringing overall coherence to projects funded under the place programme and beyond.


The programme director will be responsible for:

Programme development:

  • helping to shape AHRC’s approach to place-based research and knowledge exchange. This includes identifying the most effective ways for AHRC to directly invest in the future, building on areas of strength and reaching out to disciplines across and beyond the arts and humanities that have the potential to contribute to this area
  • scoping areas where arts and humanities-led research would add greatest value to addressing the place agenda
  • identifying areas where further evidence is needed, feeding into the development of an AHRC/UKRI place-based research programme.

Partnership building:

  • supporting the building of new partnerships between the research and development sector, local and regional authorities, local cultural organisations, community groups and other relevant stakeholders
  • identifying areas for targeted initiatives to maximise benefits
  • building and sustaining connections with the devolved administrations and relevant UK government departments.

Coordination and collaborative working

  • coordinating between funded projects, developing cross-project lessons learned, and disseminating findings to relevant audiences beyond partners involved in individual projects
  • facilitating connections between individual projects and relevant stakeholders and advising projects on how to ensure project outcomes are more widely applicable
  • making connections with relevant projects and programmes from across AHRC, UKRI, and other public bodies, funders, and stakeholders. This should focus on enabling information sharing, fostering new opportunities and avoiding duplication of research
  • working collaboratively with AHRC staff throughout the lifetime of the grant
  • supporting AHRC’s portfolio in this area to ensure that its inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts are equitable, diverse and inclusive at every level.

Person specification

The successful applicant (applicants in the case of a job-share application) is expected to demonstrate the following characteristics:


  • an in-depth knowledge of the current landscape of place-based research and knowledge exchange within the arts and humanities and, where relevant, beyond
  • a good understanding of the wider place-based funding landscape, including government allocated funds
  • a track record in delivering significant, multifaceted programmes of activity
    strategic thinking with a clear vision for the programme and the ability to work with and develop thinking across the full breadth of arts and humanities research and knowledge exchange
  • an aptitude for identifying, exploring and developing broad ideas and opportunities which a wide range of researchers and other stakeholders can respond to, particularly but not exclusively funding opportunities
  • excellent leadership skills, including the ability to coordinate a team and the ability to offer broader leadership across the programme.

Communication and engagement:

  • strong communication skills, including the ability to engage with a range of different audiences within and beyond academia, including local government and policymakers
  • well-developed networks within academia, public, private and third sector
  • a proven ability to develop and manage effective stakeholder relationships and work with people across all backgrounds, levels, sectors and disciplines
    the ability to guide and inspire others, drawing together a cohort of award holders to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise and build a network working towards a common purpose
  • the ability to assemble key information across disciplines to build a compelling narrative and communicate this, effectively, to the right stakeholders at the right time.

Coordination and delivery:

  • a realistic appreciation of what can be achieved over the timescale, including overcoming key barriers and management of risks
  • experience of project management through the successful delivery of multifaceted programmes or projects, to budget and completing all reporting requirements
  • a clear understanding of how existing responsibilities and activities will be managed during the period of the directorship
  • familiarity with UKRI and AHRC’s mission and strategy and with the broader funding and policy landscape
  • experience advising and influencing stakeholders and policymakers.

The director will be required to work closely with AHRC and will be expected to meet regularly with staff responsible for the programme. AHRC will convene regular project meetings with the director to ensure that there are coherent activities covering the portfolio and to maximise the potential impact from the programme.

AHRC is committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow applicants to design a programme of work that fits their research goals, career and personal circumstances. This includes:

  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns.
  • support for people with caring responsibilities.

With this in mind, we welcome applications from academics who job share, have a part-time contract or need flexible working arrangements.

How to apply

Applications must be made through SmartSurvey.

Applicants will need to complete the form and upload the following required documentation:

  • short CV (two-sides A4 limit)
  • publication list (if applicable, one-side A4 limit)
  • letter of support from affiliated organisation (two-sides A4 limit).

The SmartSurvey form asks for the following:

  • title
  • name
  • organisation
  • contact email
  • case for support
  • indicative budget
  • EDI characteristics (this is optional and not part of the assessment. We will use this information to help AHRC address the needs of our research communities and ensure we are meeting our commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion).

Case for support (max 2,000 words)

The case for support should set out the following:

  • a summary of how the applicant meets the person specification, including relevant expertise and experience
  • an outline of the work proposed to meet the responsibilities set out under ‘What we’re looking for’ above.

If the application includes a proposed job share, the case for support should outline how the co-applicants as a pair meet the person specification. You must also be clear in the outline of work how you will split responsibilities between you.

Indicative budget (max 1,000 words)

The indicative budget should provide headline figures and justification for key aspects of the proposed work including, but not limited to:

  • salary costs for director, postdoctoral research assistant(s), and any other support staff not covered by estates and indirect costs
  • scoping activities
  • engagement and coordination activities.

Justification does not need to be provided for the level of a person’s salary but rather for the amount of time they will dedicate to the project.

Funding will be provided following standard full economic costing.

CV (max two sides A4)

A short CV of no more than two sides A4 (Arial font, size 11 or larger, with standard margins) should be provided for the applicant.

If the application includes a proposed job share a separate short CV must be included for both applicants.

Publications list (max one side A4)

Where relevant a list of relevant publications can be provided for the applicant.
If the application includes a proposed job share a separate publication list can be included for both applicants.

Letter of support (max two sides A4)

All applicants must attach a letter of support from their institutions confirming their support for the application and agreeing to fund the standard 20% of the budget if the application is successful. This letter should be signed by someone with the relevant budgetary authority to be able to confirm the financial commitment.

If necessary, this letter should also confirm any contractual obligations as set out in the eligibility criteria of the AHRC Research Funding Guide.

If the application includes a proposed job share a separate letter of support must be attached for each applicant. If both applicants are based at the same institution, then one letter can be provided but must explicitly reference both applicants.

Submission of successful project through Je-S

The successful applicant(s) will be required to submit project details, including a detailed budget, through our Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. AHRC will provide further instructions to the successful applicant(s).

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed by a shortlisting panel which will consist of at least one member of AHRC’s Executive Chair and Directors’ Group, at least two independent experts drawn from our research communities and at least one expert drawn from relevant stakeholders (for example local government and third sector) or advisory bodies (for example AHRC and UKRI Advisory Boards).

Up to five applicants will be shortlisted and invited to interview. The interview panel will be drawn from members of the shortlisting panel.

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • understanding of the requirements of the role (see person specification), including a clear vision for the programme and approach to its delivery
  • relevant expertise and experience, including track record of delivering significant, multifaceted programmes or projects
  • ability to provide leadership to the programme
  • ability to plan and manage resources effectively
  • excellent oral and written communication skills
  • value for money.

Contact details

Ask a question about this funding opportunity

Please mark your email for the attention of Thomas Booker and Esther Harper.


Additional info

Place is an important focus for current and future government research and development strategy. The government has committed to publishing a research and development places strategy. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is leading on the development of the strategy and UKRI is working closely with the department on it.

There is a clear opportunity for AHRC to develop its own programme of investments which could help inform and respond to the new research and development places strategy, ensuring that arts and humanities research is embedded and ready to respond.

As a first step, alongside scoping work to identify areas where arts and humanities research can make valuable contributions, there is the potential to cultivate new and amplify existing connections between arts and humanities research and researchers and local policymakers, stakeholders, and strategy development.

What arts and humanities research can offer to the UK research and development places strategy

Place is a research topic at the heart of many arts and humanities disciplines, from archaeology and architecture to history and literature. Research that offers breadth and depth of local knowledge is needed in order to ensure that place-based investments beyond AHRC are duly sensitive to history, heritage, art, local identities and skills and to build the evidence-base for the value added by such knowledge with a view to shaping an effective places research and development strategy.

Some of our research is about place. Arts and humanities research sheds light not only on the history and heritage of urban and rural settlements, but opens new avenues of investigation into the role of place in generating local and national identities, in connecting people to their natural and built environments and in uniting communities in shared appreciation of their localities, culture and heritage. This makes AHRC a natural partner for local cultural organisations and for local and regional authorities, developers and others thinking about the challenges of, for example:

  • place-making
  • the role of cultural assets in well-being
  • the role of local (historical and other) knowledge in good planning decisions and of building local consensus around them
  • the ups and downs of arts-based regeneration
  • how to bring the benefits of belonging to hard-to-reach or marginalized communities.

By generating nuanced local knowledge that helps decision making, arts and humanities research occupies a critical position in helping to target a wide range of place-based research and development spending so it is maximally effective.

The AHRC place programme

AHRC will be investing in two funding opportunities in 2021/22. The first is this opportunity for a programme director who will play an important role in shaping AHRC’s broader, longer term approach to place research and knowledge exchange, as well as bringing together a coherent programme of existing and new investments.

The second opportunity, which will be launched soon, is for small knowledge exchange projects which cultivate connections between arts and humanities research and researchers and local and regional authorities and other relevant local stakeholders.

The aim is to help inform the strategic direction and planning of local and regional authorities, for example with respect to local regeneration and development, by providing access to relevant arts and humanities research and expertise and building capacity in local authorities to make use of this in, for example, accessing relevant funding from beyond AHRC.

Further investments and the future direction of the programme will be determined by AHRC drawing on the work of the programme director.

Town hall meeting

We will be running a town hall event between 13:00 and 16:00 on Monday 26 July 2021. This will provide participants with the opportunity to:

  • find out more about our broader plans for supporting place-based research and knowledge exchange and its links to the levelling up agenda, including this opportunity
  • hear from researchers, local government officials and others how arts and humanities are contributing and could contribute to local and regional place and levelling up agendas
  • network with others working in this area from a variety of sectors (for example research, policy, third sector)Sign up to the town hall event.

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