Postgraduate funding in the arts

Further to the article on "Funding in the Social Sciences" which can be found here thought it would be useful to an article entirely devoted to the hellish idea that is the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and their funding opportunities. This article will not discuss the other ways in which to fund Postgraduate study - that's why the link is there to the Social Sciences as the ideas, principles and opportunities (such as the CDL bank loan) are the same!

Note: there should be four sections: AHRC, university funding, foundations/external funding, application materials.

AHRC funding:

Between 2009-2014, the AHRC gave money to each university separately. Since 2014, it provides funding to eleven consortiums of universities (called Doctoral Training Partnerships), which then allocate funding between their applicants. Be careful when selecting your university, because you cannot apply to the AHRC from more than one university of the consortium. For example, you have to choose between UCL and KCL if you apply to the AHRC because they are in the same consortium (LAHP). The studentships are shared between up to nine universities. When applying, pay attention to the number of studentships and universities in the DTP, some are much more competitive than others. Oxbridge are the least competitive, followed by the North East and Yorkshire; on the other hand, competition in the South and Scotland is insane.

List of the Doctoral Training Partnerships (2014-2019)

The studentships mentioned are for PhDs; on average, there are 10 MA bursaries per DTP, but numbers are rarely advertised.

ScotlandAHRC for Scotland (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow School of Art, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde): 60studentships.

North-East and UlsterNorthern Bridge (Durham, Newcastle, Queen's Belfast): 50 studentships.

North-WestNW (Keele, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Royal Northern College of Music, Salford): 40studentships.

YorkshireWhite Rose (Leeds, Sheffield, York): 54 studentships.

MidlandsThree Cities (Birmingham, Birmingham City, De Montfort, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Leicester): 87 studentships.

South West & WalesSWW (Aberystwyth, Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading, Southampton): 50 studentships.

CambridgeAHRC for Cambridge52 studentships.

OxfordAHRC for Oxford40 studentships.

London & South-East ICHASE (Birkbeck, Courtauld Institute, East Anglia, Essex, Open University, Kent, Goldsmiths, SOAS, Sussex): 75studentships.

London & South East IITECHNE (Brighton, Kingston, Roehampton, Royal College of Art, Royal Holloway, Surrey, University of the Arts London): 50 studentships.

Central LondonLAHP (KCL, UCL, SAS): 80 studentships - with stipend for EU students.

Note that only 56 universities receive AHRC funding. Some prestigious universities such as Warwick and LSE were not chosen by the AHRC and funding there is only provided by the university.

Subjects eligible for AHRC funding*:

  • Applied Arts and Crafts
  • Archaeology
  • Asian Language and Culture
  • Celtic Studies
  • Classics and Ancient History
  • Communications, Graphics and Photography
  • Conservation
  • Creative Writing
  • Cultural Studies
  • Dance, Drama and Performing Arts
  • Design
  • English Language and Literature
  • European Language and Culture
  • Film Studies and Television Studies
  • Film, Digital & Media Production
  • Fine Art
  • French Language and Culture
  • German Language and Culture
  • History
  • History of Art, Architecture and Design
  • Iberian & Latin American Language and Culture
  • Interpreting and Translation
  • Italian Language and Culture
  • Journalism and Publishing studies
  • Law
  • Librarianship, Archives, Record Management and Information Science
  • Linguistics
  • Middle Eastern and African Language and Culture
  • Museum Studies
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies
  • Russian, Slavonic and Eastern European Language and Culture
  • NB again: some of these subjects do cross over with the ESRC (social history would be a classic example) so when first looking at funding, it is best to check whether your proposed area of research, especially for doctoral study fits the remit of AHRC funding here. The best way to do this is by using the following PDF: Page 23 is what you need to read

Keep also in mind that you cannot apply to the ESRC and the AHRC, so if your subject is eligible to both research councils, you must ask your department about your chances to each.


The AHRC has strict rules on who's eligible for funding and who isn't. To be eligible for a full award, you must be a UK national or have been a resident in the country for 3 years or more. EU students can be awarded tuition fee only awards. Advice on eligibility can be found here, page 6 onwards

The living stipend is approximatively worth £14,000 and £16,000 in London.

Officially, EU students awarded a fee only studentship from the AHRC also receive a living stipend from the university. The consortium for central London (LAHP) offers a living stipend to EU students. In fact, apart from Oxbridge and LAHP, EU students are rarely chosen by the AHRC because universities don't want to fund them. EU and international students are advised to apply to universities with good internal funding.

University funding

In addition to the AHRC, several universities also propose some internal funding, notably for their international applicants, who are not eligible to the AHRC. This source of funding depends on the university's wealth and the number of studentships is highly variable. The wealthiest universities are able to set university-wide scholarships, to which all applicants are considered, regardless of subject and nationality. Unfortunately, many universities do not tell how many studentships they offer, and the Sciences and Engineering usually have the lion's share of university funding.

Partial list of university funding

Unless stated otherwise, these awards are PhD scholarships, worth £14,000, and open to all nationalities. Most of these scholarships are university-wide, you will be in competition with everybody who has applied to the university for a PhD.

External funding

The wealthiest universities have also attracted money from philanthropic organisations or individuals, which work in partnership with one or several universities. Usually, you will have to submit additional material with your application.

Partial list of external funding

Unless stated otherwise, these awards are PhD scholarships, worth £14,000, and open to all nationalities. Most of these scholarships are university-wide, you will be in competition with everybody who has applied to the university for a PhD.

How to go about applying for Funding:

So you've decided to enter into the world of postgraduate education and you're hoping to be funded. Some top tips for PhD applications:

  • Check that you meet the entry requirements - you should have an MA as it is a MUST to even be considered for AHRC doctoral funding.
  • Identify your preferred universities and departments. One by consortium! You should apply to several universities in order to maximize your chances of receiving funding.
  • Check if they also have good university funding.
  • Search for prospective supervisors; it is almost mandatory in the arts to contact a possible supervisor (for doctoral work) as this person will be the one writing your funding reference to the AHRC. First impressions are always worth remembering.
  • If supervisor likes you and proposed idea of research then you're good to go with applying before the application deadline, usually in late January.


MA applicants:

  • Again identify your preferred university and department
  • Check it's on the list of institutions that have funding
  • Visit the relevant department website to check whether they have AHRC for your subject. Most unis will have this published under a section called "funding" or "how to fund your studies"
    • This is where MA applicants have a slightly different procedure. If your chosen course has funding and again it should be on the university websites, all you need to do is double check the requirements for the course - statement of purprose, rarely would you need a research proposal for a taught course (unless it's a MRes course) and just apply. The tendency is that everyone who applies for that course will tick the box saying "consider me for AHRC funding" or words to that effect.
  • There is usually an application deadline, outside of Oxford and Cambridge it's normally February or March. Oxford is either November or January depending on which gathered field you apply in. Cambridge I believe is always December.


Choosing which students to fund:

For MA students: it'll unfortunately come down to how good you look on paper so stellar references, undergraduate marks (this is unfortunately where even your first year DOES count for something), you written work and your statement of purpose. Do not be surprised if even with a first that you do not receive funding. It is stupidly competitive and a certain amount of luck is needed. Few MA courses interview, even in the case of funding which is a bit of a pain but unfortunately that's how it works.

NB: Funding for MA courses is HUGELY competitive and even more so due to the "credit crunch" as more people are staying in education for longer. Whilst each university will have a quota of how many students they can fund, they cannot choose to fund 3 MA students for the value for one of their Doctoral quota places. For a rough idea of figures for 2010/2011 entry, only 320 students across the UK will funded for their MA studies with over 100 of these places going to English and History courses alone. For full figures see (looking at the RPM column tab) Excel document

For PhD students: It again comes down to your references (usually 2, but 3 for Oxford), your transcripts at both UG and MA level, your statement of purpose (if they want one), your research proposal (both for the institution you're applying for and the 600 word statement that the AHRC requires), your academic CV (if one is required), a suitable supervisor in the department. If you're hoping for PhD funding on say Victorian literature but the department doesn't have a 19th cen specialist, you're wasting your time and again some luck. Networking can only be a good thing and unfortunately a lot of academic achievement is not about what you know but who you know. A good reference from a big wig in your field won't do your application any harm at all.

Doctoral funding is again competitive and all the figures for how many students are going to be funded are on the excel spreadsheet under "doctoral".

Once the deadlines have passed, the university department admissions team will sit down and choose the students (those who have been given places) that they want in their department. Gone are the days of your AHRC application being sent off to an individual panel, the universities now have free rein about who they fund and don't fund. How they choose and who sits on the decisions board is anyone's guess and not something I doubt we'll ever know. Which students are picked can also be a bit of a lottery. Do not bank on getting funding if you're an internal student. If you come up again someone with a better academic profile, academic loyalty tends to go out the window unfortunately. IMHO it's a bad system especially if they're not interviewing their short listed candidates. They may end up choosing 8 students who may well be fantastic on paper but unfortunately in person do not fit the department face and don't get on with their supervisors but that's part of life and there's nothing you can do about it.

Usually universities will choose their students so that they fill their quota places plus usually will have a reserve list of say 5 students, in case anyone drops out for whatever reason. NB: you can apply for as many BGP places as you like (if you fancy doing all the paperwork) BUT if you're good enough to get more than one offer, you must choose which institution you want to study at. You cannot have two fingers in the pie as such. Same for MA applications.


If you end up being a lucky "chosen: one:

Congratulations are in order as you've officially be chosen for funding. However at this point (any time between March and June) it's still not 100% confirmed and you still have a couple of hoops to jump through.

If you have been chosen for a quota spot, you'll be sent various details which include filling in the electronic J-eS form. This form will include all your details, proposal etc ad is sent to the AHRC. The AHRC will make the final yes/no decision but according to what's been published on UCL's History department website since January "Once the JeS applications are in, AHRC will carry out an eligibility check, but otherwise will accept the nominations of institutions. Standard award letters will then go out in August, but students will effectively know that they will have a grant to study at UCL if they are told in April that they have been selected for nomination."


Final Thoughts:

Universities will still offer their own studentships and stipends for both MA and Doctoral study so keep your eyes peeled. This website here is well worth keeping in your favourites list: Jobs and it's also worth either reading in paper form or online The Times Higher Education Supplement, website is here. The Guardian on tuesdays also publishes their Education section which has a good jobs/studentships section within it.

All the AHRC BGP information can be found here: AHRC website


Also See

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