Fellowships are personal awards which include the salary of the fellow as well as, most of the time, a budget for research (consumables, equipment etc. and sometimes even staff salary and PhD studentship), travel (conferences, collaborations and secondments) and personal development. They are awarded to one Person to carry out one Project in one Place (3Ps).
From a career development point of view, fellowships are not just a way to work on the specific field you are interested in, they also helps demonstrating your independence and ability to attract funding. For this reason, they make you more competitive for permanent academic positions and other funding applications.
Fellowships are very prestigious awards and thus are highly competitive! Applying to one needs to be carefully planned; we strongly advise that you to seek out all the help you can get to increase your chances of being successful, and start planning at least 6 months in advance (but ideally as soon as possible).
This section includes:
- First steps
- Examples of external fellowships
- Training and resources
- Support for applicants
- Institutional support for fellows ("perks")
- Illuminate, the Vice-Chancellor's fellowships (institutional scheme)
Applying for a fellowship takes a lot of time and energy so here is some advice to get started on the right foot:
- Start thinking about it as early as possible, even if you don't think you'll apply before a year or two. Have a look at schemes and use your time to strategically develop your CV to become an ideal applicant and think about what you'd like your project to be
- Identify a good supportive mentor who agrees to help you with the process and welcome you in their group if successful. Without previous experience, writing a fellowship can be challenging and you will need their help (in addition, you may require the support of your Head of School or Centre Director)
- Look for potential schemes that would suit your situation
- Watch the relevant videos mentioned on this page and the resources funders provide on their website, including guidance for applicants
- Contact the Research Development team to get advice and ensure that you are aware of the potential internal selection processes (managed bids), peer-review processes and associated deadlines
- Make a plan including these deadlines, allowing time to develop ideas, contact collaborators, write and seek feedback from colleagues
- Log your intention to apply early on the Research Application System
Note that the process is very long. We advise you to start thinking about it at least 6 months in advance. There can be months passing between the time of application and the start date if successful so be careful not to wait for the end of your contract to apply, and have a contingency plan in place.
Examples of fellowships
There are many different kinds of fellowships, which are suitable for:
- Different career stages (just out of PhD, developing independence, establishing an independent group, returning to research...)
- Different research areas
- Different aims / circumstances (encouraging mobility, supporting exposure to industry, re-entry after a career break...)
To identify calls that would suit your situation, you can look at the Research Development fellowship page and follow the advice we give to identify funding on our Funding page (Identifying funding) including the ECR Central database.
This series of 9 online training videos have been designed to help postdocs understand fellowships and start their application.
It includes: "Introduction to fellowships", "Finding a fellowship", "Tips for a successful application (what to think about before starting to write)", "Research proposal", "Impact and dissemination", "Institution and support", "Finance", "CV and career plan" and "Ethical considerations"
In addition to the videos, fellowship applicants can receive additional support by the Research Development Team, such as feedback on draft and mock interviews (see the Research Development fellowship page).
The videos are accessible by Queen's staff and students.
Access to the videos and additional support can be granted on demand to external candidates developping a proposal to join Queen's University Belfast. The candidates would need to be supported by a Queen's academic and School as well as have contacted Research Development (email@example.com) to discuss the feasibility of their application.
The Research Development team organises regular information sessions and training courses on the topic of fellowships and make some recordings available. These include workshops from research development experts, panel discussions with fellows, funders' sessions etc.
Alison is one of Queen's first UKRI Future Leaders Fellows. She also held a Leverhulme Fellowship, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship, and a range of small grants and awards. She has written a range of guides full of tips based on her experience and even organised online events on funding opportunities post-PhD (#ECRday2021: Academic opportunities after the PhD: postdocs, fellowships & more; #ECRday2022: Two days of online AHSS focused talks exploring life after the PhD!; ECRday2023: Opportunities beyond the PhD for AHSS researchers), for which recordings are available.
The Nature Masterclasses online training package, which you can access for free as Queen's staff, includes a 3h15 lesson on "Persuasive Grant Writing", helping you to apply narrative tools to align your proposal with the funders' objectives.
The Elsevier Researcher Academy also provides free videos on funding and grant writing for early career researchers.
The Narrative CV format is being introduced by most UK funders by 2024 and is part of a drive by the Research and Innovation sector to improve Research Culture, notably by recognising the importance of a wider range of contributions by researchers and moving away from using inaccurate and narrow metrics as indicators of research quality. It is mainly used for research funding applications, but may be applied in some fashion to other processes in the future.
Resources to help you prepare a narrative CV:
- Narrative CV 'Postdoc Life' information session recording (presented by Dr Evelyn Keaveney from the research development team)
- Queen's Narrative CV guidance (Research & Enterprise intranet)
- Résumé for Research and Innovation resources (UKRI)
- Résumé for researchers (Royal Society)
- Narrative CV overview (The University of Cambridge)
- Narrative CV: resources to help you write one (open online course from the University of Glasgow)
The Research Development team provides expert support to fellowship candidates, in addition to the support already mentioned on our Funding page (RD team support).
- One-to-one meetings to discuss your goals, help you plan your application and provide you advice
- Feedback on drafts
- Organising the peer-review of your application (Faculty peer-review is mandatory in the MHLS and AHSS Faculties, as well as for fellowship schemes eligible for institutional support)
- Assisting with the obtention of your letters of support
- Organising mock interviews (when relevant; some fellowship schemes do not have interviews)
The University provides a range of developmental and financial advantages for individuals who successfully secure an external fellowship or New Investigator Award.
This package of support is provided to successful candidates with fellowships of minimum two years, with different levels depending on the fellowship's career stage, length and the value of the award.
Support can include:
- Membership of the Fellowship Academy, which provides tailored development support for fellows
- Start-up fund
- Funded PhD studentship
- Career pathway to a permanent academic position
Most Universities offer internally-funded fellowships to attract promising researchers to their institution, often referred to as Vice-Chancellor's Fellowships. At Queen's, they are named Illuminate.
Illuminate, the Vice-Chancellor's Fellowship scheme, is designed to nurture high-potential independent early-career researchers, developing the research leaders of the future. Researchers appointed to this scheme benefit from protected research time, support and training via the "Fellowship Academy", a fully-funded PhD studentship and fast-tracking career progression to Senior Lecturer or Reader (T&Cs apply). The research of the candidates must align with Queen's research strategy and complement existing strengths.More information on Illuminate