ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme


The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is pleased to announce the introduction of a Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF) scheme aimed at providing a career development opportunity for those in the immediately postdoctoral stage of their career, to provide the opportunity to consolidate their PhD through developing publications, their networks, and their research and professional skills.

The PDF call forms part of ESRC’s strategy to supporting early career researchers and will be delivered through our national network of Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which encompasses 73 research organisations across the UK.

The fellows must be located on an accredited DTP or CDT pathway, and as such will be embedded within a high-quality environment for research and training and will be able to apply for support to undertake a varied programme of activities supporting their continuing development for careers both within and outside of academia.


Call details

The objective of this call is to provide support to those who are within 12 months of completing their PhD, to support them in consolidating their PhD, and preparing them for the next stage of their research careers. For the majority this is likely to be a research career in academia; however, those with a clearly articulated programme of activities to support the transition to a research career outside of academia, can also be considered (eg a researcher in public, private, or civil society organisations).

Fellows’ actual programmes should reflect their prior knowledge and experience and be designed to support their longer term research career aspirations. Activities could include, but are not limited to:

Fellowships are not required to complete all activities on the above list, and the chosen activities should be tailored to the aims of the fellowship and relevant to support the transition to the fellow’s desired career. Applicants must demonstrate a realistic and practicable programme of work in their proposal.

Proposals are welcome from both single disciplines and combinations of disciplines but the fellowship activities must be based at least 50% within the social sciences.

Duration of fellowships

The grants provide funding for up to one year full-time, or up to two years part-time to give fellows time to prepare for a successful career in research either within or beyond academia. In exceptional cases, applicants can apply for a fellowship for up to 18 months; however, this must be fully justified by the programme of activities being proposed. Part-time grants are for applicants whose normal working hours are part-time and not for applicants who wish to hold the fellowship and continue other employment. Fellows must spend 100% of their working time (whether full-time or part-time) on the fellowship and cannot take any secondary paid employment during the course of the grant.

A limited amount of teaching will contribute to the professional development of the fellow and therefore grant holders can set aside up to six hours per week (pro rata) to other duties during the fellowship, including training and preparation time.


This opportunity is open to applicants who have completed their PhD at a research organisation (RO) that is part of a DTP or CDT and must be held at an RO that is part of a DTP or CDT eligible to participate in this initiative and aligned to an accredited pathway:

Applicants are eligible for funding whether or not they are established members of the RO at which they are applying. Applicants who are not established members must be accommodated by the RO and provided with appropriate facilities to carry out the fellowship. Further details about eligibility of applicants can be found in the Research Funding Guide ( The call is not open to applicants who are established, permanent members of staff in an academic position with a research component.

Applicants do not have to have had an ESRC-funded studentship in order to be eligible to apply.

At the time of submitting a proposal, the applicant must either:

The grants are restricted to those with no more than 12 months of active postdoctoral experience. Active postdoctoral experience is defined as that accomplished between the viva voce being passed and the closing date of the competition. This includes professional doctorates as well as the PhD. In calculating ‘active’ experience we will make allowance for career breaks, where the applicant has interrupted their career for family, health or other personal reasons.

This call welcomes proposals from those returning to research following a career break. Applicants are however required to meet the eligibility criteria of no more than 12 months of active postdoctoral experience.

Funding including costs and staffing

The total cost for each fellowship can include the following:

No other costs are permitted. Each proposal will need to show these figures as 100% of full Economic Cost (fEC) and the ESRC will meet 80% fEC on the proposals submitted. All proposals will be subject to ESRC’s funding rules as outlined in our Research Funding Guide.

Mentoring arrangements

All Fellows are required to have a mentor based at the research organisation where the fellowship is held. The mentor should have experience and a strong interest in the applicant’s field of research but should not normally be the applicant’s PhD supervisor. We recognise that this may not always be possible, so in exceptional circumstances the PhD supervisor may be the mentor, however this choice should be fully justified if this is the case. The mentor should have the skills and experience relevant to the aims of the fellowship and should be able to assist the fellow in achieving the goals and activities of the fellowship.

We expect the mentoring time required to be around one or two hours per week, and funding will be provided through the fellowship to enable this (under the ‘other costs’ heading).

A secondary mentor is permitted, particularly in interdisciplinary areas or where the fellow will be spending time at an overseas institution. The secondary mentor could be the PhD supervisor or someone else from where they completed their PhD if they are moving institutions.

Stakeholder engagement and impact expectations

We expect fellows funded under the call to have identified the potential impacts of their research on policy and practice, and to actively consider how these can be maximised and developed. This emphasis on research impact will be reflected within the assessment process and will be taken into account during the review process. We recommend that 10% of the overall budget should be allocated for impact-related activities.

When completing the ‘Impact plan and user engagement’ section of the proposal, applicants may find it helpful to refer to ESRC guidance on developing an impact strategy.

How to apply

Application information can be found at the following link: How to apply

Commissioning timetable


For queries related to the call, please contact


ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship – How to Apply

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ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship – FAQs

Background. Why is ESRC introducing a postdoctoral fellowship call? Why are the postdoctoral fellowships (PDFs) being run through the Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs)? Where should applications be submitted to? Why aren’t all DTPs eligible included to award PDFs? Can I apply at more than one DTP or CDT? How…

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