The Constitution Unit


Call for British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Applications

26 July 2019

The British Academy logo

The Constitution Unit would like to encourage applications to the 2019/2020 British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme. 

Duration and expenses

The British Academy scheme provides funding for outstanding early career researchers recently in receipt of a PhD (see criteria below), covering the costs of a 36-month fellowship with the purpose of enabling the award holder to pursue an independent research project. This scheme aims to help develop the candidate’s CV and boost their prospects of obtaining a permanent university post. The main emphasis is on the completion of a significant piece of publishable research, and the candidate’s integration into the community of established scholars within their field.

The Fellowship is available for three years, starting at the earliest in September 2020 and is non-renewable. The funding covers salary costs for three years and provides £6k towards research expenses in total.

To be eligible, candidates must have held a successful PhD viva between 1 April 2017 and 1 April 2020.

Areas of research

Potential candidates need to identify an academic who would support their application and agree to act as a mentor. The Constitution Unit Director and Deputy Director welcome approaches in the research areas indicated below (candidates are encouraged to explore their webpages for more detailed indications of previous research topics):

Professor Meg Russell

Professor Russell is Director of the Constitution Unit. She welcomes applicants wishing to conduct research in areas including British and comparative politics, in particular parliaments and legislatures (organisation, policy impact, member behaviour, bicameralism, reform), political party organisation, constitutions and constitutional reform.

Dr Alan Renwick

Dr Renwick is Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit. He welcomes applicants wishing to conduct research in areas including electoral systems, electoral reform, referendums, deliberative democratic institutions, and democratic reforms and innovations.

In 2018/2019 Dr Rebecca McKee was awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Constitution Unit, mentored by Professor Meg Russell. She is researching representation and diversity in parliament, including a survey of MPs’ staff. You can take a look at the project page on our website for more information about this research.

Researching at the Constitution Unit

The Constitution Unit is a politically neutral research centre based at University College London. We have over 20 years’ experience producing rigorous, timely and independent research on British political institutions, and have a close working relationship with policymakers, including representatives of all political parties. Our work has been influential in shaping various reforms.

In the last couple of years we have run major research projects such as the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, Options for an English Parliament, the Independent Commission on Referendums, and Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit, as well as projects on improving information and discourse in election and referendum campaigns in the UK and the impact of the UK parliament on government legislation.

The Constitution Unit is housed in the Department of Political Science at UCL. The Department's status as one of Britain's leading centres for research in Political Science was confirmed by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise. The School acts as the bridge between UCL's world-class research and the policy-making community in Britain and internationally. We have weekly seminars featuring distinguished external speakers and hold regular high-profile events for policy makers and others. Other potential mentors covering a broader range of political science topics are available in the Department – for details see here.

Application guidelines & eligibility

Applying is a multi-stage process. First, you must find a prospective mentor who is willing in principle to support your application, and who can give feedback on a draft. Second, you apply to the department, which can support a maximum of X applications. Third, you submit an outline application to the British Academy. Finally, if invited by the BA, you make a full application in early 2020.

Candidates who wish to apply for a fellowship based at the Unit in one of the topic areas indicated above should contact their potential mentor as soon as possible, indicating their project topic, broad proposed approach, and providing details of their previous qualifications (with grades) and any relevant publications. If your proposed mentor indicates support in principle for your project, you should then complete a full outline upon which they will be able to provide feedback if received by 17 August. The deadline for submission of your proposal to the department is then 31 August.

The British Academy has a range of eligibility criteria, which can be seen on their website here. You should check whether you are eligible to apply before contacting your potential mentor – and confirm to them that you have done so.

If you are invited by your proposed mentor to submit a draft proposal, this should include the following as per BA guidelines

  • Research Proposal Title

  • Abstract: Summarise your proposed research for an informed general audience (150 words)

  • Reason(s) for choice of host institution (150 words).

  • Previous Research: normally referring to the doctoral thesis (600 words)

  • Proposed Programme: description of the research programme, including methodology. Scholarly importance of the project and its feasibility, especially in terms of the proposed methodology and timescale should be emphasised (1500 words)

  • Plan of Action: Viability, specificity and originality of the research programme and of its achievability within the timescale should be emphasised (800 words)

  • CV including a list of publications