The Constitution Unit


Call for British Academy postdoctoral fellowships 2021/22

4 August 2020

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

The British Academy logo

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

Please see below for internal deadlines, but note that the deadline for submitting your proposal to the Department of Political Science is 1 September 2020, and you will need to contact your potential supervisor by 20 August.

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 on 1 September 2021 and is non-renewable. The funding covers salary costs for three years and provides £6,000 towards research expenses in total.

Areas of research

Potential candidates should 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 their own previous research):

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, and 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, referendumsdeliberative democratic institutions, democratic reforms and innovations, and constitutions and constitutional reform.

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. Read about the project here. 

Researching at the Constitution Unit

The Constitution Unit is a politically neutral research centre based at University College London. We have over 25 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 BrexitOptions 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. Current research projects include Brexit, Parliament and the Constitution and the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland.

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.

Deadline: Please contact your preferred mentor as soon as possible, briefly indicating your project topic and broad proposed approach, and providing details of your 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 (see below). Your proposed mentor will be able to provide feedback on this if it is received by 20 August 2020.

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. To be eligible, candidates must have had (or expect to have) a successful PhD viva between 1 April 2018 and 1 April 2021.

Second, you apply to the Department.

Deadline: 1 September 2020

Third, you submit an outline application to the British Academy.

Deadline: 14 October 2020

Finally, if invited by the BA, you make a full application in early 2021.

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

We also have an open call for applications for Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships. Find out more here.