The Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme


What's involved?

As a Laidlaw Scholar, you'll develop leadership and research skills which will help you stand out from the crowd

This prestigious UCL programme makes available 25 generous bursaries as part of its package of training and research opportunities.

The Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme aims to create the Leaders of the Future. It is open to high-performing first year undergraduate students in any discipline who have the ambition to take up a leadership position in the future and a desire to undertake research at a high level.

Gaining a Laidlaw Scholarship is widely regarded as an indicator of exceptional academic and leadership promise. The scheme runs at a number of leading UK Russell Group universities and internationally, creating a large network of past and present scholars. More information about the scheme run across all participating universities is available from the Laidlaw Foundation.

The Laidlaw Scholarship is a programme of activities which runs from the second term of your first year to the first term of your third year. It's a chance for you to:

  • develop and practise leadership skills through training and activities;
  • make a contribution to UCL’s research, working with academic staff on questions of global significance;
  • be part of a high-performing group of students from across UCL;
  • enhance your CV and employability for the future.

The mandatory elements of the programme are:

  • Six days of leadership training
  • One summer research period of six weeks - usually at the start of your first year summer holidays.  You will undertake a research project chosen from a list of projects or devised by yourself.  You will be supervised by a UCL academic.
  • An immersive leadership activity or further research in your second summer holiday.

You'll be expected to fully commit to these elements.

Please note that during the Covid-19 pandemic, some elements of the scheme may be amended or moved wholly online.

As you go through the programme, you'll develop leadership skills and research skills which will help you stand out from the crowd - and to get where you want to go.


The main focus of the programme is leadership.  During the course of the programme you'll join three two-day leadership workshops, with other Laidlaw Scholars, learning about the key elements of leadership through a mixture of classes and practical exercises.  Please note that during the Covid-19 pandemic, some elements of the training may be amended or moved wholly online.

You'll increase your understanding of practical leadership, of your own strengths and weaknesses, and how to lead and motivate a team. It's also a chance to support each other in your learning and bond as a group.

As you progress through the programme you'll be able to put this leadership learning into practice.

Your second summer will be dedicated to expanding your leadership skills with an immersive leadership experience.  This could be joining other Laidlaw scholars from different universities on a specially tailored trip outside the UK putting your leadership skills to use, or undertaking an activity within the UK using your skills to give benefit to others.  There may also be some opportunities to continue undertaking research.

In addition you'll be expected to use your leadership skills to make a contribution to life at UCL. This could be an activity such as setting up or running a student society or participating in a UCL committee. There are many inventive ways to make a contribution. 

As a Laidlaw scholar, you will also have the chance to mentor junior Laidlaw Scholars, act as an ambassador for the scheme at open days and training, or participate in other opportunities which arise such as presenting at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research or the annual Posters in the Cloisters / Posters in Parliament competition.


All Laidlaw Scholars will undertake an independent piece of academic research lasting six weeks in their first summer. 

When undertaking you research project(s), you will either

  1. Join an academic research team from the projects list - the title and details of the research need to be stated on your application form.
  2. Propose your own summer project topic. If you propose your own topic of research, you will need to find an academic member of staff who agrees to supervise your project before your apply.

Your time as a Laidlaw Scholar

The Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme gives you a great opportunity to enhance your leadership skills. However, your degree studies will be your main focus through your time at UCL. For this reason, the Laidlaw programme has been timetabled to avoid conflicting with your main studies.

The research and leadership experience elements of the programme will take place during the summer holidays - usually in the first six weeks of holidays in years 1 and 2.

Bear in mind that all elements of the scheme are mandatoryIt is a condition of our funding that all scholars must attend.  Failure to attend could result in the withholding of your bursary or termination of your scholarship. The core elements are the leadership training and the summer research or leadership activities.

Other opportunities which arise from the programme are voluntary, and it is for you to judge when to engage with them so you get what you need out of the programme.

Year One

November 2020

  • Monday 30 November: Scheme opens to applications from first year undergraduates.

February 2021

  • Monday 1 February at 23.59: Scheme closes: All applications must be received by this time.  Late applications will not be considered.  Don't leave your application to the last minute!

March 2021

  • Week commencing 8 March: New Scholars announced during this week: Laidlaw Scholars will be selected by a panel on the basis of their application. You may also be invited to attend an interview.
  • First leadership workshop: the first leadership workshop will be a full weekend of activities. As well as learning about different aspects of leadership, the weekend will be an opportunity for you to meet all the new Laidlaw scholars from across UCL, and come together as a cohort for the first time.  This may be held online if necessary.

June 2021

  • Second leadership weekend: This will build and extend your previous learning around leadership and prepare you for the research element of the programme. This may be held online if necessary.

Summer 2021

  • Summer projects: June-July For six weeks over your first summer as a Laidlaw scholar, you will work with UCL academics and researchers to undertake a research project. This will be a full time and exciting period of intensive research, allowing you to delve into a topic of your choice.  You will receive a generous bursary to ensure you do not need to take any paid work over this period.  The dates of the project can be flexible where necessary.  You will have chosen the project topic as part of your application to become a Laidlaw Scholar.  This may be undertaken online if necessary.

By the end of the summer you will have gained research skills and will have worked alongside experts in your chosen field.

Year Two

November 2021

  • Third leadership workshop: The final weekend of leadership training will complete your intensive leadership education.
  • Poster Presentations: You will get the opportunity to present your work at a poster display event. You're also strongly encourage to submit a research poster to the Posters in Cloisters competition (submissions November - January)

Terms 2 and 3

  • You will have the opportunity to become a mentor to a new Laidlaw scholar.
  • You will be encouraged to find opportunities to put your leadership skills into practice for the benefit of the UCL community or the wider community.


  • You will undertake an immersive leadership experience lasting around six weeks.  You will have a number of options to choose from, which will be discussed with you nearer the time (options change each year).  This will either be in the UK or on a trip outside the UK.

This second period will allow you to build on the skills gained in your first year, consolidating learning and giving you the opportunity to focus and develop your leadership skills whilst making a difference to others.

Year Three

Your Laidlaw scholarship will formally end at the end of Term 1. 

However, we encourage you to take up opportunities to become involved with mentoring and ambassadorial activities where you can.