UCL Public Policy


Fellowships FAQs

If you have any questions about the programme, please see below for frequently asked questions.


How does a Policy Fellowship differ from a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship?

Both Policy and Knowledge Exhange Fellowships involve spending time in a host organisation with the aim of knowledge exchange. They both involve a two-way exchange of expertise/knowledge between UCL and non-academic organisations/communities and translational or impact acceleration activities. 

They differ in that Knowledge Exchange Fellowships engage with non-academic users or collaborators, such as businesses, public sector services, charities or the wider public. Policy Fellowships, meanwhile, engage explicity with policy organisations, or organisations that inform policy making.

Although both have the potential to inform public policy, Folicy Fellowships primarily aim to support academics to enhance thier policy networks and their skills in policy engagement.

How is the Fellowship Programme managed?

The Fellowships are centrally managed by UCL Public Policy. UCL Public Policy will remain in contact throughout the Fellowship to provide guidance and support. UCL Public Policy communicates with the policy organisation and research department around the administration of the scheme, and works with the policy organisation to develop projects for the Policy Fellows. 

Can the partnerships betwen the host and Fellow continue after the Fellowship? 

Yes! We strongly encourage you to continue to strengthen the relationships you have formed during the Fellowship. We recommend that you check in periodically with your key contacts to see where the work/project you were involved in has got to, but also to see if any further support is needed. You can signpost further engagement activities and events that may be relevant to the policy questions under consideration, or if you are unsure about these you can engage with UCL Public Policy and your department, we would be happy to help. 

Can Fellows contact previous Fellows to hear about their experience?

Yes, we encourage candidates to speak to alumni Fellows to gain better understanding of Fellowships and what to expect. We have a pool of alumni with whom we can connect you.

How much time should Fellows commit to their fellowship?

Fellowships can be either full or part-time, and usually last for between four and six months, although they can be longer. The levels of commitment will depend on the needs of the host, the Fellow and their UCL commitiments. Hosts and Fellows are expected to be flexible to changes in circumstances and demands. 

Can applicants reapply?

Yes, we encourage you to reapply to a Fellowship if your area of research expertise matches the Fellowship requirements. 

Is it possible to set up our own projects with a host organisation with whom we already have a relationship?

Yes, we also support this type of Policy Fellowship. Please contact Alice Tofts to disucss your ideas. 

How can different working cultures be managed?

Universities and policy organisations have different working cultures, expectations and goals, but this is not always well understood. We suggest therefore as well as discussing projects, that you take time to have conversations with your host and project leads so they can be aware of the different work cultures, and you can explore together how best to be kept in the loop and where things might need further explanation.  

The Fellowship isnt going as planned, what should happen?    

At the centre of the Policy Fellowship is a collegiate philosophy that promotes open and honest engagement as a way to talk and learn about academic-policy engagement.  

Our experience is that projects can and do go wrong, and if they do, the key to resolving challenges is to raise them early and be flexible and open to changing project scope or approach. You might want to go directly to your policy host or talk first with the Policy Fellowships Coordinator. We’d also encourage talking to peers as another source of support. 

If any party, including the Fellow, wishes to terminate the Fellowship agreement prior to the agreed end date this should be discussed as soon as possible with all concerned parties. For example, it might be agreed to end the Fellowship early if the Fellow has been on long term sickness or grievance or disciplinary proceedings have been instigated in relation to the Fellowship. Following discussion, if it is agreed that the period of Fellowship should be terminated earlier than the original agreed end date, a revised end date should be agreed.

What does the application and onboarding process look like?

It is possible to have applications as part of a team/collaboration between academics?  

Fellowships are an opportunity for invidual engagement and developemd and therefore you can not apply as a co-applicant with a UCL colleague. However, if your application is successful, you can collaborate with colleagues, and it is hugely beneficial to bring your learning and experience back to UCL.

How will personal data be used?

No personal data will be shared with the host organisation when shortlisting candidates for the interivew.  Your name and email address will be withheld until the interview. The parts of your application detailing your intersts and eligibitly for the Fellowship will be shared with the pocliy host, but this infromation is anomonysed until interveiw stage.  

For more information on UCL's data sharing policies please see: UCL Staff Privacy Statement, accessed via this website link. UCL Statement of Tasks in the Public Interest, accessed via this website link. 

What to expect after applying    

Applicatons will be assessed against the Fellowship and eligability criteria and candides shortlisted. If you are shortlisted, UCL Public Policy and the host organisation will invite you for an interview. 

What to expect at the interview    

You will meet the Policy Fellowship panel for an informal interview. The panel will include representatives from UCL Public Policy and the host organisation. This meeting will allow us to find out more about your expertise, and your interest in a Fellowship. It also provides you with an opportunity to explore ideas for the Fellowship and ask any other questions you might have. 

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship and who needs one?    

A Certificate of Sponsorship is provided by UCL to employees who require a visa to work in the UK. If an applicant does have a visa, they will need to discuss this opportunity with their Departmental Manager and HR Business Partner to check whether the terms would stop them from being able to take up a secondment opportunity and if the terms of the visa meet the hosts rules around security clearance.

What needs to be in place before the Fellowship starts?    

Before the Fellowship takes place, you need to have accepted the Fellowship offer. There should be mutual understanding and a written agreement among UCL Public Policy and the Policy organisation as to the nature and terms of the Fellowship. You need to identify your department/institute’s finance and local HR contacts and work with them to ensure the process for receiving your funding is underway, and agreements are signed. These agreements must be signed before the Fellowship takes place.

You need to agree a start date with your line manager and your policy host, and to have discussed the onboarding processes with the host. The host security process will need to be started. 

Does the project require ethical approval?    

Generally, Fellowships, as knowledge exchange activities, will not require ethical approval. However, if your fellowship evolves so you will be doing some research to underpin policy work or accessing sensitive data, UCL Ethics will be able to advise. Please contact ethics@ucl.ac.uk

What does the Fellowship look like?

Are there Fellowships abroad?    

Currently we do not run Fellowships abroad but this is something we are working on. Please contact us if you have an idea of an organisation abroad who you wish to partner with so we can look into it for the future. 

Do you accept external Policy Fellows into UCL?     

This part of the Programme is currently under development. To express interest in a visiting Policy Fellowship or find out more please contact Alice Tofts.

What should happen if we run into data sharing challenges?  
It is normal practice that the host organisation  will own the Fellowship intellectual property of any work associated with the secondment, unless it is otherwise specified in the Fellowship Agreement. Any intellectual property prior to the Fellowship will remain with the employer.

The nature of projects within the host department means that government owned data can play a significant part in Fellowship projects. Data access requires a host email and secure IT hardware. To help prevent access delays, raise early with the host the possibilities of them preparing data in advance of taking up the Fellowship.

Having the wrong data persona can slow data access down, so discuss with the host and make sure they have set you up with the correct data persona. Other delays are due to insufficient permissions, discuss with the host whether a supplementary honorary contract might enable enhanced access and ask for measures to be put in place.

Raising concerns early and working closely with the relevant project/team lead to unlock data access is key to solving this challenge.

Outputs/outcomes and benefits of the fellowship

What reporting, outputs or deliverables will be required by the Fellow and host?    

The outputs and deliverables vary and are dependent on the nature of the Fellowship and the policy host's needs. Examples of previous outputs by other fellows have been briefing pack and project reports, roundtable series, data synthesising,  synthesising roundtable discussions, and infographics.

Fellows will be expected to provide some dissemination material to share with UCL communication platforms including blogs, newsletters or presentations. The exact nature of this can be discussed with the PP team after the Fellowship. 

What skills and expertise can Fellows expect to develop?    

Fellows can expect to develop a wide range of skills that will be beneficial for their career development in both academic research and policy engagement. Skills related to policy engagment include brokering and managing relationships, network building, an understanding of how government works and learning about policy formulation from a variety of perspectives. These skills will be essential for any future policy impact work.

Fellows can also expect to come up with additional implications and applications for your research, and hence bring a new dimension to your academic work. Fellows will also develop management skills and tactics to incorporate back into your own team at UCL