UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences


FAQs for applicants

Here you will find answers our most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the Excellence Fellowship application process.

What is the aim of an Excellence Fellowship?

UCL's Excellence Fellowship Programme seeks to recruit the highest calibre early career researchers from leading international institutions, supporting them to establish their independent career and become the outstanding research leaders of the future.

What fellowships are available in 2023?

At least one fellowship will be available in the UCL Faculties of Brain Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences or Population Health Sciences in the 2023 round. Applications are welcome from clinical and non-clinical researchers in disciplines across the life and biomedical sciences, including clinical, applied and population health science.

What are the eligibility criteria?

Candidates must be able to demonstrate an exceptional track record in their research field to date, and will have begun to build a reputation for the quality of their research, but will not yet have established an independent career or led a research group. They must be able to articulate that they are on the cusp of independence in terms of skills, vision, and outputs.

It is expected that fellows obtain an external intermediate fellowship and/or secure substantial peer-reviewed funding during the tenure of the post. As such, candidates are expected to be at a suitable career stage and of the appropriate calibre to apply for fellowships such as the Wellcome Career Development Award, MRC Career Development Award, UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships.

I am finishing my PhD: can I apply?

It is expected that the candidate has gathered a body of research outputs, and some candidates will achieve this during their PhD. To determine competitiveness, it is recommended that candidates consider - along with their sponsor - the review criteria of: 1) readiness for independence (e.g., in terms of skills, vision and outputs) and 2) competitiveness to secure an external intermediate fellowship in the first or second year of the fellowship.

I am proposing an interdisciplinary research programme. Can I apply?

Yes. Candidates wishing to work in interdisciplinary fields are encouraged to apply and may be jointly sponsored by more than one UCL academic. However, appointments can only be made within the UCL Faculties of Brain Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences or Population Health Sciences and as such Fellows will need to be based within one of these four UCL faculties.

What is the duration of the appointment?

Excellence Fellows are funded for three years in the first instance. Excellence Fellows are expected to apply for externally-funded fellowships or personal awards during the tenure of this post and if awarded, the fellow's salary would be taken over by the external funder. Part-time positions will be considered.

What funding is provided for the post?

Excellence Fellows will receive three year's salary funding, until salary is taken over by an external fellowship.

Excellence Fellows will receive up to an additional £50k to be used freely across the three years to support his/her research throughout the fellowship.

Fellows will be supported in applying for this within the first two years of appointment. Funds may originate from government, charities or the commercial sector.

What is the starting salary?

Posts will be offered at UCL Grade 8 (£50,085 - £58,895). Clinical applicants will be appointed at the at the equivalent clinical scale (CL8). Please note that consultant salaries will not be covered by this programme over the course of the fellowship and clinicians will be expected to complete the fellowship prior to taking up a consultant level post.

When would a Fellowship start if I were awarded one?

This is agreed between the successful candidate and the host Division/Institute; this will normally be within 6 months of the interview. Note that interviews for the 2023 recruitment round are scheduled for the 7th of December 2023.

What should I include in my 2-page research proposal?

The research plan should focus on the next three years and allow the reviewers to get a picture of what your aims are, your broad approaches, and how this addresses important issues/questions in the field. You don’t need to go into detailed methodology or background, but you need to get across enough of your approach that they can understand how you are going to answer your research questions and to support the feasibility that you are able to do the work.

Can I have two sponsors in the same Department?

It is fine to have two sponsors from the same department, but note that since the expectation is that you will largely be working independently, the sponsor is primarily there to guarantee that you’ll be provided the support, space and resources (vs working “under” them) – think of the sponsors more as “hosts” vs “supervisors”.

Can my sponsor be my current supervisor?

Yes; but note that fellowship aims to establishing yourself as independent; therefore, you need to be sure that the proposed work does not sounds like a continuation of your postdoc. You need to articulate that you are diverging from your current supervisor so that you have a separate research/career trajectory. As the sponsor is primarily there to guarantee space and resources (vs working “under” them), you might want to consider if you want your sponsor to be your Head of Department.

What is a UCL Sponsor and how do I get one?

Applicants must identify a Group Leader or Head of Research Department or Division/Institute who will sponsor their application for an Excellence Fellowship. A sponsor is required to assure the selection panel that the candidate, if appointed, will be welcomed

into the host department as an independent researcher. As such, candidates must contact and discuss their application with the potential sponsor early in the application process.

Sponsors may be UCL academics who are existing professional contacts of the candidate. Alternatively, candidates can use UCL's Research Portal, IRIS, and Faculty webpages to find the contact details of academics and Research Departments/Divisions/Institutes in their research area.

You will need to get a support letter signed by your sponsor that confirms the appropriate space and resources will be provided to you during your fellowship. This must be co-signed by the appropriate Divisional/Institute Director.

Can the Sponsor/Excellence Fellowship be based anywhere in UCL?

Excellence Fellowship posts are available only in the UCL Faculties of Brain Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences or Population Health Sciences, and as such the lead Sponsor must be based in a Division or Institute connected to one of these Facilities. The Fellow will be appointed, and based primarily, in the Division/Institute of the Lead Sponsor.

It is possible to obtain an additional sponsor, for example where the research programme spans disciplines. Additional sponsors can be based anywhere in UCL, and must provide a letter of support, as per the lead sponsor, in the application.

Will I have an opportunity to supervise a PhD student?

Successful applicants will be eligible to co-supervise a PhD student with their UCL sponsor. No additional funding will be available for this through the Excellence Fellowship, but Fellows will be eligible to apply with their sponsor to relevant studentship programmes within UCL.

How do I apply?

Full guidance on the application process can be found on our How to Apply page.

Costings: Is a costings required for the application? What costs can be included if I am awarded a fellowship?

Do I need to include costings with the application? 

You do not have to submit any costings with the application. Only upon award of the fellowship will the recipient be asked to submit a costings.

What costs will be covered by the £50K?

The Programme does not define allowable/non-allowable expenses; it is kept flexible so that fellows can spend their funds in whatever way best supports their research.

Can I include personnel costs?You may choose to support personnel with your consumable budget provided they fit within the £50k.

Can I apply to other Fellowship schemes before applying to the UCL Excellence Fellowship?

Yes, you can apply in parallel to other Fellowship schemes (e.g. Wellcome CDA, UKRI FLF, ERC Starting Grant) although it would be useful to declare these applications when applying to the UCL Excellence Fellowship scheme so we can follow up on the outcomes as necessary.