Funding from Research Councils

Funding for research students is likely to come from one of several Research Councils. Find out which one could help you.
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Research Councils are a crucial port of call for students seeking funding. Awards are available from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCSET) for research in the Republic of Ireland, and from seven Research Councils for research in Northern Ireland.

Research Councils merge

On 29 March 2012 the new Irish Research Council, a merger of the IRCHSS and IRCSET, was officially launched. The merger won't affect existing postgraduate scholarships or research fellowships, but will, the government hopes, ultimately result in a strengthening of focus on early stage research careers. Bringing the science and humanities disciplines together should also facilitate an increase in interdisciplinary research opportunities. The Irish Research Council will remain the principal body of postgraduate study and research in Ireland.

Below are details of existing funding opportunities provided by the IRCHSS and IRCSET before the merger.

Postgraduate funding from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

IRCHSS funds pioneering research in the humanities, business and law, and social sciences in Ireland, and offers Postdoctoral Fellowships valued at just over €30,000 annually after tax. Please note that applications for the 2012 awards have now closed. Applicants can apply for either a one-year Fellowship to prepare a doctoral thesis, or a two-year Fellowship to develop a research project borne out of their doctorate. Postgraduates from any country can apply, but successful applicants must maintain Ireland as their principal residence for the duration of the Fellowship. Non-EU applicants must have the support of their host institution and meet the requirements of Ireland's immigration regulations. This year's awards will be announced after July 2012.

IRCHSS also offers Postgraduate Scholarships. Please note that applications for the 2012–13 scheme have now closed. Applicants will be informed of the outcome via letter.

Postgraduate funding from the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET)

IRCSET offers an annual award of €24,000 after tax for its EMBARK Initiative Postgraduate Scholarships. The scheme is open to candidates worldwide, with a small number of Scholarships available to exceptional candidates from non-EU member states. The awardees will receive €16,000 of this as a maintenance award; the remaining €8,000 covers fees and other costs. Please note that applications for the 2012 awards have now closed.

IRCSET also links with industry and eligible public bodies through its Enterprise Partnership Scheme. With the aim of giving researchers the chance to gain additional experience within a commercial setting, the Partnership awards co-funded postgraduate Scholarships and postgraduate Fellowships to researchers in Ireland. There are three calls for applications: the first is 30 January–3 February; the second is 28 May–1 June and the third is 24–28 September 2012.

Finally, IRCSET also offers EMPOWER Fellowships. Please note that applications for the 2012 awards have now closed. Valued at €39,640 per year (before tax), these two-year Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowships are in science, engineering and technology, based at an Irish host laboratory. Applications are considered from postgraduates around the world who hold or are about to receive a doctoral degree. Researchers interested in applying for the next round of EMPOWER Fellowships must have been employed for no more than 36 months as a postdoc researcher before the closing date of the call, and must have the agreed support of a mentor at their laboratory of choice before applying. This year's awards will be announced in April 2012.

UK Research Councils

There are seven Research Councils in the UK that offer UK-wide funding across the spectrum of academic disciplines. These are fiercely competed for and there are strict deadlines to be aware of. See Research Councils UK for how to get started.

To be eligible for both fees and maintenance awards offered by these bodies, applicants should, except in exceptional circumstances, be three years resident in the UK and be UK/EU nationals.

Non-resident EU nationals are eligible for consideration for 'fees only' awards. Talk to your prospective academic department about applying to one of the Research Councils and for further advice on eligibility.

Other research schemes

Research schemes are also run by other funding bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (, Teagasc (Walsh Fellowships; and Science Foundation Ireland ( Details of 2012–13 funding should be available early in 2012 on the individual funding body websites. Applications are advertised and made through funded projects, so check with your department or your academic supervisor for more information.

All the information supplied in this article was correct at the time of writing, January 2012. It was updated in April 2012.