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50th Anniversary Prize Researchers 

Prize PhD

Aston celebrated its 50th anniversary as a University in 2016. As part of our celebrations and to build on our strong performance in REF 2014, the University launched a Prize Fellowships and Prize Studentships scheme to create 50 Prize Researchers for our 50th year, investing in our exciting and dynamic research future through our next generation of research leaders - Aston’s ‘Research Pioneers’.

To continue with the success of the scheme, Aston University has agreed to fund further Prize Studentships and Fellowships, with the addition of a new Prize, the Vice-Chancellor's International Scholarship.

Click here to download further information on the scheme.

Fellowships and studentships

The scheme was originally launched to fund 10 Fellowships and 40 Studentships over four years, on a shared cost basis, with 50% of the funding coming from the University or School, and 50% coming from external sources.  In 2017 this scheme has been extended to fund an additional 40 studentships together with 10 Vice-Chancellor’s International scholarships.




Prize fellowships




Prize Fellowships will provide two years’ funding for a Research Fellow, with academic

excellence being the primary criterion. The Fellowships may start in any of the academic years 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19, and should all complete by 2020-21. Following successful completion of a Fellowship, there is an expectation that the post will be converted to non-fixed term academic post, which will be managed in the same way as other new lecturer posts in the Schools. This means that future School funding needs to be agreed with the relevant Executive Dean before applying. Fellowships will be funded through a 50% match from the University, with the remaining 50% being provided by industry, a donation, or a competitively won grant.




Prize studentships




Prize Studentships will provide three years’ funding for a PhD student, to enable high-achieving graduates to start doctoral research programmes in our Schools. Studentships will be allocated pro-rata across our five Schools and are intended to start in 2017. There are two different funding models available: Quarter-funded PhD studentships provide 25% funding to match against 25% from the School and 50% from external sources.  To support areas where it is not possible to secure matched funding, 10 half-funded PhD studentships are available (with the remainder coming from School funds or external sources).  Studentships are costed on the basis of a stipend (at UK Research Council rates), home/EU fees, a Research Training Grant of up to £500 per annum, and a small consumables budget  Studentships will be funded at the rate of £59k- £68k in total, dependent on consumable costs.  In exceptional cases, where higher consumables are required, applicants are invited to make a case for additional support to the Prize Scheme Management panel. 


Vice-Chancellor's International Scholarships 


Vice-Chancellor’s International Scholarships will provide three years’ reduced fee level for exceptional overseas candidates who have already secured sponsorship for the remainder of their studentship costs (for example through China Scholarship Council sponsorship).  Up to 10 Vice-Chancellor’s International Scholarships are available. 

How will Studentships and Fellowships opportunities be advertised?

Studentships will be advertised on FindaPhD and jobs.ac.uk

Fellowship opportunities will be advertised by jobs.ac.uk, and internationally, in addition to the Aston jobs website.

Applications are made by academic staff at Aston University on behalf of prospective students or Fellows.

  1. Before applying, applicants should obtain confirmation that from the Executive Dean that School support is available as follows.  PhD Studentships: matched funding is required; of 25% or 50% depending on model.  Fellowships: confirmation of continuation funding in the form of a permanent post is needed.

  2. Where appropriate applicants should then secure their external matched funding at 50% of the overall cost - for a single award or multiple awards - either via gaining commitment from Industry or other external funding sources, via working with their ADRs and Research and Knowledge Exchange (RKE), or by a donation; exploratory conversations regarding donations from Trusts and private donors should be undertaken with the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO).  

  3. The application is then submitted to schools prize scheme representative Shakil Ahmad (AMS), Alex Rozhin (EAS), Alison Legood (ABS), Jim Shields (LSS), Nicola Logan (LHS), Karina Tveen Jensen (the Prize Scheme Manager) and Sally Puzey. The application will be circulated to panel members and assessed at the next panel meeting.  The applicant will be informed of the outcome by their school representative.

  4. Upon award applicants may advertise the position.

Eligibility 

To be eligible to apply staff must hold a teaching and research contract which is long enough to allow them to supervise a student or fellow to completion, and this will include new academic staff in their 5-year probationary period.   

Application

There is no official application form.  However, the proposal should be no more than 4 pages long and contain the following information:

1.Outline of the research project

2.Proposed methods and expected outcomes

3.Information on training and development programme for the student or fellow.

4.The budget in terms of contribution from school and external funders.

5.In the case of a Fellowship confirmation from the Executive Dean that the post will be converted to a non-fixed term academic post. The confirmation can be in the form of a letter or email.

6.CV of any named Student or Fellow. 

Assessment of proposals 

Proposals will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • The novelty, timeliness and quality of the proposed research;
  • Fit with University and School strategy;
  • Fit with global or societal challenges expressed by Government or funding agencies
  • The track record or, in the case of Early Career Researchers, potential of the applicant to supervise a successful studentship or fellowship;
  • The potential for significant and far-reaching impact from the research, both academically and beyond;
  • A well-developed training and development programme.



The Prize Researchers schemes will be managed by a central Prize Scheme Management Panel (PSMP), which reports to the University Research Committee.  Members of the PSMP will include: Paul Maropoulos (Chair), Andrew Harris, Helen Higson.  School representatives: Shakil Ahmad (AMS), Alex Rozhin (EAS), Alison Legood (ABS), Jim Shields (LSS), Nicola Logan (LHS) Karina Tveen Jensen (Prize Scheme Manager) and Sally Puzey.

The PSMP will be responsible for:

•Assessing applications to the fund and the allocation of University funding;

•Monitoring the operation of the scheme;

•Advising Schools of budgetary obligations following each round of awards;

•Managing the balance of funding in the scheme’s portfolio of awards;

•Re-allocating Fellowships and Studentships that are not taken up from the initial allocations to Schools;

•Considering cases that may not precisely fit the funding principles outlined above, for example due to disciplinary characteristics, or strategic initiatives and priorities;

•Reviewing the scheme annually and reporting on the impact of the scheme to the University Executive.

General

These awards are described as full-time positions, is there any scope to hold the awards on a part-time or flexible basis?

Yes, Aston is committed to providing family-friendly and flexible work options in order to support a diverse staff and student population.  In line with this commitment studentship and fellowships are available on a full and part-time basis.

How does the funding model for the prizes work and how funding will actually be allocated to the Schools (eg lump sum direct transfer from REO to School budgets in the next financial year/beginning of each financial year of the studentships?)

We will arrange this via finance – it is likely to be a lump sum transfer at the beginning of the year

What are the future plans – are the same funding schemes planned for future years?

The current planning is for the studentship scheme to run for 2-3 years in terms of allocations, and the fellowships until 2020. We need to prove the success of the scheme to secure further investment beyond that.

Studentships

What level of funding is available for the studentships?

Between £59k and £68k is available over three years, according to a disciplinary need for consumables.  This is expected to cover a stipend, UK/EC fees and a Research Training and Support Grant of £500p/a.  For lab-based subjects a bench fee of up to £3,000 is also paid to contribute to the cost of consumables.

Can grant funding from charities be used as matched funding for studentships?

Yes, the application needs the support from the school and an offer of funding in from the charity before the Award is confirmed.  Exceptionally, the PSMP will give an in principle commitment, to allow staff to proceed with a bid for funding (if the bid requires confirmation of support up front).

Do professional doctorates count as studentships under this scheme? 

Yes, the scheme covers professional doctorates where they are in priority areas for the School.

Do PhDs have to build on existing research capability or can they be in new areas? 

Studentships can be in new areas of research or support intuition based investigation. Studentships could also be aligned with existing research topics.

The current scheme seems to favour established researchers with guaranteed research income. How do you ensure early career researchers, who still need pilot data to apply for further grants, will benefit from this scheme?

Schools have been asked to consider how they support ECRs in accessing funding through this scheme, alongside the other support they have for ECRs, for example through putting in place collaborative supervision, or other structures. In terms of access to additional consumable funding, we are prepared to consider additional bids for consumable support from ECRs, who may not have access to other funding. These requests should be submitted to the Prize Scheme Management Panl. 

How does the studentship prize application process work and how does it link to School application processes?

We have aligned with the School processes to make sure that we are not duplicating effort.  Discussions have taken place with Associate Deans for Research to achieve this.

Fellowships 

Who applies for the fellowship, the proposed Fellow or the proposed supervisor?

Staff who are interested in hosting a fellowship are invited to express interest in the Fellowships to their Associate Dean for Research, and then, once funding is confirmed, applicants will be invited formally via our University recruitment processes.  

There are four parts to the application process: 

  • The School identifies the areas of strategic importance to the School in which Fellowships applications are invited and confirms that there will be future funding in the School Budget for successful candidates after the 2 year period. 
  • The strategic areas in which the School invite applications for Fellows are communicated to all the School staff and will be advertised, seeking to proactively generate interest from exceptional candidates.*
  • Potential supervisors, grant holders, research centre directors and potentially candidates for the Fellowships seek to secure the matched funding at 50% from external sources.*
  • An application is made to the scheme for the University match.

* these stages may run in parallel

Once the University match is agreed, the fellowship recruitment process can then be run and completed. 

Whilst it is possible to name a fellow as part of the application for the Fellowship, our preference is to widely advertise the fellowships to ensure that the best talent is identified.

What terms and conditions apply to the Fellowships?

Normal research staff terms and conditions of employment will apply to these posts.  Alongside these procedures, key objectives and milestones relating to the fellowships will  be agreed with the Fellow’s line manager.  In addition, we will be developing a tailored training package to accelerate their development as academic leaders in the field.

What are the conditions relating to the Tenure Track position?

Fellowship holders are expected to progress to a tenure track position of Lecturer upon successful completion of the Fellowship.  Progression to the Tenure track position would be handled via the normal probation procedures, and would be dependent on successful completion of probation and achievement of agreed objectives.

Does the matched funding need to be in place before the application for the Fellowship is made? What happens if the match falls through?

Yes, an “in principle” offer of funding should be obtained from the funder.  If the offer of funding is subsequently withdrawn, then the fellowship would normally be returned to the School for reallocation.

What are the deadlines for applying?

There are no fixed deadlines – applications are welcomed from 1st March 2016 onwards, but applications should be made via the School (Associate Dean for Research). 

What are the eligibility conditions relating to the fellowship?

Fellowships will be awarded in areas of strategic priority for our Schools. 

e.g. The awards are to fund Fellows based at Aston University and are not transferable to other institutions.  Having said that a Fellow could have a placement at a research partner of the University during the fellowship.

What are the eligibility conditions relating to the Fellow?

Appointment of the Fellow will be conducted through an open recruitment process and the appointment made on the basis of the scientific and academic excellence of the proposal and the track record and potential of the candidate. 

What costs are covered by the Fellowships?  

The fellowships will cover the appointment of a Fellow over 2 years (Full-time) at Grade 8 or 9, according to skills and experience.  In addition the fellowship will fund contributions to travel, conference attendance, and consumables.  The resources proposed for the Fellowship should be outlined as part of the Fellowship proposal at the application stage.

What is the application process for the Fellowships, once the pool of candidates is identified and the matched funding agreed?

Schools will each run their own recruitment and selection processes for the fellowships and these will be announced in due course.

How will the progression of Fellowships to academic appointment be managed?

Fellowships will be awarded on the basis of an excellent research track record and the potential for Fellows to develop into future research leaders.  Fellows will be set criteria for progression that are relevant to the definition of excellent research in their discipline.  Fellows’ progress towards meeting these criteria will be supported and monitored by their line manager throughout their Fellowship.  

Is it possible to use an RA post on an EPSRC grant as leverage to match fund a fellowship? Can you use an RA on an EPSRC grant?

No, the scheme is designed to fund new activity and bring in new funding.  It is also important that the Fellowship functions as a training award for the Fellow, which would not be possible if grant conditions applied.  There would be potential to use the Prize scheme tied to EPSRC fellowship funding as a pro-active gesture when applying for funding, although there would need to be a clear case for the prize fund being used as leverage for funding that would not otherwise be forthcoming.

How does the postdoctoral fellowship scheme work and how do Schools deal with enquiries. 

Schools have identified strategically important areas aligned to their centres of excellence.  They are expected to partner with REO and DARO to find matched funding as needed.  We are able to advertised fellowship opportunities on an “apply to apply” basis if schools wish and this will be discussed with Associate Deans for Research.

How are fellowships costed?

Fellowships are costed on a Full Economic cost basis including Fellow Salary costs (Grade 8 or Grade 9 Researcher) + supervision costs + Travel costs and consumables.  REO can provide detailed advice on subject-specific costs as these will vary according to discipline.

Is the Fellowships scheme a rolling programme? 

Yes, we have matched funding for up to 10 fellowships to run over the period 2016-2020.  

Are the fellowships targeted at staff outside Aston or staff who are already here?

Our intention is to attract and support world leading researchers to establish an academic career at Aston – applications will be judged on their merits and academic excellence is the primary criterion. Whilst attracting researchers to Aston is an objective, this will not rule out world leading researchers who are already at Aston.

Academic staff should discuss their interest in the first instance, via the appropriate Associate Dean for Research.

School Research panel:

 Support is also available from the Research & Knowledge Exchange and the Development & Alumni Relations Office as follows: