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Guide to Research Funding (Archive)

This guide to research fundiing in music was originally prepared by in 2009 and is now substantially out of date; for most purposes it is superceded by the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Research pages, which provide comprehensive information and links for large and small grants, fellowships, and network funding; guidance on EU funding; links to other resources; and contact information. We are retaining it on the Faculty intranet because its overview of research funding agencies remains substantially valid and some of the schemes remain in place, but it should be seen as essentially an archival resource rather than a guide to current funding opportunities.


Information is organized under the following headings:

The three main UK funding agencies

European Union funding

Other funders and links

Funding sources at Cambridge



This guide begins with the three main UK funding agencies supporting humanities-based research in music (some of which also support other approaches): there are sections organized according to different types of scheme, bringing together related schemes from all three funders. (There are occasional references, marked ‡, to comparable schemes from other funding bodies.) There is also a separate section on European Union funding, which has a partly justified reputation for complexity. There are finally sections on other funders and links (some of which are particularly relevant to music researchers adopting scientific and social-scientific approaches), and on application procedures and funding sources at Cambridge.

All funders change their programmes, sometimes quite frequently, so this document will rarely if ever be 100% up to date. That’s one good reason for looking at the News pages on the funders’ websites. Another is that success rates for new schemes are often higher in the first round. Being ahead of the game can pay dividends.

The three main UK funding agencies

The three principal UK-based funding agencies for humanities-based research on music are as follows:

  • the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) covers both the humanities and the creative arts, including practice-based research in composition and performance. Its programmes vary in terms of thematic scope: some, such as Research Grants, invite applications in any area of the arts and humanities (this is often called ‘responsive’ funding)whereas in others the AHRC decides on specific themes or areas within which they will fund research. The latter areas vary from time to time (for a current list of them click here); some may be supported on a cross-Council basis, involving one or more of the UK’s other research councils. As these themes are usually very broad, it’s always worth keeping an eye open for the latest initiatives. There is a general listing of AHRC research funding schemes here, with deadlines, though many AHRC schemes accept applications on a rolling basis. Full details of all the most important schemes, along with important advice for making applications, may be found in the AHRC’s Research Funding Guide. A good way to learn more about any funding scheme is to look at listings of previous awards. Applications to the AHRC are made using the internet-based Je-S (Joint electronic submissions) system: there is an introduction to it here.
  • the British Academy (BA) covers the humanities and social sciences but not the creative arts. Click here for an overview of the British Academy funding schemes, and here for an alphabetical listing of them; the entry for ‘Country-specific agreements’ provides details of funding relating to particular countries or regions. Unlike the AHRC, the BA’s schemes are all responsive (i.e. the BA do not set specific research themes), and they all have specific (usually annual) deadlines; these are not given below as they vary from year to year. (They are specified in the linked web pages.) A listing of past awards can be foundhere. Applications to the British Academy are made using the eGAP2 (electronic Grants Administration) system.
  • the Leverhulme Trust (which, unlike the BA and AHRC, is a private charity) covers the entire spectrum of academic disciplines, including the arts and humanities; practice-based research is not ruled out but this is a new area for the Trust and criteria are not well established. Most of its schemes are responsive (i.e. not restricted to particular areas or themes), and there is a drop-down list of its schemes at the link given above. Their website includes details of both recent and earlier awards. Most of the Leverhume Trust’s schemes have specific deadlines; click here for a list of them. There are online application forms on the Leverhume Trust website.

Both the AHRC and (for its larger schemes) the BA offer funding on the basis of full economic costs (fEC), which means that all project expenses (including the relevant proportion of your own staff costs) are costed in. The consequences is that, depending on the nature and magnitude of the project, something like half of the budget may consist of institutional overheads; the funder will contribute 80% of the total project cost. (So if you expect to pay out £50,000 in direct costs, the total cost of the project might be about £100,000, of which the AHRC or BA would contribute £80,000. The fEC projects costs mentioned below refer to the £100,000, not the £50,000 or the £80,000.) As a charity, the Leverhulme Trust does not pay overheads, though the university claims some additional research income from HEFCE in lieu. You need to bear this difference in mind when comparing the sums available under different funding schemes: in effect, Leverhulme Trust awards will go further in terms of direct costs covered, but do not bring the same benefits to the institution as projects funded on the basis of fEC.

Grants for collaborative research projects

All of the three major funders offer grants for projects involving a principal investigator (PI) and co-workers, either at the same institution or across a range of institutions, though the largest-scale schemes come from the AHRC and Leverhulme Trust. These awards reimburse the host institution for the salary costs relating to the PI’s time on the project (although this will not necessarily translate into a buy-out of the staff member’s time). They also cover salary costs for co-investigators (CI) and/or research assistants (RAs), postgraduate studentships (PGRs), and a range of other expenses such as travel and subsistence costs, networking costs, equipment, and consumables.

AHRC Research Grants come in four different ‘routes’, the main one being the standard route, which covers total project costs (fEC) of between £20,000 and £1M; variants of this are a dedicated route for early career researchers, defined as researchers within eight years of their PhD or six of their first appointment (£20,000 to £200,000 over up to five years, with rather higher success rates than the standard route), and a scheme for speculative research (again £20,000 to £200,000 over up to five years). All of these are for projects lasting up to five years and are for work involving collaboration between a PI and one or more CIs and/or RAs, possibly with the addition of one or more PGRs. (Although the combination of just a PI and a postgraduate student is not permitted under the AHRC Research Grants scheme, there is a Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme for students co-supervised by a HEI and a non-academic institution, for instance a museum or art gallery; there may be similar, dedicated schemes within the AHRC’s current research themes.) The co-workers can be from one or several institutions, and the projects may but need not be interdisciplinary. The fourth AHRC Research Grant route is for small grants in practice-led and applied research, but as this is not specifically for collaborative research it is listed under Support for research expenses. The Research Grants scheme is described in detail in the AHRC Research Funding Guide.

The Leverhulme Trust offers the biggest collaborative project grants, up to £1.75M over five years, called Research Programmes: unlike the rest of the Trust’s schemes, this one is thematic, with two broad inter-disciplinary areas or issues being set for each year and one award normally made for each. Interdisciplinarity is essential, the aim being ‘a group of interlinked research projects which taken together can lead to new understanding’, and research can involve either one or several institutions. There is a two-stage application process, with a set deadline for the first stage. The Trust’s standard Research Project Grants scheme works in the same way, except that there are no set themes, grants are up to £250,000 over two to three years (exceptionally £500,000 over five years), and there is no set date for first-stage applications. Again there is an emphasis on projects that ‘challenge disciplinary boundaries’. There is also one other Leverhulme Trust scheme of a quite different nature. Research Leadership Awards are offered to early career researchers who have been in post for at least two years, to help them in ‘building a research team of sufficient scale to tackle an identified but distinctive research objective’. The awards are up to £800,000 and cover research fellowships and postgraduate studentships plus associated research expenses. The criteria include fit between the project and the institution’s strategic research plans, and for this reason applications are limited to one per institution in each round. (‡ A comparable European Research Council scheme, the Starting Independent Researcher Grant, is described on the section on Other funders.)

Although the emphasis of British Academy funding is on individual research, they offer a BARDA (British Academy Research Development Award) scheme which is highly flexible and can cover collaborative as well as individual projects (collaboration between international groups of scholars is also possible). Awards are for total fEC costs of between £50,000 and £150,000 over up to three years and can cover a wide range of different costs. The scheme is primarily intended for researchers with five or more years of postdoctoral experience.

Grants for individual research projects

All schemes for funding individual research projects buy out the researcher’s time (whether through fEC or directly); some schemes also cover other research expenses.

The AHRC’s principal mode of support for individual research projects is their Fellowships scheme. This is a replacement for their former Research Leave scheme, and like the previous scheme is for the completion of research projects (awards must ‘lead to significant specified research and other outputs by the end of the Fellowship’), but in this scheme there is no link to institutional research leave. In addition Fellowships not only buy out the researcher’s time over a period of between three and nine months (on anything between a half-time and a full-time basis), but can also cover other research expenses, up to a total project cost of £120,000. There is also a special variant of this scheme for early career researchers (defined as researchers within eight years of their PhD or six of their first appointment); the maximum project cost is the same as in the standard scheme, but there is a rather higher success rate than in the standard route. The Fellowships scheme is described in detail in the AHRC Research Funding Guide. (‡ For Cambridge researchers there is also a similar but smaller-scale fellowships scheme run by CRASSH: see under Application procedures and funding sources at Cambridge.)

The British Academy offers a BARDA (British Academy Research Development Award) scheme, covering projects with fEC costs of between £50,000 and £150,000 over up to three years and can cover a wide range of different costs. This scheme, which can be used for either individual or collaborative research, is primarily intended for researchers with five or more years of postdoctoral experience. Other British Academy schemes are specifically directed towards individual projects. Senior Research Fellowships, administered by the BA but funded in conjunction with the Leverhulme Trust, are to enable established researchers to complete a major project: they are not offered on the basis of fEC but instead pay a replacement lecturer’s salary for one year. From time to time the BA also offers BA/Wolfson Research Professorships, which offer £150,000 over three years to enable outstanding established scholars to concentrate on a major project; funding is again not on the basis of fEC, the assumption being that it will be primarily used to pay for a replacement lecturer.

The Leverhulme Trust also offers two fellowship schemes. Their Research Fellowships offer up to £45,000 over a period of between 3 and 24 months, and the money can be used for teaching replacement and/or research expenses. Major Research Fellowships last for two or three years, and cover teaching replacement costs plus up to £5,000 per year for research expenses. Both these schemes are for estabished researchers, and are intended particularly for those whose research has been impeded by onerous teaching or administrative duties. A rather different Leverhulme Trust scheme, but also providing for teaching replacement, is their Study Abroad Fellowships, which provide total funding (which can also be used for research expenses) of up to £22,000 over between 3 and 12 months; unlike other Trust schemes, these fellowships are not intended just for straightforward research projects, but cover such related activities as the exchange of ideas, the development of new lines of research and collaborative ventures’.

Support for research expenses

There are various sources of general small-scale expenses for research projects, covering things such as travel and subsistence, buying in research assistance (for example to type up interviews or process data), the acquisition of research materials such as microfilms, and in some cases publication and dissemination expenses. The most important of these is the BA Small Grants scheme, which will fund between £500 and £7,500 of direct costs (fEC does not apply to this scheme) over a period of up to two years. There are several applications deadlines per year. The AHRC runs a similar scheme, but only ‘where creative practice is integral to the project’: this is the practice-led and applied route of its Research Grants scheme, which offers up to £40,000 on a fEC basis over one year. The AHRC also offers small grants for other kinds of research in its current thematic areas. (‡ Small grants are also available from Music & Letters; see under Other funders and links.)

There are also various schemes for specific kinds of research expenses, particularly networking across instritutions and conferences. The AHRC Research Networking scheme funds such activities as seminars, workshops, or visits in order to develop ideas in a specific thematic area, with a maximum grant of £30,000 on a fEC basis over two years. If the network has an international dimension, up to a further £15,000 may be available to cover additional costs. The award can include the costs of administrative assistance as well as your own salary for time spent running the network, and the work must be inter-disciplinary in nature. (This scheme is described in detail in the AHRC Research Funding Guide.) The Leverhulme Trust also has an International Networks scheme, which is designed to enable you to ‘lead a research project where its successful completion is dependent on the participation of relevant overseas institutions’; there must be at least one UK institution, plus at least two overseas ones, and there should be a rationale for the geographical distribution of the partners. Funding is up to £125,000 over up to three years, and can cover the salary costs of a network administrator. The BA does not offer a general networking grants scheme, but it does operate a large number of country- or region-specific schemes, and many of these will cover networking expenses.

Support for attending or running conferences is available from the BA. If you are presenting a paper at a conference overseas, you can apply under the BA’s Overseas Conference Grants scheme for a fixed-rate contribution towards travel costs (the rate depends on where the conference is). The award will not cover registration or subsistence costs. There are limits on how often you can apply to this scheme, and the deadlines are confusing because unequally placed: you apply in January for conferences starting in April or later, in April for conferences starting in July or later, or in October for conferences starting the following January or later. This means you must apply in April for conferences at any time during the remainder of the year, even though you may not know whether your paper has been accepted: in that case you have up to six weeks from the date of application to confirm its acceptance (which, unfortunately, may not be long enough). If you are organising a conference, you can apply under their Conference Support scheme for between £1,000 and £20,000, which can cover any or all of key speakers’ travel and subsistence costs, use of the BA’s Carlton House Terrace (London) premises as a venue, administrative support from the BA’s conferences team, and publication of the proceedings (except that you cannot apply only for publication). Especially at the upper end of the grant scale, your chances of success will be higher if the conference includes an element of dissemination to a broader public.

There is a further special scheme for research expenses. If you have just retired, the Leverhulme Trust’s Emeritus Fellowship scheme can offer you up to £22,000 over a period of 3 and 24 months to complete and publish research which you have already begun. The funding can cover such expenses as travel and subsistence, research assistance, and consumables.

Visiting appointments and fellowships

The following schemes either create new research posts tenable for a limited period at a UK institution, or support overseas academics wishing to spend a period of time at a UK institution.

In the former category are the BA’s Postdoctoral Fellowships, which are open to applicants who have gained their PhD within the last three years, or will do so by 1 April of the year in which the award is taken up. These are restricted to applicants who are British or have a substantial connection with the UK (a doctorate from a UK university fulfils this requirement) They are offered on a fEC basis and pay a salary on the lecturer scale for three years, plus a contribution of up to £2,000 per year towards research expenses: they are for research that normally builds on doctoral work, but significantly enlarges its scope. There is a two-stage application process. Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships are similar, providing either two or three years of funding (or its part-time equivalent), plus a total of £6,000 towards research expenses, but there is an important difference: they provide only 50% of the cost, which means that the other half has to be found by the host institution.

The AHRC does not offer a general postdoctoral fellowship scheme, though it may offer fellowships in its current thematic areas. It does however offer a special scheme for practice-based researchers: Fellowships in the Creative and Performing Arts. These support practice-based researchers such as research-led performers or composers for two or three years full-time, or for five years at 0.4 or 0.6 FTE (at a maximum pro-rata salary of £46,000, plus a contribution to expenses of up to £40,000 (fEC) during the period of the award). The key to this scheme is the integration of practice into the research: ‘the research methods must involve a significant focus on your creative/performance practice as distinct from history or theory…. You must explain clearly how your creative/performance practice is an integral part of the whole research process, not just the outcome of the research programme’. This scheme is described in detail in the AHRC Research Funding Guide. It appears that this scheme will shortly be discontinued in its present form; the Leverhulme Artists in Residence scheme also brings creative artists into academic environments, but in a much more limited way, with the maximum award typically being £12,500 (to fund two days of work per week for a year, plus a £2,500 contribution towards research expenses).

There is a high-profile postdoctoral fellowships scheme specifically for international applicants, jointly funded by the BA, the Royal Society, and the Royal Academy of Engineering: Newton Fellowships last two years and provide living costs of £24,000 plus £8,000 for research expenses per year, in addition to a £2,000 relocation allowance. In lieu of fEC there is an additional contribution of 50% of the basic award costs towards institutional overheads, while a unique feature of the scheme is the availability of ten years’ follow-up funding at up to £6,000 for networking with UK-based researchers. The deadline is in January. A more modest scheme to support international postdoctoral visitors is the BA’s Visiting Fellowships; these offer a maximum of £7,500 to support travel and subsistence costs for research visits of between two and six months. There is also a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Fellowships scheme to fund international early career researchers (up to eight years since doctorate) for visits of between 9 and 12 months for purposes of research and collaboration: this offers up to £21,600 for living costs in addition to travel expenses and, where appropriate, a spouse/partner allowance. However this scheme is restricted to a quota of specific UK universities which changes from year to year.

Finally the Leverhulme Visiting Professorships scheme provides a ‘maintenance grant commensurate with the salary of a senior professor’, together with travel and associated costs, to bring distinguished international visitors to the UK for one or more visits totalling between three and ten months. (This can mean a single visit, or a series of visits spread over two years, though the Trust will not normally fund more than two return fares.) In this scheme there is an emphasis on enhancing the skills of researchers and/or teachers at the host institution: one of the selection criteria is ‘the ability of the receiving institution to benefit from the imported skills and expertise’.

European Union funding

In general the schemes and application processes for European Union funding are notoriously complex and time-consuming. The European Research Council (ERC), was set up under the EU’s FP7 (Seventh Framework Programme) to rectify this, and its remit includes the humanities (Performing Arts is a recognised field under the scheme). It operates just two schemes, which are designed to be much more approachable than most EU funding schemes: they operate in responsive mode, and do not require the formation of consortia from different member states. Each scheme has one annual deadline and pays direct project costs plus 20% (fEC is not applicable). Starting Independent Researcher Grants, like the Leverhulme Research Leadership Awards, are to enable early career researchers (between two and ten years from PhD) to build research teams, and offer up to €1.5M (exceptionally €2.0M) over five years. Advanced Investigator Grants are similar but are for established researchers and offer up to €2.5M (exceptionally €3.5M) over five years for ‘pioneering and far-reaching challenges at the frontiers of the field(s) addressed, [involving] new, ground-breaking or unconventional methodologies, whose risky outlook is justified by the possibility of a major breakthrough with an impact beyond a specific research domain/discipline’. Both these schemes have a feature that is unusual in schemes of this kind: like research fellowships, the PI need not be employed by the host institution at the time of application (in other words it is possible for someone to apply, and then if successul take up a post at the institution for at least the duration of the award.) Further details of the ERC schemes may be found here.

As regards other EU research funding, click here for a general introduction to the EU research funding schemes, and here for a portal giving access to information on EU Social Sciences and Humanities research; for musicologists the HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) Joint Research Programme, which funds multi-state consortial projects, may be of particular relevance. Owing to the scale and complexity of these schemes there are a number of specialist consultants such as Euclid, who operate a free electronic update service called Alert!.

Other funders and links

A number of other external organizations, ranging from other UK research council to European and international foundations, provide funding for academic research in music. Here are some potentially relevant links, depending on your area of work:

  • the Music & Letters Trust offers grants covering a wide range of expenses and range from £50 to £750 (exceptionally up to £1500); these are direct grants (not fEC). There are deadlines in November and May.
  • the American Musicological Society offers publication subventions, which may be applied for by either individuals or publishers
  • the PRS Foundation for New Music offers a range of funding schemes for composers, performers, and promoters of new music.
  • the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Funds social-scientific research, including areas in music psychology, ethnography, and education. (You can get an impression of the music projects they fund by typing ‘music’ into the site search box). Click here for a statement on the overlaps between the ESRC and AHRC.
  • the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Offers funding schemes covering such areas as computational research in music. (Again you can search the site for ‘music’.)
  • the Royal Society (essentially the science equivalent of the British Academy) offers a range of funding schemes potentially relevant to scientific work on music. (Again you can search the site for ‘music’.)
  • the Wellcome Trust supports biomedical research, including areas in the ‘medical humanities’; they also offer an Arts awards scheme. (Again you can search the site for ‘music’.)
  • the Nuffield Foundation offers a range of research funding, again in scientific and social-scientific areas.
  • SEMPRE (the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research) offers awards targeted on several different aspects of research in its subject areas (i.e., research that can be interpreted as being in the fields of music education, the psychology of music, and in aspects of ethnomusicology); again, these are direct grants (not fEC). There are no deadlines; application is open throughout the year.
  • the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts offers research funding in cultural areas, including performing arts, with an emphasis on turning ideas into ‘products, services or techniques with social and commercial benefit’.
  • the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation offers a range of grant programmes of which the most relevant to UK-based musicologists are probably those for Scholarly Communications and Research in Information Technology. These have funded UK-based projects which might otherwise have been funded by the AHRC’s now defunct Resource Enhancement scheme.
  • NAMM Foundation (formerly the International Foundation for Music Research). Funded by the US music industry and mainly funds projects in music psychology and education. You can get a sense of what they support from their Music Research pages
  • ResearchProfessional (formerly ResearchResearch) is a funding database to which the University of Cambridge subscribes. This page tells you how to register for access to it (or if you are on the University network you can search it without registering, though you won’t have access to all its features). Individual or group training sessions are also available.
  • some funding bodies maintain their own research funding links pages (click here for the AHRC links page).
  • some professional societies also maintain links pages; see in particular the American Musicological Society’s Ongoing grants and fellowships available page.

Funding sources at Cambridge

Other than colleges (which offer a variety of research support schemes including Junior Research Fellowships and research grants for existing fellows), there are just a few local research funding sources at Cambridge, including:

  • The Newton Trust offers mainly seed-corn funding for new projects: its grants are normally conditional upon raising from sources outside Cambridge at least twice the amount of the grant.
  • CRASSH (the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities) offers various kinds of research support. These include grants for conferences, and a number of fellowship schemes, among them Early Career Fellowships (which enable Cambridge staff to take a term away from teaching to start on a new project) and Visiting Fellowships for international scholars.
  • The Cambridge Humanities Research Grant Scheme offers grants of between £1,000 and £20,000 for small-scale research, including pilot projects leading to large-scale funding applications. There are normally two calls per year.


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