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Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund FAQs

Here we cover everything you need to know about applying for the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund.


Can current PhD students at an eligible host university/institution apply, or is this grant only for new PhD students?

Yes – any eligible students currently undertaking a doctoral programme with an eligible host university/institution are welcome to apply. The host university/institution would need to be aware that your application would be considered as one of the two maximum application spots per year allocated to each eligible prospective host university/institution.

I have a PhD admission in a university outside the UK and Ireland. Can I still apply for a grant?

Unfortunately, no. The Fund will only support studies in a physics department, school or faculty that has achieved either a Juno and/or an Athena SWAN award, on a physics-based topic at a recognised graduate degree-awarding university/institution in the UK and Ireland. 

I’m an international student. Am I eligible to apply?

International students can apply if they fall within one of the specified minority areas defined in the 'under-represented groups in physics' section of the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund (BBGSF) guide. You would also need to receive an academic offer from an eligible host university/institution that is committed to match-funding the grant and paying normally at least 50% of the total costs of the doctoral programme.

I have an offer from a UK university, from their engineering college, to do a PhD in an engineering physics topic. Am I eligible to apply?

The Fund will only support studies in a physics department, school or faculty that holds either a Juno and/or an Athena SWAN award. We recognise that some universities do not have a standalone physics department; therefore, joint schools do qualify. Unfortunately, if your university's/institution’s engineering school is separate to its physics school, then it wouldn't qualify for an award under the terms of the Fund.

Would a Medical Physics and Bioengineering Mphil/PhD programme be eligible?

Medical physics is eligible. However, the Mphil aspect of the programme wouldn't be funded through this scheme, and the programme would have to sit firmly in the area of medical physics, not bioengineering.

Can the BBGSF grant support PhDs that are suggested by the student to a university department, rather than the other way around?

Yes. However, it is important to state on your application the full details of the lead supervisor and the host university/institution (as specified on the BBGSF application form), and that the student has been accepted onto the programme at the time of submission. For this last criteria, the supervisor must be willing and able to supervise the student; with their academic qualifications having been deemed suitable for them to undertake the PhD programme.

My university as a whole has Athena Swan status, however the physics department doesn't. Would it still be eligible to apply?

The Fund will only support studies in a physics department, school or faculty that has either a Juno and/or an Athena SWAN award. Unfortunately, a university/institution-level award alone will not suffice for this scheme.


What do you mean by a "physics-based topic"? Is there flexibility around what this entails (eg engineering with a focus on physics?)

Although the topic scope has been left broad, the project must contain a strong element of physics; i.e. a fundamental study of aspects of the universe (including: atoms, particles, materials, energy, forces/fields, radiation, stars etc). Engineering on its own wouldn’t be eligible under this scheme.

We teach a lot of science that falls under “physics”, however, we do not have a dedicated physics department. Would this exclude us from hosting a BBGSF studentship?

If there is no physics department, but a physics degree is offered as part of the wider school, then it would qualify for the purposes of the Fund. The project(s) would still be subject to the "physics-based" eligibility criteria, and, if we accept this school, no other school from the university/institution can apply for a grant.

The UKRI application deadline is 31 January, however, as an institution, we would not have made any offers to students by 10 January (the BBGSF application deadline). Additionally, we are unable to make offers to students without there being a studentship agreed beforehand. Is there a way around thi

The student must have been made an offer by the 10 January deadline. This requirement ensures that they have appropriate academic credentials to undertake the specified doctoral project, and have been accepted by the relevant supervisor(s). We’re aware that, in many universities/institutions, offers of a place with funding occurs much later. If this proves problematic for your university/institution, then we are willing to accept written assurance of the above from the Head of School (or equivalent).

Students and academics

Can applicants be resident anywhere (ie EU or overseas)?

Yes, but the eligible host university/institution would need to be based in the UK or Ireland.

Is it possible to extend the submission deadline of 10 January 2020?

This year’s Fund deadlines were set with guidance from a broad panel, taking into account the whole awards process. We can’t change the deadline this year, but we'll certainly review it for future years, taking into consideration all feedback provided.