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ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF) Scheme Competition 2020/21

We are currently making preparations to launch our 2020/21 Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme Competition. Please check back in November 2020 for more information. You can also sign up for our Newsletter, register for GradHub, or follow us on Twitter to be kept up to date with all of our competition launches and dates.

The 2020/21 Competition is now closed

The Scottish Graduate School of Social Science is delighted to announce the launch of the 2020/21 ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF) Competition

Six Postdoctoral Fellowships are available from the SGSSS-DTP to start in October 2021. All Fellows are required to have a mentor based at the institution where the Fellowship is held. The mentor should have experience and a strong interest in the applicant’s field of research but should not normally be the applicant’s PhD supervisor. We anticipate that many applicants will identify potential mentors independently, or with advice from previous supervisors/academic contacts. However, should candidates need assistance in identifying a suitable mentor, they should get in touch with your relevant HEI Champion or alternatively contact SGSSS directly.

Applicants to Scottish institutions should note that the SGSSS-DTP has a two-stage application process (see below for full details). Only applicants successful at Stage 1 will be invited to submit a full application at Stage 2:

  • Stage 1 Application Deadline is 4pm 14 January 2021
  • Stage 2 Application Deadline is 4pm on 23 March 2021


This opportunity is open to applicants who have completed their PhD at an institution that is part of a DTP or CDT and must be held at one of the 12 institutions that form the SGSSS-DTP, aligned to an accredited pathway (see here for the SGSSS pathways).

Applicants are not required to have previously held an ESRC-funded studentship in order to be eligible to apply.

To be eligible applicants must:

  • Have been awarded a PhD or have passed their viva voce with minor amendments by the application deadline of 23 March 2021 and have been awarded their PhD by the fellowship start date of 1 October 2021
  • Have no more than 12 months active postdoctoral experience since passing their viva voce (allowing for career breaks) by 23 March 2021
  • Permanent members of staff in an academic position with a research component are not eligible for this scheme. If a candidate has previously been employed on a part-time basis, that employment can be calculated pro-rata

Please see the ESRC PDF Call Specification and ESRC PDF FAQs (see Competition Guidance and Documents section) for further information on eligibility.

This call welcomes proposals from those returning to research following a career break, however applicants are required to meet the eligibility criterion of having no more than 12 months of active postdoctoral experience.

Application Process

Contact your Mentor

Candidate: Before submitting your Stage 1 application, you must first seek out a Mentor at the institution you are applying to. If you do not have a Mentor in mind, see here for a list of HEI Champions who should be able to point you in the right direction. 

Mentor: Please check the eligibility of the Candidate and support them to produce their Stage 1 application. As part of this application we ask Mentors to provide a Mentor Statement of Support for the Candidate to upload alongside their Stage 1 application. This should be a more generalised version of the Mentor statement required for Stage 2 applications (if a candidate is shortlisted) and should not exceed 500 words (see the ESRC PDF Call Specification for more details).

Stage 1 Application (Expression of Interest)

Initial Candidate Selection

Institutions will review all Stage 1 applications internally (HEI Review Stage). Candidates will be notified of their application status by the end of February 2021. Successful candidates will be invited to submit a Stage 2 application.

Stage 2 Application (see ESRC Call Specification)

All Stage 2 applicants are required to contact their Mentor(s) as soon as possible for support in preparing their submission. For additional support please contact your relevant HEI Champion or SGSSS.

Final Candidate Selection

SGSSS will review all applications in a further two-stage review process (Peer Review Stage and Final Selection Review Stage). Candidates will be notified of their application status after the Peer Review Stage (on or around 5 May 2021) and after the Final Selection Review Stage (on or around 17 June 2021). Feedback will be provided for all Stage 2 applicants.


Institutions will appoint PDFs, working together with SGSSS to ensure that an induction, as well as continued mentoring and support is provided.