Uk based undergraduate research programmes

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Alan Jenkins and Mick Healey
July 2007
Alan Jenkins ( Reinvention Fellow for the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research: University of Warwick and Oxford Brookes University; Consultant for the Higher Education Academy; Visiting Professor Staffordshire University

Mick Healey ( Director of Centre for Active Learning in Geography, Environment and Related Disciplines, University of Gloucestershire
Acknowledgement: The production of this listing was supported by Alan Jenkins’ Fellowship for the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research at Oxford Brookes and Warwick Universities.
This listing describes known UK based “undergraduate research” programmes. Comments and suggestions – particularly of other programmes not included here – are welcome. The listing is organised as follows:

  1. Definition and Scope

  1. Selected References

  1. Programmes at Institutional Level

  1. Programmes at Department Level

  1. Journals and Student Conferences

  1. Organisations Funding and Supporting Undergraduate Research: The Research Councils

  1. Organisations Funding and Supporting Undergraduate Research: Other National Organisations

“The research universities have often failed, and continue to fail, their undergraduate populations, thousands of students graduate without seeing the world - famous professors or tasting genuine research."

Boyer Commission (1998, 3)

“An Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) gives undergraduates the opportunity to participate in the research activities of the institution’s academic staff and postgraduates. The Imperial College scheme, which is modelled on that at Massachusetts Institute of Technology ... was started in 1980 following a visit from the late Professor Margaret MacVicar at MIT.”

Collier (1998, 349)

“The message for the (UK Research) Councils is that vacation bursary schemes offer added-value in the promotion and support of research careers, particularly through:

  • Giving students a more realistic experience of a research position and research employment.

  • Helping students make more informed career choices – even when the decision is that a research career does not suit them.

  • Creating an excitement around research careers in the student body, when vacation bursaries are seen as attractive and prestigious opportunities.

  • Motivating research staff with renewed enthusiasm about research careers, and providing them with opportunities to communicate this to a student audience.”

EPSRC Vacation Bursary Good Practice Event, 2nd November 2006
‘Undergraduate research’ is taken to be a form of curriculum/learning that is most strongly based in US higher education. There are variations to its form. These include:

  • undergraduate students learning through various forms of research or inquiry based learning

  • often strongly supported by academic staff and at times on faculty research projects

  • often in the summer vacation or in semester breaks

  • at times rewarded by credit and at times by pay

  • at times involved in a scholarly and research based way with local communities.

Often undergraduate research is for selected students and is outside the formal institutional and departmental curriculum. However there is now an increasing emphasis in some US institutions to credit it and/or link more firmly with the ‘mainstream’ curriculum.

As with ‘research’ by university staff (Brew, 2001) there are contested meanings of the word ‘research’ at undergraduate level. In the US, the practice and thinking – particularly in the sciences – sees undergraduate research as students having to produce ‘original’ perhaps ‘cutting edge’ knowledge. Others, however, focus on students learning through courses which are designed to be as close as possible to the research processes in their discipline. The focus then is on the student learning and being assessed in ways that parallel/mimic how research is conducted in that discipline. In these cases, what is produced/learned may not be new knowledge per se – but it’s new to the student and, perhaps more significantly, transforms their understanding of knowledge/research.

To demonstrate this tension - the web site of the Council for Undergraduate Research (mainly supporting undergraduate institutions outside the U.S. research elite) both focuses on ‘learning through research’; but also offers this definition of undergraduate research: “An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline.”

In the USA major donors such as the National Science Foundation (Haggett, 2006) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute are important financial supporters of undergraduate research; and the Council on Undergraduate Research, in Washington DC and its affiliated institutions works with agencies and foundations to support undergraduate research.
Our interest in US undergraduate research stems out of a wider interest in bringing teaching and discipline based research together (e.g. Jenkins and Healey, 2005; Jenkins, Healey and Zetter, 2007). We recognise that there are educational, philosophical and organisational links (and differences) between undergraduate research and the UK dissertation/honours thesis which is one broad approach to bringing teaching and research together. We also recognise and value other forms of inquiry or active learning such as problem based learning. We concur with Zamorski (2002, p.417) of the importance of not “privileging a single approach to the integration of research, teaching and learning.” The research evidence is as yet not clear as to the value of different forms of ‘research based learning’ nor of the contexts in which they are most effective (Jenkins, 2004; Spronken-Smith et al., 2007).
Thus while recognising the various ways in which individual staff and institutions seek to bring students into the worlds of research, our focus is here quite tightly drawn to UK based programmes at department, institutional and national levels, which have all or most of these properties:

  • They term themselves ‘undergraduate research’, or use terms such as ‘community based undergraduate research’ and so on

  • The philosophy/values of the programme include explicitly bringing undergraduate students (and possibly others e.g. librarians, community activists) into the worlds of research

  • The student learns in ways that parallel or replicate the way staff research/learn in their discipline/professional area

  • The outcomes of learning/the assessment both formative and summative parallels/replicates the way faculty/staff develop and disseminate their research/learning in their discipline/professional area e.g. through undergraduate research journals, student research conferences and so on

  • The programme is clearly visible and recognised as ‘undergraduate research’ by the university communities (in particular students) and parents, the local community; and possible external sponsors.

The majority of programmes and initiatives listed below are relatively small scale and highly selective. For us the challenge is how to mainstream these opportunities and make them potentially available for many or indeed all students in higher education (Jenkins and Healey in press). Others may wish for a more selective expansion.

Such expansion is likely to be driven by these factors:

  1. Research Councils and other national funders seeking to support the next generation of researchers; such expansion will clearly be selective, but meeting a strong national agenda.

  2. Research elite institutions seeking to demonstrate to government, students, and other stakeholders the particular benefits of undergraduates studying in research-intensive institutions; perhaps particularly in the context of increased fees.

  3. Teaching focussed institutions seeking to ensure research like learning for all students and to support staff in having a research career. In this context this will require new type of programmes and perhaps a broader definition of what counts as ‘undergraduate research’ (see entries in Section C for University of Gloucestershire and Oxford Brookes University).

  4. Governments providing targeted support to support undergraduate research for all or many students (Jenkins 2007)

  5. Strong research evidence as to the effectiveness of such programmes


Boyer Commission (1998) Reinventing undergraduate education: a blueprint for America's research universities. Stony Brook, New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Brew, A. (2001) The nature of research inquiry in academic contexts. London: Routledge Falmer

Collier K (1998) Research opportunities for undergraduates, Studies in Higher Education, 23(3), 349-356

Haggett, R (2006) The US National Science Foundation, the undergraduate curriculum and undergraduate research

Jenkins, A (2004) A guide to the research evidence on teaching research relations. York: Higher Education Academy§ion=generic&id=383

Jenkins, A (2007) Inquiring minds need more than just teaching: Undergraduate research can transform the sector, Times Higher Education Supplement, June 13,14

Jenkins, A and Healey, M (2005) Institutional strategies to link teaching and research. York: Higher Education Academy§ion=generic&id=585

Jenkins, A, Healey, M and Zetter, R (2007) Linking teaching and research in disciplines and departments. York: Higher Education Academy

Jenkins, A and Healey, M (in press) Critiquing excellence: undergraduate research for all students, in Skelton, A (ed) International perspectives on teaching excellence in higher education, London: Routledge

Spronken-Smith, R, Angelo, T, Matthews, H, O’Steen, B and Robertson, J (2007) How effective is inquiry-based learning in linking teaching and research? International policies and practices for academic enquiry: An international colloquium held at Marwell conference centre, Winchester, UK, 19–21 April

Zamorski, B (2002). Research-led teaching and learning in higher education: a case. Teaching in Higher Education 7(4), 411-427


Articles on UK programmes

Blackmore, P and Cousin, G (2003) Linking teaching and research through research - based learning, Educational Developments 4(4): 24–27 (re University of Warwick scheme)

Collier, K (1998) Research opportunities for undergraduates, Studies in Higher Education, 23(3), 349-356 (re Imperial College scheme)

Chang, H (2005) Turning an undergraduate class into a professional research community Teaching in Higher Education, 10(3), 387–394. See also (re UCL Chemistry)

Jenkins, A (2004) Supporting undergraduate research (in the UK): an outline proposal, paper presented to Research and Teaching: Closing the divide? An international colloquia, Marwell, Winchester, February 13-14

Selected US References

Hakim T F (2000) How to develop and administer institutional undergraduate research programs. Washington DC: Council on Undergraduate Research

Huggins R, Jenkins A and Scurry D (2007) Undergraduate research in selected US universities,

Karukstis, K, and Elgren, T (2007) How to design, implement, and sustain a research-supportive undergraduate curriculum. Washington DC: Council for Undergraduate Research, available at:

Kinkead, J (ed) (2003) Valuing and supporting undergraduate research, New Directions in Teaching and Learning 93, San Francisco: Jossey Bass

Peer Review (Winter 2006) Theme issue: Undergraduate research: a path to engagement, achievement, and integration,

Reinvention Center (2004) Integrating research into undergraduate education: the value added. University of Stony Brook, The Reinvention Center. Web version of selected papers at:

Reinvention Center, University of Miami, Selected US web sites on undergraduate research

Cambridge University

Begun in 2002 as a summer exchange programme with MIT and funded by the Cambridge MIT Institute ( with 28 Cambridge students going to MIT and an equal number of MIT students going to Cambridge across a variety of subjects. The scheme was localised in Cambridge in 2003, and is now (2007) established in Engineering, Plant Science, Genetics, Computer Science, Physics with the intention of extending it across the University. It is open to first and second year students at Cambridge. The focus is on the selected students having a summer placement in a research group (generally 10 weeks). Students can work in their own or a different discipline. In 2006 50 students participated, some with support from the EPSRC scheme, and in 2007 with the support of the Isaac Newton Trust the target is 100 students.

Several of the University’s Colleges have their own schemes. For example, St Johns College ( makes available a number of grants from college funds to the maximum value of £500 to support undergraduate academic research projects or academic Summer Schools related to their courses, to be undertaken in the Long Vacation 2007 at a University, including Cambridge, or other approved academic institutions. Current undergraduates who will be returning to Cambridge for a course of study in October 2007 are eligible.

Shercliff, H (2006) Cambridge University’s undergraduate research opportunities programme, RCUK/Higher Education Academy Conference, Bringing research and teaching together, London 24 November

University of Chester (UK)

Origin is an in-house undergraduate journal which gives students the opportunity to publish results from successful research projects undertaken in the Department of Biological Sciences. The student experience of standard research process is enhanced, equipping them with additional skills required for publication of research, whilst disseminating knowledge and understanding of wide-ranging biological issues gained through their research efforts to a wider audience. Chester is involvemed in the national biology undergraduate research journal – Bioscience Horizons – see entry in Section E.

Imperial College London (UK)

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) gives students the chance to take part in the activities of College research groups.  Founded in 1980, this is the earliest example of such a programme in the UK and was directly based on the MIT scheme.  The scheme focuses on students in year two and is often used to develop ideas for their final year dissertation or project.  While most projects are undertaken in the summer they can also take place in term time.  Students are awarded bursaries for their work from a variety of sources but most commonly from supervisors’ research funds, general departmental funds or external funds such as the Nuffield Foundation’s Undergraduate Research Science Bursaries.  The scheme is also open to students from outside Imperial. 3300 students have participated since 1980. In 2005-6, 320 students participated of whom 185 were from Imperial (mainly summer 2006).



Collier, K (1998) Research opportunities for undergraduates, Studies in higher Education, 23(3), 349-356

Hawksworth, A and Kingsbury, M (2006) Undergraduate research opportunity programme, RCUK/Higher Education Academy Conference, Bringing research and teaching together

University of Gloucestershire

The University has recently begun work with the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Leadership Programme on Undergraduate Research ( to develop and embed undergraduate research within the university. The University’s definition of undergraduate research includes Boyer’s (1990) scholarships of discovery, integration and application (engagement) and is characterised by breadth: “undergraduate research describes student engagement from induction to graduation, individually and in groups, in research/inquiry into disciplinary, professional and community-based problems and issues, including involvement in knowledge transfer/exchange activities.” The work complements the emphasis on active learning in the university, which is being coordinated through the Centre for Active Learning ( They are in the process of collecting international case studies of undergraduate research at course and department/institutional levels.


Boyer, E L (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: priorities for the professoriate. Princeton University NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

Childs, P, Healey, M, Lynch, K, McEwen, L, Mason O’Connor, K, Roberts, C, and Short, C (2007) Leading, promoting and supporting undergraduate research in the new university sector, National Teaching Fellowship Project

Oxford Brookes University

Launched in 2007 by the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford Brookes Sixteen students (15 projects) were funded in the first year. The Brookes scheme operates through staff submitting proposals for student projects or research activities supporting research currently being undertaken within the University. Successful bids are awarded funding to provide bursaries for nominated students (up to £1,700 each) to take part in the Scheme and, in some cases, may be awarded funding to contribute to the costs of any materials required (up to £300).  Student projects may last for between 4 and 10 weeks' full time, or 8 and 20 weeks' part-time. Projects may be undertaken by students either full-time in vacation, part-time in semester alongside their studies or part-time in vacation.

A new development in 2007 is Reinvention: A Journal of Undergraduate Research (see University of Warwick entry). In addition policies to embed or mainstream undergraduate research in Oxford Brookes Modular Course are beginning implementation (Huggins et al., 2007).

Huggins R, Jenkins A and Scurry D, Rust C and Smith P (2007) Developing undergraduate research at Oxford Brookes University: recommendations and models for future development

University of Reading

At Reading, there has been a long tradition in some subject-areas of students engaging with academics in their research, sometimes through the use of Nuffield and Welcome Trust vacation scholarships, sometimes using other funding sources. In 2005, the University’s achievements in linking teaching and research were recognised in the funding and creation of a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, specialising in Undergraduate Research skills (CETL-AURS: One output is an online guide to biology students on the research process Funds from the CETL helped establish an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme.

The programme offers vacation research scholarships of six weeks duration, enabling undergraduates at the end of their second year to work on a research project with a research team or individual academic over the summer. The scheme had the backing of both the University Boards for Teaching and Learning, and for Research and was piloted in 2006 with 17 placements across Agriculture, Archaeology, Zoology, Typography and in various locations amongst the University’s Museums, archives and collections. In 2007 it is planned to offer c30 placements on a competitive basis across the whole university, and discussions are underway to secure funding the scheme when CETL funding ends in 2010.

Royal Veterinary College, London

Students from a range of disciplines form a research team to conduct research in a developing country.

University of Warwick (UK) 

The Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) gives students the chance to become directly involved in the research work of the university, share in the experience of being a member of a research team and take part in cutting-edge research. Departments and research centres are invited to nominate potential projects which offer good opportunities for students to gain insight into research work and develop valuable skills. Bursaries of up to £1000 are available for students to carry these out either full time during vacation or part time during term or vacation.

Since the 2005/06 academic year, the URSS has been supported and part-funded by the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research (a HEFCE-funded CETL established jointly at the University of Warwick and Oxford Brookes University), and during that time the number of applications per year has risen from 12 to 80. A list of the projects awarded funded in 2006/07 is available at
The Reinvention Centre also provides funding for research projects devised by undergraduate students themselves, in the form of its Small Grants Fund: further details are available at
A new development in 2007 is Reinvention: A Journal of Undergraduate Research. This journal will be both multi-disciplinary and cross-institutional, and will be produced, edited and managed primarily by students at Oxford Brookes and Warwick universities, with strong support, particularly in the early stages, from Reinvention Centre staff. The journal will be electronic and will be interactive to include links to film clips, other websites, photographs and any other resources linked to the published paper. The first issue of the journal is due to be launched at the Reinvention Centre’s Student as Producer conference in September 2007.

Blackmore, P and Cousin, G (2003) Linking teaching and research through research-based learning, Educational Developments 4 (4), 24–27

Edinburgh: Veterinary School

Summer Vacation Scholarships exist for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year undergraduates. These run for an eight-week period in the summer vacation for which a stipend of £200 per week is available. The student will be integrated into a research group within the VTRI Partners as a team member and produce a well-defined project which may result in publication in scientific journals. A supervisor will be assigned to the student who will write a short report on the outcome of the project.

Glasgow Dental School

Research in the Dental School is currently arranged under three main themes: Oral Infection, Periodontology and Oral Immunology and Oral Health Sciences. Within these themes, a wide variety of individual and collaborative research projects is being undertaken. Students have the opportunity of becoming involved in research during their period of elective study in fourth year. During vacations, there are opportunities for students to work on externally-funded projects.

Leeds: Biology;

Leeds' first undergraduate research eJournal, Biolog-E. This journal is published on the Internet. Its primary purpose is to publicise undergraduate research to a wide audience, but it is also a medium for students to get more from the academic environment. Summer 2006 marked the fifth issue of Biolog-E and it has been produced with increased input from current students, including an undergraduate editor. It is now being extended with biology departments at Dublin, Nottingham Reading to a national journal –Bioscience Horizons (see entry under Section E).


Knight, C (2006) Biolog-E and other undergraduate research E-Journals, available at:

Leeds: Medicine

LURE is Leeds Undergraduate Research Enterprise. LURE is an enterprise scheme to nurture undergraduate medical students with research ambitions and aspirations to become clinical academics. The award of a LURE scholarship is by application and presentation of a talk to a selection panel. The next round of recruitment is scheduled for April 2008. Most LURE scholars start at the end of the second year of the medical curriculum conducting research in one of the Research Institutes of the Faculty of Medicine and Health. They continue this research interest in Year 3 and then intercalate in a topic relevant to their research interests. In Years 4 and 5, LURE scholars mentor more junior LURE students. LURE scholars take part in activities organised by Leeds Widening Access to Medical School (WAMS) programme and by the School of Medicine Widening Participation office. They interact with school students by making presentations at schools and by mentoring pupils. LURE scholars develop leadership and enterprise skills by meeting entrepreneurs, both within and outside Medicine.

Nottingham: Bioscience


Bioscience Undergraduate Research (BURN) at the University of Nottingham is an electronic journal (first issue October 2006) which showcases high level undergraduate research by students across the Bioscience divisions. Now being extended with biology departments at Dublin, Leeds and Reading to a national journal (see entry under national level).

Leicester: SURE at Department of Physics and Astronomy

SURE is a six week summer programme which supports undergraduate students to undertake research within the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester. A range of projects are available in astrophysics, plasma physics, space science, and condensed matter physics. The programme runs throughout July and August, although there is some flexibility with individual starting and finishing dates. Individual students are assigned a research supervisor. Regular seminars are held on current research topics, involving students and staff. At the end of the summer, all participating students produce a written report and give a brief presentation about their work. Students receive a cost of living allowance. Help with finding accommodation is provided as required.

Loughborough Engineering

Engineering Student Undergraduate Research Experience (ENSURE 2007) is for UK and EU students with first class or upper second performance. Students take up this competitive award in the summer vacation before final year. They are paid a tax free stipend of £1800 over 10-week period. Students do individual research projects under supervision and have a structured research training programme.

Oxford Brookes Geography

Founded in 2007 with initial support from the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research at Brookes and Warwick Universities (see institutional entry): an online journal for undergraduate research work at Oxford Brookes University in Geography. Journal articles are written in rapid communication style (up to 2,000 words) or as extended articles (up to 4,000 words).( See also entry for national geography journal in section E)

Sheffield: Medicine and Biosciences: Undergraduate Research Journal:

Sheffield Enterprise Covering Undergraduate Research & Education (SECURE) and

This undergraduate research journal was published in 2004 and 2005 and was linked to an undergraduate placement based research course that does not now run. The journal is thus temporarily suspended. SECURE was open to all undergraduate medical students within the Universities School of Medicine who felt that they have produced an accomplished piece of research/educational material.

University College London, History of Science, at the Department of Science and Technology Studies

From 2000 to 2005 Hasok Chang (inspired by his experience of undergraduate research as a US undergraduate) directed a collaborative research project with undergraduate students, through the final-year BSc module "Topics in History of the Physical Sciences" (, in which students passed on their works (including all research notes) from year to year for cumulative improvement. The main findings from this collective project will be published in 2007 as an edited volume in the monograph series of the British Society for the History of Science (Chang and Jackson, forthcoming). For a news article describing this project see:

Following the successful completion of the pilot project on chlorine, Chang is now planning a second run of the scheme starting in 2007-08 on an improved plan, this time on the theme of electricity. The special course will now be given to second-year students, allowing interested students to carry on with their projects in their third-year dissertations. Meanwhile the same mechanism of inheritance will be in operation in the course, with the added advantage that the previous year's students are still enrolled so that there can be direct interaction between two successive cohorts. Aside from the particular project they choose to work on, students in the course will be given the highlights of previous research as required course readings (on which they will be examined), so that the entire group can acquire a good sense of the growing body of work.
Hasok Chang has also developed a scheme aimed at giving students a simulated research experience of past scientists. In this re-creation of an 18th-century periodical, several issues of the web-based Virtual Nicholson's Journal, modelled after William Nicholson's Journal of Chemistry, Natural Philosophy and the Arts are published each year. Students are first introduced to a real debate from the history of science, and asked to continue the debate as if they were "gentlemen scientists" from the late 18th century. For further details and sample issues, see:

Chang, H (2005) Turning an undergraduate class into a professional research community, Teaching in Higher Education, 10(3), 387-394

Chang, H and Jackson, C (Eds) (forthcoming) An element of controversy: the life of chlorine in science, medicine, technology and war. London: British Society for the History of Science

York: Psychology: Undergraduate Research Experience Scheme (URES)

The programme was initiated in 2005 and built on previous informal arrangements. The scheme enables students who wish to gain research experience to volunteer to assist with current department staff projects. Any first- or second-year student can take part in the scheme, though preference is normally given to second-year students (third-year students are typically busy with their own projects and tend not to participate). Staff enter details of their projects on PsychWeb (, together with an outline of the research questions, what research assistance is needed and the rate of pay. Generally the payments to students come from research grants.


Goebel, S. and Gennari, S. (2006) Involving students in the research of faculty members through the development of a departmental undergraduate research scheme, available at:

Bioscience Horizons

The National Undergraduate Research Journal. A consortium of Universities, including Leeds, Nottingham, Chester and Reading with experience or interest in publishing undergraduate research are working with Oxford University Press to produce an on-line journal to showcase the best of UK undergraduate research. Two issues will be published in March and May 2008 as a pilot study.

Internet Journal of Criminology

All undergraduate and Masters dissertations that received a 70+ mark are eligible for submission to the journal (at the moment, the IJC website only states ‘Undergraduate Dissertations’, but Masters work is also now accepted, though NOT PhDs). Supervisors should therefore be encouraged to facilitate this with their most able students, which will help them with their career progression.

Geoverse – the undergraduate research journal for geography

Geoverse is a collaboration between Oxford Brookes University, University of Reading, University of Gloucestershire and Queen Mary, University of London with initial funding support from the Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences Subject Centre (GEES Geoverse publishes the very best of original undergraduate research and scholarship in physical and human geography. The aims of Geoverse are to: allow students to pilot research writing skills in a supportive but rigorous environment of review and to enable high quality undergraduate research to be accessed in the public domain. Articles are reviewed by a trained panel of postgraduate students.

Student Conference on Conservation Science

The Student Conference on Conservation Science is one of very few conservation conferences aimed entirely at students. It helps young conservation scientists gain experience, learn new ideas and make contacts that will be valuable for their future careers. Over the past 7 years, we have hosted delegates from over 80 countries worldwide. Each day the programme starts with a plenary lecture from a leading conservation scientist, and is followed by around 10 student talks. About 70 students also present their work at the two poster sessions. As well as attending presentations, conference delegates can take part in workshops, which cover skills such as paper-writing, fund-raising, working with the media, and much more. Other events include evening sessions where delegates can meet conservation professionals from leading UK and international conservation bodies. This year (2007) we are also introducing a new internship scheme, enabling students to extend their visit to the UK for up to four weeks after the conference to carry out mutually beneficial work with conservation organisations or academic institutions. We expect the internship scheme to help develop the careers of promising conservation scientists and to strengthen and catalyse north-south collaborations.

Research Councils UK

RCUK is the organisation which is the strategic partnership between 7 Research Councils which support research in the UK higher education sector “The role of the Research Councils has evolved beyond its traditional place on one side of the Dual Support system, and the Councils are taking a more pro-active role in promoting and supporting the broader context for research and research careers. Vacation Bursary schemes and the RCUK Academic Fellowships are two examples of the way in which Councils are seeking to strengthen this broader context as one in which research, and the innovative thinking of the next generation of researchers, can develop” (Lyne 2007).

“Vacation Bursary schemes operated by the Research Councils (currently BBSRC and EPSRC) are a way of supporting the recruitment of the best undergraduate students into research degrees – and therefore ultimately about improving the supply of researchers” (ESPRC 2006, 3).

Diamond, I (2006) The Relationship between research and training, RCUK/Higher Education Academy Conference, Bringing research and teaching together

EPSRC (2006) Vacation Bursary Good Practice Event, 2nd November, Aston University

Lyne, I (2006) RCUK Vacation Bursaries, RCUK/Higher Education Academy Conference, Bringing research and teaching together

Lyne, I (2007) Bringing research and teaching together: a Research Council perspective, International policies and practices for academic enquiry: An international colloquium held at Marwell conference centre, Winchester, UK, 19–21 April,

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in 2004 established a pilot scheme to offer Vacation Bursaries to give promising undergraduates an opportunity to experience first hand a period of time during the summer vacation in a research laboratory in a UK university or a BBSRC-sponsored research institute to encourage them to consider a career in scientific research. The pilot in 2004 proved to be so successful that in 2006 it was expanded to 80 bursaries per year, and also in 2006 'Vacation Bursaries in Mathematical Biology' were introduced. In 2007 BBSRC awarded 100 Vacation Bursaries to 65 different departments. The bursaries are primarily allocated pro rata with the award of our Quota PhD studentships. Studentship quotas are allocated through a competition process which looks at the broad training environment offered by a department. In November 2006, BBSRC and EPSRC held a joint good practice event to discuss the use and objectives of Vacation Bursaries. 

EPSRC (2006) Vacation Bursary Good Practice Event, 2nd November, Aston University

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The Vacation Bursary Programme provides funding for undergraduate students to gain first-hand experience of research in a UK university to help them consider a research career. A pilot programme was carried out in the summer of 2006. An evaluation of that programme concluded that “the pilot was shown to have been very successful for all those involved. Students said that it was a positive experience and that they would recommend to others. Based on this evaluation, we will now consider continuing the programme in the future and what improvements can be made” (EPSRC, 2007, 4). Students carry out a research project lasting around 10 weeks during the summer vacation. Students were in the middle years of a first degree within EPSRC’s remit, and could fulfil EPSRC doctoral training grant eligibility requirements by the end of their undergraduate degree. Projects have a clearly defined objective within EPSRC’s remit, but are not to be part of a normal degree course. In 2007, 15 universities have been selected to take part the activity, based on their EPSRC research income. Projects will take place during the 2007 summer vacation. Each university is awarded £20,000 to support up to 10 students (based on a suggested stipend of £180 per week plus research consumables of £200).


EPSRC (2007) E
valuation of the 2006 Vacation Bursary Programme,


British Society for Animal Science (BSAS) Summer Placement Scheme,_awards_&_jobs/summer_placement_scheme/

Since 1995, BSAS, commercial companies and research institutes have been cooperating together with motivated college and university students on the Summer Placement Scheme. The scheme enables companies and institutes to have access to students to help complete specific projects and tasks at a busy time of year. For students it means practical work experience in an environment that will match their area of study or interests. Long term it will help career prospects for young people. Depending upon the individual companies and institutes involved, the work available ranges from practical field work or laboratory studies to computerised data handling of literature reviews and report writing. BSAS helps match appropriate companies and students and put them in touch with each other. Placements last for a minimum of 6 weeks. BSAS has £500 for each project. This sum is expected to be matched by an institute or company.

Cancer Research UK Bursaries

These bursaries are used to encourage exceptional undergraduates to consider a career in cancer research, by providing research experience during the long summer vacation. The bursary provides a subsistence allowance for the student in the region of £180 per week. No location allowances are provided. A contribution of £500 is made towards laboratory expenses. The duration of the project is 6-10 weeks. Applicants must be long-term Cancer Research UK grantees (ie in receipt of core Institute, Programme grant, Senior Fellowship or Career Development Fellowship funding). Applications should include the name of a nominated student who will take up the award. Students should normally be completing the penultimate year of their degree in the summer in which the award is taken up. Cancer Research UK does not anticipate funding more than one student in a particular laboratory in any one year.

Carnegie Trust (Scotland) Vacation Scholarships and Undergraduate University Expeditions

Undergraduates who were born in Scotland or who have a parent born in Scotland or who have at least two years of secondary education in Scotland, may be considered for the award of a Vacation Scholarship for the pursuit of a full-time research project, usually in the vacation between their second and third years. Vacation Scholarships cannot be used for attendance at conferences. Candidates can only be considered on the nomination of Deans, who are asked to rank in order of merit all applicants from their Faculty. Scholarships are for maintenance of up to a maximum of eight weeks, whether based at home, elsewhere in the United Kingdom, or abroad. Nominees can come from any Faculty and nominations by Deans be must be received by April 1st. Applications can only be accepted via University Faculties.

The Trust will consider applications for a grant towards the cost of expeditions which are approved and supported by a Scottish University. The expedition, which must bear the name of the University and comprise at least five undergraduates from that University; it must have as its purpose the training of undergraduates in research techniques through the discovery of new knowledge. The expedition must have a coherent research programme and must be accompanied throughout by a member of staff or someone of equal standing acceptable to the Trust.

Experimental Psychology Society: Undergraduate Research Bursaries

This scheme finances a limited number of bursaries (5) to support undergraduates in the summer vacation immediately prior to their final year. Awards are made to members of the Society and provides up to 10 weeks’ support (£200 per week) for their nominated undergraduate. It is intended that the bursaries be targeted at undergraduates who are considering a research career in experimental psychology (as defined by the content of the Society’s journals). The bursary is administered, and the research project carried out, at the applicant’s institution, although this need not be the institution at which the student is currently registered for a degree. The purpose of these bursaries is to allow the student to learn at first hand about experimental procedures and analyses employed in the host laboratory. Awards will not be granted for work that is a central part of an already-funded project. The award is for a maximum of £2,000, and any additional expenses must be borne by the host institution.

Genetics Society Summer Scholarships

The Summer Scholarships provide financial support for undergraduate students in any area of genetics, to gain research experience by carrying out a research project in the long vacation, usually prior to their final year. Studentships will only be awarded for students who have yet to complete their first degree. A maximum of 40 studentships will be awarded. They will consist of an award of £150 per week for up to 10 weeks to the student plus an expenses grant of £500 to the host laboratory. The award will be made to the host institution. Applications are invited from members of the Genetics Society who run a research group within a University or Research Institute or an industrial research facility. Applications for a named student, with CV and reference from their tutor (or equivalent) will be an advantage. Undergraduate students are encouraged to seek a sponsor and develop a project application with the sponsor.

Institute of Structural Engineers (URGS)

The Undergraduate Research Grants scheme sponsors undergraduate research projects carried out during term-time as part of a degree programme. The scheme is funded by the Institution’s Research Fund and aims to support challenging and satisfying research at undergraduate level. Up to ten grants of up to £500 each will be available in 2006. Supervisors submit applications during March and April for a particular project idea to be carried out in the next academic year. If the application is successful the supervisor then selects a suitable student to undertake the project. The timing of the project is decided by the supervisor and is intended to coincide with the university’s usual arrangements for term time undergraduate projects that are assessed for a degree.

Nuffield Foundation: Undergraduate Research Bursaries in Science

These bursaries provide support to enable undergraduates who are considering research as a career to work in a research laboratory during the summer vacation before their final year. The bursaries provide student support normally for a period between 6 and 8 weeks, plus a sum for research expenses. Established in 1990 with a linked scheme at secondary school level, 4000 undergraduate bursaries have been awarded since then. A 2006 review of both schemes concluded they were “strikingly effective … seen as crucial encounters at a critical stage in career choice.” In 2007-2012 the scheme is to be expanded with £1 million committed to 1500 bursaries in 2007.


Hughes V (2006) The Nuffield Foundation’s Undergraduate Research Bursaries in Science, RCUK/Higher Education Academy Conference, Bringing research and teaching together

Paul Kelly: Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Software Performance Optimisation

Undergraduate Research Opportunities are provided for up to three students to spend the summer working in the Software Performance Optimisation research group. The objective is to involve them in the Group research work. A successful UROP project should lead to them being co-authors on a published paper, and/or being responsible for an open-source software release. The criterion for selection is that the students need to be able to get stuck into very complex software, and make it work.

Royal Meteorological Society Undergraduate Scholarships

The Royal Meteorological Society is offering up to eight undergraduate vacation support scholarships in meteorology and its related disciplines. The undergraduate scholarships are to support vacation research placements of eight weeks duration for students due to enter their final year of first degree studies.

Society for General Microbiology Vacation Scholarships

Vacation Studentships are small awards to enable undergraduates in the UK and Republic of Ireland to work on microbiological research projects for 6-8 weeks in the summer vacation before their final year. There are elective grants for medical, dental and veterinary science students. These are small awards to enable medical, dental and veterinary science undergraduates to work on microbiological research projects during their elective periods.

Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) Vacation Scholarships

UFAW established the vacation scholarship award scheme in 1983 to encourage students to develop an interest in animal welfare and to provide them with the opportunity to conduct relevant research. Applications are welcome from undergraduates (or equivalent) in agricultural, biological, medical, veterinary or zoological sciences. Students must be registered at a university or college in the British Isles. Preference is given to undergraduates.

Welcome Trust Vacation Scholarships

The Vacation Scholarship is intended to provide promising undergraduates with 'hands-on' experience of research during the summer vacation and to encourage them to consider a career in research. Applicants should be university undergraduates in the middle years of their first degree studies (i.e. not the first or last year) and registered for a basic science or veterinary degree, or medical students between the end of their second year and the end of their penultimate year. Scholarships are not available for the completion of student projects that are part of the normal degree course. Preference will be given to undergraduates without previous research experience. Students are encouraged to arrange their scholarship away from their usual place of study.


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