**This is a pre-call announcement: Applications are now open and Full Guidance is available here**

About the Professional Practice Fellowships

Five fellowships of £20,000 (80% FEC) are available under this scheme. The fellowships are designed to enable library colleagues to set research agendas, be active participants and leaders of multidisciplinary research, and to provide intellectual leadership in their own disciplines and beyond. They will provide a career development opportunity by enabling colleagues to have a transformative impact on their professional practice, discipline, and institution, and also act as advocates for the value and benefits of arts and humanities research to communities beyond academia. The Scheme offers opportunities for library staff to work in partnership with RLUK and the AHRC in strengthening research capacity and capabilities in libraries across the arts and humanities, and within and beyond the RLUK membership.

The Professional Practice Fellowship Scheme will provide time and support for library staff:

  • To develop their capability, capacity, and confidence as research partners and leaders.

  • To enable colleagues to place their work within wider professional or disciplinary frameworks which will have a transformative effect on their ability to act as research partners or leaders.

  • To equip colleagues with the research skills, knowledge, and confidence, to transform their professional practice through research.

  • To result in a tangible outcome that enables the fellowship to bring discernable and lasting benefit to both the individual, and their institution, beyond the fellowship’s duration.

This scheme is a direct response to the findings of a collaborative scoping study, undertaken by RLUK in partnership with the AHRC and Evidence Base, across January-June 2021.

The scoping study explored the role, and potential role, of research and academic libraries as partners in, and leaders of, academic and scholarly research. This included colleagues working across a wide variety of professions and disciplines. The scoping study made a series of far reaching recommendations, including the need for direct investment in the research capacity and capabilities of libraries. This scheme is a direct response to this recommendation.

The AHRC-RLUK Professional Practice Fellowship Scheme is designed to develop and promote research capacity, capability, and confidence amongst colleagues working with research and academic libraries. This includes colleagues working within a broad range of disciplines, professions, and institutions.

The scheme is delivered in partnership between AHRC and RLUK, and is open to colleagues working across a wide variety of institutions, including both RLUK and non-RLUK members. Applications are particularly welcome from early career professionals and colleagues from under represented groups

General enquiries

General scheme enquiries including regarding the eligibility criteria and application process: Tao Chang at infrastructure@ahrc.ukri.org, inserting RLUK PPF21 in the subject line. 

For specific questions regarding how the scheme can support the work of libraries, archives, special collections, and museums: Matt Greenhall at matthew.greenhall@rluk.ac.uk, inserting RLUK PPF21 in the subject line. 


The Scheme seeks to encourage and enable applications from a wide variety of colleagues, working across professional and disciplinary boundaries, and from a range of institutions. 

Applicants do not need to work within an RLUK member institution to apply to this scheme, and can work within any unit or department that sits within a research or academic library which belongs to a Higher Education Institution (HEI), Independent Research Organisation (IRO), or is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK). 

In order to be eligible for the AHRC-RLUK Professional Practice Fellowship scheme, at the point of application, applicants must:

  • Be employed by an academic or research library that belongs to a recognised UK Higher Education Institution (HEI), Independent Research Organisation (IRO), or is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK)
  • Have at least two years of experience working within a collection-holding, cultural, or information institution or two-years postdoctoral experience
  • Have an existing employment contract that lasts at least until the end of the award
  • Have identified a named and willing mentor, with a strong academic or professional practice background relevant to their fellowship, who is willing to act as a mentor during the duration of their fellowship. This individual can work within their own institution or at an external institution or body
  • The research and work undertaken through these fellowships must fall under the funding remit of the AHRC.

AHRC and RLUK wish to encourage a variety of applications to this scheme. If you are uncertain whether you are eligible to apply to this scheme, please contact: infrastructure@ahrc.ukri.org


RLUK and AHRC welcome applications from individuals of all backgrounds. The scheme would particularly like to encourage applications from early-career professionals who are seeking to develop their research capability, confidence, and capacity.

RLUK and AHRC would also like to encourage applications from members of ethnic minority communities, who constitute an underrepresented group within the library and information sectors.

Every application received to this scheme will be assessed on equal terms, regardless of the sex, age, and/or ethnicity of the applicant. Proposals will be assessed and graded on their merits, in accordance with the criteria and the aims and objectives set for this scheme.

Fellowship requirements

Enhancing the fellow’s skillset and research capability are core elements of this scheme. In framing your proposal, you will need to clearly articulate a set of activities and to demonstrate both how they will enhance your role within your field, and how they significantly develop your research capability and confidence. The activities outlined, which should be commensurate with your current career stage and trajectory, should go beyond the kinds of activities that you generally undertake in your daily practice or in the ordinary course of your duties. In other words, the Fellowship offers the opportunity to be innovative in the types of activity which might be taken forward and allows Fellows to explore new avenues. Fellowship proposals should include a substantial programme of developmental activities and you should be bold in thinking about what is needed to support them. 

Each fellowship will be unique and you will want to tailor your application to your professional specialism, professional and personal circumstances, and institutional context. The scheme has been designed to allow applicants a high degree of autonomy and flexibility in the individual and specific focus of your proposed fellowship. 

Each fellowship, should, however have the following key features:

  • Professional practice or research question: fellowship proposals should be built around a professional practice or research question which relates closely to your area of expertise and the addressing of which will enable you to develop your research capacity, capability, and confidence.
  • Transformative effect: undertaking the fellowship should have a demonstrable transformative effect on your research capacity, capability and confidence. As a result, you should consider the skills and capabilities that you will develop across the fellowship and the cumulative benefits it will offer you beyond its duration. You should also be able to articulate the positive impact the fellowships will have on your institution and wider library community.
  • Wider professional practice or research context: You should consider how a fellowship would enable you to place your existing skills and experience within a wider professional practice or research context. In addition to having a designated and named mentor, within or beyond your institution, who is willing to advise and support you during your fellowship, this might be achieved via: 
    • Shadowing, placements or visiting roles
    • Supervising staff
    • Building new research or professional practice networks
    • Building academic and non-academic relationships
    • Working with international academic and non-academic partners and audiences
  • Advocacy: applicants should consider how their fellowship can demonstrate and advocate for the role of libraries as research partners and leaders. They should actively consider how they can champion this role, and how this might be done within and beyond their institution during their fellowship.
  • Wider institutional and sectoral impact: applicants should consider how the benefit of their fellowship, and the skills, learning and expertise they derive from it, can be shared with the widest constituency. This can be both within their institution and the wider sector. This can be via research papers, workshops, blogs, conference presentations, or contribution to staff training events/schemes.
  • Discernible impact or outcome: fellowships should lead to a discernible impact or outcome for the fellow. Outcomes might include the submission of a highly-competitive research application to a major research funder at the end of their fellowship, in which the fellow were a key and named partner (co-investigator) or leader (principal investigator). Where this isn’t possible, applicants should envisage a discernible impact or outcome for themselves and their institution which tangibly and demonstrably enhances their research capacity and might help to build future institutional eligibility for research funding.

It is around these key features that the fellowship’s assessment criteria have been constructed and applicants should ensure that their application includes reference to these.

Scheme limit, duration, and level of commitment

The Professional Practice Fellowship scheme accepts proposals with a 80% Full Economic Costing of up to £20,000. 

Please note: information provided during the pre-call regarding the duration and time commitment of fellowships has been superseded by the guidance issued on 4 October (see Full Application Guidance). This updated guidance follows consultation with members of the academic and research library communities during the pre-call Townhall event (8 September). Applicants should only refer to the duration and commitment requirements as outlined in the Full Application Guidance when making their application.

Individual commitment 

The undertaking of a Professional Practice Fellowship should enhance your ability to undertake your substantive role or enhance your professional practice through placing it within a research framework. Due to this, it is not envisaged that fellows commit 100 percent of their normal contracted working time to a Fellowship. The apportionment of time to the fellowship will vary per individual applicant, professional practice and research question, and institution. Applicants will need to demonstrate that a significant portion of their FTE will be allocated to the fellowship for its duration. Home institutions will need to be explicit in their institutional case for support that they will release fellows from a significant portion of their substantive role in order for them to derive the greatest benefit from the fellowship.

Each fellowship will be different and your time commitment may vary over the duration of the Fellowship. The total value of the AHRC contribution to the costs of the fellowship will be calculated at 80% Full Economic Costings (FEC) up to the value of £20,000. This means that the total costs of the fellowship cannot exceed £25,000 (100% FEC), with the remaining 20% FEC being met by your home institution. This will be important when considering how much time to allocate to the fellowship.

You and your home institution should ensure that the flexibility afforded by the Fellowship scheme is used innovatively and appropriately, and it is your responsibility to justify the value and appropriateness of the proposed development activities in the Case for Support. 

Institutional commitment 

The provision of strong, active, institutional support is an essential criterion under the scheme. Your home institution should outline the specific support that it will provide you during your fellowship and what further developmental support will be offered after the end of the fellowship. The award of a fellowship is conditional upon your home institution agreeing to use awarded funds to backfill a significant portion of your substantive role. This will ensure that you have sufficient time and space to fully realise the developmental benefits of the fellowship.

This information should be provided in the Head of Department/Director statement attached to your application and should distinguish between generic support available in the institution, and specific support that has been, and will be provided to your Fellowship.

Your home institution will need to provide evidence of commitment to your career and research development before, during and after the proposed Fellowship. In the event that you move institution, transfer of the award would be subject to provision of an institutional support statement by the new home institution outlining at least equivalent support for the Fellowship and your subsequent career and professional development. 

Role of a mentor

A key aim of this fellowship is to enable you to place your work within wider professional practice and research frameworks. An important way in which this will be supported and achieved is through the identification of a mentor who will support you during your fellowship. The mentor can be within your institution or based in another institution.

Your mentor should be an individual with recognised expertise and skills in an area pertinent to your fellowship, with a strong research record, and who is established in their field. They will be responsible for providing advice and guidance over the course of the fellowship, providing critical comment on draft outputs, and supporting you in the development of the final fellowship outcome. They should act as a critical friend in enabling you to develop your research capabilities and confidence, and should be named within your application. 

Application process

The Application process will open on Monday 4th October 2021 and will close on Friday 3rd  December 2021. Results of the application process will be announced to applications in early February 2022.

Please note:

  • Applications for Professional Practice Fellowships need to be submitted to the AHRC via a dedicated SmartSurvey form. Please note that applications will not be submitted, or accepted, via J-es.
  • This scheme is not listed within the AHRC’s Guide to Research Funding and application guidance unique to this scheme is included below.

For enquiries about this scheme, please use the contact details listed at the top of the page.