World-Leading St Andrews Scholarship in the History of Academia2021 entry
The University of St Andrews is pleased to offer a full scholarship funded by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following project:
Evaluating Research and Researchers: ‘Excellence’ in UK Academia, c.1960-1990
This interdisciplinary project will explore the role played by ‘excellence’ (and its proxies) in the careers of UK researchers in the late twentieth century. It will combine archival research (History) with work-history interviews (Sociology/Management) to investigate how changes in research practices and higher education structures reflected, or drove, changes in the practice and experience of the evaluation of research.
The concept of ‘excellence’ is currently a key element of academic discourse and research culture, and can be found in university mission statements, government evaluation exercises, and the policies of grant-makers and journal editors. Yet, 70 years ago, scholarly discourse had focused instead on such concepts as ‘quality’, ‘significance’ and ‘worthiness’. To what extent does the change in language represent changes in the practice or experience of research evaluation? Current research on the ‘excellence agenda’ focuses on the contemporary period, so this project’s focus on an earlier historical period will be innovative.
Research questions to be addressed include:
- What measures, proxies or symbols of academic ‘excellence’ were used by individual academics and by academic institutions? How did the vocabulary and discourse change over time, or vary between institution or discipline?
- How did individual researchers experience the discourse of ‘excellence’ at different moments of their career? Why? How did this differ by age, gender, discipline and institution?
- Where, or when, did concepts of ‘excellence’ clash between actors and stakeholders, and how were these differences negotiated?
- How did concepts of ‘excellence’ differ between disciplines?
The project will focus on case studies of three disciplinary fields representing natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. There will be two methodological strands:
- A sociologically-informed study of the ways in which notions of excellence influenced individual practice and the production of knowledge. The focus will be a series of interviews with retired/emeritus academics about the ways in which they understood ‘excellence’, and its proxies, at different stages of their careers and their perception of the role that concepts of excellence played in career progression. Interview topics will include postgraduate training (both receiving and giving); experiences as an applicant for jobs or promotion, and as a member of committees for recruitment, promotion or election; winning or awarding prizes; and experiences of peer review for journals or grants; experience of peer support and networking.
- A historical study of the policies and practices for evaluation of research and researchers in academic institutions. Examples would include university processes relating to appointment and promotion of staff; and the processes of those learned institutions which reward excellence by election to their fellowship or by the award of prizes or medals (e.g. the Royal Society, the British Academy, and their discipline-focused equivalents). Instructions to applicants, guidance to evaluation committees, and reviews of policy will provide evidence of the way excellence, and its proxies, were described, identified and used in the scholarly communities and institutions in which our academics built their careers.
Combining these methodologies will enable us to combine the institutional policy perspective with the work history perspective of individual academics, and to investigate how individual academic behaviours responded to changing norms.
The student will be supervised by Professor Aileen Fyfe (School of History) and Professor Ruth Woodfield (School of Management).
Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to Professor Aileen Fyfe – email firstname.lastname@example.org
Domicile for fee status
Level of study
Postgraduate Research (Doctoral)
Year of entry
2021-2022 academic year.
The student can start their degree in September 2021 or January 2022.
School of History and School of Management
Applicants must not already (i) hold a doctoral degree; or (ii) be matriculated for a doctoral degree at the University of St Andrews or another institution.
Duration of award
Up to 3.0 years. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.
Value of award
The award covers full tuition fees for the award term as well as an annual stipend payable at the standard UK Research Council rate (the 2021-22 annual rate is £15,560).
Tuition or maintenance award
Tuition and maintenance.
Doctoral Research at St Andrews
As a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews you will be part of a growing, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community. St Andrews is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world and offers a postgraduate experience of remarkable richness.
St Leonard’s Postgraduate College is at the heart of the postgraduate community of St Andrews. The College supports all postgraduates and aims to provide opportunities for postgraduates to come together, socially and intellectually, and make new connections.
St Leonard’s Postgraduate College works closely with the Postgraduate Society which is one of the most active societies within the Students’ Association. All doctoral students are automatically welcomed into the Postgraduate Society when they join the University.
In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home School, doctoral students at St Andrews have access to GRADskills – a free, comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.
- Apply for admission as a doctoral student. Please see the advice on Research programmes.
- After you have applied for your chosen Postgraduate Research course, you can apply for scholarships and funding by logging into My Application. After applying for your chosen course beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year, you must allow at least two working days for processing and issue of your log in details before you can apply for this scholarship.
- Select 2021/2 as the Academic Year and click Refresh list.
- Locate World-Leading St Andrews Doctoral Scholarships in the list of scholarships (using the filter box if necessary), click Apply and complete the application form.
- You can also use the catalogue to search and apply for other scholarships for which you are eligible.
If you are a current student at St Andrews, you can access Scholarships and Funding through MySaint. However, you should wait until after you have applied for your intended postgraduate programme before doing so, to ensure that the scholarship application is linked to that course.
As part of the scholarship application you will be required to upload a personal statement. This should serve as a cover letter for the research project application as a whole, and should include:
- An outline of your suitability for the project (project criteria can be found in the "Eligibility" and "Project Description" sections above).
- Why the project interests you.
- What you would bring to the project in terms of previous skills and expertise.
- Any ideas that you may have for the realisation of the project.
Please contact email@example.com with any enquiries about the scholarship application process.
When do applications open?
Scholarship application deadline
1 March 2021
When should I apply for the scholarship?
Apply for the scholarship as soon as possible after you have applied for admission.
When will I hear if my application has been successful?
Within two months of the application deadline.