Collaborative Doctoral Awards: Partner Organisations

A student works in a library

**The online application system is now closed**

The Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities has introduced an exciting new range of research opportunities, which aim to align research more closely with practice. As part of the Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme, there is the option for ideas generated by industry partners to be the starting point for research by submitting to us a brief proposal outlining your research project. SGSAH will then forward your proposal to our member Higher Education Institutions. If you have already identified an HEI partner there is no need to complete this proposal stage. In this instance you should progress directly to the full application stage in February 2023.

Collaborative Doctoral Awards provide funding for PhD-level research projects which are developed in partnership between Higher Education Institutions and non-HEI organisations or businesses. The funding is awarded to the HEI and the student receives a stipend.

The awards are intended to encourage and develop collaboration and partnerships providing opportunities for doctoral students to gain first-hand experience of work outside the university environment and enhance the employment-related skills and training a research student gains during the course of their award.

The projects also encourage and establish links that can have long-term benefits for both collaborating partners, providing access to resources and materials, knowledge and expertise that may not otherwise have been available and also provide social, cultural and economic benefits to wider society.

Click on the links below to download the CDA guidance documents and application template in Word or PDF format:

SGSAH CDA Application Guidance 2023 (Word Document, 2.7MB)

SGSAH CDA Application Guidance 2023 (PDF, 787KB)

SGSAH AHRC CDA Application Form Template 2023 (Word Document, 36KB)

SGSAH AHRC CDA Application Form Template 2023 (PDF, 259KB)

CDA Nominated Candidate Form 2023 (Word Document, 29KB)

CDA Nominated Candidate Form 2023 (PDF, 149KB)

You can view a zoom recording of a SGSAH information session on applying for collaborative PhDs from September 2023 by clicking here and entering password Y5cWN1^?

This page contains information for non-academic organisations. If you are an academic organisation, click here for information relevant to you.


What are Collaborative Doctoral Awards?

Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDAs) provide funding for PhD-level research projects which are developed in partnership between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and non-HEI organisations or businesses. The funding is awarded to the HEI and the student receives a stipend.

Organisational partners will be invited to submit project proposals to the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH), which will then be circulated to member HEIs across ten universities. The individual HEIs will respond to those partners they are interested in working with. The organisational partner will then select an HEI to work with to take the proposal forward to the formal application stage.

What will participating in a Collaborative Doctoral Award mean in practice for my organisation?

Partner organisations will be expected to nominate a member of staff to work with the student over the course of the three-and-a-half-year PhD research project (or seven years part-time). This should include the student working on the project within the organisation for at least six months, and up to 18 months. The exact duration and pattern of attendance (full-time/part-time/flexible) within the host organisation will be dependent on the individual project, and should be agreed by all parties at the outset.

Students should be provided with desk/work space and resources in line with standard staff arrangements.

Students are fully funded to undertake their PhD, including the time spent within the partner organisation. This period should be integral to the completion of the project and is not an optional extra or internship.

How are the Collaborative Doctoral Awards funded?

Funding decisions will be made by panels coordinated by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH). SGSAH receives funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to support doctoral training (i.e. PhD level research) in Scottish HEIs.

Do organisational partners provide any funding towards the Collaborative Doctoral Awards?

Organisational partners are expected to contribute £500 in each year of the project (i.e. £1,750 in total) towards student costs. In exceptional circumstances, the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) may consider applications from organisations that are unable to meet this cost.

How many Collaborative Doctoral Awards will be made each year?

SGSAH will award up to 20% of the total FTE studentships to CDAs. This is likely to be between 10-16 CDAs.

Who is involved in a Collaborative Doctoral Award?

The partner should assign a member of staff to act as the organisational supervisor for the project. The HEI should assign one or more academic supervisors to the project. The student will undertake the project with the support of the supervisors. SGSAH will oversee the CDAs at national level and coordinate biannual meetings for all parties. SGSAH will also provide training for academic and organisational partner supervisors.

What are the benefits of Collaborative Doctoral Awards for organisational partners?

  • Increased capacity
  • New knowledge and skills
  • New products, processes or services
  • Improved quality
  • Prototype development
  • New networks/contacts
  • New audiences or customer bases
  • Increased turnover/sales/visitor numbers
  • Increased profile
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Skills development for employees
  • Press/media coverage
  • Potential to attract additional funding

What are the time commitments for organisational partners participating in Collaborative Doctoral Awards?

Partners commit to being fully engaged in the project as an active participant for the entire duration of the PhD (3.5 years full-time or 6/7 years part-time). Partners must have the capacity to host and support the PhD student within their organisation for a period of 6-18 months, depending on the requirements of the project. Partners should be involved in at least three formal meetings with the PhD student and students each year, and attend biannual SGSAH CDA Gatherings, which will bring participating students, partners and academics together as a cohort.

What is the process for applying for a Collaborative Doctoral Award?

A.      Organisational Partner Led

The organisational partner submits a 500 word proposal. SGSAH circulates the proposal to its HEI members across 10 universities. The HEIs respond directly to partners. Partners select an HEI to work with. All parties collaborate on the final application form. If there is no student attached to the project at the point of application, the project should be advertised to students if the application is successful. Organisational partners and HEIs should collaborate to select a student. Appendix A outlines the timetable for the CDA process.

B.       HEI Led

The HEI supervisor will develop the project with an organisational partner and submit an application in February 2022. If there is no student attached to the project at the point of application, the project should be advertised to students if the application is successful following the panel review in March 2022.

What scope do organisational partners have for defining the terms of the research?

Under route A (as outlined above), partners will have free reign to propose a research topic related to their work. Academic supervisors, once selected by partners, can provide assistance in framing the topic as a PhD question, as required.

What is a PhD?

A PhD is the highest academic award offered by universities. In order to undertake a PhD, a student must normally complete an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree. The duration of a PhD is normally 3.5 years full-time or 6/7 years part-time, at the end of which a thesis containing new knowledge will be produced. Candidates who are awarded a PhD may use the title ‘Doctor’. PhD students are also referred to as doctoral researchers.

The SGSAH AHRC-funded programme is highly competitive. The rigorous application and selection process ensures excellent PhD candidates.

Who can be an organisational partner for a Collaborative Doctoral Award?

Organisations across the public, private and third sectors based anywhere in the UK are eligible to apply as part of a Collaborative Doctoral Award.

What are the outputs of a Collaborative Doctoral Award?

The student will produce a PhD thesis containing new knowledge and undertake tasks agreed by the organisational partner in order to deliver a specific project related to the partner’s area of work.


Industry partners who don’t currently have an HEI partner confirmed for a potential project to submit a brief proposal to SGSAH (click here for online form)

7 September 2022

Industry proposals circulated by SGSAH to HEIs for their consideration

September 2022

HEIs who wish to collaborate on a project to respond directly to the partner organisation

4 October 2022

Industry partners review responses and select HEI/supervisory team to work with

29 Oct 2022

Full CDA applications submitted (student may be attached at this stage or after studentship is funded): Application system open between 1st-14th Feb 2022

13 Feb 2023

Applications reviewed by external panel

March/April 2023 

Successful partnerships informed

May 2023

Studentship opportunities advertised (if no student attached)

May/June 2023

Student profiles to SGSAH for panel review (if no student attached at point of application) and students appointed to projects

June 2023

Studentships begin

October 2023