Collaborative Doctoral Awards

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

The British Museum supports six new research students a year to study for a PhD at a UK University through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme.


About the programme

The British Museum supports more than 25 research students researching topics that support our work. Most are funded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme.

Under the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme students are jointly supervised by a member of Museum staff and a supervisor from their University. Students have the opportunity to base their research at the Museum and learn more about how the cultural heritage sector operates. Topics are proposed by a member of Museum staff in collaboration with a colleague from a UK University and chosen on their academic strengths and clear support for the Museum’s objectives. The studentships are administered by the universities, with AHRC funds supporting academic fees and student maintenance and the British Museum providing additional financial support for travel and related research costs. Students can also take advantage of a joint training scheme run by jointly by all the Collecting and Heritage institutions that support the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme.

We welcome ideas for possible studentships. Experience shows that successful applicants have spent time in developing a proposal that both co-supervisors are committed to.

If you are interested in discussing an idea for a proposal, or to explore what ideas may be in development at the Museum please contact the research student coordinator, Andrew Meek or a relevant curator, scientist or other member of Museum staff to discuss ideas.

Further information about Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentships is available on the Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships website.

Research priorities and challenges

The British Museum actively promotes research to support, directly or indirectly, the future care, display or other uses of objects in the Museum's collection, and in other collections, and to help people learn, understand and be inspired by human history through objects.

We are looking for collaborative doctoral research projects that will investigate:

  • The 'lives' of objects from their making, use, reception, loss, collection and later use and understanding.
  • What objects can reveal about the social, cultural, religious, creative and political history of their makers, users, owners, depositors and collectors.
  • How objects can be best cared for in order to ensure their preservation for future generations of researchers and the general public.
  • How objects and their histories can most effectively be presented, exhibited and explored through different media and forms of public and learning programmes.

Within these four areas, a priority will be given to proposals that support future exhibitions and galleries, other museum objectives or help the museum meet one of its five research challenges.

These challenges identify areas where the Museum needs new research, perspectives and thinking to develop future programming and displays, build the collection, establish different ways of working with the collection, and challenge our visitors’ perceptions about the past – and about the Museum. The research challenges are:

  • Changing Things, Changing People: Carry out new research to help our audiences to better appreciate how objects expressed, created or changed relationships between people themselves, and between people and their environment: research that can reveal how objects reflected, contested and drove changing human experiences and identities.
  • Objects in the Modern World: Develop distinctive object-centred approaches to explore, develop and present recent histories: approaches that allow the Museum to communicate compelling social, political and cultural-historical narratives about global, imperial and post-colonial histories.
  • Connections, Movement and Globalisations: Learn more about how objects and collections challenge our perspectives on the scale and impact of the movement of things, people and ideas between different parts of the world and across history.
  • Collecting the Museum: Gain a better understanding of how the Museum’s collection has been acquired and interpreted: develop new perspectives on the historical contexts of the growth and development of the collection, and explore the different meanings of objects in the collection now.
  • Making and Using: Establish what distinctive approaches the British Museum needs to understand what objects can tell us about their makers and users, their technologies, materials and their changing meanings.