RHS COVID-19 Hardship Grants for UK Early Career (ECR) Historians

The Royal Historical Society (RHS) has launched (7 May 2020) an emergency funding scheme in the specific context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This global crisis confronts us all with a series of unprecedented challenges. For History ECRs, these may include any or all of acute financial hardship, mandatory physical relocation, family and community disruptions, new demands on carers, mental and/or physical health concerns and loss of access to research support and resources.

The Society’s ECR Hardship Grants are intended to help mitigate these damaging circumstances. We recognise that the resources we are able to offer are very modest given the scale of the current crisis and that it is highly likely that demand will outstrip supply. We encourage PhD students confronting these challenges to apply, where possible, to their institution’s hardship funding scheme prior to any application to the RHS 2020 Hardship Scheme.

This scheme is not designed to provide a ‘top-up’ grant for funded students or recent postdoctoral researchers in stable employment: it is an emergency, short-term intervention to offer some material assistance in the COVID-19 context, rather than to fund a specific research output or publication.

Please note that our usual grant schemes are still running, and we encourage innovative applications to support research and the costs associated with virtual events at this time.

How do I apply?

Please ensure that you have read all of the information below.

To make an application please complete the online application formPlease note that you can access the Hardship Grant application form through the Research/Conference Grants program within the RHS applications portal.

The next (2nd) deadline is Monday 29 June 2020.



For the purposes of this emergency funding scheme (as is the case with our standard Conference Travel scheme) applicants will be considered eligible who are:

  • registered for a PhD/DPhil or an MPhil in a historical subject at a UK institution. Registration may be full-time or part-time.
  • within two years (at the time of the application) of receiving their doctorate from a UK institution, and who are not yet in full-time employment. Please note the two years does not include any periods of maternity or paternity leave. Please detail this in the ‘any other information’ section of your application form.

Purpose of the Scheme

The main purpose of these awards is to support ECR historians whose finances (and thus well-being) have suffered significant detriment due to the impact of COVID-19.  Specifically the grants are intended to support research-active History postgraduates and ECRS:

  • who were actively undertaking historical research in the UK prior to the government restrictions imposed in March 2020 and who are now suffering financial hardship as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • who are NEITHER in receipt of full-time funding for their doctorate NOR in full-time employment;
  • whose contracts at universities or heritage organisations have been significantly reduced or terminated prematurely in response to COVID-19;
  • whose fixed-term fellowships (for example, to a research library) have been cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis;
  • who would normally expect to work part-time AND/OR on a zero-hours contract.
  • who normally work to support their studies and need to leave external employment to undertake caring responsibilities due to COVID-19;
  • who need to leave external employment for health reasons (including pregnancy or disability);
  • who need temporarily to relocate their place of residence due to COVID-19;
  • who are awaiting viva and unable to find employment.

Within both broad categories of eligible applicants (doctoral and postdoctoral), the lists of eligible precipitating factors outlined above are intended to be illustrative rather than fully comprehensive.

The grants are intended to help support ECR historians’ wellbeing and thus to enhance their ability to undertake future historical research.  The awards are intended to support History researchers (including research-active historians who teach in universities or work in the heritage sector), rather than the production of specific pieces of historical research, in a time of global crisis.

Who is not eligible?

Due to the limits of our available funding and our modest staff numbers, we regret that we are not able to open these awards to all History ECRs.  Specifically this scheme is not able to support:

  • PhD students in receipt of full funding;
  • applicants in full-time ongoing paid employment or who have been furloughed under the government scheme;
  • PhD students who have suspended their studies for reasons other than directly related to COVID-19;
  • PhD students who are registered at universities outside the UK;
  • Recent recipients of a UK History PhD who were not normally resident and employed in the UK as of March 2020;
  • ECRs who are in receipt of or due a redundancy payment from their employer;

What are the criteria for selection?

Our selection criteria are intended to be broad and flexible, affording the grant awarding panel appropriate leeway to respond to and accommodate novel circumstances and needs in the rapidly changing context of Covid-19.

Please note that:

  • Only fully completed applications can be considered;
  • Applicants must meet all of the relevant eligibility requirements for their status (either PhD student or recent recipient of the PhD) to be considered for a hardship grant;
  • Unfunded PhD students may be given priority over part-funded PhD students;
  • Post-doctoral applicants on zero-hour contracts may be given priority over applicants on fixed-term contracts;
  • To the extent that the selection committee can identify the cases of the greatest financial need, these applications will be given priority.

How (and how many) grants will be allocated?

Individual grants of up to £500 will be awarded by a combination of 1) assessment of eligibility and need, and 2) a lottery system.


  • In the first instance, the RHS aims to fund at least 12 hardship grants of up to £500 each, in each of 2 application cycles.
  • If demonstrated need significantly exceeds this sum, the Society shall seek to increase the number of awards available in round 2 by fund-raising or other means and/or to add a 3rd round of hardship funding;
  • Each application will be assessed to confirm that the applicant meets all eligibility criteria;
  • All eligible applications will then be assessed for their degree of demonstrated financial need;
  • If the number of eligible applications demonstrating substantial need exceeds the supply of RHS hardship grants, applications demonstrating the highest need will be allocated by a lottery system. Allocation of awards by lottery is an innovative development in international research funding.  In the current context, the lottery’s benefits as a selection tool include not only its tendency to reduce the scope for conscious or unconscious bias but also its speed of operation.
  • Applications entered into the first lottery that are not selected for funding will be automatically resubmitted to the 2nd lottery unless the applicant directs otherwise.
  • Applicants that are not selected are welcome to re-apply to the next round with additional information, particularly if circumstances change. Applicants should note that this is a re-application in such cases.

When will applicants be notified?

All applicants will be notified of the result of their application within a month of the deadline.

Questions and Answers

  • Do I need to be an ECR Member of the RHS to apply?
    • No. Although the Society welcomes applications to its ECR Membership, its funding schemes apply equally to eligible ECRs regardless of their RHS membership status;
  • If I receive an RHS Hardship grant, will my eligibility to apply in future for standard RHS funding (for research trips or conferences) be affected?
    • No. Receipt of a hardship award will not be considered if you subsequently apply for a standard RHS award and thus will not be ‘counted’ against your total eligibility (currently twice as a PhD student and once as a postdoctoral ECR) for our standard funding schemes.  This is an exceptional discretionary award to support you at a critical time and does not affect your broader eligibility to apply to the RHS to support your research.
  • Do I need to be a UK citizen to receive a RHS Hardship grant?
    • Non-UK nationals are eligible to receive awards as long as they meet the eligibility criteria detailed above.
  • Are part-time students eligible for support?
    • Yes, part-time students are eligible for this programme.
  • How will my award be paid?
    • Awards will be paid into a UK bank account.
  • I am registered for a PhD at a UK university but am an international student and have travelled home because of COVID-19. Am I still eligible to apply?
    • If you remain registered at a UK university for the History PhD/DPhil you remain eligible for hardship funding (which will be paid to your UK bank account).
  • Why is the RHS asking applicants to provide information on their employer and disrupted employment?
    • The Society recognises that if the COVID-19 crisis lasts for several months and/or resurfaces we may need to make longer-term adjustments to our funding for ECRs.  Information on the types of employment most disrupted to the detriment of ECRs will allow us to make appropriate accommodations in our own funding and to advocate for good practice with employers. All personal information will only be held by the RHS for the length of time needed to administer and assess the outcomes of this scheme. No personal information will be shared with employers.
  • Do I need to submit receipts to document my expenditure from the Hardship Grant?
    • We understand that in this crisis many different types of expenditure—including, but not only, groceries, medications, accommodation, equipment, relocation costs and costs entailed by caring responsibilities—may justifiably be accrued by applicants and we trust them to expend their grants to the best effect to maintain their well-being during this crisis.
  • Do I need to progress or to complete a specific piece of research with the use of any Hardship Grant
    • No. The hardship grants are designed to support you as a History researcher and a person, not to fund the production of specific historical outputs. We recognise that many History researchers may be unable to undertake research at this time.
  • Do I need to submit a report to the RHS detailing my use of RHS Hardship grant funds?
    • No. Unlike our standard scheme, no formal report is required after the award has been used.  We welcome contributions to our blog, Historical Transactions, but understand that the current COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath may limit and/or preclude many applicants’ capacity to undertake such writing.
  • Do I need to acknowledge RHS Hardship grant support in my PhD dissertation or publications?
    • Not unless you want to. This is an exceptional scheme for exceptional circumstances, and unlike our standard awards the RHS has no expectation that this support will be formally acknowledged by recipients in their scholarly work.

Contact us

All enquiries should be sent to Imogen Evans, RHS Administrative Secretary at adminsecretary@royalhistsoc.org.