In my previous post about how undergraduate students can get involved in research, I mentioned summer studentships as a formal opportunity to get some research experience.
What Are They?
Summer studentships are 6-10 week long programmes in the summer break during which students are paid a bursary while they complete a research project. Applications for these programmes are made competitively and are usually open to students registered at UK Higher Education institutions who are not in their first and final year of study.
Most programmes also require that you have not spent a substantial period of time doing research so if you have intercalated, been awarded a studentship before, or done a research placement as part of your course then you’re unlikely to be eligible to apply. Organisations funding these might also ask students to write up a short report about their project/experience or present their work after they complete the studentship.
Summer studentships are formal opportunities, so there is increased accountability for the project supervisor and student. Supervisors are more likely to end up with a completed project, and students are more likely to be fairly acknowledged for their work.
It’s paid! Since you’re going to do research anyway, why not cover some of your living expenses with the bursary?
It’s great for your CV! Being awarded a summer studentship can go into your CV as an academic prize, and the output you get from the project counts as well.
What Do I Need to Apply?
Summer studentship applications usually require:
An academic transcript
References (usually two, some only require one)
A supporting statement (similar to the UCAS personal statement)
A completed application form which may ask for a project proposal and information about the support put in place for the student
Some programmes require the supervisor to make the application on behalf of the student, whereas the student is responsible for submitting the application for others. Certain programmes also require the supervisor (and student) to be a member of the organisation funding them, and there may be a membership fee for that.
How do I Find a Project?
This is a tough question because it varies by programme. Depending on which programme you apply to, you might have to find a supervisor and develop a project with them. Some summer studentships have a list of labs/supervisors you can choose from; some ask applicants to get in touch with supervisors from a list that is made available.
Note for International Students
International students may not be eligible for some summer studentships. There are programmes that explicitly state that they are only open to students of Home fee status but for most, the wording is very vague. They usually say their programme is open to students who are residents in the UK, whose purpose of residence is not mainly to receive full time education. (This basically excludes all international students who move to the UK to start full time study.)
International students are permitted to work full time during university vacation periods so don’t let the working hours per week put you off from applying! If you’re not sure if you’d be eligible to apply for a programme, get in touch with the programme administrator to find out.
How Do I Choose Which Summer Studentship to Apply For?
Eligibility. There’s no point in putting in all the hard work for an ineligible application.
Your area of interest
Location. Do you want to stay in the city you’re currently in or go somewhere else?
Duration of the project. It is the summer holidays and you shouldn’t spend all of it doing research without getting a break. If you’re an international student, you should consider how this affects the amount of time you get to spend with family and friends back at home.
The application process. There can be a lot of things to prepare and that takes a lot from you.
Any costs to applying e.g. membership fee
Summer studentships are targeted towards undergraduate students in the middle years of their studies who have not had substantial research experience. If this is you and you’re interested in research, why not try applying for one?
I hope this post has been helpful! I have created a spreadsheet of all the programmes that I came across when looking for summer studentships to apply to (attached below), please feel free to use it as your starting point when researching programmes.
In this sheet, I focus on summer studentships in the UK and not those overseas as there might be increased costs and pandemic-related restrictions for overseas programmes. Good luck with your summer studentship applications and make sure to share this if it might help anyone you know!