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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Careers Service Bursary Scheme for PhD students has been suspended for Summer 2021. The Scheme will be reviewed for Summer 2022

About the scheme

The bursary scheme is for PhD students who wish to undertake unpaid or low-paid work experience in the following sectors where it is hard to get paid experience: media, arts & heritage, and not for profit. Successful applicants are awarded a bursary of up to £500 to cover their costs.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so we encourage you to apply as soon as you are ready.

Who can apply?

The scheme is open to all University of Cambridge PhD students. You are eligible to apply for a bursary up to 6 months after you submit your soft-bound thesis, or until the date you have your viva, whichever is sooner.

MPhil and Masters students are not eligible. Undergraduates can apply for the undergraduate bursary scheme

You may only apply once you have a confirmed offer of work experience. 

If you have received a Careers Service PhD bursary in a previous year, you can apply again if your second placement will give you significantly different experiences and benefits to the first one. You cannot be awarded a second bursary to work in a similar organisation doing a similar placement as the first one, and you cannot be awarded a second bursary to work again in the same organisation but in a slightly different role. Your application should describe clearly how the benefits you will get in this placement are different from the benefits you got in your previous placement.

What types of work experience are funded?

Your work experience (or similar unpaid, or very low paid work) should be in one of the following sectors: Arts & heritage, Media, Not for profit. It should last for a minimum of 15 working days. This could be full time, or part time over a longer period.

You may find it helpful to consult the feedback reports from previous recipients via Handshake.

Funding will not be given if a company should be paying you a fair wage. In addition, you cannot receive a bursary for the following categories of work:

  • Work that you did before the date of submission of your application
  • Courses or training, for instance technical skills training
  • Conference attendance
  • Research essential to the completion of your PhD: archive visits, fieldwork trips etc
  • Freelance work or setting up your own organisation
  • Work experience within the University of Cambridge
  • Work experience which is paid at or above the National Minimum Wage.

Please note that the Careers Service and awarding bodies cannot undertake to investigate organisations to check that they are well regulated, safe or comply with legal requirements.

If you are not sure whether your proposed organisation or work placement is eligible, or if you would like to undertake work experience that does not fall into the three sectors stated above, please email as early as possible.

The application process and bursary report

Bursaries are awarded to applicants who successfully demonstrate how receiving a bursary will benefit their future career by enabling them to gain valuable skills and experience. They are not financially means-tested, nor are they awarded on the basis of academic performance.

Before applying, you must secure a confirmed offer of work experience. You can then download and complete the online application form (the link will be available soon for 2021 applications) and budget form and email these along with your CV to before the application deadline.

In your application you should show clearly:

  • what skills and experience you hope to gain in the media, arts & heritage or not for profit sector
  • the extent to which, without this bursary, you would not otherwise be able to undertake the experience
  • the benefits your presence will bring to the organisation and those they aim to serve
  • that you will be working on a real project with clear outcomes.

Representatives from organisations independent of the Careers Service will meet in Easter Term to decide on bursary recipients. Any offer will be conditional upon confirmation from the organisation offering your placement. You must take up the position on the agreed starting date.  

Successful candidates will be required to submit a bursary report (two sides of A4) before the deadline listed below. Your bursary report will be made available to other students through the Careers Service. You must have done a minimum of fifteen days’ work prior to this report deadline.

By applying to the bursary scheme you are agreeing to the terms and conditions given at the bottom of this page.

Change of circumstances

You must let us know as soon as possible if your circumstances change after making your application, by emailing This could include:

  • If you receive further confirmed offers of work experience and wish to take up a different offer to the one you applied for
  • If your offer of work experience is withdrawn
  • If you change your mind

Key 2020 dates

9am, 3 July Application deadline
17 July Results announced
TBC First half of bursary paid, after we have received your bank form
30 November Work experience to be completed
20 December  Submission deadline for feedback report
TBC Final payment, upon approval of your feedback report
Terms and conditions

Permission to undertake a work placement

It is your responsibility to ensure that your PhD supervisor is fully aware of your intention to take time away from your doctoral studies and has given permission for you to do so.

You should also check carefully the terms & conditions of any funding you may have. Many funders have their own rules about how much time can be taken away from the work which they are sponsoring, and/or may require notification about time away.

The award of a bursary should not be regarded as equivalent to, or a substitute for, permission to take time away from your work where this would otherwise be needed.


By making an application you agree to release all of the personal details in your application (your name, contact details, CV, and answers to questions) to the members of the selection panel.


The University (including the Careers Service and the Researcher Development Committee) cannot undertake to investigate organisations in order to check that they are well regulated, safe, or comply with legal requirements. The University accepts no liability for loss or damage suffered whilst undertaking the work placement. The award of a bursary to join an organisation is not our official endorsement that the organisation will be able to offer or fulfil their obligation to provide useful work experience. Any information provided by the Careers Service is general information only and should not be relied upon in deciding whether to accept a placement.

Voluntary work, especially abroad, may not always be well organised. You are responsible for checking that working conditions and, where applicable, travel and accommodation arrangements, are satisfactory and that they meet the minimum standards you had agreed with the organisation concerned when arranging the placement.

Your data and use of your feedback report

By applying to this scheme, you agree that in the event of your application being successful, you will submit an anonymous feedback report by the deadline. You give permission for your report to be shared in part or in whole with the funders of the bursary scheme, and for it to be uploaded onto the password-protected section of the Careers Service website. You give permission for excerpts from your report to be used by the Careers Service in relevant material, e.g. the Careers Service Guide, bursary scheme marketing, and relevant pages on the Careers Service website. You agree that your report will be held by the Careers Service for a maximum of 5 years and will then be deleted.