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The fellowship for harried academics—and political exiles

The Hanse-Wissenschafts-kolleg (HWK), one of Germany’s Institutes for Advanced Study, is run as a not-for-profit foundation of the states of Bremen and Lower Saxony and the city of Delmenhorst in north-west Germany. It has ties with universities in Bremen and Oldenburg, and other scientific institutions in the north-west, and focuses its activity on four research fields: brain and mind; earth; technology and science; and arts and literature.

The HWK’s fellowships give scholars of any nationality the opportunity to study at the HWK for between three and 10 months. Regular fellowships are for researchers with more than five years’ post-PhD experience and are supported by a personal stipend of up to €5,000 a month.

Junior fellowships are for those who have completed their PhD within the past five years, with stipends of up to €2,000 a month. Proposed projects must fit in with one of the HWK’s research fields.

All fellows are granted rent-free accommodation on the HWK campus, with some provision for families also available. Fellows can also apply for a one-off payment to cover personal travel costs, but funding of research expenditure is not provided.

Applications should be submitted between one and two years before the desired start date. The call for fellowships opens once a year: the 2024 round is open now, with a deadline of 15 July.

The fellowships are open to scholars in a variety of professional situations, including political exiles. This was Andrei Yakovlev’s case, and he was glad to find a welcoming environment to work in, as he relates here. His fellowship runs until October.

What is your project about? 

I am trying to understand how the degradation of Russian political and social institutions that led to the country’s declaration of war on Ukraine could have happened. I want to determine what actions internal and external actors could take to prevent similar developments in other countries. 

What was your personal situation when you applied?  

I left Russia, along with my position at my home university in Moscow, after the war in Ukraine started. [I became a] visiting scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and started to think about a book on this topic.

The idea to apply for this fellowship came from German colleagues and friends who I’ve known for many years. I considered other opportunities, but this fellowship was best suited to me because it provided not only financial support for the project but also an apartment to live in and a friendly environment. 

Are you collaborating with colleagues in Germany? 

Yes. While my project proposal for the HWK was about preparing a book based on my research, it’s not just about me but other colleagues as well. 

I have two partners on this project at the University of Bremen: Heiko Pleines from the Research Centre for East European Studies, and Michael Rochlitz from the Department of Economics. Both are colleagues and collaborators of long standing. I have also extended my local contacts to colleagues at Constructor University [a private university in Bremen]. 

What feedback did you get on your application and how did it alter the bid?

I actually got most of the feedback from my project partners, as the HWK did not provide formal feedback during the application process. In particular, there was a comment about the structure and composition of my proposal.

Initially I tried to provide more specific details about Russian [examples and events] but I was told there was not enough general information about the economic and political development in Russia for non-specialist readers. They recommended I formulate some specific points shortly and clearly while adding links to theories in a broader spectrum of literature. This was very useful. 

What advice would you give to potential applicants? 

It’s important to have counter-parts in local universities or local research institutions who are interested in your research and in collaborating with you. In this case, you can expect more detailed feedback on your project. At the application stage, you will only get responses on technical questions about timing and formal conditions. It’s your partners who can really help you improve your proposal. 

I would also advise contacting previous HWK fellows in your field. The HWK supports a very broad spectrum of research; there are only a few people in the social sciences but there are still scholars you can find online who you may be able to contact.

How has the fellowship been so far? 

The HWK is a very good place to do research. It is a very friendly environment, and is excellent in terms of administrative support to manage all necessary formalities, such as getting a bank account in the country.  

When I was in the US, it took me four to six weeks to rent an apartment, find the furniture for it and obtain a Social Security number. All that took me about three days here. Here, you have more time for your project. 

This is an extract from an article in Research Professional’s Funding Insight service. To subscribe contact sales@researchresearch.com