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The British Spanish Society helps postgraduates broaden their horizons

Postgraduate students undertaking research in any field can apply to the British Spanish Society’s scholarships programme. Between £6,000 and £10,000 is available per project and can be used for research materials, travel, academic fees and accommodation. The deadline this year is 30 April.

Marina Pérez de Arcos, head of scholarships at the society, gives some pointers for those weighing up an application.

Who funds these scholarships?

The British Spanish Society is a charity that promotes educational and cultural links between Britain and Spain. Our main source of funding is through events and through our 1,000-strong membership, most of whom are based in the two countries. However, our scholarships are predominantly supported through corporate partnerships. Our sponsors include the Spanish banks Santander and BBVA, a Spanish law firm called Cuatrecasas, a Spanish foundation called Fundación Cañada Blanch and the renewable energy company Plastic Energy. 

When did the postgraduate scholarships programme start?

We started the graduate scholarships scheme 16 years ago to support talented graduate students from either Britain or Spain. There are several charities that promote links between Britain and other countries—but not many support academic scholarships. The scheme is at the forefront of our charity’s mission. Unusually, we also support research in any discipline; we’re not just limited to the humanities or medical sciences, for example.

How many scholarships are you planning to award this year and how much goes to each?

Last year, we awarded a total of £57,000 to seven scholars. We’re planning similar for this year. However, the relationship with our awardees doesn’t end there. We also provide institutional support and a platform for our winners, and they join an alumni of over 100 scholars at various stages in their careers. The awards ceremony for our scholarships is held at the residence of the Spanish ambassador in London, who is our honorary president.

What are the eligibility criteria?

Applicants need to be at postgraduate level—doing a master’s or a PhD—and they must hold either Spanish or British citizenship. They can be based at either a British or a Spanish university when they apply.

How are applications assessed?

We have a committee of academics, specialists and former scholarship winners who assess the applications. Our corporate sponsors are also involved in selecting the winning scholars. Applicants should assume that the assessors will have knowledge of their field but won’t necessarily be specialists in their particular research area. For example, if the proposal is in engineering, it will be assessed by engineers but it might not be evaluated by someone from the same engineering background.

What other tips do you have for potential applicants?

Think creatively about justifying how your project will help to promote links between Britain and Spain. An obvious example would be a research project that compares Britain and Spain. Last year, we funded a fabulous project comparing criminal law and the management of homelessness in Britain and Spain.

There are many ways an applicant can show that their research is meaningful to both countries. For example, a British researcher might want to head out to Spain to work in a lab on a biology project. They need to demonstrate that going to Spain will ensure that they can do an element of their research, that they can learn something or that transfers of knowledge are happening or networks are being built. It doesn’t mean that your case studies, sources or datasets have to be British or Spanish. It’s about the movement of people and ideas.

How else can applicants improve their bids?

We would always advise getting your proposal proofread by a friend or peer. You may write something that you think makes perfect sense but it won’t necessarily make sense to someone who is not familiar with the intricacies of your project. I would also recommend researching the corporate sponsors that fund the call and looking at past research projects listed on our website to get a sense of what we’ve funded in previous years.

What common mistakes should applicants avoid?

Not fleshing out why your institution is the best institution for your particular project. Simply saying ‘I’m at the University of Oxford and it’s wonderful’ is not enough. We need a proper justification that goes beyond the superficial. Is it the best institution for your field of research? Is it because of the people you will be working with? Or the support and training that you get?

What’s the success rate?

We receive quite a high number of applications, although we have noticed a reduction because Brexit has made mobility harder. Actually, this reassures us about our commitment to the programme, because students need to overcome even more challenges to move around. Our scholarships are needed more than ever. 

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