Policy internships

The Research Council Policy Internships Scheme provides the opportunity for Research Council funded PhD students to work for three months in one of a selected group of highly influential policy organisations.

Please note that this call is now closed. The information and documents provided below are for information purposes only.

Next funding opportunity

Call status: Closed
Call opening date: June 2018
Call closing date: August 2018


The research councils organise internships for current research council-funded PhD students to work in highly impactful host organisations on one or more policy topics relevant to both the student and the host. The student will be expected to produce at least one briefing paper, participate in a policy inquiry and/or organise a policy event, or equivalent piece of work.

Internships are awarded to a number of parliamentary departments, government departments and non-governmental bodies, learned societies and other organisations.

The 23 hosting partners for the 2017-18 competition round are:


Internships are financially supported by the research councils and hosting partner organisations. For all students, PhD stipend and fees must continue to be paid by your research organisation as normal throughout your three month internship period. Students will also be able to claim for travel and accommodation costs incurred during the internship up to a maximum limit of £2,400 per student. Studentships will be extended for duration of three months to accommodate this internship.


Internships are available to all current research council-funded PhD students. Internships must start before the end of the funded period of the studentship and prior to submitting their thesis.

NERC-eligible students are those funded directly from a NERC doctoral training grant and also students with at least 50% funding from a NERC research centre. Students who are co-funded by NERC but whose funding is administered by another research council (eg NERC/ESRC studentships) are also eligible to apply.

How to apply

Applicants should complete the online application form. Applicants must also upload three documents before submitting their application:

  1. a CV
  2. a signed funding and permissions form (see below)
  3. a policy briefing.

For further information, applicants are advised to read the guidance and host partner information documents provided below.

If you are having trouble accessing the online application form, please contact the NERC Research Careers Team for an alternative version of this form.

Assessment of applications is a two stage process: there will be an assessment of the written application and applicants successful at this stage will be invited to interview. The application process will be completed at both stages by the host organisation.

Please note, only one application can be submitted by each applicant. The applicant must specify within their application which host organisation they wish to undertake an internship with and bear in mind any organisation specific guidance available in the applicant guidance document when preparing their application.

Examples of previous work

Follow the links below to examples of work that PhD students contributed to during their policy internships:

Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology (POST)

Centre for Science & Policy

The Research Service (RS, National Assembly for Wales)

Biodiversity Offsetting research paper (PDF, 662KB) - external link

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): The authorisation process for cultivation (PDF, 201KB) - external link

The Royal Society

Previous Policy Internships competition rounds

All RCUK Policy Interns are required to complete a reporting and feedback form within one month of completing their internship. These forms should be submitted to researchcareers@nerc.ac.uk.

Policy internships student feedback form (Word, 67KB)

Opportunities for host partners

The research councils work with a group of highly influential policy organisations who act as host partners for the policy internship scheme. In 2017 the research councils held a call for host partners and 23 organisations joined the scheme for two annual competitions in the first instance.

Organisations that are interested in joining the scheme outside of the normal cycle of a call for host partners can complete an online registration form to express an interest. Expressions of interest will be considered by the research councils and if successful, organisations will be invited to join the scheme for the next annual competition. In order to be considered as a new host partner for the 2018 competition, completed forms must be received by 16:00 on 30 April 2018.

Further information about the scheme and the requirements for host partners is available from the guidance document below.

Guidance document for policy internship host partners (PDF, 167KB)

NERC currently coordinates the scheme on behalf of the research councils and any enquiries should be directed to the NERC Research Careers team researchcareers@nerc.ac.uk in the first instance.


NERC Research Careers Team

What do past interns say about their experiences?

Below are some quotes from some past interns. For more details of how a policy internship can be beneficial, please read each of the case studies:

The most enjoyable thing was just being there, right in Westminster, and feeling like you were at the centre of power. But also knowing that you're potentially influencing MPs and Lords by presenting the information you think they really need to know about.

- Lyndsey Dodds
Lyndsey's case study (PDF, 288KB)

I always wanted to be a scientific advisor in government, that was my dream.

- Nicola Ranger
Nicola's case study (PDF, 403KB)