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Stirling shares in arts and humanities research funding

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University of Stirling students are to benefit from new national funding for arts and humanities research.

The investment, from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), was awarded to the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH) Doctoral Training Partnership – a higher education consortium including Stirling.

The funding will support 190 PhD students over the next five years. Additional investment will be provided by Scottish higher education institutions, for a further 95 awards.

SGSAH is one of 10 consortia across the UK to be given funding as part of the AHRC’s £170 million Doctoral Training Partnerships.

Professor Richard Oram, Dean of Stirling’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, said: “This is fantastic news for Stirling and our higher education partners across Scotland.

“Students from our Faculty have a strong track record of success in the SGSAH programme – and the new funding will allow us to continue to provide excellent support for the next generation of postgraduates advancing arts and humanities research.”

Stirling student Shona Main told how her research activities benefit from SGSAH support.

Shona, who is based in the Faculty of Arts and HumanitiesCommunications, Media and Culture division, said: “In 2015, my now-advisor Dr Sarah Neely saw the independent research I was doing on the Shetland filmmaker Jenny Gilbertson and contacted me to ask if I had considered postgraduate study. At that point, I had been out of academia since 2000 and was working as a filmmaker.

Shona Main

Shona Main

“I had discussions with Dr Neely and others in the department and, from these, worked up a research question and proposal for SGSAH that did justice to Gilbertson, the subject and my potential.

“I’m interested in Gilbertson because she is another uncelebrated woman of extraordinary vision with a remarkable body of work that speaks to the times we live in. She filmed being with her Shetland friends in the 1930s and later, in the Arctic in the 1970s, developed deep and lasting friendships with families who helped make a number of films that document the mundane and extraordinary nature of everyday Inuit life.

“I’m currently carrying out fieldwork in Grise Fiord in Nunavut, exactly 40 years after Gilbertson, hearing the experiences of those she lived and filmed with whilst making a new film of being with those I have befriended.

“This fieldwork builds upon a SGSAH residency I completed with Shetland Archives, cataloguing her collection of papers, images and sound files and developing a greater intimacy with her filmmaking approach, which is informing my own. From the public screenings and talks I have done, it is clear there’s an interest – and surprise – at Gilbertson’s work.

“I’d like to work with others to widen her audience and, in my research, explore what documentary filmmakers today can learn from Gilbertson.

“My advice to anyone wanting to do this kind of research is to find exactly the right advisor who is going to help you become the researcher you need to be. Then really examine what it is that you can offer your area of interest.

“I’ve found a very supportive set of circumstances and people at Stirling to help me do that. This is very important when you have been working outside of academia and have to find your way back in to the language, the culture and a world of brilliant thinking and ideas which you can – and hopefully will – contribute to.”

Fraser McQueen, who is based in the Faculty of Arts and HumanitiesLiterature and Languages division, said: “In 2015, while living in France and having recently finished my MLitt in French Studies, I became interested in studying how Islamophobia in contemporary France has been represented in literature and film. This was largely motivated by my first-hand experiences of seeing or hearing about the ways in which Muslim friends were treated: while Islamophobia is a problem throughout Europe, the West, and beyond, it seemed to me to be particularly normalised in France, and I first became interested in my project because I wanted to understand why.

Fraser McQueen

Fraser McQueen

“After looking into the research being done in my field at a number of institutions, I became convinced that the University of Stirling was the best place for my project and, in particular, that I’d benefit from the supervision of my primary supervisor, Dr Fiona Barclay. It was Dr Barclay who suggested that I apply for the DTP programme, after which she and my other co-supervisors Dr Nadia Kiwan at the University of Aberdeen and Professor David Murphy at Stirling helped me through the application process and I was lucky enough to be accepted.

“As well as the various training and networking opportunities to which the DTP programme has given me access, it’s also given me the chance to co-organise a one-day symposium for all of the students in our cohort: valuable experience for any PhD student, regardless of their plans upon completion of their thesis.

“The best piece of advice that I could give prospective applicants would be to work as closely as possible with their future supervisor when writing up their application. I was lucky to have a huge amount of help from Dr Barclay in writing my application and it was much better as a result: that she was willing to help me in that way was also a big part of why I ended up choosing to study at Stirling, rather than any of the other institutions I’d been in touch with.”

Professor Edward Harcourt, the AHRC’s Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation, said: “The AHRC is delighted to announce its renewed commitment to the Doctoral Training Partnerships model. Our support for the next generation of arts and humanities researchers is critical to securing the future of the UK arts and humanities sector, which accounts for nearly a third of all UK academic staff, is renowned the world over for its outstanding quality, and which plays a vital part in our higher education ecosystem as a whole.

“We were extremely pleased with the response to our call, which saw high-quality applications from across the UK from a variety of diverse and innovative consortia, each with a clear strategy and vision for the future support of their doctoral students.”

Founded in 2014, SGSAH is the world’s first national graduate school for the arts and humanities, supporting 1750 doctoral researchers in 16 higher education institutions across Scotland.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has awarded an additional £1.2 million to allow the graduate school to continue providing training opportunities, including paid doctoral internships and participation in its annual national Summer School, for students registered across all 16 institutions, irrespective of their funding source.

Dr Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation at the SFC, said: “Scotland’s culture and its economic growth are supported by our universities’ strength in the arts and humanities. SGSAH harnesses the collective leadership of the sector to ensure Scotland provides the very best training to doctoral students in these disciplines, across the whole country.

“SFC is pleased to continue our partnership with the AHRC and the Scottish universities to provide even more opportunities for the next generation of researchers in the arts and humanities.”

  • Background information

    The Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities is a partnership between the AHRC, SFC and 16 higher education institution members.

    University of Stirling

    The University of Stirling is ranked fifth in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Stirling is committed to providing education with a purpose and carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society.

    Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community.

    The University’s scenic central Scotland campus – complete with a loch, castle and golf course – is home to more than 14,000 students and 1500 staff representing around 120 nationalities. This includes an ever-expanding base for postgraduate study.

    stir.ac.uk @stiruni

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