Flexible research careers funding policies

Research Careers

We're committed to developing and supporting a strong, pioneering and diverse community of the very best scientists and clinicians. We understand our researchers may follow varied career paths to become the research leaders of tomorrow, and these flexible funding policies are designed to accommodate yours.

If you’re considering applying for funding, these policies outline where we can be flexible with our eligibility criteria to accommodate your circumstances. And if you’re already a CRUK researcher, these flexible working policies are designed to ensure we continue to support you as you develop your own research path.


Eligibility criteria when applying for fellowships

We know making the transition to your next career stage can be challenging. You should be able to apply to us for funding at the right time for you and your career rather than by an artificial cut-off point. So as part of our commitment to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in research, in 2018 we’re removing the post-PhD time restrictions on all our response-mode fellowship schemes.

Our new competency framework for fellowship applicants is intended as guidance for you to consider which funding opportunity is right for you to support your transition to the next career stage. This framework shifts the focus from the number of years post-PhD onto your achievements and your level of independence, your research ambition, and the skills you can demonstrate. You should be able to demonstrate that you meet the range of skills and experience as outlined in the appropriate career stage for you.

Our competency framework will apply to all fellowship schemes with a preliminary application deadline after August 2018. Specific eligibility rules may also apply for individual fellowship funding schemes.

Career breaks (due to personal circumstances), part-time working and changes in discipline will be taken into consideration by our panels and committees to make appropriate adjustments when assessing your record of outputs, research achievements and career progression.

If you need further guidance, please contact the Research Funding Manager for the scheme you are interested in and they can advise on your suitability.

Flexible and part-time working

We are very supportive of researchers applying and working part-time if you’re funded by us. You can request to work part-time or flexibly on any of our awards, as long as this fits with the needs of your Host Institution and your request is approved by them. As a general rule for fellowship applicants, we expect at least 0.5 FTE or 80% of your working hours, whichever is greater, to be spent on academic research. 

Applying on a part-time basis

If you’d like to request a part-time award in your application, the scheme’s application guidelines will provide information on how to request this via our online application system, eGMS. For fellowship applicants, we advise you to talk to the relevant Research Funding Manager before applying.

Continuing on a part-time basis

If you’re a current Cancer Research UK Grantholder and would like to continue your award on a part-time basis, you can make your request in writing. First, we advise you get in touch with your Research Funding Manager to discuss the process.

Dr Jo Waller

Flexible working has enabled me to juggle home and work responsibilities more easily, and to continue with my career while also being present at home. I’ve got two children who are now 11 and 13, and I’ve worked part time since they were born. CRUK have been very supportive, allowing me to complete my fellowship on a part time basis over a longer duration.

Dr Jo Waller, Career Development Fellow

Parental or other long-term leave

If you’re a researcher or student funded by us, we provide support in the event that you might need to take long-term leave during your grant period.

Paid leave entitlements for our research staff (including clinical students)

As research staff funded by us, you’re entitled to take parental (maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption), sick or other long-term leave in accordance with your Host Institution’s terms of employment.

If you’re based at one of our Institutes, your paid leave entitlements may be paid from the institute’s core funding.

In all other cases, we mandate, as a condition of its funding, that your Host Institution bear the costs of your paid leave entitlements consistently with its own employment policies. In other words, although we do not fund your paid leave entitlements directly, we do ensure that, as a CRUK-funded researcher, you are entitled to the same paid leave entitlements as your colleagues through your Host Institution. (If we have funded your salary allocation and you need to take a period of long-term leave, your salary allocation can be used to pay for cover for your position to ensure the research can continue). Further, if you hold a clinical fellowship or studentship, we require that your host institution waive any qualifying period that you would otherwise need to work before being entitled to paid leave.

Paid leave entitlements for our students (non-clinical)

We recognise that, unlike clinical students, non-clinical students will typically not be employed by their Host Institution and so will not have the same entitlements to paid leave as their staff colleagues. For non-clinical students funded by us who need to take a period of parental or long-term sick leave, we will provide funding for paid leave entitlements for a duration as determined by CRUK. Please see our studentship entitlements for long-term leave outlined in our parental or other long-term leave policy.

Other support

We will also consider requests on a case-by-case basis to suspend your award or to extend the end date through a no cost extension following long-term leave.

If you’re a fellowship grantholder and research activities have continued during your period of leave, we may consider requests on a case-by-case basis for a cost extension to cover additional direct research costs (eg. research related consumables and to retain direct research staff) and to extend the end date. Such requests need to be discussed with us and approved in advance.

Full details of our support can be found in our parental or other long-term leave policy. All such requests need to be made in writing and your Research Funding Manager for further advice.

Dr Doryen Bubeck

I've felt incredible support from CRUK on both a professional and personal level. My team solved one of the biggest questions in the field of complement immunology at the same time as I was starting a family. CRUK enabled me to delay the activation date of the award until I returned to work with my first child, and extended the fellowship for the length of my maternity leave with my second.

Dr Doryen Bubeck, Career Establishment Awardee

Terms of our parental, sick or other long-term leave policy for funded researchers

The full formal terms of our policy are available to download, or sections from the policy are available to read below.

  1. Researchers funded by Cancer Research UK are entitled to take the full period of parental and other long-term leave in accordance with their Host institution’s standard employment policies and procedures on the issue.

  2. In accordance with Cancer Research UK’s Grant Conditions, the Host Institution must bear the costs of an employed research staff member’s paid parental or other long-term leave.

  3. All students funded by Cancer Research UK are entitled to paid parental, sick or long-term leave as follows:

  4. For Clinical Research Training Fellows (CRTFs): as employees of the Host Institution, CRTFs are covered by para 3.1 and 3.2 above. Note, in accordance with the Clinical Principles & Obligations as detailed in para 9.1 below, the Host Institution should waive any qualifying period.

  5. For non-clinical students and MB-PhD students, recognising that they are not employees of the Host Institution:

    i. Cancer Research UK will bear the costs of: 
    a) a non-clinical student’s parental, sick or long-term leave at the Cancer Research UK stipend rate for a fixed duration according to the type of leave taken.
    b) MB-PhD student’s parental, sick or long-term leave whilst the student is undertaking the 3-year PhD training and during which CRUK is paying their stipend. The leave entitlement is at the Cancer Research UK stipend rate for a fixed duration according to the type of leave taken

Leave type

Paid leave entitlement

Sick leave

4 months at full stipend then 4 months at half stipend p.a.

Maternity/adoption leave

26 weeks at full stipend, then 13 weeks at statutory rate, then 13 weeks unpaid

Paternity or partner leave

2 weeks at full stipend

Shared parental leave

Cancer Research UK will match the entitlement for paid maternity/adoption leave (less 2 weeks mandatory maternity/adoption leave), adjusted according to the duration of leave and payments received by the other parent.

ii. There is no qualifying period for taking long-term leave.

iii. Students are entitled to paid parental, sick or long-term leave provided that they return to work for a period of time as agreed with their supervisor.

iv. Students must also follow their Host Institution’s notification requirements.

v.The Host Institution must keep accurate records and certificates (eg maternity certificate, MATB1 form, sick notes) of leave entitlement as it would for employees.

vi. In the first instance, Cancer Research UK expects the cost of the paid leave to be borne as follows:
a) For students on Cancer Research UK response-mode funded grants - through any underspend on the Studentship Grant or its Parent Grant (eg. the Programme or Fellowship Grant))
b) For students funded at Cancer Research UK Centres and Institutes - through any available funds (underspend) on the institution’s training account.

vii. As the cost of the paid leave should be borne through underspend where possible, the cost should be charged to the relevant grant or training account in the first instance. CRUK’s expectation is institutions will be able to find funds to cover these costs either from the grant or training account. If, at final reconciliation, that is not the case, for students funded at Cancer Research UK Centres and Institutes, institutions should discuss with CRUK about using any core funding underspend. 

  1. Where a Cancer Research UK Grantholder or other Cancer Research UK funded researcher (including students) takes parental, sick or other long-term leave, Cancer Research UK will, where appropriate, extend the official end date of the Grant through a no cost extension for the period equivalent to the period of leave taken.

  2. Where a Cancer Research UK funded student on a Programme or Fellowship Grant (the parent Grant) takes parental, sick or other long-term leave but a no cost extension to the parent Grant is not required, the studentship may need to be completed after the end date of the parent Grant. In such cases, the Host Institution must ensure the student has appropriate support and supervision to complete the studentship.

  1. Where the Grantholder is a Cancer Research UK Fellow, Cancer Research UK may also consider the following requests:

  2. Cancer Research UK may suspend the Fellowship during the period of leave. During this suspension period, no payments will be made to the Host Institution with respect to that Grant. The official end date of the Grant may be extended through a no cost extension for the period equivalent to the period of leave taken.

  3. Cancer Research UK may provide a costed grant extension for the Fellowship up to the period equivalent to the period of leave taken, where the research activities of the Fellowship have continued during the Fellow’s period of leave.

    In these circumstances, any remaining underspend should be used in the first instance to fund cost extensions; however, additional cost requests will be considered if the underspend is not sufficient. Requests for costed extensions should be made to Cancer Research UK as early as possible before the end date and within 6 months of the originally scheduled end date. Any additional costs requested must be direct research costs only (e.g. research related consumables and direct research salaries as per our Costs Guidance).

    Requests for such cost extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis and the Grantholder must provide assurance that there will be adequate supervision for research staff during this period.

  1. Cancer Research UK will also consider supporting the continuation of a Grant on a part-time, flexible working basis to allow researchers to combine caring responsibilities or any other reason and their academic research. Cancer Research UK will always consider requests as long as they fit in with the needs of the employing Host Institution. As a general rule, where the Grantholder is a Cancer Research UK Fellow and Cancer Research UK pays their salary, we expect at least 0.5 FTE or 80% of the Fellow’s working hours, whichever is greater, to be spent on academic research by the Fellow.

  1. Any of the above requests to change the structure or period of the Grant must be made in writing by the Host Institution and approved by Cancer Research UK in advance of the period of leave commencing.

  1. Cancer Research UK will take into consideration time spent outside of research such as parental or other long-term leave when reviewing the suitability of applicants. Applicants should clearly detail and explain periods of leave from research or part-time working in their application.  

  2. Details of periods of leave or part-time working will be used by Cancer Research UK’s Expert Review Panels and Committees to make appropriate adjustments when assessing an applicant’s record of outputs, research achievements and career progression.

  1. CRUK is a signatory to ‘UK clinical academic training in medicine and dentistry: principles and obligations’In the event of a Cancer Research UK Clinical Fellow or Clinical Research Training Fellow having changed employers to become a new employee of the Host Institution as a result of taking up a Grant in order to pursue their career pathway, certain occupational benefits, which have accrued as a result of continuous service of employment must be recognised and protected by the Host Institution. This includes any changes in employer from a NHS trust/board to an academic institution or vice versa. In principle, there should be no detriment to moving in either direction. These include as a minimum all family and care-related leave and pay (not limited to gender or sexual orientation) and sick leave and pay (irrespective of disability status or health history).

More career development opportunities for researchers

Research Career Development

We offer a range of fellowships, bursaries and other support to help outstanding scientists and clinicians develop their independent research careers.