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

The eligibility criteria for our fellowship schemes include an assessment of the number of years of professional research experience you have since completing your PhD. This is because we want to ensure applicants are being evaluated amongst their peer group.

If you think you fall outside of these criteria, however, please contact us, as individual circumstances are taken into account. For example, we’ll take into consideration time spent outside of research for reasons such as parental leave, adoption leave or sick leave, when reviewing the eligibility of applicants.

We also recognise that, on return from leave, you may have returned part-time, and may have taken some time to build your research activities and networks again. If you have taken leave for caring responsibilities as a primary or shared caregiver, that period of leave as well as up to an additional 12 months will be factored in when considering eligibility. If you are concerned about the eligibility criteria, the key thing is to please contact us, because we do exercise flexibility and common sense in applying them.

When it comes to the application itself, it’s important to provide as much explanation as possible in your application about periods of leave or previous flexible working. These details will be used by our Expert Review Panels and Committees to make appropriate adjustments when assessing an individual’s track record, productivity and career progression.

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 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 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, recognising that they are not employees of the Host Institution:

  6. Cancer Research UK will bear the costs of a non-clinical student’s parental or long-term leave 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.

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

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

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

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

  11. In the first instance, Cancer Research UK expects the cost of the paid leave to be borne as follows:

  12. 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);

  13. For students funded at Cancer Research UK Centres and Institutes - through any underspend on the institution’s training account or core funding.

  14. If the leave costs cannot be borne through underspend, then the Host Institution should contact the Cancer Research UK office to discuss further.

  1. Where a Cancer Research UK Grantholder or other Cancer Research UK funded researcher (including students) takes parental leave or other long-term leave, Cancer Research UK will consider, on a case-by-case basis, requests to 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 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 9-12 months before 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, 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. When applying for Cancer Research UK support, Cancer Research UK will take into consideration time spent outside of research such as parental or other long-term leave when reviewing the eligibility of applicants. Where the applicant has taken leave for caring responsibilities as the primary caregiver, that period of leave as well as up to an additional twelve months will be allowed when considering eligibility.

  2. Applicants should clearly detail and explain periods of leave from research or part-time working in their application. 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 track record, productivity 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 accrued employment rights which are linked to continued service of employment must be recognised and protected by the Host Institution. These rights include, but are not limited to, parental leave and other long-term leave.

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.

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