Skip to main content

How to Apply & Eligibility

Applications for the 2023-2024 academic year are now closed.


All undergraduate students in year one of a three-year degree programme, or year one or two of a four-year degree programme at the time of application are eligible to apply. There are no restrictions on discipline/department, college, nationality or fee status (the programme is not open to visiting students). We particularly welcome applications from those under-represented, including people of minority ethnic origin, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, and people who attended state schools and/or are first-generation university students.

Application routes

There are two application routes for the Laidlaw Programme:

The research topic can be selected from:

  •  Academic-Led Research Project Proposals can be found here and in PebblePad. (You will need to log in with your University details to access)
  •  self-proposed (with a confirmed academic supervisor)

Stage 1: Application Form

The application process comprises of an application form and, for shortlisted individuals, an interview. In some individual cases for those applying against a specific project listed from university academics or foundation partners, there may be an additional selection stage required.

For the application form, you will need to:

  • Identify a research project in which you are interested.
  • Find a supervisor who must be an academic member of staff. 

If you are proposing your own project you will need to find a member of academic staff who will be willing to support your application and supervise you throughout the 6-week summer project. You will be asked a number of questions about your project proposal on the application form. You do not need to identify your own academic supervisor if you are applying to the academic proposed projects. 

  • Design your research project. If self-defined, we advise that you seek advice and discuss your ideas with your chosen supervisor in the first instance; your project can be original or related to research that is ongoing in the University. If part of a larger research programme your project must be designed to make a specific contribution. Watch this video on developing your research proposal. 

    If you are applying against a listed project from academic staff or from the foundation, you must take the outline of the project given and provide more detail on what you intend on doing with that project proposal, in line with the questions set out in the application workbook. You will also need to meet with the academic research supervisor for the project prior to completing your application.
  • Write a research proposal. Your proposal will be assessed by an internal reviewer for the quality of project content, potential outputs, and viability for the 6-week timeframe given. A guide to formulating and writing a research proposal can be found here. Those applying with a self-defined project are advised to seek support in formulating and presenting their ideas from their chosen supervisor. 
  • Check whether your proposal would require ethical approval. You should factor in additional time for this (it can take months to obtain approval). You must have approval before your start date, as a project without ethical approval (where required) cannot go ahead.
  • Get an Academic Support Statement or Reference. Those applying with a self-defined project will need to obtain from their supervisor, an "academic support statement" to confirm that they are happy to supervise you and support your application to the programme. Those who are applying against a pre-defined project, either from a university academic or foundation partner will need to get an academic reference. This should be a Durham academic who knows or has taught you personally (but should not be the supervisor of the Laidlaw project you are applying for). The pro-from for these statements or references is available in the application workbook. It will be your responsibility to acquire these and upload them to your application. 

Guidance on completing the application form 

Project essential skills- For those applying against a pre-defined academic-led project

In their project description, each supervisor has given up to three essential skills which you should aim to demonstrate in the first question of your project proposal section where you are asked to provide a description and outline why you are interested in this project. Try to give specific, clear and concrete examples.  

If applying against a pre-defined academic-led project, you will need to meet with them prior to submitting your application. 

Application questions

The application questions are divided into two sections:

  1. Leadership and motivation: the panel will seek to see what has driven your application for the programme and how you intend to use it for future success
  2. The research project: the panel will look for enthusiasm for your chosen project and a well-considered understanding of the research and its potential impact.

Try to keep your answers concise and specific as there is a limited word count for each answer.  

Stage 2: Interview

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to undertake a short face-to-face interview.  If you are shortlisted, you will receive further details about this by email.

Self-proposed projects

If you are proposing your own project, you must find a member of the academic staff to be your supervisor before applying. You will be asked a number of questions about your project proposal on the application form. You should consider these questions together with your project supervisor. Please give as much detail as you can.  

The panel will be looking for a convincing, logical and well-considered project which fits well into a six-week period. However, the panel will not expect you to have worked out every detail at this stage. 

Check whether your proposal would require ethical approval - you should factor in additional time for this (it can take months to obtain approval). You must have approval before your start date, as a project without ethical approval (where required) cannot go ahead. 

How applications are judged

Once you have submitted your application, it will be considered as follows:

  • Applications are initially shortlisted by assessing the personal statement information and the project proposal provided within your application form.
  • Shortlisted applicants are invited to an interview
  • The final selection is made by a Panel which considers the application form, interview, academic reference, or supporting statement feedback from project supervisors.

Places on the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme are awarded on the basis of:

  • leadership potential
  • Interest in making a difference
  • motivation, and
  • academic merit. 

You should aim to demonstrate these elements in your application form.

Important Dates for 2023-2024 applicants:

  • Applications close at 23:59 on 4 February 2024
  • Interviews will be held on the week of 11-14 March 2024 (this is a change as of 16 January)
  • Students will be notified of their outcomes of interviews by 21 March 2024
  • Successful applicants will be invited to a welcome event on 3 June 2024
  • Successful applicants will have leadership development sessions on 5 June, 7 June, 13-14 June, and 17-18 June 2024. All leadership development sessions are compulsory.

Please note that the dates outlined are subject to change

We will contact all applicants via email on the outcome of their application.