PhD Studentships


  1. Award
  2. Timeline
  3. Max funding / duration
  4. Success rates
  5. Eligibility
  6. Financial support
  7. Application process
  8. Review process
  9. Contact us


For supervisors proposing a PhD programme with the aim to encourage the development of talented, highly motivated graduates in ophthalmic and vision research.

Alongside applications into any eye condition, this year we are encouraging applications for vision loss related research in epidermolysis bullosa. Successful grants would be co-funded with DEBRA. You can read about DEBRA's research strategy here, which involves four overarching research priorities deemed most likely to deliver outputs for people living with EB. 


  • Applications open – April 2024
  • Deadline – 26 June 2024
  • Rebuttals open – September 2024
  • Deadline – 16 October 2024
  • Funding outcome – December 2024

Max funding / duration

£135,000 (Outside London), £143,000 (In London)

4 years

Success rates

2023/24: 27% (first year as 1-stage scheme)

2022/23: 56% (Stage 1), 60% (Stage 2)

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  • Lead supervisors and co-supervisors must be affiliated with UK academic or medical institutions.
  • The research must take place within the UK, although with justification, a small amount of time can be spent outside the UK to enable the student to travel to collaborator(s) to learn techniques required for their project. Plans and costs should be clearly stated and justified in the application form.
  • Lead supervisors are expected to have a PhD or MD and will usually have a tenured post or be able to demonstrate that they will have a salary for the lifetime of the grant.
  • Applications are limited to one per lead supervisor in either the Project Grant scheme or PhD Studentship scheme. The same applies for co-supervisors.
  • Lead supervisors must not currently have two or more active grants with the charity. An applicant with two active grants where one (or more) is due to end by the outcome date of this scheme may still apply.
  • Lead supervisors can be clinical scientists or research scientists and projects can be clinical or non-clinical.
  • Applications must be made by the potential PhD supervisor(s). Where the primary and secondary supervisors are based at different institutions, a tertiary supervisor based at the host institution is recommended.
  • The student, once appointed, must be enrolled at a UK institution.
  • Where the FTE for the PhD student is under 100%, adequate justification is required.
  • The scheme does not cover funding gaps for Studentships already started.

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Financial support

  • Funding is made in line with AMRC’s position statement on supporting research in universities.
  • Applications can include costs for:
    • Stipends
    • PhD fees at UK rates
    • Consumables of up to £10,000 per year for Years 1-3, up to £5,000 for Year 4
    • Equipment essential for the project
    • Animal costs
    • Open access publication costs
    • Conference costs for the student (including one international conference)
    • Other expenses, such as PPIE or travel
  • Stipends should be in line with the following rates:
    • Outside London: £19,000 Year 1, £19,500 Year 2, £20,000 Year 3, £20,500 Year 4
    • In London: £21,000 Year 1, £21,500 Year 2, £22,000 Year 3, £22,500 Year 4
  • Applications cannot include costs for:
    • Salaries for the lead supervisor or co-supervisors(s)
    • Maintenance of equipment
    • Recruitment costs
    • Indirect costs
    • Non-attributable overhead costs

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Application process

All applications must be submitted via Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation’s Grant Tracker system. New applicants must register for an account to access the application form. Returning applicants can login to their existing account.

You must submit your application for approval by the stated deadline for your submission to be processed.

Following submission, applications will require approval from two authorised signatories of the host institution (Head of Department and Finance Office). We allow 72 hours (three days) from the deadline for approvals. It is recommended to seek the appropriate signatories as early as possible, as these must be added when you submit your application. Please consider any annual leave and double check email addresses, as applications with outstanding approvals 72 hours past the deadline will not be processed.

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Review process

Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and follows their guidelines for best practice in peer review.

PhD Studentships involve a one-step process.

Applications will be scored simultaneously by up to two members of the Research Grants Assessment Panel (RGAP) and up to two external peer reviewers who are experts in the field.

To ensure that we fund the highest quality research, successful awards must pass a minimum quality threshold as determined by Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation's RGAP.

The following review criteria across three key themes are used when considering the application:

Key theme 1: Scientific merit
Category 1: Project

  • An important, clear and focused research question, which is hypothesis driven and/or a PICO question
  • Achievable in the timeframe
  • Adequate and appropriate methods for the research question
  • Evidence to support the feasibility of the project
  • Adequate and appropriate plans for the evaluation of research outcomes, including a sample size / power calculation

Category 2: Research team and environment

  • A research team with suitable experience and expertise evidenced by a good track record that will contribute to the project's success
  • A research environment with the appropriate facilities and resources

Category 3: Governance

  • Appropriate consideration for risks, budget and ethics

Key theme 2: Importance of research

Category 1: Addressing unmet need driven by public involvement

  • Identification of an important, clear unmet need
  • Public involvement in the development of the research proposal, involvement plans throughout the project and engagement plans upon completion
  • Realistic outline of pathway to potential benefit for people with or at risk of sight loss

Category 2: Potential for progress

  • Avoiding duplication of existing or ongoing work
  • Clear pathway to impact
  • Likelihood of significant new understanding or evidence

Key theme 3: Capacity building

Category 1: Training and opportunities

  • Focus on training and development
  • Support from research team and environment

Category 2: Future in vision research

  • Demonstrated interest in remaining, becoming, or training a vision researcher
  • Clear next steps for future studies and funding

Applications scoring below the minimum quality threshold will be rejected at this stage. Applications scoring above the threshold will proceed to the next stage where applicants will have the opportunity to submit a rebuttal of the reviewer comments.

Applications, reviews and rebuttals will be discussed at a RGAP meeting.

The RGAP will make recommendations to Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation's Social Impact and Scientific Research (SISR) Committee on which applications are fundable.

The SISR Committee will then make recommendations to the Board of Trustees considering the RGAP feedback and the strategic interests of the charity.

Outcomes and feedback will be shared with all applicants, including anonymised peer review comments.

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Contact us

For any queries, please contact Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation’s research team at