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New Generation Thinkers 2020

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Find out more about the background of the New Generation Thinkers scheme.

Call opens: 09:00 Tuesday 16 July 2019

Call closes: 16:00 Tuesday 8 October 2019

New Generation Thinkers was launched in November 2010 at Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival of Ideas. Since then, over 500 academics have attended AHRC and BBC workshops and developed programme ideas. Each year 10 academics are selected to be New Generation Thinkers. They have the opportunity to attend training with both the BBC and the AHRC before embarking on a host of public engagement and media opportunities, not least with Radio 3.

This pioneering public engagement scheme aims to develop a new generation of academics who can bring the best of university research and scholarly ideas to a broad audience through working with the media and public engagement. It’s a chance for early career researchers to cultivate the skills to communicate their research findings to those outside the academic community.

Each year, up to 60 successful applicants have a chance to develop their media skills, including programme-making ideas with experienced BBC producers at a series of dedicated workshops. Of these up to 10 will become New Generation Thinkers and benefit from a series of unique opportunities such as media and public engagement training with the AHRC and developing their own programmes for BBC Radio 3 including a chance to regularly appear on air. There will also be the possibility of working with BBC TV, putting on events for the Being Human Festival and the chance to become a regular blogger.

BBC Radio 3 and its programmes Free Thinking, the Verb, the Essay and the Sunday Feature have provided a platform for debate and commentary from scholars across the world. Many of these feature current and past New Generation Thinkers, many of whom are still making programmes, writing and recording for the BBC. You can listen online to the 2019 New Generation Thinkers recent essays delivered at the Free Thinking Festival.


The New Generation Thinkers scheme is a development opportunity for early career researchers cultivating their skills to communicate their research findings to those outside the academic community.

While the principal aim of the AHRC is to fund research of the highest quality across a diverse range of disciplines, it also has a duty to enhance the public's understanding of the arts and humanities and communicate that research to people who can make use of it. One of the most effective ways of reaching a public audience, changing public opinion and influencing policy and practice is to work with media organisations such as the BBC.

The BBC also wants to find a new generation of academics who can bring the best of the latest university research and scholarly ideas to a broad audience. This is part of Radio 3’s dedication to commissioning and developing emerging talent in music and the arts.

Applications need to be able to propose an engaging and stimulating programme idea as well as show an ability to talk and write about other areas within the arts and humanities in an accessible and interesting manner, with an awareness of a wider listening audience.

Closing Dates

Closing Date: 08/10/2019

How to make an application

Before applying, ensure you read the New Generation Thinkers Scheme Guidance

Clip of film

This short film follows the journey of the 2015 NGT applicants and includes useful tips and advice from successful NGT finalists including what to expect from the BBC-led workshops.

Application process

Applications should demonstrate an engaging and stimulating programme but also demonstrate an ability to talk about other subject areas in an accessible and refreshing manner, with awareness of the wider listening audience. We recommend you listen to the 2019 NGTs’ introduction at the 2019 Free Thinking Festival on the BBC website and read the 2019 call guidance, terms and conditions document. 

Successful workshop applicants

From written submissions to the scheme, up to 60 applicants will be chosen to attend one of three workshops in either Salford or London. At the workshop, you will:

  • Learn from BBC staff how they commission, produce and present radio and television programmes
  • Workshop programme ideas with the help of other candidates and producers
  • Take part in interactive practice sessions to showcase programme ideas and demonstrate their ability to communicate with the listening audience
  • Have the chance to speak to AHRC staff about the scheme, AHRC’s involvement and UK Research and Innovation more widely
  • Meet fellow researchers.

Final applicants

10 successful applicants chosen from the workshops will become an Arts and Humanities Research Council, Radio 3 New Generation Thinker for 2020. They will:

  • Work with BBC producers to develop their own programme ideas for Radio 3 and receive input from BBC Arts
  • Be invited to showcase their research and trail their programme idea at the BBC and AHRC events
  • Appear regularly on air in Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme, available as a BBC Arts & Ideas podcast
  • Write and present an edition of the Essay for Radio 3
  • Have the chance to appear at AHRC events, including the Being Human Festival
  • Work with the AHRC on appearances in the wider media
  • Write articles for the AHRC blog and the AHRC website
  • Attend a two-day session run by the AHRC in London on 18-19 February 2020. This will include a media training course, a photograph and filming session and an evening dinner on the first day.

How to apply

  • Read the call guidance, terms and conditions
  • Applications for New Generation Thinkers 2019 closed on 8 October 2019. We will be in touch by 13 December 2019 if you are successful.

Further Information

Who can apply?

To apply for the New Generation Thinkers scheme, you must be:

  • a UK resident, and
  • Over the age of 18, and
  • Currently working or studying at a UK research organisation that is eligible to receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (see ‘Your organisation’s eligibility’, below), and
  • Studying a relevant area of research (see ‘Your research’, below).

You must also be either:

  1. A current PhD student who has made considerable progress on your research, for example within one year of submission, or
  2. Within eight years of the award of your PhD, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities or health reasons, or
  3. Within six years of your first academic appointment, excluding any period of career break such as parental leave, caring responsibilities or health reasons. This must be a paid contract of employment, either full-time or part-time, which lists research and/or teaching as the primary function, including research assistantships.

You do not need to have a permanent contract of employment to be eligible, as long as you meet the conditions above.

You can apply if you have applied to the scheme before, as long as you weren’t selected as a final New Generation Thinker.

You can’t apply if you work for the BBC, the AHRC or UK Research and Innovation.


For queries on creating Je-S accounts and submitting the application form please contact the Je-S Helpdesk at JeSHelp@je-s.ukri.org or 01793 444164 between 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday. If you call outside office hours, leave a message we will call you back.

For general enquiries regarding this scheme, such as eligibility or project subject matter please contact the AHRC at enquiries@ahrc.ukri.org or telephone 01793 416060 between 8:30am and 4pm Monday to Friday.

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