The University of Sunderland will benefit from a boost for Arts and Humanities PhD students in the North East and Northern Ireland.

The investment in 335 postgraduate students studying 28 different disciplines has been announced by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

They will be based at one of the members of the Northern Bridge Consortium, which is made up of Sunderland, Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Queen’s University Belfast, Teesside and Ulster universities.

The places which will be made over the next five years, marks a new era of collaboration between the alliance, which boasts world-class strengths across all Arts and Humanities disciplines, as well as meeting needs in areas of strategic priority such as Heritage and Design.

The Northern Bridge Consortium will offer students the highest possible quality of experience and support. The partners will work together to administer an annual competition for PhD scholarships and to deliver an innovative, world-class training programme for successful applicants.

Beryl Graham, Professor of New Media Art, who has been representing Sunderland’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, during the application process, said: “These AHRC-funded studentships are crucial long-term opportunities, and since 2004 in this Faculty they have helped artists, designers, glass, ceramic and digital makers, writers, and curators to develop their careers.

This new consortium adds subject areas such as Media, and includes existing professional partnerships with BBC, Sage Gateshead, Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, and Open Data Institute.
“I’m so glad that Sunderland’s early innovation in art and design practice-led PhDs in the 1990s, has led to such a firm foundation of expert supervisors, and expert doctoral graduates who are now working at the highest level from the USA to India.”

She added: “This Consortium brings together all arts and humanities disciplines in a deliberately complimentary way, with great Northern spirit, which has proved
successful in a highly competitive National selection, and I look forward to seeing us reach critical mass!”

Dr Annie Tindley, Northern Bridge Consortium Director and Academic Director at Newcastle University, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone considering a doctorate in the arts and humanities. Northern Bridge students are not just funded to undertake exciting and innovative research, but also benefit from being part of a cohort of fellow students receiving the best quality training and international opportunities across the North East of England and Northern Ireland.”

Professor Edward Harcourt, the AHRC’s Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation commented: “The AHRC is delighted to announce its renewed commitment to the Doctoral Training Partnerships model. Our support for the next generation of arts and humanities researchers is critical to securing the future of the UK arts and humanities sector, which accounts for nearly a third of all UK academic staff, is renowned the world over for its outstanding quality, and which plays a vital part in our higher education ecosystem as a whole.

“We were extremely pleased with the response to our call, which saw high-quality applications from across the UK from a variety of diverse and innovative consortia, each with a clear strategy and vision for the future support of their doctoral students.”

Northern Bridge will promote regional cohesion and development for the North East and Northern Ireland. As part of its commitment to collaborative working, it has developed strategic partnerships with regional, national and international cultural organisations, such as BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, and the British School at Rome.

Crucially, the consortium will seek to award 20% of studentships to Collaborative Doctoral projects, where the student works closely with an external partner. This builds upon its previous success in this area with partners such as Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books and Belfast City Council. Northern Bridge has also brought on board two Local Enterprise Partnerships in order to gain direct access to industry and other private-sector organisations.