Exciting new doctoral funding available: Western Medieval manuscript fragments in the Bodleian Library

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies is delighted to share the following details of this exciting AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership training grant for a collaborative project between the University of Kent and the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. The grant covers four years of funding for home fees and stipend. For full project, scholarship and funding details, please see below.

We particularly welcome the applications of those from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds, and we will guarantee interviews for applicants from UK-resident Black, African, Caribbean or Black British, Asian and Asian British, mixed or multiple and other non-White ethnic groups who meet the minimum essential criteria in this subject area.

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership training grant: Centring the marginal: Western Medieval manuscript fragments in the Bodleian Library 

Start date: 1 October 2022 

Application Deadline: 26 May 2022, 5pm BST 

It is anticipated that Interviews will take place online on 13 June 2022 

Applications are invited for a fully-funded four-year (full-time) / up to eight years (part-time) doctoral grant under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme. 

The project is a collaboration between the University of Kent and the Bodleian Libraries and will enable a student to champion the broadening of Western manuscript studies through research on overlooked fragments. The successful applicant will have autonomy to shape the project based on their interests and will divide their time between the two institutions, receiving advanced research training and benefiting from experience in a special collections library.  

The University of Kent and its Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies are committed to fostering a welcoming climate for as diverse a community of scholars as possible. In particular, we are very aware of the need to improve the representation, progression and success of students whose ethnic backgrounds have traditionally been under-represented in higher education. We are also aware that the issue becomes more acute at graduate level where, in the words of a recent report, the funding process acts as a ‘broken pipeline’, creating barriers to access. This has wider effects: recent research by AHRC has shown that fewer than 5% of the UK’s museum and heritage curators are of Black, Asian or minority ethnicity (‘BAME’ – a widely-used umbrella term but one which has multiple inherent problems and is under review). Therefore, we would especially encourage UK-resident applicants from under-represented backgrounds to apply for this studentship. In addition, we will guarantee an interview to all applicants from UK-resident ‘BAME’ communities who meet the essential eligibility criteria. 

 AHRC report: ahrc.ukri.org/documents/project-reports-and-reviews/ahrc-funded-collaborative-studentships-report  

Leading Routes ‘Broken Pipeline’ Report: https://leadingroutes.org/mdocs-posts/the-broken-pipeline-barriers-to-black-students-accessing-research-council-funding 

University of Kent: https://www.kent.ac.uk/equality-diversity-inclusivity 

For informal enquiries about the studentship, please get in touch with the supervisor at Kent of this studentship, Dr David Rundle (D.G.Rundle@kent.ac.uk). David is very willing to communicate with prospective applicants by email, telephone, or Skype/Zoom. 

The studentship 

Project details and aims 

Traditionally, manuscript studies have concentrated on complete codices, but these constitute a small proportion of what once existed. Most medieval manuscripts no longer exist, but we can sense something of what we have lost by looking at partial survivals, mostly fragments in later bindings. Each surviving fragment is a precious witness of medieval manuscript culture, and the number of manuscripts they represent probably exceeds the number of surviving codices. The surviving intact codices are a partial selection of medieval textual culture reflecting the interests and prejudices of successive librarians, booksellers, scholars and collectors. Full attention to the fragments discarded by these groups can create a more diverse history, one which challenges established canons and assumptions.  

How can the evidence of this large body of fragments transform our understanding of medieval manuscript culture? Despite important advances that question remains to be answered in detail. For a long time fragments were largely ignored, studied only if they were vernacular or of very early date. Important advances were made by Neil Ker in the mid-20th century but it is only recently that the full potential of fragments has been understood and the emerging discipline of ‘fragmentology’ begun to develop. Technological advances have made it easier to describe fragments accurately (especially in identifying texts) and platforms have begun to allow the evidence of fragments to be explored at scale, and to enable the digital unification of related fragments. Methodological advances have been made by a number of individual case-studies, and by important work in parallel manuscript traditions, notably on Hebrew fragments (exemplified by the Books within Books project). The time is ripe for research that will build on the growing body of scholarship and comparative material to go beyond isolated case studies and address broader research questions.   

The Bodleian Libraries are an obvious place for this research to take place. The extent and range of its medieval collections, the second largest in the UK, are exceptional. Moreover, in a foundational work of 1954 Neil Ker provided short descriptions of several thousand fragments in 16th-century bindings mostly in Oxford libraries. Ker’s work, together with descriptions in the Bodleian’s catalogues, is only a starting point, but the resources for exploring fragments at the Bodleian, and at the Oxford colleges, provide a very solid foundation on which to build. The combination of Oxford’s resources and the expertise of Dr David Rundle at the University of Kent provides an exceptional opportunity for a student to develop their advanced skills as a manuscript scholar in this developing field.   

Research questions which might be explored include: 

  • how can the study of western fragments refine or challenge current orthodoxies about the production, circulation, popularity, and obsolescence of particular texts and manuscripts, both in the medieval period and in the sixteenth century?  
  • what has western manuscript studies to learn from scholars studying non-western fragments, in particular from the study of Hebrew fragments? 
  • how can the study of fragments contribute to our understanding of the life of medieval books in the early modern period, and to our understanding of the transmission and survival of medieval manuscripts?    
  • what defines ‘fragmentology’ as a discipline? What approaches exist to the cataloguing and curation of fragments, and what should be regarded as good or best practice?    
  • how can fragments, as distinct from whole codices, be used to develop public engagement with medieval manuscripts at a variety of levels?     

Supervision and training  

This project will be jointly supervised by Dr David Rundle, University of Kent, and Dr Matthew Holford, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. The student will be based in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) at the University of Kent while also spending time at the Bodleian Libraries, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK and being eligible to participate in CDP Cohort Development events. The student will receive advanced research training, participate in the vibrant academic culture of both Kent and Oxford, and benefit from a range of experience in a special collections library.  

Award details 

Studentships funded under the third Collaborative Doctoral Partnership call (CDP3) will receive four years of funding. The four-year duration is to enable students to undertake development activities as part of their doctoral study. Three years and six to nine months is for the doctoral research (42-45 months); three to six months is for professional development opportunities (‘Student Development Activity’). 

The studentship will cover home fees and stipend at UKRI rates for a maximum of four years full-time, or eight years part-time study, subject to institutional regulations. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2022/23 is £16,062, plus a CDP Maintenance payment of £550/year. The studentship holder will be eligible to receive an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, worth up to £2,000 per year for up to four years. 

All UKRI studentships are open to international students and all funded students will receive a full stipend for living expenses and fees paid at the ‘Home’ (UK-resident) level (£4,596 for 2022/23). However, international fee-paying students will be required to contribute the difference between the Home and International fees (which are set at £17,400 for 2022/23).  

Criteria and eligibility 

The studentship is subject to UKRI eligibility criteria. Further details can be found on the UKRI website: https://www.ukri.org/skills/funding-for-research-training 

We encourage applications from candidates from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, particularly welcoming applications from candidates from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds. We will guarantee interviews for applicants from UK-resident Black, African, Caribbean or Black British, Asian and Asian British, mixed or multiple and other non-White ethnic groups who meet the minimum essential criteria in this subject area. 

We are keen to hear from applicants who either have (or expect to receive) a relevant Masters-level qualification (e.g. English, History, Art History, Medieval Studies), with a focus on manuscript studies, or are able to demonstrate equivalent relevant experience. Ideally, candidates will have a broad familiarity with the history of the book in medieval and early modern England, a grounding in Latin, palaeography and codicology, and an active interest in fragment studies. If, however, you are interested in this role but do not meet all these criteria, you are welcome to make an informal enquiry as outlined below. 

How to apply 

Candidates wishing to be considered for this award must apply for a PhD place at the University of Kent by 26 May 2022, 17.00 BST. 

For more information and how to apply see https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/152/medieval-and-early-modern-studies  

You must indicate your interest in this award when writing your personal statement by explaining how you might approach the project and how your academic background and experience fits the criteria. Please include the contact details of a referee who can be contacted in the case of your being invited to interview. 

You can append to your personal statement a Widening Participation Statement; this can be of any length and is available to provide any contextual explanation of factors that have impacted your progress in higher education. If you wish to be considered for the guaranteed interview scheme for ‘BAME’ candidates (UK applicants only), please indicate here your ethnic background, using the following categories: 

  1. Asian or Asian British 
  2. Black, African, Caribbean or Black British 
  3. Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups 
  4. Other non-White ethnic group 

Worried that doctoral research is not for you? We can put you in contact with a diverse range of students and staff at Kent to help you to come to the decision of whether to apply. The successful candidate will be put in contact with role models that reflect the institution’s diversity and who can share similar experiences with them. 

In preparing your application and proposal, you are encouraged to contact the supervisor at Kent, Dr David Rundle (D.G.Rundle@kent.ac.uk), who would be very glad to communicate with prospective applicants by email, telephone, or Skype/Zoom.  

Questions relating to the CDP programme within Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums can be sent to harriet.warburton@glam.ox.ac.uk 

Statement on the use of Positive Action  

Positive action describes special measures aimed at alleviating disadvantage or under- representation experienced by those with a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Sections 158-159 of the Act allow the use of positive action in certain circumstances: To lessen disadvantage for those sharing a protected characteristic, meet particular needs and reduce under-representation in particular activities. Any such measures are to be a proportionate way of achieving a relevant aim.  

The forms of positive action allowed under the Equality Act (2010):  

  • General positive action, for example, reserving places for a protected group on training courses or providing mentoring to increase representation at senior levels  
  • Positive action specifically relating to recruitment and promotion, also known as the ‘tie-break provision’  
  • The availability of scholarships and bursaries to students sharing a protected characteristic  
  • in relation to disabled people  

Therefore, where Kent reasonably thinks those sharing a protected characteristic experience a disadvantage connected to that characteristic; and may have needs that are different from the needs of persons who do not share it; or participation in an activity is disproportionately low the use of positive action initiatives is considered. Kent will ensure appropriate procedures to allow continuous review for the impact of and need for its actions, to ensure these actions continue to fall within the scope of positive action.