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Robinson Bequest Bursaries

Now open! Our annual Robinson Bequest Bursaries for postgraduates working with Special Collections to support research and engagement.

Applications for four Robinson Bequest bursaries and one special Gertrude Bell Archive placement are now open until midnight on Sunday 29th October 2023.

These placements are all aimed at Masters and Doctoral students studying at Newcastle University who are interested in gaining experience of working and researching in Archives and Special Collections services. They are additional to any government or university funding.

The number of bursaries available is agreed each year between the University Library and the Development Trust which administers the generous bequest left to the Library by Philip and Marjorie Robinson. 

The Gertrude Bell Beyond the Margins placement has been possible through the generosity of the Harry and Alice Stillman Foundation.

About the awards

  • Each bursary is worth £3,000 per annum (paid in 3 instalments) and is tenable for one year.
  • Applications will be shortlisted and shortlisted candidates will be invited to the Philip Robinson Library for an informal interview.
  • Successful candidates will have the opportunity to gain work experience in the Library’s Special Collections and Archives and Education Outreach departments for 100 hours spread over the academic year.
  • The awards provide opportunities to students to gain an insight into the management of Special Collections and Archives services to complement their studies and to develop their graduate skills and enhance their employability.

There are three areas in which the Bequest bursaries are being offered this year:

Core Collections

We have three bursaries available for our Core Collections programme. Based within the Special Collections team, you will support us in delivering our core Reading Room service. You will assist and invigilate a wide variety of researchers in their consultation of our archives and rare books. You will also deliver a curated project focused on interpreting and improving the discoverability of one of our 200+ unique and distinctive collections for these research communities. 

Education Outreach

We have one bursary based within Newcastle University’s Library Education Outreach team. The team use the Library’s extensive range of information resources and unique and distinctive collections to provide engaging and impactful learning opportunities for children and young people. 

You will work with the team to support us with reviewing our current offer for schools and colleges and make recommendations for future development of services and websites. 

You will: 

  • Work with the education outreach team to agree on the research questions and methodology.
  • Conduct the research with support from the education outreach team and analyse and compile results.
  • Write and present a report based on the research findings, including recommendations for the future development of the service and websites. 

Beyond the Margins: Mapping Gertrude Bell

We have one bursary available to support our Beyond the Margins: Mapping Gertrude Bell project. Based within the Special Collections team, you will support the Project Archivist by enhancing descriptive archival metadata and refining locations information for Bell’s letters, diaries, and photographs. This work will contribute to the geospatial interpretation and discoverability of the archive, which is heavily used by an international research audience and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Memory of the World collection. 

More information about the Gertrude Bell archive can be found here.

Testimonies From previous Bequest holders:

I like that whenever I come into the library, I see a project I worked on and put a lot of time and effort into. Being a reading room supervisor held a lot of responsibility which I enjoyed. I love speaking to the readers who come in and I found my confidence in this part of my role develop very quickly. - MA History placement

This opportunity has been an exceptional experience from which I have gained so many skills and further knowledge. - PhD English Literature

Everyone in the Special Collections team was helpful, encouraging, and friendly which made the transition to working in the reading room so much easier. My experience of the Philip Robinson Bursary is overwhelmingly positive, and I would encourage all MA and Postgrad students to consider it. MA Archaeology with Museum Studies

The Special Collections room offers a safe, calm and productive environment in which to do some interesting research in. - PhD Glaciology

I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Education Outreach team as they always provided so much support, humour and expertise that made the placement such a wonderful place to work, even whilst I was completing my Masters.   - MRes Medical & Molecular Biosciences student.

As a current second year PhD student, I am still in the data collection and data analysis stage, but the skills I have developed while on the placement will be useful as I look towards seeking publication in academic journals and writing chapters of my thesis. - PhD student, SNES


  • You must be a Masters or Doctoral student and be a registered student at Newcastle University.
  • You should be able to demonstrate a link between your studies and the Library’s Special Collections and Archives/Outreach work and the aims of the placement.
  • You must be able to commit to spend up to 100 hours in the University Library during the academic year.
  • You must be available on a regular basis throughout the year (hours will be agreed with successful applicants). There is a degree of flexibility, but the expectation will be that agreed hours are honoured.

How to apply

You should send your application to Sara Bellwood in the Philip Robinson Library (email: Please ensure that you include:

  • A personal statement detailing how the Library would benefit from your skills and experience and how you think you would benefit from work experience in the Library. The statement should indicate a clear link between your studies or research and the Library’s special collections and archives/Outreach work.
  • A full curriculum vitae (including your University email address).
  • The names and contact details of two referees (at least one of these should be an academic referee).
  • Please specify in your email which strand of the bursaries you would like to apply for – Core Collections, Education Outreach, Beyond the Margins, or all.

The closing date for applications is Midnight on Sunday 29th October 2023.