Charity and voluntary sector archives at risk: Conceptualising and contextualising a neglected archives sector

Start date: 1 October 2021
Application deadline: Wednesday 26 May 2021, 17:00
Interview date: We expect interviews to take place online on 24 June 2021

University College London (UCL) and The National Archives are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded collaborative doctoral studentship from October 2021, under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

The project explores archives and records management practices across the UK voluntary sector. It will be jointly supervised by Dr Georgina Brewis and Professor Elizabeth Shepherd at UCL, and Kathryn Preston and Tina Morton at The National Archives.

The student will be expected to spend time at both UCL and The National Archives. They will also become part of the wider cohort of CDP-funded students across the UK, with access to CDP Cohort Development events.

The studentship can be studied either full or part-time.

It is important to us that our organisations are more diverse, so we encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and identities. We are especially keen to hear from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area.

Project Overview

The archives and records of charities and voluntary organisations constitute a neglected resource. They are sources of institutional identity and accountability, and can give access to personal and collective memories. In particular, the records of voluntary organisations, campaigning bodies and community groups preserve the histories of marginalised and disenfranchised individuals and communities, whose voices can go unheard. This includes the UK’s BAME communities, LGBT+ individuals and groups, people with disabilities or ill health, as well as communities marginalised in myriad ways through poverty and other inequalities.

High-profile inquiries into the history of public, corporate and charitable bodies have highlighted the evidential value of records. These archives help explain the significance of charities to society, past and present.

However, without the legal protection afforded to government records, charity archives also lack the financial resources and support networks that protect other private archives. Records are retained by charities in varying states of preservation and access, few organisations have staff with records management/archive expertise, and many collections remain invisible.

Today, the voluntary sector faces the perfect storm: a major loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic combined with unprecedented calls on organisations’ services.

This is a timely and urgent project that draws on qualitative research with charity leaders to explore archives and records management practices across the voluntary sector. It will produce a practical action plan to address identified challenges, propose improvements to support infrastructure and contribute to The National Archives’ strategic vision for the archives sector.

Research questions include:

The successful candidate will have the freedom to mould the project to their own research interests, but indicative research questions are:

  1. How can we map, conceptualise and account for archives and records management practices across the voluntary sector in England? What does this diverse archive landscape look like? What structural approaches are taken to capture, preserve and provide access to records?
  2. What are the key challenges facing the sector, and how do these vary by factors including charity purpose/sub-sector, income, staffing, geographical remit etc?
  3. In what ways do voluntary organisations draw on their archives and records to address current organisational priorities or societal concerns? How can they be supported to do so?
  4. What further support can The National Archives’ Sector Development department offer this sector?

Award details

CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 45 months (3.75 years) or part-time equivalent. The studentship could be extended for an additional three months to provide professional development opportunities, or up to three months of funding may be used to pay for the costs the student might incur in taking up professional development opportunities.

The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) full-time home rate for PhD degrees. The UKRI Indicative Fee Level for 2021/22 is £4,500. If necessary, the gap between home and international fees can be covered by UCL.

The award pays full maintenance for all students, both home and international students. The National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2021/22 is £15,609, plus London Weighting of £2,000/year, plus a CDP maintenance payment of £550/year.

Further details can be found on the UKRI website.

The student is eligible to receive reimbursement for travel and research related expenses during the course of the project, courtesy of The National Archives. This is worth up to £1,000 per year for four years.

The project can be undertaken on a full-time or part-time basis.


This studentship is open to both UK home and international applicants. To be classed as a home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

Further guidance can be found on the UKRI website.

  • Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification, or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience whether gained through professional work or through volunteering. Suitable disciplines are flexible, but might include history, archival science and information studies, voluntary sector studies, social policy, museum and heritage studies.
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the archives sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.
  • Applicants should be able to demonstrate some knowledge or experience of the voluntary or charity sector.
  • As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both UCL and The National Archives.
  • All applicants must meet the UKRI terms and conditions for funding.

Project details and how to apply

For an informal discussion about the opportunity, you are welcome to contact Georgina Brewis at UCL at and Kathryn Preston at The National Archives at

To apply, please submit a CV and a two-page statement indicating your interest in the studentship, explaining how your academic background and professional/volunteering experience fits the criteria. Please send this to by 17:00 on 26 May 2021.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in June and the successful candidate will then be asked to officially apply for the PhD via the UCL online portal.