Academic Applications

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You are likely to need an academic CV to apply for postgraduate courses or for academic jobs and funding.

As with CVs for other sectors, the purpose of an academic CV is to clearly set out the evidence that you have the experience and skills that the intended reader is seeking. In the case of an academic CV this means that you are likely to focus on your academic achievements and experience relevant to your chosen course of study or academic role. There is no page limit - although you should always keep it concise and relevant.

CVs for postgraduate study applications

As always with CVs, focus on the recipient and what they need to know. Include relevant details of your academic courses, extended essays, dissertations, laboratory and field work and other experience that demonstrates your motivation for your chosen course and relevant skills.

Much of the advice that follows will be helpful for PhD applications, though it is likely that you do not yet have some of the experience referred to. See also our general advice on putting together an effective CV.

Before you start

First, look at the skills and competencies that the hiring department / research group requires. You can identify these from the person specification, the job advert, or your own research. Is this a research or teaching only job? Or will you be doing research, teaching and administration (typical for lectureships)? Do they highlight any particular skill areas, such as organisation or team work?

Look at what you need to do to apply. CVs are usually accompanied by cover letters, but they might also ask you to submit an application form, research and/or teaching statement. Your CV can reference experience and skills relevant to all of these other submitted materials.

Once you are clear what the employer wants, start to tailor your CV to the post.

Typical sections

A selection of the following sections are typical for the academic CV:

  • Personal Information. Start the CV with your name, address, telephone number and email address.
  • Research Interests. Write bullet points or a short paragraph summarising your research.
  • Education. Include degrees, possibly titles of theses, and the names of supervisors.
  • Awards and Funding. Include undergraduate/postgraduate prizes, travel grants, doctoral scholarships, early career fellowships, and grants you have led on or are named on.
  • Research Experience. Include any postdoctoral positions or fellowships and research assistant jobs. You might include more detail about your doctoral research in this section too.
  • Teaching Experience. Note any lecturing, seminar, tutorial, supervising, demonstrating, mentoring experience, and potentially non-academic teaching such as through schools and tutoring. Give details about the role and responsibilities - even if it was informal - such as level of students, class sizes and topics you taught.
  • Admin Experience. Highlight any conferences/seminars/reading groups you’ve organised, committees you have sat on, and any other relevant administration and management experience. You may also see this section referred to as 'Academic Responsibilities' or 'Academic Service'.
  • Relevant Training. Include academic teaching training, research methods training, management skills etc.
  • Relevant research/technical/laboratory skills. You may find it useful to list these under one heading if you find yourself repeating throughout various sections.
  • Patents. Give details of the title, inventors, patent number and date granted.
  • Professional memberships. List these - e.g. the Royal Society of Chemistry or the British Association of American Studies. Include dates.
  • Publications. Give full details as you would if citing them, and use a consistent style. You may wish to highlight (e.g. bold/underline) your name.
  • Conference presentations and posters. Highlight whether paper or poster and cite similarly to your publications with full author list, title, date and location. Subsections can highlight 'invited' contributions.
  • Referees. Ideally these should all be academic referees. They should be people who know you well and who are known in your field.

Top tips

  • Make sure your CV is focused on academia. Include non-academic work experience or extra-curricular activities and interests if you feel they are relevant to the post you are applying for, but articulate the transferable skills/knowledge involved. You might also include languages and IT skills if they are relevant.
  • You might include your nationality in your personal details if you think it will be an advantage – e.g. if you already have the right to work in the country you are applying to.
  • If you have limited or no published work, consider including works in progress. Clearly label publications as ‘forthcoming’, ‘under review’ or ‘submitted’ if they are in process, but not yet in print or accepted. If you are unconcerned about giving your ideas away before they go to a publisher, you could have a separate heading for ‘Working Papers’ that you are preparing for publication but have not submitted yet. Include when and where you plan to submit them.
  • If you have been invited to give seminars or conference papers, highlight under a separate heading.
  • Translate jargon/acronyms that others might not understand, especially if applying abroad.
  • Review our general information on crafting CVs for tips on how to describe your activities and more.

What is a Teaching Statement and Why Do You Need One?

When making an academic job application, you may be asked for a teaching statement (sometimes referred to as a ‘philosophy of teaching statement’). These statements may also be requested of candidates for grant applications or teaching awards. If a separate teaching statement is not requested, some of the following advice may still help in cover letters for roles involving teaching.

A teaching statement is a narrative that describes:

  • How you teach.
  • Why you teach the way you do.
  • How you know if you are an effective teacher, and how you know that your students are learning.

The rationale behind a teaching statement is to:

  • Demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching. This means showing an understanding of the teaching process and your experience of this.
  • Communicate your goals as an instructor, and your corresponding actions in the laboratory, classroom, or other teaching setting.

Format and style of a Teaching Statement

There is no required content or format for a teaching statement, because they are personal in nature, but they are generally 1-2 pages, and written in first person. The statement will include teaching strategies and methods to help readers ‘see’ you in a lab, lecture hall, or other teaching setting. The teaching statement is, in essence, a writing sample, and should be written with the audience in mind (i.e. the search committee for the institution(s) to which you are applying). This means that, like a cover letter, your teaching statement should be tailored for presentation to different audiences.

Articulating your teaching philosophy

Consider your experiences as both teacher and learner, and always keep your subject at the forefront. Consider all opportunities that you have previously had to teach, mentor, or guide, and determine instances that were both successful and perhaps not so successful. Understanding why and how learning happens is an important part of your teaching philosophy.

Here are some general areas to focus on in your teaching statement:

  • Goals: Convey your teaching goals. What would you like students to get out of your courses? What matters most to you in teaching and why?
  • Strategies: List effective teaching strategies. How will you realise your goals? What obstacles exist to student learning and how do you help students overcome them?
  • Evidence: Specific examples of your teaching experience are powerful in a teaching statement. Provide evidence that your students have learned (or not) in the past.

Some applications ask for a short research statement. This is your opportunity to propose a research plan and show how this builds on your current expertise and achievements. It forms the basis for discussions and your presentation if you are invited for interview. Remember to:

  • Tailor each statement to the particular role you are applying for
  • Make sure there are clear links between your proposal and the work of the recruiting institution
  • Write about your research experience stating the aims, achievements, relevant techniques and your responsibilities for each project
  • Write as much (within the word limit) about your planned research and its contribution to the department, and to society more broadly
  • Invest time and ask for feedback from your supervisor/principal investigator or colleagues

Vitae, an organisation that supports the professional development of researchers, offers further advice on crafting research statements.

Funding for postgraduate study

Some sources of funding for masters and PhD courses require a separate application. Check closing dates and eligibility criteria carefully. In your application, focus on the recipient - what do they need to know about you, your interests, your motivation, your experience? In many cases it is also important to consider why they are offering the funding. Is it a scholarship from a foundation aiming to promote international understanding or some other ethos? How will you be an effective ambassador for that? Most commonly you will need to submit an academic CV and personal statement.

See also our information on sources of funding for postgraduate study in the UK, the USA and elsewhere.

Post-doctoral fellowships, including Junior Research Fellowships (JRFs)

Read the job description carefully to understand what is prioritised by the recruiting College or institution(s) beyond furthering your research.  If there are additional responsibilities (such, as outreach, mentoring, expanding or fostering academic networks), you will need to provide evidence of your interest and experience in these areas, as well as statements about how you would fulfil these roles when in post.

Try to meet current JRF holders to gain further insight into what the role entails on a daily basis and what is expected by senior colleagues. 

Try also to speak with academics who may be on JRF panel committees and could give you insights into the requirements and expectations of the role.

Show how your research contributes to, extends and/or maximises the impact of other work going on in the University. Then state why the JRF would enable you to further these in specific ways.

Give prominence to your publications (and those in progress):

  • use headings in your publications list to draw attention to journal articles (above book chapters), and to distinguish policy papers from expert reviews and public commentaries, or conference proceedings from published papers.
  • consider adding an impact factor or HI index metrics to journal publications (even if these are not high for junior stage publications they show an awareness of their importance).

Outline how you intend to participate in knowledge exchange and public engagement within your fellowship. These activities are now recognised as significant components of academic life.

Give prominence to your grant-writing experience and partnerships or work with people or organisations outside the university.

Remember that non-specialists are likely to also be on an assessment panel, so try to highlight the 'big-picture' relevance of your research as well as specialised content.

Look at Vitae's Research Developer Framework to identify any other academic-related competencies that you could demonstrate in your application (particularly project-management, leadership, developing innovative partnerships/strategic thinking).

Make an appointment with a Careers Adviser to have your application reviewed.

Grant applications

Applications for research funding will have varying requirements according to the funder and scheme in question. Oxford University Research Services works in partnership with academic divisions, departments, University Administration and Services (UAS) and Oxford University Innovation to support Oxford’s research community in many ways.

These include understanding grant eligibility and writing competitive applications, how to engage strategically with non-academic partners (including intellectual property agreements), and defining Knowledge Exchange or Impact targets to benefit both the project and your career.

Research Services run regular training sessions on how to apply for funding. Their staff are equally willing to advise individuals on which schemes to apply for and how to prepare a solid funding application. Use the searchable Oxford University research support staff list to identify the right person to talk to about research funding. Research Services also offer twice-yearly seminars on writing funding applications.

Practical resources

  • Research Professional is an online database of funding opportunities that you can tailor to your subject areas. It is a subscription resource so you need to be on a university-networked computer to set up an account.
  • UK Research and Innovation, the new national body which brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England, is another good place to look for information about current research funding opportunities.
  • The European Research Council also has a broad range of grants available to researchers whose projects will be undertaken in an EU member state or associated country.
  • Early Career Fellowships for scientists (plus, increasingly, other disciplines) are helpfully summarised by Research Services Fellowships, including a table for download containing key information and upcoming deadline dates.
  • Funding Insight articles are of particular relevance to early career researchers, with advice on applying for funding and interviews with funders and researchers.
  • Daily Info often carries advertisements offering editorial support for documents. Check out, however, the University policy on the extent to which academic writing can be edited by others prior to submission before using extensively.

For supporting statements for PhD and masters applications please see our information on personal statements for further study. In this section we focus on supporting statements and cover letters for academic jobs.

When job descriptions ask you to supply a CV, supporting statement plus other documents (research and teaching plans, writing or coursework samples etc), the cover letter need not be long or detailed. It can be a concise letter, introducing yourself, your reason for writing and laying out what is contained in your application.

Academic Cover Letters

Academic cover letters vary in length, purpose, content and tone. Each job application requires a new, distinct letter.

For applications that require additional research or teaching statements, there is no point repeating these points in a cover letter – here, one page is enough (brief personal introduction, delighted to apply, please find enclosed X, Y, Z documents).

Other applications ask for a CV and a cover letter only, in which case the letter will need to be longer and require more detail. Others ask explicitly for this detail in the form of a supporting statement that sets out how you fulfil the job criteria. Aim for a maximum length of two pages, though for roles at associate professor level and above it may extend to 3-5 pages. In all cases it is important to use the space effectively and show that you can prioritise according to what they are looking for.

In all cases:

  • Your letter is a piece of academic writing – you need a strong argument and empirical evidence
  • Write for the non-expert to prove that you can communicate well
  • Make sure you sound confident by using a tone that is collegial (rather than like a junior talking to a senior)
  • Demonstrate your insight into what the recruiting department is doing in areas of research and teaching, and say what you would bring to these areas from your work thus far

Give quantifiable evidence of teaching, research and funding success where possible

Narrative CVs

In 2020 the UKRI (the UK public body that oversees the research councils and some other research funding bodies) announced their intention to develop a standardised researcher CV format. The result is the development of a narrative CV template which has been piloted in several UKRI funding calls. The approach is based on the Royal Society "Resume for Researchers" which includes a suggested template and a breakdown of the structure to be used. 

What are Narrative CVs?

‘Narrative CVs’ are becoming a common requirement in academic funding and even job applications. They are significantly different from a traditional academic CV that is more based on a list of your experience and achievements, moving towards descriptions of your contributions. Narrative CVs aim to improve research culture and assessment by broadening the outputs, skills, and experiences that are valued by research, beyond publication metrics.

Depending on the funder or organisation, they may have different names, such as the UKRI Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) or the ‘Your research contributions’ section of Wellcome applications.

The trend is likely to continue as more researchers and evaluators recognise the benefits of narrative CVs for capturing the diversity and quality of research outputs and outcomes.

What is the typical format of a Narrative CV?

There is no one standard format for Narrative CVs, but most consist of different sections that ask you to describe your contributions and achievements in various aspects of research and innovation, such as outputs, impact, environment, leadership, funding, awards, teaching, service and engagement. You should refer closely to the instructions, guidance, or template your specific funder or institution provides, as requirements can differ.

Each section should provide a concise summary of the researcher’s activities, achievements and reflections, with evidence and links to relevant sources where possible.

Guidance on writing your Narrative CV

Funders and institutions are beginning to develop guidance on developing Narrative CVs, so check resources and guides they provide. Oxford University Research Services have developed valuable Guides and Resources and have a recorded webinar for supporting your development of Narrative CVs.

The following summarises the key advice provided in the guide for drafting your Narrative CV:

Be Selective: The Narrative CV aims to emphasise quality of contributions, rather than quantity.

  • Attempt to highlight fewer key contributions in good detail, rather than provide long lists with little detail
  • Ensure your selected contributions are strong but also relevant to the funding call or position you are applying for
  • Focus on your past achievements, not your future plans

Provide evidence: For your selected contributions, describe outcomes and your role in enabling them, rather than purely listing outputs. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is suitable.

Consider including collaborative activities. You can use evidence from within and beyond academia if they are relevant to your application.

Provide context: you are allowed to explain how your activities benefited you at your career stage and enhanced your skills. Narrative CVs understand that not all researchers have the same level of opportunities available to them, and explanations of context can demonstrate your ability level within the constraints of your situation.

Some top tips for starting the writing process:

  • Note down what the funding call or position guidance calls for you to provide evidence on
  • Make a list of your activities that meet these, and begin to identify your strongest and most relevant examples
  • Begin expanding on these, explaining their significance, what resulted from them, what you gained, quantitative or qualitative evidence to demonstrate impact
  • Check for overlap between sections, and ensure your examples are placed in the most relevant section
  • Consider including a sentence summarising the key point you want the reviewer to remember

Writing a Narrative CV can feel challenging at first, and therefore practicing and drafting this new format early can be beneficial.

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