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The NIHR Schools for Primary Care Research (SPCR), Public Health Research (SPHR) and Social Care Research (SSCR) (“three Schools”) have joined together in a unique collaboration between leading academic centres in England to collaborate on a programme of work on Mental Health, led by the SPCR and funded through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): 

Improving mental health and wellbeing in underserved populations through collaborative research 

At least one in four people experience mental health problems, many of whom never access care and treatment. There are also large numbers of people with learning disability (prevalence c.2%) and autism (prevalence c.1%). Mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism generate challenges for individuals with these conditions, their families and the wider society, with often quite high utilisation of health, social care and other services. Those challenges are seen across the life course. The impacts of mental health problems on individuals and the wider societal and economic consequences are multiple and vast and include above-average rates of concurrent physical illnesses, shortened life expectancy, social exclusion, socioeconomic disadvantage, and the need for health and welfare support. Despite the high prevalence, many people do not receive the support they need and there are significant inequalities in access. These underserved groups include, but are not limited to, people with learning disabilities, parts of the autistic and neurodiverse community, people from Black and other ethnic minority backgrounds. 

A key aspect of the Three NIHR Research Schools Mental Health Programme is building research capacity; to develop a critical mass of mental health research in underserved communities it is essential to build strong capacity with the expertise and local knowledge needed to make an impact.  In addition to a bespoke fellowship scheme, which was announced in September 2021, we are pleased to invite applications for our Masters Scholarships Programme  and our Individual Research Career Development Awards.  

Masters Scholarship 

There is funding for up to six Masters scholarships are available.  Applications are invited from individuals who have a commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing in underserved populations who wish to undertake health research training as part of their development. Applicants must demonstrate a clear commitment to establishing a long-term interest in mental health research.  The scholarship will cover the tuition fees for a UK based Masters programmeApplications are particularly welcomed from the north of England/underserved areas and from health and care professional groups not traditionally involved in research.   

Individual Research Career Development Award 

Funds are available to individuals already working in primary care, public health or social care in research, education or practice or people with research expertise in an aligned sector, topic area or discipline who wish to bring their skills and experience to primary care, public health or social care. We are keen to support professionals working in practice who wish to develop their research capacity, as well as individuals who are already in research careers. We are seeking high-quality applications from individuals who have a commitment to developing the evidence base to improve mental health and wellbeing in underserved populations.     

Research Funding 

In addition to our capacity building programme we are inviting applications for research projects that will prioritise those groups with high needs for treatment and support, and that have been underserved by research to date to address some of the most fundamental gaps in the evidence base.   

Research proposals submitted to this call should be underpinned by strong and diverse public, carer, service user and patient involvement and engagement. There is a total of £500k available for this call. There is no stipulated maximum per project nor is there an expected number of projects to be funded.

How to apply

The deadline for all applications is 23.59 16th December 2021 

For full details and an application form, please click on the relevant links below:

Master Schloarship application (Word doc)

Individual Research Career Development Award application (Word doc)

Research Funding application (Word doc) & Research Funding costings spreadsheet (Excel doc)

If you have any questions, please email