Returning Carers Fund

The University established the Returning Carers’ Fund in 2014 to support academics and researchers who have taken a break for caring responsibilities to re-establish their research careers. These career breaks include maternity and shared parental leave, as well as breaks to care for disabled or elderly family members.

The purpose of the Fund is to:

  • Support those who have taken a break for caring responsibilities to re-establish their research careers.
  • Increase the visibility of the necessity to provide support for parents and carers, with a view to changing gendered perceptions of balancing a research or academic career with caring responsibilities.

The fund is deliberately designed to be flexible. Applicants can apply for grants of up to £6,000, (or in exceptional circumstances up to an absolute maximum of £12,000), which can be used in whatever way they feel will best support them to return to research and develop their career. 

Support could include, but is not limited to:

  • teaching buy-out to enable you to concentrate on research;
  • training, professional or personal development;
  • short-term secondments to ‘get up to speed’ with recent research developments;
  • conference attendance to enable you to re-establish your profile;
  • short-term research or administrative assistance;
  • small scale lab equipment purchase;
  • visits to Oxford by your research collaborator(s).

See the Returning Carers Fund guidance document (PDF) for further detail.

The scheme is open to all members of academic and research staff employed by the University, including those holding joint appointments, but excluding those who have achieved full professorial title or who hold statutory chairs. The scheme is open to all those who have either:

  • taken a single break of at least three months for caring responsibilities in the two years prior to the closing date for applications; or
  • taken two or more breaks of at least three months each in the five years prior to the closing date for applications.

Eligible types of leave including maternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave and carers’ leave.
Those on a fixed-term contract should hold a contract of employment for a sufficient period beyond the date of their application to permit the grant to be spent and to have an impact on their research career. 
Applications must be discussed and agreed with the staff member’s supervisor or Head of Department/Faculty Board Chair, and departmental administrator.

Further information is given in the Returning Carers Fund guidance document (PDF).

Applicants should read the full criteria and submit their application using the application form (Word)

The deadline for applications is Friday of 6th week each term. In 2024-25, the deadlines are:

  • Friday, 22 November, 2024
  • Friday, 28 February 2025
  • Friday, 6 June 2025

Applications should be sent to your divisional contact by the deadline date:

For any questions about the overall fund, contact the UAS Equality and Diversity Team at

In 2022, the Equality and Diversity Unit commissioned a review of the fund to assess the impact of the fund so far, and determine if any changes to the fund’s criteria or scope were needed.

The Review found that in the four academic years between 2017/18 and 2020/21, the Fund supported more than 150 academics and researchers to re-establish their careers through a wide range of activities chosen by the academics and researchers themselves. These include conference attendance, short-term research and administrative assistance, teaching buyout, and training or professional development activities. The Fund gave out grants worth more than £530,000 in total in the four academic years.

In addition to supporting the University’s equality objective on increasing the proportion of women in senior academic roles, the Review found that the Fund has had a significant and positive impact on grant recipients’ research careers as demonstrated in many successful research outputs (e.g., academic journal articles, book chapters, scientific investigation data) as well as grant and fellowship applications.

The Review made some key recommendations to improve the Fund. In October 2022, they were agreed by Equality and Diversity Panel and have been implemented for applications from Hilary term 2023 onwards. Most notably, these include:

  1. Maximum grant amounts were increased by 20%, with normal amounts increased to £6,000 (from £5,000) and an overall maximum in exceptional circumstances of £12,000 (from £10,000).
  2. The minimum eligible length of leave was decreased from 6 months to 3 months to better support use of the Fund by those taking shared parental leave, adoption leave or carers’ leave.

View the full review of the Returning Carer's Fund report (PDF) here. 

These example applications are provided to give you guidance on the type of information and level of detail that you should include in your application:

On a personal level, attaining this award boosted my confidence and encouraged me to apply for other awards.
Having a self-funded project really gave me direction and enabled a smoother return to independent research after such a long break.
I am convinced that I was more productive in my research than I otherwise would have been.


Humanities: Machilu van Bever Donker (

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences: Amy Hinks (

Medical Sciences: Katherine Corr (

Social Sciences: Catherine Goodwin (