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Research Matters: International collaboration opens up a whole world of opportunities

The world of academic research changes continually in exciting ways and UK arts and humanities researchers undertake a wide range of collaborations.

Inter-disciplinary projects and international partnerships offer a passport for post-graduate students to work with people and resources worldwide. These projects and partnerships can widen their horizons, bring them into contact with the world's best and produce some stunning work.

Mat Francis, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Leeds discovered this when he took advantage of an AHRC scheme to enable UK PhD students to workin teh United States at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Mat's PhD investigated the relationship between religious beliefs and violence. His aim was to investigate how and why religious beliefs sometimes produce violence and hatred.

His time at the Library of Congress gave him the chance to use the world's largest library with its magnificent archives and collections. But more important, he worked with international scholars whose knowledge and ideas enriched his research and challenged the assumptions he held. He also built relationships to develop future work on this issue of concern to researchers, governments and communities worldwide.

Mat's experience in Washington, like those of the 25 fellow doctoral students who enjoyed this opportunity last year, is just one instance of how undertaking post-graduate research in the arts and humanities at UK universities can lead to opportunities to collaborate with international partners. Over recent years the AHRC has established a number of international collaborations with overseas research organisations to enable UK students to access research facilities and engage in dialogue with minds across the globe.

For example, if a student looking at Japanese culture or its impact on the UK, can spend six months on a scholarship with the National Institutes for the Humanities in Japan at one of five Japanese inter-university research institutes.

The AHRC has also established a similar collaboration in China thatenables UK scholars to attend collaborative summer schools. Similar possibilities are in prospect in India and South Korea, as well as other major research libraries in the US.

We live in a global world in which increasingly we need to know more and more about each other and our different ways of life. Research at all levels enhances international understanding. It builds sustainable relationships across agencies and countries and between individuals forming lifelong collaborations. It makes best use of the world's greatest resources and facilities and enhances the finest work.

To take up international opportunities such as these, a student first needs to be undertaking research funded by the AHRC. So if you are considering applying for the next academic year, now is the time to do it. Most deadlines for AHRC post-graduate funding will be in March and April 2011.

Opportunities such as these for arts and humanities researchers are also available to researchers across other disciplines. All the research councils have international partnerships that enable their researchers to work with fellow academics around the world. The Research Councils UK offices in China, India and the US alongside the UK Research Office in Brussels help strengthen these links to develop international collaborative research for the coming years.

More information about AHRC can be found at www.ahrc.ac.uk and about funding opportunities at all the UK research councils through www.rcuk.ac.uk