Anika Shaikh, a first-year Doctoral Researcher in the History of Design, recently cleared the spring round of Paul Mellon Centre’s (PMC) Research Support Grant. With an award of up to £2,000 contributing towards research expenses involved in museum and archive visits within the United Kingdom (and beyond), the grant is offered to scholars whose research falls within the remit of the study of British art or architectural history or British visual culture. Earlier this year, Anika was also the recipient of funding offered by the prestigious Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO) in her home country, which offered her funding to cover her tuition fees and living expenses. 

Below are excerpts from a discussion with Anika on the application process and how she plans on utilising the grant money to further her research study!   


How did you come across this opportunity? 

Since I became a member of the Doctoral Research Network (DRN) run by the PMC, I have been attending their events in the UK and have known about the funding for a long time. I initially wanted to apply for their Doctoral Scholarship that covers the entire Tuition fee, but as a first-year student I was not eligible so when the opportunity opened, I applied for the Research Grant. Then one of my supervisors too forwarded this opportunity which further motivated me to give it a go. 


What did the preparation for the application process look like? 

Since I needed funding to undertake my archival research, both in the UK and Japan, I first hashed out a list of all the archives and libraries I must visit. I made a record of the type of collections each institution has and the things I need to look at which helped me calculate the number of times I must visit that place. This boiled down to enlisting a detailed calculation of travel fares and other costs that would be incurred. I was thus able to organise all the research trips and provide the exact amount I required for my research in the two countries. Also, I clearly stated the purposes for which I needed the amount for. 


How did you think your research fit their eligibility criteria (of supporting studies of British art or architectural history or British visual culture)? 

My research looks at individual stories, those of English craftswomen to be specific. The study is hinged on geography, gender and craft. My subject is largely about transnational movements of textile and design foregrounded in colonial history, embracing the entire stretch of the culture from Japan to India and the UK. It is about these geographical exchanges – of design, art and philosophy. It is about women craftspeople and the Arts and Crafts movement. These are some of the aspects that have not been studied enough and my research sheds light on these. My study affords this possibility of broadening the meaning of British Art in the wider context. Thinking about textiles, the research also decentres the craft itself because textile is often considered a part of women’s domestic work and regularly get qualified as a low form of art. The study is thus hinged around geography, gender and craft. 


Would you say the application process was difficult or easy? 

It was not that difficult because I had already drafted the research plan when I started my PhD programme. I just made it as precise as possible and calculated the amount of money I required so that I could make my application very specific. I also added accommodation information, with links from sites such as By giving them this idea of the expenses, I tried to make my application very clear, so that they know why they should give me funding. 


How much time did it take you to prepare the application? 

It did not take much time; took me less than a month. I also had some previously written applications from other funding grants that I was trying at. I also sent a draft to my supervisors before making the final submission.  


How did you feel when you received the email regarding the award? 

I was travelling, in Manchester, when I received the email. I was happy because it meant that I could proceed with my studies without any financial concerns. 


How do you receive the funding amount, do you have to keep track of your expenses?  

I just received the amount as a lump sum, so I don’t need to share any receipts or anything of that sort. So, it is a good opportunity for students. I am just required to submit the final report at the end of the grant period.  


Apart from your research visits, how do you plan to use the research money? 

I will use it to buy books and museum catalogues, especially the ones from Japan because I don’t have access to them in the UK. 


Any tips you would like to share with future applicants? 

If you want anyone to cover your research trip expenses, it is important to give specific numbers, because they are giving you a huge chunk of money. Support the amount you state by mentioning why you need the money and what for while constantly reinforcing why your study is important, not only for yourself but also for them to fund you – it is a two-way process. When I started working on the research plan or the funding application, I tended to be very descriptive and I soon realised that it is quite important to be precise, to push your case and be confident in what you are doing. Your application should reflect that. 


You can find out more about the two grants here:  

PMC Research Support Grant and Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO)