ACLS Fellowships

The deadline for this program has passed. The description below is for information purposes only. Awardees in the 2020-21 competition will be announced in the spring.

Fellowship Details

  • Maximum award: $60,000
  • Tenure: six to twelve consecutive months devoted to full-time research and/or writing, to be initiated between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022, and to be completed no later than December 31, 2022
  • This year, the fellowship is open to untenured scholars who have earned a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences on or after October 1, 2012.
  • Completed applications must be submitted through the ACLS online fellowship and grant administration system ( no later than 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time, September 30, 2020.
  • Notifications will be sent via email by in March 2021.
  • For information on how to request reviewer feedback, see FAQ.

The information provided here is a summary of the ACLS Fellowship program, and details eligibility, application requirements, and evaluation criteria. Please read carefully through the material and accompanying FAQ.


ACLS invites research proposals from scholars in all disciplines of the humanities and related social sciences. Given the disproportionate effect the current economic downturn has on emerging, independent, and untenured scholars, in the 2020-21 competition year the awards are designated solely for untenured scholars who have earned the PhD within the past eight years. ACLS welcomes applications from scholars without faculty appointments and scholars off the tenure track.

In 2020-21, the program will award up to 50 fellowships. ACLS invites applications from scholars pursuing research on topics grounded in any time period, world region, or humanistic methodology. ACLS aims to select fellows who are broadly representative of the variety of humanistic scholarship across all fields of study. We also believe that diversity enhances scholarship and seek to recognize academic excellence from all sectors of higher education and beyond. In ACLS’s peer review, funding packages, and engagement with fellows, we aspire to enact our values of equity and inclusion.

The ultimate goal of the project should be a major piece of scholarly work by the applicant, which can take the form of a monograph, articles, digital publication(s), critical edition, or other scholarly resources. The ACLS Fellowship program does not fund works of fiction (e.g., novels or films), textbooks, straightforward translation, or pedagogical projects.

ACLS Fellowships are intended to help scholars devote six to twelve continuous months to full-time research and writing. The awards are portable and are tenable at any appropriate site for research. An ACLS Fellowship may be held concurrently with other fellowships and grants and sabbatical pay. For fellows with full-time academic appointments, the total amount of support, including the ACLS Fellowship, may not exceed the candidate's academic year salary. Fellows without full-time academic contracts may teach up to one course during the fellowship term. Tenure of the fellowship may begin no earlier than July 1, 2021 and no later than July 1, 2022. The fellowship term must conclude no later than December 31, 2022.

The fellowship stipend is set at $60,000 for a 12-month fellowship. Awards of shorter duration will be prorated at $5,000 per month, with the minimum award set at $30,000. Independent scholars, adjunct faculty, and faculty with teaching-intensive appointments will receive an award supplement of $3,000 for research support, access to manuscript development workshops, or learned society conference attendance.


Applicants must:

  1. be a US citizen, permanent resident, or DACA recipient.
  2. have a PhD officially conferred between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2020.
  3. not hold a tenured faculty position.
ACLS will confirm the tenure status of provisional awardees before finalizing the fellowship award.

Application Requirements

Applications must be submitted online and must include:

  • Completed application form
  • Proposal (no more than five pages, double spaced, in Times New Roman 11-point font)
  • Up to two additional pages of images, musical scores, or other similar supporting non-text materials (optional)
  • Bibliography (without annotation, no more than two pages)
  • Publications list (no more than two pages)
  • A brief writing sample (no more than five pages total, single or double spaced, including footnotes or endnotes, in Times New Roman 11-point font), including a brief description of context and the sample's relation to the proposed project
  • Two reference letters

Evaluation Criteria 

Peer reviewers are asked to be mindful of ACLS’s commitment to inclusive excellence, and of how equity and diversity are integral components of merit. We are especially interested in supporting scholars who hail from diverse institutions and groups that are underrepresented in the academy. In addition, reviewers in this program are asked to evaluate all eligible proposals on the following four criteria:

  1. The potential of the project to advance the field or fields of study in which it is proposed and make an original and significant contribution to knowledge.
  2. The quality and innovativeness of the proposal with regard to its methodology, scope, theoretical framework, and grounding in the relevant scholarly literature. ACLS welcomes applications that challenge scholarly orthodoxy.
  3. The feasibility of the project and the likelihood that the applicant will execute the work within the proposed time frame.
  4. The scholarly record and career trajectory of the applicant, taking into account relative advantages and constraints on resources for the proposed project and over the course of the applicant's career.

Additional Opportunities for ACLS Fellowship Applicants

In addition to the fellowship awards, the program offers ACLS Project Development Grants that support proects from faculty at teaching-intensive institutions. Applicants from these institutions who are not selected for fellowships but present particularly promising proposals may be awarded a grant of $5,000 to help advance their projects. (See FAQ for more information.)

The program includes a number of named awards made possible by generous donors. The following named fellowships will be awarded to selected applicants from within the ACLS Fellowship program, and do not require a separate application.

  • ACLS Barrington Foundation Centennial Fellowships in Classical Studies, for scholars pursuing research on the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. Established in recognition of our centennial anniversary.
  • ACLS Carl and Betty Pforzheimer Fellowships in English and American Literature, for scholars pursuing research on Anglophone literature from any period. Established by ACLS Board Member Carl H. Pforzheimer III and his wife in recognition of our centennial anniversary with the hope of fostering new knowledge in these fields.
  • ACLS Centennial Fellowships in the Dynamics of Place, for scholars pursuing research on how movements across borders and new contacts among peoples can shift perspectives and foster new understanding. Established by an anonymous donor to ACLS in recognition of our centennial anniversary.
  • ACLS Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr. Fellowships in Chinese History, for scholars pursuing research on Chinese history, in particular modern Chinese history after 1912. Established in memory of Professor Wakeman, the late scholar of East Asian history and Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley.
  • The ACLS H. and T. King Fellowships in Ancient American Art and Culture, for scholars, in particular those in the early stages of their careers, who are pursuing research on the ​art​ and architecture of pre-contact societies in the Americas, as well as anthropology, archaeology, epigraphy, ​and historical accounts related to their visual culture.
  • ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellowships in American History, for scholars pursuing archival research on American history. Established in memory of Professor Handlin, a professor of history at Harvard University for over 50 years, who was known for his promotion of social, ethnic, and immigration history.
  • ACLS Pauline Yu Fellowships in Chinese or Comparative Literature, for scholars pursuing research in Chinese and/or comparative literature. Established in honor of Pauline Yu, president emeritus of ACLS and a prominent scholar of Chinese Literature, by her family, friends and colleagues.
  • ACLS Susan McClary and Robert Walser Fellowships in Music Studies, for scholars pursuing research in any area of musicology. Established by Professors McClary and Walser to benefit emerging or established researchers in music studies with a goal of supporting the most promising and innovative scholarship of the future.

The ACLS Fellowship program also includes a joint fellowship with the New York Public Library (additional information below), which requires a separate application.

Through a partnership with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), an international membership organization of interdisciplinary research centers with over 170 members and affiliates in 23 countries, ACLS fellows have the opportunity to spend all or part of their fellowship terms in residence at selected CHCI member organizations. This is an optional enhancement to the award for ACLS fellows.

Institutions and individuals contribute to the ACLS Fellowship program and its endowment, including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Arcadia Charitable Trust, the Council's Research University Consortium and college and university Associates, former fellows, and individual friends of ACLS.

ACLS/New York Public Library Fellowships

ACLS may award residential fellowships in conjunction with The New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. The Center provides opportunities for up to 15 fellows to explore the rich, diverse collections in the NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The Center also serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas among fellows, invited guests, the wider academic and cultural communities, and the interested public. It provides individual office space and common areas in the Library building. Fellows are required to be in residence from the beginning of September 2021 through the end of May 2022 and to participate in Center activities. These may include lunches, panel discussions, public conversations, symposia, and interviews. More information about The New York Public Library and its collections is available on the website.

The stipend for ACLS/NYPL fellowships will be $75,000. ACLS/NYPL fellowships are subfellowships within the ACLS Fellowship program; they have the same eligibility requirements, application form, and schedule. The only additional proviso is that these residential fellowships will be granted to scholars whose projects will benefit from research in the NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Please Note: Because this is a joint fellowship, applicants for ACLS/NYPL residential fellowships must also apply to the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the NYPL. The application for the NYPL competition is available here. The deadline for application and letters of recommendation is 5 pm Eastern Daylight Time, September 25, 2020.

An application for an ACLS/NYPL residential fellowship may have any one of the following outcomes:

  • a fellowship awarded solely by the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the NYPL,
  • an ACLS Fellowship awarded solely by ACLS, or
  • an ACLS/NYPL residential fellowship awarded jointly by the two organizations.

Updated July 22, 2020