Cultural relations graphic design depicting icons of the world, buildings, speech bubbles and map points
The Cultural Relations Collection brings together thematic essays reflecting on the theory and practice of international cultural relations. Image ©

British Council

What is the opportunity?

This is a call to researchers at UK universities to partner with us to propose essays for our Cultural Relations Collection – with the chance to win four essay prizes of £1,000 each, reach a broad public audience and engage stakeholders beyond the academic research community.

We are strongly committed to gaining insights from global voices and therefore encourage international researchers based at UK universities to apply to become research partners for this edition. 

This is a unique opportunity to publish your work while also gaining an in-depth understanding of how research expertise can be used and applied outside academia. This opportunity may be of particular interest to early career researchers. 

What is the Cultural Relations Collection?  

Launched in 2019, the Cultural Relations Collection features short and accessible essays that explore British Council contexts and case studies to reflect on the theory and practice of cultural relations more broadly. 

The essays also ask what new insights can be gained by looking afresh at what the British Council does across different sectors and regions through this universal cultural relations lens. 

Essays published to date have covered topics drawn from across our work in higher education, schools, civil society, climate change, arts, exams and assessment and the English language, amongst other areas.  

 What is the theme for this edition of the Cultural Relations Collection?  

The umbrella theme for this edition of the Cultural Relations Collection is ‘Cultural relations and peacebuilding’. 

The British Council supports peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide.

For this edition of the Cultural Relations Collection, we are interested in exploring from a range of disciplinary perspectives, the role of international cultural relations in building connections, understanding and trust and examining how this supports or contributes to peacebuilding in different settings and contexts. 

Essay proposals should address this theme in a way that relates broadly to the work of the British Council. We work across arts and culture including the cultural protection fund, education and English language sectors and areas of cross-cutting strategic significance for our mission and purpose as a cultural relations organisation include (but are not limited to) international development, soft power, digital transformation, climate change and migration. 

There is also a particular interest in exploring our work in support of Official Development Assistance (ODA) objectives across different geo-cultural and geo-political contexts. Much of our work is focused on empowering and supporting young people and future leaders. We have a strong commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and an Anti-Racism Action Plan. We welcome essay proposals that engage with the theme of cultural relations and peacebuilding from any of these perspectives.

How does the essay writing process work?  

Through developing essays around these themes, we aim to generate new insights into our work around the globe and its significance and value for the wider study of cultural relations. Our approach to the essay writing process is collaborative, and will unfold over two stages:

Stage One: Research partners selected through this call will be put in touch with members of British Council staff who are working in related areas. Partners will be asked to develop their proposals into more detailed abstracts and essay outlines, liaising with these British Council contacts. The resulting submissions will be expected to reflect this process of consultation and knowledge exchange.  

Stage Two: Responsibility for writing the essays will rest with the selected research partners, who will each be awarded a £1,000 essay prize. They will be expected to continue to engage closely with the relevant British Council colleagues throughout the writing process and to bring the perspectives, insight and expertise of these colleagues into the framework of the essay.  

This collaborative approach is intended to encourage reflection and knowledge exchange, potentially informing future British Council programme development. We are keen to bring current scholarship, research trends and critical theory into dialogue with the professional experience and practice-led, ‘on-the-ground’ expertise of our global colleagues. 

We will encourage opportunities for those proposals not selected for development into full essays to be taken forward in other formats, e.g. as blogs, conference papers, podcasts, webinars.

What qualifications are required?

This Call is open to all researchers (of all nationalities) affiliated to a UK university.

We welcome proposals from those at all career stages, though the opportunity might be particularly suited to PhD and early-career researchers, and especially those with international research backgrounds and experience.

We also welcome proposals from more established academics who have emerging ideas that they want to ‘test out’ or apply to new research contexts.

Research partners will be selected based on the extent to which their proposals demonstrate:

  • academic expertise in areas related to the essay theme
  • relevance to the British Council context and background for the essay theme
  • awareness of wider cultural relations research contexts and questions with which an essay on the selected theme could engage
  • experience of writing for broad public audiences
  • commitment to knowledge exchange, collaboration, policy engagement or partnership working with organisations or individuals from outside higher education.

Proposals will be scored on a scale of 0 (weakest) to 5 (strongest) against each criterion, with each criterion given an equal weighting - giving an overall score out of 25.

Once research partners have been selected, further selection criteria will be developed for the next stage – i.e. to decide which submissions are to be published as Cultural Relations Collection essays.

What are the timelines? 

  • Essay proposal submission deadline: 23.59 BST on Monday 19 September 2022
  • Selection of research partners: Applicants to be notified of outcomes by: mid October 2022
  • Proposal development : Selected research partners to be put in touch with relevant British Council colleagues in order collaboratively to develop abstracts and detailed essay outlines – to be submitted by mid November 2022. £1,000 essay prizes will be awarded to research partners at this stage.
  • Essay writing: Deadline for submission of first drafts: end of January 2023
  • Final draft: Deadline for submission of final drafts: end of February 2023
  • Editing, design and publication of essays on British Council website: by Spring 2023.

How can I apply?

See also