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Washington, DC 20001

National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program


The Dissertation Fellowship Program seeks to encourage a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. These $27,500 fellowships support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, analysis, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.

This highly competitive program aims to identify the most talented researchers conducting dissertation research related to education. The Dissertation Fellowship program receives many more applications than it can fund. This year, up to 600 applications are anticipated and up to 35 fellowships will be awarded.

- The ONLINE APPLICATION is closed for the 2016 fellowship. The application submission cycle for 2017 will open in Aug/Sep of 2016. We look forward to your submission then.

- The NAEd held an online webinar for our fellowship applicants in September 2015.  If you have the opportunity, please feel free to watch it. Upon clicking on the above link, please wait a minute (or longer depending on your internet speed) for the audio and video to load. The webinar is approximately one hour long.  

Previous Fellowship Recipients

2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010


Fellowship Awards

  • Fellows will receive $27,500 for one academic year. 
  • Fellowships must begin during the 2016-2017 academic year. 
  • Fellows will be included in professional development retreats with members of the National Academy of Education and other senior scholars. 
  • Approximately 35 dissertation fellowships will be awarded in 2016.
  • Selection will be made by a committee of NAEd members and other senior scholars.

Qualifications and Guidelines

The NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program is open to all eligible applicants regardless of race, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

  • Basic selection criteria are as follows:
    Importance of the research question to education
    Quality of the research approach and feasibility of the work plan
    Applicant’s future potential as a researcher and interest in educational research
  • Applicants need not be citizens of the United States; however, they must be candidates for the doctoral degree at a graduate school within the United States.
  • Fellowships are not intended to finance data collection or the completion of doctoral coursework, but rather to support the final analysis of the research topic and the writing of the dissertation. For this reason, all applicants must document that they will have completed all pre-dissertation requirements by June 1, 2016 and must provide a clear and specific plan for completing the dissertation within a one or two-year time frame.
  • Applicants should have a demonstrated record of research experience in education.
  • Proposed project must be an education research project. NAEd/Spencer funds studies that examine the efficacy of curriculum and teaching methods; however, we do not fund the initial development of curriculum or instructional programs.
  • Applications will be judged on the applicant's past research record, career trajectory in education research, and the quality of the project described in the application.
  • Fellows may not accept employment other than as described in the application, nor may they accept other awards without prior approval (including awards from NAEd or Spencer) that would provide duplicate benefits.
  • Applications must be made by the individual applying for the fellowship; group applications will not be accepted.


Awardees for the 2016 program will be notified in May 2016.

The application deadline for the 2016 program will be October 1, 2015 at 5pm EST. 

To be notified when the fellows are announced, please join our mailing list.

To Apply and Important Information/Links

Before submitting a proposal, applicants are encouraged to read The Art of Writing Proposals. Applicants are also encouraged to seek feedback from respected colleagues prior to submission.

Application Components:

  • Online application form
  • Dissertation abstract
  • Project description and work plan
  • Graduate transcripts
  • Two reference letters
  • Personal statement

Online Application
2015 Application Guidelines (updated 7/13/15) 
Dissertation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you have questions or are unable to visit the online application, please contact us:
National Academy of Education, 500 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001;