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NAEd/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.

Applications for the 2017 fellowship are open! 


Previous Fellowship Recipients

2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010

The Award

  • Fellows receive $27,500 for one academic year.
  • Fellowships must begin during the 2017-2018 academic year.
  • Fellows attend professional development retreats with members of the National Academy of Education and other senior scholars.
  • Up to 35 dissertation fellowships will be awarded in 2017.
  • 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, 2017 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.


The application deadline for the 2017 program is October 6, 2016 at 5pm Eastern Time. Awardees are notified by May 2017.

Application Components

Applicants are encouraged to readThe 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

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; E-mail: