What is the difference between Fellowships and Grants?

A vital component that allows academics, researchers, and institutions to continue their work in the ever-changing world of academia and research in finance. Two popular funding types essential to promoting innovation and knowledge advancement are grants and fellowships. Despite the fact that these terms are frequently used synonymously, they refer to different funding systems, each with unique traits, goals, and consequences. This blog seeks to explore the subtle distinctions between fellowships and grants, highlighting their special qualities and assisting future researchers in navigating the murky waters of research finance.

What are Fellowships for Graduate Students?

Fellowships are monetary grants given to people to assist with their professional or academic growth. Fellowships, in contrast to grants, aren’t always associated with a particular project. Instead, their goal is to give people money so they can pursue scholarly pursuits like research and study, typically at different points in their careers.

The key elements of fellowships for graduate students

  • Individual help: Rather than being centered on a particular project, fellowships primarily aim to help the individual recipient. Depending on the fellowship, they may pay for a range of fees, such as living expenses, research materials, travel expenses, and tuition.
  • Career Development: By giving recipients the time and resources necessary to pursue postgraduate education, research, or professional experiences, numerous fellowships seek to support the professional growth of their recipients. These can include mid-career professional awards, sabbaticals, and postdoctoral fellowships.
  • Selective Application Process: Unlike grants, fellowships frequently include a competitive application process. The evaluation of applicants is contingent upon their qualifications, research plans, and the possible influence of the fellowship on their academic or career path.
  • Flexibility and Length: Fellowships come in a range of lengths, from one-time grants to multi-year obligations. Certain fellowships promote creativity and individual initiative by giving grantees the freedom to choose the scope of their study or research within broad parameters.

Examples of Graduate Fellowships

1. Harvard University – Radcliffe Fellowship:

The Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University is a highly competitive program that supports exceptional individuals in the creative arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics. Fellows receive a stipend and access to the resources of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

2. Yale University – Yale World Fellows Program:

The Yale World Fellows Program is a global leadership development initiative that brings mid-career professionals from a diverse range of fields to Yale for an immersive four-month program. Fellows engage in a series of seminars, collaborate with experts, and contribute to Yale’s intellectual life.

3. Princeton University – Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts:

The Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts is a postdoctoral fellowship program that supports early-career scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and interdisciplinary studies. Fellows engage in research, teach, and participate in the intellectual life of the university.

4. University of Pennsylvania – Penn Humanities Forum Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowships:

The Penn Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania offers Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowships to scholars in the humanities. This fellowship program supports research and provides opportunities for fellows to engage with a diverse community of scholars at Penn.

5. Columbia University – Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience:

Columbia University’s Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program supports early-career researchers who bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences. This interdisciplinary fellowship aims to enhance our understanding of mind, brain, and behavior.

What are Grants for Graduate Students?

Grants are monetary prizes given to support particular projects, activities, or initiatives by governmental bodies, private foundations, businesses, or nonprofit groups. Usually, an individual or an organization submits a proposal detailing the goals, approach, and anticipated results of the project, and this submission determines which funds will be granted. Grants are given for a variety of reasons, such as community development, artistic activities, scientific research, and technological innovation.

Key elements of graduate grants

  • Project-Based Funding: Grants are typically given to support a specific program, activity, or research project. This means that they are typically project-specific. The funds are allotted to pay for costs that are directly related to the intended work, such as supplies, labor, equipment, and salary.
  • Competitive Application Process: Applying for grants frequently entails a competitive process. Scholars or organizations present comprehensive proposals that are subjected to a thorough assessment by a selection committee or peer reviewers. The proposed project’s merit, importance, and the applicants’ qualifications all play a role in the selection process.
  • Accountability and Reporting: Usually, the funding organization will have a set of terms and conditions that grant recipients must follow. Transparency and accountability are often ensured by regular reporting and documenting of project progress, costs, and results.
  • Restricted Duration: Funding is often given out for a set amount of time, with the goal of covering project expenses during that period. Financial support ends when the project is finished or the grant period ends.

Examples of Graduate Grants

1. Harvard University – Faculty Research Grants:

Harvard University provides various internal funding opportunities to support faculty research across disciplines. These grants may cover a range of research-related expenses, including travel, equipment, and personnel. Harvard’s Office for Sponsored Programs or the specific school’s research office is a valuable resource for detailed information on available grants.

2. Yale University – Research Support Grants:

Yale offers research support grants for faculty and researchers to advance their scholarly work. These grants may fund travel, materials, and other project-related expenses. Researchers at Yale should check with the Yale Office of Research Administration or the relevant department for details on available research support.

3. Princeton University – Dean for Research Innovation Funds:

Princeton University provides research innovation funds to support faculty research initiatives. These funds are designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. Faculty members can inquire with the Princeton University Office of the Dean for Research for information on available grants and application processes.

4. University of Pennsylvania – Research Foundation Grants:

The University of Pennsylvania’s Research Foundation offers grants to support faculty research projects. These grants may cover a variety of research-related costs, such as travel, data collection, and equipment. Faculty members at Penn can obtain information on available grants from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

5. Columbia University – Internal Seed Funding Grants:

Columbia University may offer seed funding grants to support early-stage research projects. These grants are often designed to help researchers gather preliminary data or conduct pilot studies. Researchers at Columbia should explore funding opportunities through the Columbia University Office of the Vice Provost for Research or relevant research centers and departments.

Major differences between Grants and Fellowships

Goals and Purpose: The main point of differentiation between fellowships and grants is their respective goals. Grants are intended to finance certain endeavors or projects, whereas fellowships are meant to assist with an individual’s professional or academic growth.

Recipient and Eligibility: Fellowships are given to people; grants are usually given to institutions, researchers, or organizations. Grants may have requirements such as institutional connection, project relevance, and viability, whereas fellowships frequently take the applicant’s credentials, accomplishments, and prospective effect into account.

Financial Structure: Grants are allotted in accordance with the proposal’s budget, and grants offer financial assistance for project-related costs whereas, fellowships provide financial support to individuals and can address a wider range of costs associated with schooling, living expenses, and research.

Time Limit and Commitment: Grants are contingent on the project’s completion date. On the other hand, fellowships can have longer terms and be more flexible, giving participants more time to pursue their academic or career objectives.

Some famous Fellowships cum Grants:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) typically offers grants rather than fellowships. Although the NSF does have certain fellowship programs available, grants are the main way that the agency funds initiatives and research.

NSF Grants:

To encourage scientific and engineering research in a variety of fields, the NSF provides a large selection of research grants. Usually, competitive proposals outlining the objectives, approaches, and anticipated results of the proposed projects are used to determine which institutions, researchers, and organizations receive these awards. A wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines are covered by NSF funding, including computer science, biology, physics, and social sciences.

Fellowships from the NSF:

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prominent fellowship programs that the NSF oversees. Graduates can receive financial assistance from the GRFP. Graduate students seeking master’s or doctoral degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects can apply for financial support through the GRFP. The fellowship emphasizes the development of a diverse and internationally engaged workforce by supporting the recipients’ research and educational endeavors.

Although the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is a fellowship program, it must be distinguished from the NSF’s more general research grant-making role. Supporting research projects, programs, and scientific undertakings carried out by researchers and institutions receives the lion’s share of NSF funding.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is best recognized for its work funding research projects, but it also manages fellowship programs, including the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, to assist students seeking graduate degrees in STEM subjects.

European Research Council (ERC): 

The ERC offers funding to encourage top-notch research in Europe as a component of the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative. It provides support for both group research initiatives and individual researchers (Advanced, Consolidator, and Starting Grants).

Wellcome Trust: 

The Wellcome Trust is an international philanthropic foundation that provides funding for public health, medical humanities, and biomedical sciences research. It offers fellowships and grants to help researchers at different phases of their careers.

Social Science Research Council (SSRC)

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) provides funding for social science research through a number of grant and fellowship initiatives. A variety of social scientific fields are included in these degrees, such as economics, political science, sociology, and anthropology.


Understanding the differences between grants and fellowships is essential for academics, institutions, and aspiring scholars in the complicated world of research finance. Grants support certain projects, whereas fellowships are more concerned with fostering the personal growth of the recipient. Both of these systems are essential for increasing knowledge, encouraging creativity, and supporting the many endeavors of academics and researchers.

Leave a Reply