Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A Returning Carers' Fund has been established as part of the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Fund for the advancement of diversity among academic and research staff at Oxford.

Returning Carers Fund© Nasir HamidThe fund provides support for any researcher or academic regardless of gender following a break in their career or a period of leave for caring responsibilities. This can include maternity, adoption and shared parental leave, or leave to care for an ill, disabled or elderly family member.

Researchers taking leave of 6 months or more (returning within the last 2 years) can request up to £6,000, and in exceptional circumstances £12,000. 

Researchers taking leave of between 3 and 6 months can request up to £3,000.

Funding can be requested for any legitimate purpose identified by the applicant that addresses a clearly identified barrier to return to research and demonstrates a link to career development in research.

Support could include, but is not limited to:

  • teaching buy-out to enable you to concentrate on research;
  • training or professional development;
  • short-term secondments to ‘get up to speed’ with recent research developments;
  • conference attendance to enable you to re-establish your profile;
  • short-term research or administrative assistance;
  • small scale lab equipment purchase;
  • visits to Oxford by your research collaborator(s).

Childcare-related expenses over and above a staff member’s usual childcare costs are eligible if requested as part of an application for ‘work related training’ (which includes conference attendance and research visits). The existing financial limit will still apply. Please note that the payment of childcare expenses for reasons other than ‘work related training’ are considered by HMRC to be a taxable benefit, and are therefore not eligible under this scheme.

The costs of providing a maternity cover post or other support during the leave period are not permitted. These should be discussed with and considered by the applicant’s department as part of the process of agreeing a maternity leave plan.


More information, and example applications can be found on the central EDU Retuning Carers Fund pages

The scheme is open to all members of academic and research staff employed by the University, including those holding joint appointments, but excluding those who have achieved full professorial title or who hold statutory chairs. The scheme is open to all those who have either:

  • taken a single break of at least three months for caring responsibilities in the two years prior to the closing date for applications; or
  • taken two or more breaks of at least three months each in the five years prior to the closing date for applications.

Eligible types of leave including maternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave and carers’ leave.
Those on a fixed-term contract should hold a contract of employment for a sufficient period beyond the date of their application to permit the grant to be spent and to have an impact on their research career. 
Applications must be discussed and agreed with the staff member’s supervisor or Head of Department/Faculty Board Chair, and departmental administrator.

If you are concerned that you do not meet the eligibility criteria or you narrowly miss, please speak to your divisional contact.

Only one application may be made per career break.

Those on a fixed-term contract should hold a contract of employment for a sufficient period beyond the date of their application to permit the grant to be spent and to have an impact that increases the likelihood of them securing a new contract; the application should give evidence of being on a research or academic career trajectory and clearly outline any future career plans; applicants may submit a supporting statement from their supervisor if they wish to do so.

Applications must be signed by the staff member’s supervisor, Head of Department or Faculty Board Chair and by their Departmental or Faculty Administrator to confirm that a) the department/faculty supports the application, and b) the applicant is eligible for funding, as per the above criteria.

Further information is given in the Returning Carers Fund guidance document (PDF).

Top tips for writing your application

Applicants are advised to ensure their application covers the following points to demonstrate to the panel how their application meets the remit of the fund:

  1. Outline the impact taking maternity leave has had on your career trajectory in the short or long term
  2. Outline any barriers you have faced as you returned to work, or longer term impact (this is especially important if you are applying closer to the end of the eligibility period of 2 years)
  3. Detail how the funded activity you are asking for will help you overcome these barriers and difficulties
  4. It is helpful to include information on why this activity is or cannot be funded by your current source of funds
  5. Briefly outline your plans for the coming few years, and how this activity will support your career development
  6. Be as specific as you can about outcomes from this award (publications, future grant applications, a unique skillset etc.) and how they will support your career plans.
  7. If you are including a scientific outline for planned activity be aware this will go to a lay-audience

If you are able to provide all of the above a panel will be able to see precisely how your proposal meets the remit of the fund and it will increase your chances of success.

The MSD Athena Swan and EDI Facilitator will be glad to review your draft application ahead of the deadline nad advise on any improvements that can be made

Award Decision making

Applications must be discussed and agreed with the staff member’s supervisor or Head of Department or head of administration and finance and line manager and signed off in the relevant section. Applications should be submitted on the application form and sent to Katherine Corr by the deadline. Please ensure you send in good time if you want feedback on your application.

Each Division will submit a priority list of divisional bids for funding to the University’s Advisory Group on the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Fund.  There will no appeal against the Group’s decision.  Applications will primarily be judged against the likelihood of delivering benefits that would enable the applicant to remain in an academic or research career, taking into account their career stage.


If successful, you will be required to produce a one page report on your use of the funds to Katherine Corr within 12 months of receipt of the funds. This will detail:

  • Any research outputs, as evidenced by publications, presentation of papers, development of collaborations or submission of grant proposals.
  • Any career development, as evidenced by attendance at conferences or participation in training or development.
  • Any other identified benefits to your career.

Returning Carers' Fund Application Form

The deadline for applications is Friday of 5th week each term.

In 2022/2023 this is:

Michaelmas term: 11th November 2022

Hilary term: 17th February 2023

Trinity term: 26th May 2023


In 2023/2024 this is:

Michaelmas term: 10th November 2023

Hilary term: 16th February 2024

Trinity term: 24th May 2024


Please feel free to get in touch before these dates to discuss your application to ensure the greatest chances of success. 


For further enquiries, please contact the Divisional Athena Swan and EDI Facilitator: Katherine Corr

Examples of successful funding applications include:

  • £1400 to support conference attendance and to attend a training course
  • £4850 to support a 6-week visit to collaborators’ labs (including travel costs and lab consumables in hosting labs)
  • £5000 for salary support