Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program


As one of the world’s leading academic institutions, Harvard University is committed to supporting top-quality Postdoctoral Fellows who will contribute to the University's mission of excellence in teaching and research, and who are interested in advancing new ideas and promoting enduring knowledge. Harvard offers access to intellectual and cultural resources that are as unique as they are unrivaled.

The Center for African Studies Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program is aimed at providing opportunities for postdoctoral candidates to conduct independent research, publish, and increase knowledge in their fields of study that will be beneficial to the African continent and to prepare them to be successful in their chosen career paths. An applicant should have received their PhD (preference will be given to those who completed PhD in the last five years) and hold an academic appointment at a university or research institution in Africa. This includes those with a commitment of appointment at the time of application. The fellowship will support the development of a research project at selected Harvard University schools, departments, or laboratories in the field of their choice.

The program offers 18-month postdoctoral fellowships with 12 months spent at the scholars’ home institution and six months spent in stipend-supported residency at Harvard University.




The program is established for Africa-based researchers who intend to continue/return to work in African academia. Fellows will be selected based on academic talent in their fields and will have an opportunity to work on their pedagogical and research skills to further their professional development. Fellows will have completed their respective doctoral programs at institutions from anywhere around the world (preference will be given to those who completed the PhD in the last five years). PhD holders who currently hold a paid academic appointment, which will be active through the duration of the fellowship period, with any of the following institutions are eligible to apply.

  • Applicants must have received a PhD or equivalent doctoral-level research degree (preference will be given to those who completed PhD in the last five years) in any discipline and must hold a paid academic appointment at any African university or research institution.
  • Applicants who have not yet formally received their degree must present evidence of having completed the academic requirements before commencing the Fellowship.
  • Applicants must identify a Harvard faculty mentor to support research and scholarly work; additionally, they should identify a second mentor at their home institution.
  • Both mentors are required to submit letters of recommendation during the application process.
  • Applicants should have English language proficiency.
  • Applicants must have support from their home institutions to pursue an 18-month fellowship appointment, six months of which will be spent in a stipend-supported residency in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Throughout the fellowship period, fellows will have access to their mentor at both institutions as well as Harvard's library resources and seminar/conference opportunities.
  • Applicants should have an academic appointment in an African university/research institution or include a letter from the institution that such an appointment is forthcoming during the fellowship period.


Position Responsibilities

Under the terms of appointment, fellows will be required to assume the following responsibilities:

  • Assume primary responsibility for the development of their research and career, in consultation with their faculty mentors and other collaborators.
  • Play an active role in seeking career and research advice, both from the faculty mentors and from other faculty members as appropriate.
  • Submit a report describing all work carried out at Harvard University and home institution during the research period. The report must be submitted two weeks prior to the end of their fellowship.
  • Make mention in any publication, presentation, or interview of their status as a CAS fellow and acknowledge CAS support for work published or carried out as a result of their fellowship.
  • Notify CAS of any grant, scholarship, or funding obtained from any public or private organization for the same or a different research project.
  • Fellows should ensure funds are utilized for purposes as defined in the fellowship. Any expenditure outside of the stipulated use will not be accepted.
  • Fellows should notify CAS of any periods of travel or absence during their fellowship.
  • Presentation of research at CAS fellow’s colloquium at the end of fellowship.

Selection Criteria


A faculty review committee under direction of the CAS Oppenheimer Faculty Director will use the following criteria to identify final award recipients:

  • Fellows with strong PhD achievement and actively conducting research and teaching in one of the listed institutions.
  • Strength and quality of research proposal, project uniqueness, clear purpose, and detailed plan for execution of proposal.
  • Applicants’ ability to succeed in a research-based academic track.
  • Demonstration of initiative, social consciousness, leadership, and a sense of responsibility as well as personal motivations and experiences.
  • Contribute to and advance new knowledge to the field of study.
  • Mentors' recommendation and commitment to fellows’ advancement in the area of research.


Online Application

Interested candidates who meet the eligibility criteria will need to submit an online proposal (through Qualtrics) by April 30, 2022, at 11pm ET. The application submission site will be opened in late February 2022.

How to Apply:

Complete the application on Qualtrics and upload required documents as prompted. Applicants must register to access the application: Access the Registration here (or paste this link into your browser:

The Harvard CAS Postdoctoral Research Fellowship application is hosted by Qualtrics and resides in a secure, encrypted environment that requires applicants to register to access the application. The registration is a one-time event with the application link sent to your inbox. Be advised that your application should be done on your regularly used computer to be able to save and return to your application. We strongly recommend that you use current generation browsers whenever possible. Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are the preferred browsers for this application. You may preview the application here.

Please Note: A complete application consists of fields submitted through the Qualtrics online portal and all requested attachments uploaded as PDFs into the application system. In addition, a confidential letter of recommendation is requested from the postdoc’s supervisor at their home institution who is familiar with your academic work as well as by a faculty mentor at Harvard University. Note that it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the confidential letters are submitted by the deadline due date.

The detailed components of the complete application are shown in the application form. An application will not be considered complete without these confidential letters from the mentors.

Application details:

  • GENERAL INFORMATION: Candidates will be asked to enter biographical information and contact details. Candidates will be asked to enter academic/leadership/professional honors and detail any work or study completed in the last five years.
  • EDUCATION HISTORY: Candidates will be asked to enter their education history, including name and location of institution, dates of attendance and degree, and field of study.
  • WORK HISTORY: Candidates will be asked to enter their work history, including name and location of institution, position, and responsibilities.
  • RESEARCH PROPOSAL: A single-spaced research proposal of no more than 2,000 words (font size 10 to 12 point) on the project to be pursued during the fellowship period. Proposals should include an 18-month timeline with up to six months in-residence at Harvard and the remaining time in-residence at the applicant’s home institution. The research proposal shall include i. Research Project Title, ii. Specific Aims, iii. Research Plan (a. Significance b. Innovation/Value c. Approach/Methods), iv. Mentorship Plan (Frequency of mentor meetings, goals, etc.), and v. References (References will not count towards word limit). Include your full name on the top of each page and your signature at the end.
  • PROJECT PLAN: Project plans should begin from September 1 of the year in which the proposal is submitted, and the six-month residency must be proposed for any consecutive six-month period between September 1 and the 18-months following. Candidates should consult with their mentors at Harvard and their home institutions to identify the ideal time for the residency portion. The time frame for the AY22/23 fellowship is September 1, 2022 - February 28, 2024.
  • CV: A CV specifying education and experience including list of publications, conference presentations, awards, and fellowships.
  • PERSONAL STATEMENT: The personal statement (500-700 words) should be typed in a standard font, font size 10 to 12 point, and double-spaced. Include your full name on the top of each page and your signature at the end. The personal statement should give the committee a sense of your background with the following questions in mind. Who are you? What motivates you, and why do you want to study a particular issue or topic? What kind of contributions do you want to make, and why? What are your goals? What path will you take to achieve them? This is the opportunity to introduce yourself to the selection committee for consideration.
  • LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Applications must include two letters of recommendation that speak to the applicant’s intellectual and professional preparation for the fellowship. One recommendation should be from the faculty mentor at the applicant’s home institution and a second letter of recommendation should come from the Harvard faculty mentor. Two letters of recommendation must be submitted by recommenders through Qualtrics. You will be required to enter the names, affiliations, and contact details of your referees. After you submit your application, referees will receive an e-mail to the address provided to submit their letters of recommendation. Please confirm with your recommenders that they have received this communication. Alternatively, recommenders can e-mail the letters directly to
  • BUDGET: Fellows will be provided with a budget of up to $10,000 for research during the 18-month fellowship. Stipend during residency and travel to and from Cambridge for the residency portion will be covered separately. A budget stipulating detailed expenses during the fellowship period should accompany your application.


What is the application deadline?
Applications are due on April 30, 2022. Complete applications, including letters of recommendation, must be received by the application deadline.

How can I identify a Harvard faculty mentor?
We recommend that candidates start with our list of CAS Faculty Affiliates to identify a potential research mentor. Prospective fellows may reach out to faculty by e-mail to inquire about their availability to serve as a faculty mentor. We advise including a copy of your research proposal and CV with your request as well as a summary of how you see your research project aligning with the work of the Harvard faculty mentor. Unfortunately, due to a high volume of inquiries, we are unable to provide individualized assistance in identifying a Harvard faculty mentor.

Is my university or institution eligible?
All universities in Africa are eligible to participate in the fellowship program beginning this year. If you are unsure as to whether you research institution qualifies, please contact Rosaline Salifu at: rosaline_salifu@fas.harvard

How are applicants selected? How many fellowships will be awarded?
After the application deadline, all applications are given administrative review to verify the applications are complete. Incomplete applications will not move forward for review. Applications are then shared with a faculty review committee comprised of members of the CAS Faculty Executive Committee, who will shortlist up to five candidates. Faculty will make their selections based on the academic merits and feasibility of the candidate’s research proposal, the candidate’s perceived ability to excel in academic career, and the strength of the faculty mentors’ recommendations. Shortlisted candidates will be offered a one-hour interview with the CAS Oppenheimer Faculty Director, Executive Director, and at least one member of the faculty review committee. Up to three fellowships will be awarded each year.

What is the timeline for the fellowship? When should the residency begin?
Fellowships should begin on September 1 in the year of the application deadline (applications submitted in 2022 should propose a start date of September 1, 2022). The residency may occur within any consecutive six-month period following the September 1 start date and should be agreed upon by your faculty mentors at Harvard and at your home institution. Note for planning purposes that the Fall term at Harvard takes place from early September through early December and the Spring term from late January through early May.

Are fellowship funds paid by Harvard University directly or through the home institutions of the fellows?
Harvard University will pay fellows a stipend during their residency. From this stipend, fellows are expected to pay for housing, health insurance, food, transportation, books and supplies and other expenses. Payments will be made in fellows name ONLY for the six months in residence in Cambridge.

Are Research Funds paid directly to the Fellow or to the University?

Research funds are managed by the home institutions of fellows. Upon receipt of the fellowship, a Research Agreement that governs the scope of work, expenditure and a payment plan, as well as fund disbursements will be sent to the fellow’s institution for approval. Fellows can then draw on the funds for the sole purposes of their research work and purchases during their fellowship. Funds cannot be reassigned, and only costs directly related to the fellow’s research expenses will be reimbursed.

Do I need to receive ethical clearance from my institution or Harvard University to begin my field work?

You will need both. Ethical clearance should be sought for all your research work in which human or animal subjects are involved prior to commencement of your study in the field. You will need to be familiar with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements and approval processes as it relates to your work from your school as well as Harvard University.


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