National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program 2023

Deadline: November 16, 2022.

National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program 2023

Applications are now open for the National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program 2023. The dissertation fellowship aims to strengthen research on education and learning by supporting early career scholars from a wide range of fields. Each year, the program funds a small group of outstanding advanced doctoral candidates so that they can devote themselves full-time to the completion of their dissertation. In addition to the $27,500 stipend, fellows participate in two professional development retreats. While these meetings offer dissertation writing support, they also provide opportunities designed to expand fellows’ networks, build research and career skills, and support their transition into professional roles.

Through the dissertation fellowship, the National Academy of Education (NAEd) and Spencer seek to encourage a new generation of scholars from a variety of fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. The NAEd and Spencer believe scholarly insight from many different disciplines can contribute to an understanding of education as a fundamental human endeavor and advance our ability to address significant current issues in education. Therefore, the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship supports individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.


Applicants need not be citizens of the United States; however, they must be candidates for a doctoral degree at a graduate institution within the U.S. The fellowship is 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 confirm via the online application that they will have completed all pre-dissertation requirements by June 1, 2023 and must provide a clear and specific plan for completing the dissertation within a one or two-year time frame.

Awards and Conditions

The NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows will award 35 non-renewable fellowships for the 2023 program. Recipients of the fellowships will receive $27,500 to support completion of the dissertation. This amount must be expended within a time limit of up to two years and in accordance with the work plan provided by the candidate.

Preparing the Application

Full and complete applications must be submitted electronically by 5pm Eastern Time on Thursday, October 6, 2022; this includes both letters of recommendation. Notification of awards will occur by May 2023. Fellowships may begin no earlier than June 1, 2023.

Basic selection criteria are the following:

  1. Importance of the research question to education
  2. Quality of the research approach and feasibility of the work plan
  3. Applicant’s future potential as a researcher and interest in education research

However, the selection committee will consider these specific questions in deliberations:

  • To what extent does the narrative discussion of the dissertation show knowledge of relevant research in the field? To what extent is it grounded in pertinent theory?
  • To what extent is the study’s argued relevance to education convincing? To what extent is the study likely to yield new knowledge about an important educational issue?
  • To what extent does the proposal explicate the following (as relevant to the project): design and logic of the study; sources of evidence; measurement and classification; and nature of analysis and interpretation? To what extent are the methodology and analysis plans described in sufficient detail to evaluate their appropriateness for this specific study?
  • To what extent does the proposal (whether by rationale for data analysis or by a discussion of preliminary results) make a case that the dissertation is likely compelling and important to the broader field of education research?
  • To what extent does the narrative discussion display strong authorship skills, with clear organization and structure?
  • Is the applicant likely to complete his/her doctoral studies within the time-frame the fellowship allows (one year full-time or two years half-time), or soon thereafter?
  • What is the likelihood that the applicant will continue to conduct research and scholarly activities in the field of education?

The final selection committee is comprised of scholars with varying backgrounds. Because the proposal is reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee, it must be compelling to scholars who do not have expertise in the given area. Getting feedback from colleagues and others who can provide constructive criticism is strongly encouraged. It may be especially helpful to enlist the help of a colleague with a different focus to ensure that the proposal is easily understood by the selection committee members with different disciplinary backgrounds. The NAEd also recommends reading “The Art of Writing Proposals”, an article published by the Social Science Research Council, for guidance on writing a strong proposal.

Once candidates create an online account, they can manage the entire application online. It is not necessary to complete the application in one session. Applicants will be able to save their work and come back to the submission at any time before the deadline.

Once the application is submitted, please do not contact the NAEd or Spencer to inquire about receipt of materials. Candidates will receive a confirmation e-mail when their application has been submitted, as well as when a letter of reference has been submitted to their application. They will also receive an e-mail notification if the two letters of recommendation have not been submitted by the deadline. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that these letters are submitted.

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