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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Higher education institutions and further education colleges that are directly funded by HEFCE and have a postgraduate research student population may submit proposals by noon on Wednesday 20 December 2017.

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Catalyst Fund: Supporting mental health and wellbeing for postgraduate research students

Purpose and eligibility

1. HEFCE-funded higher education institutions are invited to submit proposals to support mental health and wellbeing for postgraduate research students, to receive funding of up to £150,000 from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund.

2. Further information, including the application process, selection criteria and timescale, is provided at Annex A. The template for proposals is at Annex B. We expect a range of bids, relating to institutions’ own strategies and policies for supporting mental health and wellbeing for their students, and building on the activities and research that HEFCE, Universities UK and other bodies are undertaking in this important area.

3. The deadline for returning completed proposals is noon on Wednesday 20 December 2017.

4. Proposals will be assessed by a panel of senior HEFCE staff and external experts from across relevant areas specific to mental health, wellbeing and postgraduate research activity.

5. Funding will be made available from the Catalyst Fund. We launched the fund in August 2012 as the route for discretionary investment to support strategic priorities, and advised then that from time to time we might issue calls for projects relating to specific topics.

6. The Catalyst Fund remains open for proposals in other key priority areas. Please discuss further, if necessary, with your HEFCE institutional team.

7. Funding is available to higher education institutions and further education colleges that are directly funded by HEFCE and have a postgraduate research student population. Based on the legal restrictions on our funding responsibilities, we cannot consider proposals from indirectly funded further education colleges or from alternative providers of higher education.

8. We set out our general expectation that HEFCE-funded higher education institutions will have regard to state aid compliance in relation to all our funding, in our ‘Memorandum of assurance and accountability between HEFCE and institutions’ (HEFCE 2016/12). We may need to ask for some information on state aid in finalising awards for successful bids where there are state aids dimensions, to comply with European Commission monitoring information.

Complying with state aid and other relevant legislation

9. HEFCE is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which gives a public right of access to information held by a public authority. This may result in applications, communications between us and an institution, information arising from this work, or the outputs from the work undertaken being subject to disclosure if a valid request is made to us. We will comply with such requests in accordance with the legislation and our own policies.

Freedom of information

10. We do not want to receive personal data or related information which might identify individual students or staff. Institutions may provide other forms of potentially sensitive information, but should highlight to us if there are any concerns about disclosure. With such additional information, the proposal template must not exceed the maximum length as stated in the documentation.

11. Where we consider it to be appropriate and practicable we will seek the views of applicants before disclosing information in response to a Freedom of Information request. Applicants should be aware that even when concerns have been expressed, HEFCE may nevertheless be obliged to disclose this information. Our assumption will be that all information in the main application documents can be disclosed on request.

12. Further information about the Freedom of Information Act is available at

Action required

13. Eligible higher education institutions are invited to complete the proposal template at Annex B. The deadline for the return of completed business cases is noon on Wednesday 20 December 2017. Bids must be emailed to

Yours sincerely

Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Date: 9 November 2017

Ref: Circular letter 40/2017

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Research and postgraduate research activity and support, Doctoral training centres, Student services, Student welfare, Equality and diversity

Enquiries should be directed to:

Process: Matt Jennings, Catalyst Fund Manager, email, tel 0117 931 7157

Policy: Stephanie Lynch, tel 0117 931 7048, Higher Education Policy Adviser, email, or Claire Fraser, Higher Education Policy Adviser, tel 0117 931 7147, email