The Leverhulme Trust (//) is a large national grant-making organisation in the United Kingdom. It was established in 1925 under the will of the 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851–1925), with the instruction that its resources should be used to support "scholarships for the purposes of research and education."
Since its foundation in 1925 the Trust has provided funding for research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes; it operates across all the academic disciplines, the intention being to support talented individuals as they realise their personal vision in research and professional training.
With annual funding of some £100 million, the Trust is amongst the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK.
The Trust places special weight on:
- the originality of the projects put to them;
- the significance of the proposed work;
- the ability to judge and take appropriate risk in the project;
- the removal of barriers between traditional disciplines.
The Victorian businessman and entrepreneur William Hesketh Lever manufactured and marketed Sunlight soap. In order to produce the soap so cheaply, and so as to ensure he could undercut competition and be so prolific, he controlled large concessionary areas in the Congo. These were granted to him by King Leopold with whom he was a close friend. Many Congolese were exploited for use in forced labour which was allowed to continue for many decades before coming to light.
Lever extended his business activities in ways that both served and profited from the rapid rise of a mass market for basic consumer products. He was also a philanthropist, supporting a variety of educational, religious, civic, community and medical causes. His achievements were recognised in 1922 when the title of Lord Leverhulme of the Western Isles was conferred upon him.
On his death in 1925, Lord Leverhulme left a proportion of his interest in the company he had founded, Lever Brothers, in trust for specific beneficiaries: to include first certain trade charities and secondly the provision of "scholarships for the purposes of research and education". The Leverhulme Trust was established. In the succeeding years, Lever Brothers became a cornerstone of Unilever, a major multinational company, created in 1930 by the merger of Lever Brothers with Margarine Unie of the Netherlands. The Leverhulme Trust's shareholding thus became part of Unilever plc. November 1983 saw an evolution in the arrangements for the two charitable objectives. Subsequently, the Leverhulme Trust has been able to give concentrated attention to research and education.
One special element in Viscount Leverhulme's legacy is the request that the Trustees all be drawn from the highest levels within Lever Brothers or now from its descendant Unilever plc. The Trust is therefore led by a group of colleagues with wide but self-consistent experience, with a high level of mutual understanding and respect built up over many years, and with a full recognition of the special qualities and achievement of the founder. The resulting culture for decision-making is free from disciplinary special interest but fully alert to the wide-ranging impact which research and education must make in modern life.
Throughout its history, the Trust has combined the direct initiatives of the Trustees made in the light of specialist peer review advice together with a portfolio of awards made by a Research Awards Advisory Committee, itself comprising eminent research colleagues drawn predominantly from the academic world. The tradition continues to the present day.
Unilever are funding independent research which will look at Lever’s later business operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Solomon Islands. Recognising their shared legacy, the Leverhulme Trust will be engaging fully with this research and findings will be widely accessible.
The Trust seeks to provide mechanisms for the support of researchers and students which can be effective at all stages in their careers; and currently offers the following schemes:
- Research Project Grants
- Provide funds to employ research staff for up to five years on an innovative and original project of high quality and potential, the choice of theme and the design of the research lying with the applicant.
- Research Leadership Awards
- These awards are available every three years. They support researchers who have succeeded in beginning a university career but who are then confronted with the task of building a research team adequately able to tackle an identified but distinctive research problem. Each UK institution is limited to one bid only.
- Study Abroad Studentships
- Support up to two years of advanced study or research at a centre of learning in any overseas country, with the exception of the United States.
- Early Career Fellowships
- Provide career development opportunities, of two or three years, for those who are at a relatively early stage of their academic careers but with a proven record of research.
- Research Fellowships
- Provide support for up to two years for experienced researchers, particularly those who have been prevented by routine duties from completing a programme of original research. Awards are not limited to those holding appointments in higher education.
- International Academic Fellowships
- Open to those holding a full-time post in a UK institution of higher education or comparable institution and support a period overseas in a stimulating academic environment for up to two years.
- Major Research Fellowships
- Provide up to three years of full-time teaching replacement so that the applicant can concentrate on a piece of research, typically bringing it forward to publication as a monograph.
- Emeritus Fellowships
- Provide support for up to two years of research to be conducted by the applicant following retirement from an academic post.
- Visiting Professorships
- Enable distinguished academics based overseas to spend up to ten months at a UK university, primarily in order to enhance the skills of academic staff or the student body within the host institution.
- Philip Leverhulme Prizes
- Awarded to outstanding scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study, are recognised at an international level, and where the expectation is that their greatest achievements are yet to come.
- Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships
- Support doctoral studies in UK universities and nurture the future generation of aspiring young researchers. Each award funds 15 Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships at that institution.
- Arts Scholarships
- Provide training opportunities across the whole range of artistic disciplines in the fine and performing arts. Arts Scholarships may be in the form of (a) Bursaries to enable individuals to develop their talent and/or (b) Innovative teaching awards to provide new and original training opportunities for the students concerned.
- Royal Institution Christmas Lectures
- Leverhulme Medal of the Royal Society
- Leverhulme Medal of the British Academy
- "THE LEVERHULME TRUST, registered charity no. 1159154". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
- Marchal, J. (2008). Lord Leverhulme's Ghosts: Colonial Exploitation in the Congo. London: Verso Books.