Frequently asked questions


  1. Are students in all doctoral programs eligible? Students in US doctoral programs that require submission of a dissertation to obtain the degree are eligible to apply. This includes the following programs: PhD, EdD, DPhil, SJD, or similar programs. It does not include professional programs such as JD and MD programs.

  1. Are students enrolled in institutions of higher education outside the US eligible? No. Applicants must be enrolled in an institution of higher education within the US fifty states or US territories.

  1. Are international students eligible to apply for the grant? Yes, provided they are attending a US institution of higher education.

  1. How is the formal acceptance of the dissertation proposal evidenced? The letter written by the dissertation committee chair in support of the application must include a statement confirming that the applicant’s dissertation proposal has been formally accepted by whatever procedure is followed at that institution.

  1. What is considered to be a dissertation on social and economic rights?

      • The dissertation must explicitly address social and/or economic rights as they are expressed in international human rights law, domestic constitutions or legislation, or by nongovernmental organizations, or social movements.

      • Economic and social rights are those rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 22 to 28, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other international human rights treaties. This includes, but is not limited to, the rights to decent work, education, health, social protection, an adequate standard of living (including the rights to food, water, sanitation, and housing), and the benefits of science.

      • The dissertation may address social and economic rights generally or focus on particular rights or elements of these rights. It may be in any field, including but not limited to, humanities, social sciences, sciences, law, policy, or an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary field.

  1. What dissertation research is not eligible for a grant? Research that does not explicitly link to human rights norms, standards, strategies, or tools, even if the research addresses, for example, access to education, health care or clean water, are not eligible for grants.

Application Materials and Process

  1. When is the deadline for the application? March 1st at 11:59 pm Eastern Time.

  1. Can applicants get extensions? No. There are no extensions.

  1. What should be included on the CV? Applicants should include education; current and past employment; publications; presentations; university, professional, or community service; and any other relevant information about the applicant.

  1. What should be included in the cover letter? Applicants should detail what they have included in the application and how they meet the eligibility and the selection criteria.

  1. Can the dissertation chair send the letter directly to SERA? No. The letter from the dissertation chair must be included with the application in one PDF.

  1. What happens if my application is incomplete? It will not be considered for a grant.

  1. Will receipt of my application be acknowledged? Yes, applicants will receive an automatic email receipt. This acknowledgment does not confirm that the application is complete.

Recipients of Grants

      1. When and how will I be notified of the outcome of my application? All applicants will receive an email announcing the grantees by May 31st.

      1. How will the grant payment be made? Each grantee will receive a check for $5,000. The checks are written to the individual grantee, not to an institution.

      1. Is the $5,000 grant taxable? It is the responsibility of the grantee to determine any tax implications of receiving the grant.