All courses are currently taught remotely.

The following courses are available for research groups, departments, faculties, or schools, and I am always happy to discuss creating a bespoke course or workshop based on your specific needs.  Please don’t hesitate to arrange a chat to see how Academic Smartcuts can help make the journey through academia a little easier.

For further information, please download the 2023-2024 training booklet that outlines the current offerings, or check out the shorter sessions available for summer/winter schools.


The training provided is underpinned by two key factors: I want participants to succeed in their careers and to have confidence in their ability to clearly communicate their ideas. To do this, I adhere to the following values in each course to ensure that participants are better equipped to face the requirements of a competitive academic environment.

Taking new ideas onboard requires far more effort than simply reading a textbook or listening to a lecturer. In addition to taught content, classes involve time for reflection, peer-to-peer feedback, and group discussions to embed and promote long-term learning.

A key element of active learning involves taking action. Courses typically involve homework, feedback, and coaching to allow participants to put what they learn into practice in a safe, non-judgemental way. Perfectionism and fear of failure are rife in academia, which can prevent students and researchers from taking the necessary steps to change their behaviour. By encouraging a growth rather than a fixed mindset, participants are set on a path of positive development.

I harness teaching techniques that are shown to improve learning and encourage participants to take action. This includes the use of spaced repetition to review previous sessions and increase the retention of material. The Zeigarnik effect encourages participants to make a start on activities during class, which gives them a greater chance of continuing and completing their work outside of the programme. Offline recordings allow participants to re-visit material while maintaining their privacy.

There are three common issues running throughout all of the programmes I teach.

1. Participants often have unhelpful habits they’ve picked up over the years.

2. Participants may be holding on to myths and mistaken beliefs about the funding landscape.

3. Participants never had a good grounding in the course topic in the first place.

Courses go back to basics  to tackle these problems and ensure all participants are starting from a firm foundation.

I don’t teach templates or box ticking. Instead, training highlights core principles that participants must be aware of if they want to succeed. By providing frameworks and toolkits as guidance rather than one-size-fits-all techniques or hard rules, participants are empowered to develop their own critical thinking skills to match their knowledge with the situation.  


The title might be a mouthful, but this free seminar session does what it says on the tin: it introduces viewers to several aspects of grant writing that can help strengthen the proposal.

This course is available as a self-guided session for individuals or groups to take at the time that works best for them. The cost of the course includes free guidebooks.


These courses have been developed in collaboration with Professor Dan Allwood of Peak Writing to allow participants to put what they learn into practice. Programmes listed here include two instructors and a course website as standard.

➤  Download the information sheet
➤  Hear from previous programme participants

Communicating with others is at the very heart of academia. Whether drafting a dissertation, submitting a paper for publication, or building a network of collaborative colleagues via email, it is vital that PhD students learn how to communicate using clear and concise language regardless of what academia (and life) throws at them.

We’re going to start with the bad news: it’s not possible to improve someone’s writing overnight using “one weird trick” or a collection of time-saving hacks. There is simply no quick fix to enhance written communication.

However, there is good news as well: writing is a skill. Like any skill, it can be improved with guidance, feedback, reflection, and practice. The Academic Writing from the Ground Up programme is designed to help PhD students take a step-by-step approach to developing their written communication skills through a combination of group discussions, peer-to-peer learning, and A LOT of practice.

By the end of the programme, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the characteristics of good (and not-so-good) writing.
  • Adapt their writing to different audiences.
  • Understand how to write with a purpose and ensure their intention is clear to their audience.
  • Plan and structure their argument and evidence.
  • Understand the importance of rewriting/editing and how to approach these tasks.

The common strand running throughout each session is helping participants gain confidence in recognising and producing good writing regardless of format. By doing so, they learn how to write well and correct their own mistakes, thereby allowing supervisors to focus on the content rather than the style of their writing.

The programme includes a private website to host course materials, offline recordings of the taught content, and access to all course materials for one year after the end of the programme.

➤  Hear from previous programme participants
➤  Download the information sheet

A building is only as strong as its foundations. In the same way, a competitive grant proposal is only as strong as its founding idea. This must address a clear problem or opportunity, offer meaningful promise, and be novel. Identifying such ideas can be challenging, which is where a thorough idea generation process is required.

This course was designed after helping cohorts of early career researchers (ECRs) develop grant proposals. We discovered that their idea generation process tends to focus on projects of interest to them. Yet, without understanding the landscape they are operating in, ECRs struggle to identify and articulate the need for their project or the potential difference it could make to the research community and wider world. This is a core component of creating a compelling and competitive proposal.

However, the jump from being a post-doctoral assistant carrying out someone else’s work to being an independent researcher who is responsible for a complete proposal is seldom taught, yet it requires a shift in mindset and behaviour. By walking participants through the necessary preliminary research and horizon scanning, the Proposal Launchpad allows ECRs to look before they leap by allowing them to develop, refine, and iterate their ideas, giving them the best chance of making a successful landing.

This programme helps ECRs learn how to approach idea generation, preliminary project research, and horizon scanning to ensure that they have a solid foundation in finding and evaluating their ideas throughout their entire academic career. This helps them move beyond fixating on trendy topics or the latest buzzwords, and instead stand out from the crowd in a positive way. After all, it’s difficult to show that you’re leading the research agenda or carrying out state-of-the-art research if you’re doing what everyone else does.

Each session guides researchers through the practices that will allow them to develop viable research ideas, which in turn will make writing a proposal much more straightforward, with less scrambling to retrofit their idea to the proposal framework.

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Understand the competitive funding landscape they are operating in.
  • Recognise the steps they must take to develop a robust research idea.
  • Have applied the idea generation process to weigh up and evaluate their ideas.
  • Be prepared for the proposal creation process.

The programme includes all guidebooks free of charge, a private website to host course materials,  offline recordings of the taught content, and access to all course materials for one year after the end of the programme.

A recorded self-guided session of this course is also available for institutional purchase.

Please note: This programme is available in different formats: standard, fellowship-specific, and a hybrid version that covers both fellowships and standard grant proposals. Please download an information sheet to learn more.

➤  Hear from previous programme participants

Three things are necessary to build the foundation of a competitive proposal:

  • An idea: Applicants must understand the needs and challenges of the research landscape they are operating in to develop a sound idea they can turn into a project.
  • Background knowledge: Understanding the funding system and what is being asked of them allows researchers to control the proposal writing process to the best of their ability.
  • Time: Time is needed both to allow ideas to mature and to dedicate to the process of creating a proposal.

This course is designed to provide the required background knowledge while using the motivational power of accountability to encourage participants to produce a draft grant proposal by the end of twelve sessions (approximately nine months).

It is taught in two stages. The first stage is composed of two informational sessions that to provide background about the funding process. It provides a foundation for those who are planning to attend the second stage, as well as those who are beginning to consider developing a proposal but are not ready to begin writing.

The second stage comprises ten sessions and is limited to 20 participants. Participants at this level must commit to engaging with the material and carrying out the required homework. These sessions will involve peer-to-peer feedback, time for planning and reflection, in-depth instructor feedback, and taught material

By the end of this course, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the core components of developing a competitive grant proposal regardless of the funding body.
  • Recognise what they can and cannot control in the proposal creation process.
  • Explore the proposal creation process step by step.
  • Develop writing skills that can be used in different domains (e.g. job applications, promotion material).
  • Create a draft research proposal.
  • Develop a plan for ensuring their proposal is finalised and submitted following the completion of the course.

The programme includes all guidebooks free of charge, a private website to host course materials,  offline recordings of the taught content, and access to all course materials for one year after the end of the programme.


➤ Download the information sheet

This course allows participants to experience the final stage of the EPSRC peer review process. Understanding how a prioritisation panel works serves to: 

    • Give early career researchers (ECRs) the direct experience of how a panel makes its decisions. In particular, they have the opportunity to see the reviewer moderation aspects of the panel and that panels do not re-review proposals.
    • Provide ECRs with the psychological distance necessary to see how proposals and their constituent parts work. As the grants under discussion are not in areas where they have direct expertise, they are able to practice putting themselves in the shoes of someone who has never seen the research before. A previous participant highlighted, “The really well-written proposals are possible for someone with a scientific background to follow and skip over the details but still stay on track.”
    • Allow ECRs to see what aspects of a proposal can potentially impact it while at panel, e.g. the importance of a well-written PI response or a clear summary.
    • Offer greater resilience in dealing with unsuccessful proposals. As part of the debrief process, participants recognise that the outcome of the panel is outside of their control: a “failed” proposal does not mean that they are a bad researcher or had a bad idea.

This course is typically run over two days. The first session provides an introduction to the panel process, and anonymised proposals are assigned to participants. The second session involves the mock panel itself and a debrief.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to confidentiality, the department or university will need to provide proposals that can be anonymised.