James Beattie Scholarships

Please note: The deadline has now passed, and we are no longer accepting applications for these scholarships. 

The James Beattie Scholarship is available for Overseas students only with a start date of September 2021.

This innovative scholarship programme provides an opportunity for postgraduate research students to undertake a package of training and career development, including teaching or research assistance, and to join a research network concentrated in a particular field of study.

PhD Projects

The problem of epistemic values

Supervisors: Dr Luca Moretti and Dr Federico Luzzi

Socrates, in Plato’s Dialogue Meno, famously asked why we should valuate knowledge more than mere true belief. This question has opened the ongoing philosophical debate about epistemic values. According to contemporary virtue epistemologists (e.g. Greco, Sosa and Zagzebski), knowledge is more valuable than true belief because it coincides with true belief arising from a successful exercise of the subject’s cognitive ability, or with true belief motivated by virtuous traits and dispositions of the subject. Other philosophers, however, have rejected the thesis that knowledge is an ultimate epistemic value, or the only one we have. Some think that acquiring true beliefs and avoiding false beliefs is the real ultimate epistemic goal (e.g. Foley), and others claim that epistemic rationality is valuable independently of knowledge and true belief (e.g. Kelly). Finally, some philosophers have argued that the sole ultimate epistemic value is understanding, rather than knowledge or true belief (e.g. Pritchard and Kvanvig).

The project aims to critically engage with this debate. The investigation should ideally find answers for the following five questions:

1) What epistemic values are there?

2) Are epistemic values intrinsically valuable or valuable because of their practical benefits? (Links with the problems of the pragmatic encroachment of epistemic notions, the debate on epistemic virtues and vices, and ethics of beliefs could be explored).

3) Are epistemic values subjective or objective?

4) Is there one ultimate epistemic value (monism), or more than one ultimate epistemic value (pluralism)?

5) What relations are there between ultimate and non-ultimate epistemic values (e.g. constitutive or instrumental)?

Images of a Foreign Land: Scotland, Poland-Lithuania and the Problem of Cultural Transfer

Supervisors: Professor Robert Frost and Professor Karin Friedrich

One of the most intriguing aspects of the relationship between Poland-Lithuania and Scotland in the early modern period is the way in which the substantial migration of Scots to Poland-Lithuania affected the image of Poland-Lithuania in Scotland, and the image of Scotland in Poland-Lithuania. In the sixteenth century, both countries were influenced by similar political and cultural-religious trends. In Poland-Lithuania, this led to the constitutional revolution of 1572–6, which created a Republic based on the Aristotelian vision of the mixed form of government as the basis of the ideal political system. The citizens of this republic, the nobility of Poland-Lithuania, gained the right to elect their monarch viritim in 1573, and while the king remained an essential part of the political system, his authority was limited by the Henrician Articles, first sworn to in 1576, which required him to call the Sejm every two years, and contained a clause justifying the withdrawal of obedience should the monarch act in breach of the law.

In Scotland, the influence of Renaissance republicanism and Calvinist theories of resistance, were evident in the arguments advanced to justify the forced abdication of Mary Queen of Scots in 1567, and the theory developed by George Buchanan claiming that the Scottish monarchy was elective in nature. Despite the substantial presence of Scottish migrants in Poland-Lithuania, there has been little research into the influence of Polish-Lithuanian ideas on Scotland, although Allan Macinnes has argued that the Polish institution of confederation, which gave a legal basis to collective action by the citizen body, may have influenced the 1638 National Covenant in Scotland, while Robert Frost has investigated the basis of Scottish knowledge of the Polish-Lithuanian political system. Finally, the Anglo-Scottish union and the Polish-Lithuanian union followed broadly similar paths, from a union of the crowns to a union of the parliaments; the only such parliamentary unions formed in early modern Europe. Yet while there have been several studies of general British views of Poland-Lithuania, there has been no comprehensive study of Scottish attitudes to Poles and the Polish-Lithuanian political system, or Polish attitudes towards Scots and Scottish politics.

This project will chart the changing attitudes on both sides as in political and religious terms the two systems diverged in the seventeenth century. It will examine in particular the crisis years of the mid-seventeenth century, when both systems faced civil war and fundamental political upheaval, and its aftermath. It will also look at discussions of the Polish-Lithuanian union during the debates surrounding the unions of 1603 and 1707.

Scottish Liberalism in the Long Nineteenth Century

Supervisors: Dr Bradford Bow and Professor Michael Brown

This project is intended to investigate the ideology, philosophy and diffusion of Scottish Liberalism in the long nineteenth century. This may include the study of Scottish philosophers, politicians, Presbyterian clergymen, commercial corporations, military, and agents of the British Empire. Topics might include comparing the different conceptions of Liberalism, the ways in which it affected the Scottish political landscape or tracing the global diffusion of Scottish Liberalism in the British world. The project will build on the expertise and resources of the Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies, which includes an active seminar and workshop series. The Institute also hosts a number of ongoing research projects that are relevant to this project, notably United Islands? Poetry and Song in the Age of Revolution.

Awards and eligibility

The School of Divinity, History and Philosophy is pleased to offer the James Beattie Scholarships, named for James Beattie (1735–1803), Professor of Moral Philosophy at Marischal College.

This scholarship is open to students subject to the higher (overseas/international) rate of fees. This will include EU applicants subject to the higher rate.

This scholarship will cover, by fee waiver, the difference between home fees and overseas fees. The home fees for 2021/22 are £4,500 and overseas fees are £17,000. Thus, the value of the fee waiver will be £12,500. The successful candidate will be liable for the home portion of fees, £4,500, which will be fixed for the duration of their programme, as well as receive a stipend of £6,000 per academic year.

Subject to satisfactory progress, the scholarship will be awarded for three years. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/students/documents/Fees%20-%20PGResearch%202021-22.pdf.

Applicants must apply for admission to one of the PhD research projects listed above on a full-time, on campus basis.

Successful scholars will undertake a package of training and career development opportunities. This will include a set number of hours of teaching or research assistance. The career development package will be phased in year-by-year and supported by relevant training.


Applicants must be of outstanding academic merit and potential for independent research, as evidenced by the candidate’s academic record, prior qualifications, proposal and references. Selection will be based on this evidence and upon the strength of the proposed engagement with the advertised research project.

Applicants must be classified as Overseas students for fees purposes as set by the University of Aberdeen.

Applicants must hold, or expect to hold prior to commencement of studies, an undergraduate degree at UK first class or 2:1 honours level, or the international equivalent. It is preferable but not a requirement that you hold a Masters relevant to your chosen area of study. Other factors such as financial status and nationality are not taken into account.

Before you Apply

Contact a member of the supervisory team listed for the PhD research project you are interested in (see above). This is an opportunity to discuss your potential fit with the project, how your own research interests will benefit the project, and how you intend to frame your research proposal.

Application process

Please note: The deadline has now passed, and we are no longer accepting applications for these scholarships. 

Application will be via the PhD application portal. Further information on the process may be found at this site.

You must include a detailed research proposal (1000-1500 words) which sets out how you will engage with the advertised PhD project, degree transcripts and certificates, and be supported by two academic references. Further guidance on research proposal may be found here.

You should mark your application “DHP James Beattie Scholarship” in the Intended Source of Funding.