The Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (IF) has the following eligibility requirement:

"Researchers must be experienced researchers (ER), i.e. at the date of the call deadline (for IF) ... be in possession of a doctoral degree or have at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience." (page 80 of the PDF Work Programme 2018-2020: Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions).

By my calculations, this means that that a student spending 4 or fewer years in graduate school must have a lag time of 6-12 months after obtaining the PhD before they could begin to recieve funding. Why is this desirable? Are there any other EU-wide fellowships for STEM which could fill the gap?

(I am aware of other postdoc funding opportunities but none that are as prestigious.)

EDIT: To clarify, why are PhD students not eligible to apply in the fall of their final year, unless they already have "four years of full-time equivalent research experience" at that point? (i.e. a student graduating in May 2021 and applying in September 2020)

  • 6
    Looks like a PhD -OR- 4 years experience, if you have quoted correctly (not going to download the pdf...). So a PhD suffices.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 2, 2019 at 21:26
  • 1
    Yes, a PhD by the 'call deadline', not by the time the researcher would begin to receive funding. It takes months after the call deadline for applications to be reviewed.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 2, 2019 at 21:27
  • To be more concrete, last year the proposals were due in September and the earliest start date was May. (7-8 months later) (Source: uio.no/for-ansatte/enhetssider/hf/aktuelt/bilder/2017/…)
    – Anonymous
    Dec 2, 2019 at 21:42
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    "Are there any other EU-wide fellowships for STEM which could fill the gap? " Do you mean other than regular postdoc positions? Because that would be the standard pathway: get a postdoc then apply for grants with a stronger profile while being a postdoc.
    – Erwan
    Dec 2, 2019 at 23:07
  • @Erwan Yes, exactly. I am a US citizen and will be applying for an NSF postdoc fellowship. I think I have a good shot at it, but would rather be in Europe and am annoyed that I can't apply for Marie Curie at the same time. I am looking for fellowships to apply to that I might accept even if I got the NSF. I already have backup plans in Europe in case I don't.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 2, 2019 at 23:51

5 Answers 5


Funders are allowed to make their own rules. Typically they try to be as fair as possible, but there will always be some 'edge effects' where the rules have unintended consequences.

In the case of Marie Curie grants, there is an explicit intention to draw in people from across the entire EU (and beyond). As such, the rules need to accommodate the wide variety of different systems, norms and expectations found in different countries. The clearest point of synchronisation is the date of award of the doctoral degree, and this is what has been chosen in the rules.

Some additional advantages:

  • If applications were allowed before the doctoral degree was awarded, there would inevitably be cases where someone didn't complete the degree before their fellowship was supposed to start.
  • All applicants should have a concrete body of work that can be used to assess their suitability for a fellowship.

Finally, while I don't know the statistics for Marie Curie specifically, in general success rates are skewed towards more experienced applicants. It may well be that the people impacted by this rule are generally not competitive for the fellowships.

  • 1
    Do you think this is unintentional? It's interesting to note that the criteria for 'early-stage researchers' and 'experienced researchers' are perfectly mutually exclusive.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 3, 2019 at 13:24
  • @Anonymous Well, clearly the formulation of the rules is not unintentional. However, I doubt these were explicitly written with the goal of disqualifying people whose PhD timings happen to fall a few days after the MC closing date.
    – avid
    Dec 3, 2019 at 22:43

This is simply a question of target audience. Marie-Curie grants are designed so that some applicants will choose the grant over a mediocre tenure track position (with the hope to get a better permanent position afterwards). The grant comes with funding and salary to match that experience level. Trying to apply for a Marie-Curie directly after your PhD is hopeless in most cases (I don't know anything about your specific skills), that is simply not what this fellowship is designed for.

If you either are German or plan to go to Germany there are DFG grants that are targetted at young researchers, that is directly after the PhD. Presumably there a similar programs in other EU countries. There may be EU programs for young researchers as well.


You can try to argue that the last year of your undergraduate counts, if you did something like research experiences for undergraduates.

I was a MC fellow in 2002-2004 and at the time of applying was in the last of 5 years of graduate school, having spent 4 years in a combination of research, taking courses, and working as a teaching assistant. So hardly "full time research" in a narrow sense.

  • The document says "'Full-time equivalent research experience' is measured from the date when the researcher obtained the degree entitling him/her to embark on a doctorate" which I think would not contradict you applying in the 5th year of graduate school. I would indeed be eligible if my undergraduate research experience counted. Thank you for the encouragement! I will double-check with the funding body.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 3, 2019 at 13:06
  • Oh okay, that does sound rather strict (and maybe it was the same back in 2001). Dec 3, 2019 at 13:50
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    For anyone else to whom this applies, I wanted to say that I contacted the appropriate people and was told that undergraduate research does not count, with no exceptions.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 19, 2019 at 18:19

You're misunderstanding its requirements.

For Experienced Researchers, it says they need to "be in possession of a doctoral degree or have at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience". Notice the "or": you either need a doctoral degree, or you need to have four years of full-time equivalent research experience. If you have a doctoral degree that you accomplished in three years, then you meet the requirements.

  • I think you are misunderstanding the question. OP wonders why it's necessary to have the PhD completed by the time of submission, which, assuming a PhD in less than four years, introduces a lag of 6-12 months between completing your PhD and obtaining funding from MCIF. Dec 3, 2019 at 9:48
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    No, I'm not. The OP seems to think that it's an "and" rather than an "or"; that if you complete your PhD in three years, you need an additional 12 months of research experience to get the four years.
    – nick012000
    Dec 3, 2019 at 9:50
  • That he doesn't say. He talks about lag arising for a student "spending 4 or fewer years in graduate school", which includes a student who takes precisely 4 years. The additional 6-12 months come from the reviewing process. Dec 3, 2019 at 9:53
  • @lighthousekeeper That's not how I interpreted that sentence. The OP can feel free to clarify, of course, but it sounds to me more like he's saying that he thinks you need both 4 years experience and a PhD - otherwise the amount of time you spent doing your PhD would be irrelevant.
    – nick012000
    Dec 3, 2019 at 10:15
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    I have added some clarification to the question; lighthouse-keeper is correct about my intentions.
    – Anonymous
    Dec 3, 2019 at 12:58

I'll leave the "why are the MSC requirements like this" question to the other answers, and focus on the

"Are there any other EU-wide fellowships for STEM which could fill the gap?"

I'm not aware of any EU-wide programs, but you don't needed an EU wide program, you need one that is EU-wide, you just need one in the country of your intended host institution. Many EU countries have post-doc grants for incoming international post-docs, many of which are considered quite prestigious. Some examples include:

You will find many similar programs in other EU countries.

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