LSE Laidlaw Scholars Leadership and Research Programme

What is this programme about?

This programme, available to first-year undergraduate students, is about you and your development and preparation for the future. It’s your unique opportunity to develop leadership and research experience and skills beyond your academic studies through practical training and reflection.

Building on LSE’s expertise in social sciences, you will learn to analyse and address wicked problems while reflecting on leadership as a complex and multi-faceted concept. You will have the opportunity to think about and discuss questions of ethical leadership and integrity, explore your individual understanding of leadership, and reflect on the contributions you would like to make as a graduate.

The LSE Laidlaw Scholars Leadership and Research Programme will help you develop the following competencies: leadership abilities; self-knowledge and awareness; effective communication; critical and creative thinking; collaboration and team working; social and cultural intelligence and awareness; resilience and determination; and research and project management.

How does it work?

The programme takes place over the first two years of your undergraduate degree and is fully funded. Each year has a specific focus:

First year

In the first year, you will complete a fully-funded six-week immersive Leadership-in-Action project which will take place in summer between your first and second year of study (typically between late June and end of August, after your summer exams). This work-based learning placement (full-time) will allow you to gain valuable experience and develop relevant leadership skills beyond your programme of study. The project you will be working on will focus on work with a community in need and will take you out of your comfort zone. Appropriate work placements will be provided either by LSE Careers or by the Laidlaw Foundation.

This is what some Laidlaw Scholars from the Class of 2023 said about their experience:

"I have had such an unforgettable experience working these past 6 weeks. I have been able to achieve so much such as helping manage the social media pages at Lattitude festival; learning about how to write a grant letter and create a log frame for a new project. I have always been interested in working in the non-profit/charity sector – this internship has solidified that.”

– Amirah Deji-Abiola (LSE Laidlaw Scholar, Class of 2023) with in Bristol, UK

"Working at the Commission has been transformative for me: I never thought I could enjoy work so much! I've met amazing people, built close relationships with some, and really enjoyed my time in Brussels. I'm very grateful for all of it.”

– Eugenia Brotons-Batista (LSE Laidlaw Scholar, Class of 2023) with the EU Commission in Brussels, Belgium

Second year

In the second year, you will conduct a fully-funded six-week interdisciplinary group research project that will explore one specific aspect of leadership. This project will take place in summer between your second and third year of study and you will have a supervisor to support you and your peers. You will gain first-hand research experience while deepening your knowledge and reflection in the field of leadership. Working in a team with other Laidlaw Scholars towards a shared goal, you will also further develop your collaborative leadership skills.


Throughout your programme you will also have an international aspect: either via your leadership-in-action projects which may take place abroad (currently about half of all projects take place in the UK and the other half abroad); or via the group research project (second year) where you will be traveling within Europe.

In addition to these two six-week projects, you will:

  • Complete a total of three training days each year (including one residential weekend) where you will develop valuable skills and your own thinking about leadership 

  • Attend an ethics masterclass

  • Have the option to attend the annual Laidlaw conference which takes place at one of the partner universities (limited number of places available)

Also, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet your fellow scholars during our programme-related evening seminars and events which are designed to help you become part of this dedicated learning community.

For both, your work placement (6 weeks) and the research project (6 weeks), you will receive a stipend of £3,000 (that is, a stipend worth £6,000 for the entire programme). In addition, you will also have an allowance of £1,500 to cover any travel and project expenses. 

Why should you join?

LSE is a place where you will develop skills and knowledge in the social sciences, but also a place that offers you opportunities to engage beyond your coursework. This programme is unique because it offers you the following unique combination of opportunities:

  • To develop leadership competencies and gain leadership experiences that complement your academic studies. This will help you not only while studying at LSE, but well beyond your time at university as you progress in your personal and professional life.
  • To have access to unparalleled opportunities for both your summer breaks in your first and second year: the leadership-in-action project and the interdisciplinary group research project will allow you to have significant ownership in your projects and provide you with a deep and meaningful learning experience that goes well beyond a typical, standalone internship.
  • To strengthen your reflective skills and your ability to think about complex problems in a critical and interdisciplinary way, thus complementing the work you will be doing both in your programme of study and in LSE100.
  • To be part of an engaging leadership learning community at LSE as well as to be part of the Laidlaw Scholars Network that reaches across many universities around the world.

How can you apply?

To apply, please use this application form (you will need to use your LSE login). You will find below detailed information about: the content of the application; how we will evaluate your application; the support that is available to you; and the timeline of the selection process.

As part of the application process, it will be important that you inform (and optimally speak with) your academic mentor about your application to this programme.

The application process is open exclusively to first-year undergraduate students and there will be 25 places available. The submission deadline is Thursday, 14 December 2023, 23:59 (UK time).

LSE is a diverse and inclusive community, committed to fair and equitable treatment. We very much welcome applications from candidates from a diversity of backgrounds and identities and with a wide range of skills and qualifications from all departments across LSE.

If you find this application process poses challenges in relation to your individual needs, please contact us to discuss what we can put in place. We are keen to provide equity and opportunity within this application process for all. 

Please note: For equity and equal opportunity reasons, Uggla Family Scholars are not eligible for this programme. 


Step 1: Pick a format

As part of your application, you will have to answer three questions (more details about the questions, please see step 2). To answer these questions, you will be able to choose one format from the following three options – you can either submit:

  • A text-based application (maximum of 900 words overall and no more than 300 words for each question); or
  • A poster that combines text and visual elements (maximum of 600 words); or
  • A video (maximum length: 5 minutes)

Please note that all formats are valued equally and we do not prefer any format over another. The reason we provide a choice of different formats is to give you an opportunity to pick the format that suits you best to share your thoughts and reflections.

If you choose to submit a poster or video, you will have to provide a link to the file. Please see here how to save your document and create a link

Step 2: Answer the three questions

In your application, you will have to answer three questions which are centred around the topic of leadership. Please read the questions and the guidance carefully as it explains to you in detail what we are looking for.

Question 1: What does leadership mean to you?

Guidance: In this question, we would like to learn more about your own understanding of leadership, and why and how you have arrived at that understanding. We will value answers that show that you have critically reflected upon your understanding of leadership; you may draw, for example, on a personal observation, a personal experience, or another source of inspiration to explain your reflections if you find this useful. What we are not interested in is encyclopaedic knowledge or standard definitions of leadership without your own critical reflections.

Question 2

Please choose two (from the list of eight) competencies from the Laidlaw Scholar Attributes Framework that you wish to develop through this programme. Explain for each competency separately:  

(a) Why did you choose this competency  

(b) how will developing this competency help you in your own personal development? 

Guidance: the LSE Laidlaw Scholar Leadership and Research Programme is based on the Laidlaw Scholar Attributes Framework (see link above), a set of eight competencies that are relevant to leadership and research roles. In this question, we would like you to pick two specific competencies that you would like to develop through this programme and to share with us how they will help you on your leadership journey.

Question 3: In what ways will you contribute to this learning community?

Guidance: Our aim is to build a dedicated learning community where a diversity of ideas, experiences, views, and backgrounds are valued and where scholars are comfortable to share their views and can learn from each other. With this question we would like to invite you to share more about yourself and we will value answers that show that you have reflected on how – for example, by drawing on your own and personal ideas, experiences, views, and background – you would like to specifically contribute to the learning community of the LSE Laidlaw Scholars.

How will your application be evaluated?

Your application will be evaluated using the following three criteria:

  • Reflectiveness: Share with us your own, original reflections regarding the questions we ask. We will value answers that show that you have taken the time and made the effort to critically think about them and to articulate your own thoughts to answer them.
  • Clarity: Convey your thoughts in a clear, specific, and well-structured way. We will value answers that allow us to grasp clearly what you share with us to learn more about you and your motivation.
  • Engagement: The three questions are linked with one another as they all centre around the topic of leadership (your understanding of leadership; developing your leadership skills; contributing to your leadership and learning community). We will value answers that connect with and build on each other to convey your thoughts about leadership.

How should you go about it?

  • Be yourself! No previous work, leadership, or research experience is required: we are not looking for an existing record of past achievements (although you may have one), rather we are most interested in candidates with great development potential.
  • What we are most interested in is (a) your motivation for taking part in this programme and (b) your willingness and ability to reflect about leadership and yourself.
  • Following on from the previous point, there is no right or wrong answer to any of the questions.
  • As you prepare your application, we warmly recommend that you discuss your thoughts and application with fellow students, friends, or family. Typically, such conversations help applicants to develop and articulate their thoughts.
  • Have someone else look at your application before you submit it – try to avoid grammar or spelling errors.
  • A good application will take time and a few drafts – we suggest you start early and put aside enough time to produce a high-quality application.

Where can you get help?

  • We offer a series of Q&A sessions (five online, one in-person). The online sessions you can attend via this Zoom link:
    Online: Fri, 1 December, 11.00-11.45 
    In-Person: Mon, 4 December, 13.00-13.45 (LSE LIFE, space 2, ground floor of the library) 
    Online: Thu, 7 December, 11.00-11.45 
    Online: Mon, 11 December, 12.00-12.45  
    Online: Thu, 14 December, 11.00-11.45  
    To get into the Zoom session, you will have to login to Zoom with your LSE account – please see here how to do this. The sessions will not be recorded, but in case additional relevant points will be discussed, we may update the information here on this website. 
  • LSE LIFE Study Advisers will be happy to support you with your application – for example, they can help you with planning your application or refining your answers. You can book a one-to-one session via this link.

What happens after you submit?

Once you have successfully submitted your application, we will contact you no later than Friday, 12 January 2024 with the outcome of the shortlisting process. There is no need to contact us for further updates.

The dates of the selection process are as follows:

  • Application deadline: Thursday, 14 December 2023, 23.59 

  • Announcement of shortlisting (by email): Friday, 12 January 2024 

  • Second round of selection process (in person at LSE): Wednesday, 17 January 2024, 12.00-18.00 

  • Announcement of final selection (by email): Friday, 26 January 2024 



Important dates for 2023

The programme is designed in a way that most programme elements take place over weekends, on Wednesday afternoons, or over the summer break (your six-week projects), thus minimally interfering with your academic schedule.

By joining the programme, you commit to completing the programme which consists of the following elements (each year): a kick-off event; three training days; preparation meetings for your projects; an ethics masterclass (format and dates TBC); and the six-week summer project.

Specifically, the dates of the programme with mandatory attendance until the end of September 2024 are as follows:


      • Kick-off event: Wed, 7 February, 18.00-20.00 

      • LIA Training Session 1: February 2024 (date TBC) 

      • Preparation for leadership in action project (session 1): Wed, 14 February, 13.00 - 20.00 

      • Application period for Leadership-in-Action project: mid-end of February 2023 

      • Interviews for Leadership-in-Action project: throughout March 2023 

      • LIA Training Session 2 and 3: March 2024 (dates TBC) 

      • Laidlaw Scholars Global Induction event (online): TBC 

      • Preparation for leadership in action project (session 2): Wed, 12 June, 13.00 - 18.00 (TBC) 

      • Leadership in action project: 6 consecutive weeks, typically between 17 June and 16 August 2024 (beginning after your summer exams) 

Information for Scholars on international internships and research projects

It is the students’ responsibility to:   

  • Check the latest travel advice in the lead up to and before leaving. The FCDO website advises on safety and security threats. 
  • Ensure you are aware of your nearest embassy. The Embassy Finder website can help you find the nearest embassy that relates to the passport you hold. 
  • In addition, if you encounter difficulties please follow these steps:
    • Step 1: Contact the insurance - please find more information here 

    • Step 2: For leadership in action projects: Contact the designated point of contact within the host organisation. For research projects: Go to step 3 

    • Step 3: Alternatively, if you are unable to contact them, or if the situation cannot be handled internally, you should contact LSE LIFE reception (+44 20 7852 3580, covered Mon-Fri 9.30am - 5.30pm)