Graduate Fellowships


Applications for 2021-22 Now Closed


To ensure that progress in teaching and research in ethics will continue into the future, the Center trains younger scholars who are prepared to dedicate their careers to the study of practical ethics in a wide variety of subjects. The Graduate Fellowships in Ethics were established in 1990 with the support of the American Express Foundation, and subsequent gifts from Mrs. Lily Safra and Mr. Eugene P. Beard. This early expansion of the Center's mission provided a unique opportunity for graduate students writing dissertations or engaged in major research on topics in practical ethics. Nearly two hundred Graduate Fellowships have been awarded to Harvard-enrolled graduate and professional students.

In 2010, a generous gift from Mrs. Lily Safra endowed the Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowships in perpetuity, ensuring that the Center's role in training younger scholars and developing future leaders in ethics will continue as long as Harvard endures.

The Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowship program is currently co-directed by Mathias Risse and Danielle Allen.


The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics (EJSCE) Graduate Fellowship Program invites applications from graduate students who are writing dissertations or are engaged in major research on topics in practical ethics, especially ethical issues in architecture, business, education, government, law, medicine, public health, public policy, and religion. 


Graduate Fellows are expected to devote their time to an approved course of research and study and to participate in a weekly Center seminar, where they workshop papers and dissertation chapters and discuss research problems and strategies common to the study of practical and professional ethics. In addition, Graduate Fellows are expected to take part in the wider intellectual life of the Center. The stipend for the 2021-22 academic year is $34,000, plus a small allocation for research.


The EJSCE has outlined a broad theme for the 2021-22 academic year under the heading, “A New Social Compact?” The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a shock to the nations of the world. Variations in national responses and experiments with economic and health policies have implicitly revealed different conceptions of the social compact (a phrase we use loosely to refer to shared understandings of what members of societies believe they owe to each other) . . . While much innovation in political philosophy, political economy, and public policy has been in development for the last decade, since the global financial crisis, the pandemic presents an occasion for harvesting the fruits of that work with the goal of articulating the foundations of a new social compact. Applicants need not work on related topics, but should know that much of the Center’s programming for the year will be connected to this area of inquiry. 



Students should be (a) enrolled in a Harvard doctoral program; (b) enrolled in or a recent graduate of a Harvard professional degree program that does not require a doctoral dissertation for a career in that field (such as law or medicine); or (c) a full-time, academic year visitor to Harvard, who is hosted by a Harvard graduate program, but is still enrolled in a graduate program at another university and has no competing academic or professional commitments during the fellowship year. All course requirements and general examinations must be completed before the start of the fellowship year. Students taking a full or partial course load in either semester of the fellowship year are ineligible. The Center seeks applicants who have excelled in their fields of specialization, have demonstrated an interest in questions of value that cut across disciplinary boundaries, and who are likely to make significant contributions to teaching and scholarship in practical and professional ethics. Some successful applicants will have a strong background in moral philosophy or political thought; others will be grounded in fields of public policy or professional practice. 



In addition to a stipend and a modest allowance for research, copies, and office supplies, Graduate Fellows are provided with a study space (unless the Center’s offices are inaccessible) and access to a computer and printer. Graduate Fellowships are announced in mid-February for the upcoming academic year. 


How to Apply


Please fill out our online application form and upload the following documents in .pdf, .doc, or .docx format when prompted:


  • Statement describing your interest in practical and professional ethics and plans for a dissertation or research project (no more than 2,000 words)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Unofficial undergraduate and graduate transcripts (accepted applicants will be required to furnish official transcripts)
  • Scholarly paper you have written

In addition, applicants should arrange for two letters of reference. Although the application is due on November 2, 2020, we offer a grace period for letters or recommendation. Recommenders must submit their letters via the online portal by November 16, 2020. The application system will automatically request the letters from the references noted on the application form, but you should follow up with your references as well.   


Should you have any questions regarding this application process, please send an email to