UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Network

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The UNITWIN Networks and UNESCO Chairs Programme advances research, training and programme development across UNESCO’s work in education, science, culture, communication and information.

Currently made up of 830 UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in over 110 Member States, the programme aims to develop inter-university cooperation, collaboration and information sharing to address pressing challenges and contribute to the development of societies.

Our role as the UK National Commission for UNESCO, as directed by UNESCO, is to carefully consider and evaluate proposals for the establishment of new UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in the UK and to select a small number of high-quality proposals each year to put forward to UNESCO.

All UK higher education institutions wishing to apply for the UNESCO Chairs or UNITWIN Networks Programme must submit their application through the UK National Commission for UNESCO. Information on our UK process, including deadlines for the 2021 cycle, is available in the sections below.


Make sure you read the important information below before you apply to be a UNESCO Chair or UNITWIN Network. You must apply through the UK National Commission for UNESCO. Expressions of interest are welcome.


#Open for applications


29 January 2021


1 March 2021


Professor at a UK university, higher education or research institution
💌    Expression of Interest     
📖    The 2021 UK Handbook     
⏰    2021 Application Timeline     


“I would highlight how significant the UNESCO Chair was in raising the profile of the work that I was involved within Northern Ireland through funding that I received shortly after the Chair was officially launched […] the establishment of the UNESCO Chair was acknowledgement and recognition of that work and also raised the profile to a level that you know was worth investing in.”

Professor Alan Smith OBE, UNESCO Chair in Education for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy, Ulster University.


Meet the UK’s UNESCO Chairs

Home to some of the world’s most prestigious and renowned universities and institutions, the UK has a global reputation for a world-class higher education system.

UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks are both drivers and beneficiaries of the UK’s reputation and focus on education. The nature of their work – creating and disseminating new knowledge – requires and promotes a vast range of collaborations between research institutions, universities and experts, in the UK and abroad.

Discover some of the UK’s UNESCO Chairs and their world-leading research in education, science, culture, and communication and information.

More from the UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Network

Read more about UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks on UNESCO’s main site.

   More on unesco.org        


The 2021 Application Process: The steps for submitting your applicaton in the United Kingdom, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies



Contact the UK National Commission for UNESCO

UK institutions looking to establish a UNESCO Chair or lead a UNITWIN Network in the UK must submit an expression of interest to the UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC) by Friday, 29 January 2021.

Please make contact with the UKNC at the earliest possible opportunity using the form provided below. You will be asked to provide the UKNC with information about the proposed Chair/UNITWIN Network, the name of the lead academic (please note, the lead academic must be a Professor), an outline of the relevant area of research, alongside a working title of the proposed Chair/UNITWIN Network.

Want to know more about the 2021 process? The UKNC are planning informal information webinars on 12, 13 and 15 January 2021. If you would like to attend, please let us know by emailing the Head of Accreditation, Andrea Mayne at [email protected] 

   Download the EOI form        




Following submission of your expression of interest, you will receive notification from the UK National Commission for UNESCO to proceed with preparing your application. The guidance below should be consulted in preparation of your application.

UK Handbook

The UK 2021 Handbook provides advice and guidance on the UK application process. It is highly recommended that you read this in advance of commencing your application. It is a step-by-step guide to the UNESCO Programme, our timeline, our review process, and submission to UNESCO, and provides details on the criteria for 2021 and links to further information.

   Read the UK Handbook        

UNESCO Handbook

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Programme Guidelines and Procedures handbook is produced by UNESCO and provides an overview of the UNESCO Programme, explains what it means to establish a UNESCO Chair or UNITWIN Network, and gives information on reporting mechanisms and renewal procedures. This is also an important document to read before commencing writing your application.

   Read the Handbook        




For each nomination or application the UK National Commission for UNESCO identifies pro bono experts in the relevant field to peer review the application. The reviewers are guided by the criteria and guidelines set out by UNESCO and their expert knowledge of the sector/issues in question.

   Download the application form        




We have a peer review process to provide support and advice and to ensure only applications of the highest standard are submitted to UNESCO. All applications are reviewed by pro bono experts in the field who will be guided by the criteria and guidelines set out by UNESCO. Applications are reviewed and scored by at least three experts and presented to the UKNC Review Panel for final consideration and decision.

Feedback is provided to applicants. This can help enhance an application for submission to UNESCO. If the application is not successful the feedback can assist applicants on whether to apply in a future cycle. Not all applications at this stage will be successful.

If an application is successful, a letter of endorsement from the UK National Commission for UNESCO will be provided for the application. UNESCO will not accept applications submitted without a letter of endorsement from the UK National Commission for UNESCO.




Submission must be made to UNESCO by 30 April each year.

A review will take place within the relevant sector in UNESCO during the following months, and either acceptance or not will be notified in due course. Not all applications to UNESCO will be successful.

If the application is accepted by UNESCO, they will invite the university to enter into an Agreement to establish the UNESCO Chair or UNITWIN Network over the next few months. Only then will the UNESCO Chair or UNITWIN Network be able to use the UNESCO logo. The initial period is for four years, with a progress report being submitted at the midway point, and a final report being submitted with any renewal request.


Cultural Heritage and Development: Opportunities for Sustainble Development


   Read the report        


National Value of UNESCO to the United Kingdom


   Read National Value #Ideas