Manchester University emerged as the big winner in the second round of Research Councils UK Fellowship Awards designed to nurture postgraduate talent.
Manchester won 22 of the 400 fellowships announced this week, getting a Pounds 2.75 million share of the £50 million research council fund.
The fellowship scheme gives postgraduate researchers £125,000 over five years. Successful institutions must provide a supportive environment for research fellows, including mentoring and career development plans.
Universities are also expected to apply for fellowship funding that fits with their existing research strategies.
Rosie Beales, who co-ordinates the academic fellowships at RCUK, said:
"Fellowships should be in areas where a university wants to build research and support individuals. They should provide a clear career path into teaching and research and outreach to schools."
Ms Beales said the research councils were considering ways to get research fellows to share ideas, work together on issues such as schools outreach and public communication of science and compare notes on universities' training and career development.
Dame Nancy Rothwell, pro vice-chancellor for research at Manchester, said the university had worked hard on its applications. "We have good training and mentoring procedures in place, and I think we chose innovative areas (of research)," she said.
Oxford University came a close second to Manchester. It claimed 20 fellowships and £2.5 million in corresponding funding, a £1.125 million improvement on the first round in August 2004.
Imperial College London came in third place with 19 fellowships worth Pounds 2.375 million. Bath University almost doubled its number of fellowships in the latest round, gaining nine worth £1.125 million, while King's College London doubled its fellowship funding from the first round to £1.5 million.
Although Leeds University is sixth in the table of winners, its 12 fellowships are far short of the 28 it won last time - representing a loss of £2 million.
A Leeds spokesperson said: "We've recruited excellent academic staff from around the world thanks to this scheme and... we've received more fellowships over the four-year period than any other institution, but demand for them is clearly rising and becoming more competitive."
Newcastle University slipped out of the top ten this time, dropping nine fellowships - a loss of £1.125 million.
Universities have reported back on the progress of the first round of academic fellows. RCUK will issue a report in the summer.
Number of fellowships won
1 Manchester University 22
2 Oxford University 20
3 Imperial College 19
4 Bristol University 14
5 Nottingham University 13
6 Leeds University 12
7 King's College London 12
8 Southampton University 12
9 UCL 11
10 Edinburgh University 11
Fellowship to Follow one's heart
A Research Councils UK Fellowship at Manchester University was enough to lure Catherine Lawrence back into academic life from a research position at AstraZeneca.
"I had done a postdoc for five years at Manchester, then did 15 months in industry. During that time, I realised that my heart was in academic research. This fellowship came about and seemed too good to be true," she said.
"On paper you have a permanent job in industry, but nothing is permanent in real life."
Dr Lawrence's fellowship is underwritten by the university, which means that she is all but guaranteed a lectureship at the end of it. "The fellowship means I'm treated as an academic member of staff, go to meetings and do some teaching -and I won't have to go back to temporary jobs afterwards.
"You work with somebody and are supported by people around you rather than establishing your own lab and getting research grants. I'm writing for grants to get my own equipment but the urgency isn't the same."
Dr Lawrence is researching the link between weight gain and loss and brain disease. "I'm looking at extreme changes of body weight, trying to understand what happens in the brain during these processes and link those diseases with inflammation."
She will do an increasing amount of teaching over the course of the fellowship.