UKRI Reviews of Doctoral Training – The Good and Some Cause for Concern

The UKRI, the overarching government body that manages publicly funded research and innovation in the UK, has just published two reports on doctoral training one in STEM (the EPSRC report) and one by the equivalent in social sciences (the ESRC report). Both reports recognise the value of doctoral training with an emphasis on employers rather than the wider community. The reports highlight the need for future action in this area:

Alongside council-specific actions, the two reviews are also an important contribution to the evidence base for a new deal for postgraduate research, which will address:

  • funding and stipend levels
  • routes in, through and out of doctoral training
  • rights and conditions
  • diversification of models and access.

UKRI – https://www.ukri.org/news/epsrc-and-esrc-doctoral-reviews-published/ accessed 10-10-2021

The EPSRC has released its review of doctoral training in the STEM arena within the UK. There is a wealth of information on the background to the report including outcomes from workshops with stakeholders and a review of the current literature. There is also the report itself and the recommendations therein (

List of recommendations  
Recommendation 1 To stimulate economic growth, EPSRC should increase the number of students it supports and the professional development that they receive. EPSRC-funded doctoral students go onto careers in innovation and research in manufacturing, information and communication technologies and other scientific and technical careers in industry and academia. To become a global science superpower, the number of people with these skills must grow and EPSRC must lead by increasing the number of students it supports. EPSRC should bid for an uplift of investment in EPS for doctoral education from the spending review and other opportunities.
Recommendation 2 EPSRC should better demonstrate the value of a doctorate, its outcomes, and the destination of doctoral graduates, so that this is understood by all key stakeholders.
Recommendation 3 EPSRC should continue to provide thought leadership in doctoral education to the EPS community by investing in the highest quality doctoral education provision which supports a diverse range of career paths.
Recommendation 4 EPSRC should provide a stable long-term baseline of investment to support a creative and innovative fundamental research community (such as the current algorithmic DTP investment), alongside a more dynamic framework to respond to and support emerging strategic priorities (for example by investing in more frequent CDT competitions and including studentship investments alongside research investments in top priority strategic areas).
Recommendation 5 To effectively support the UK’s increasing STEM capability, the system as a whole needs to grow. Recognising the high value placed on doctoral studentships by industry, EPSRC should engage with industry (both the current and new sectors) to encourage and enable increased industry funding and co-funding of doctoral students. These are effective ways of attracting industry investment into the R&D landscape.
Recommendation 6 EPSRC should showcase the ways small and medium enterprises can and do engage with doctoral students, to widen participation and enable overall growth in the system.
Recommendation 7 EPSRC should work with UKRI on doctoral student issues covered by the Government’s People and Culture Strategy expected to be published in summer 2021, ensuring that issues facing the EPS community are addressed. In particular, the New Deal for postgraduate research is expected to address areas such as the stipend level for doctoral students, the rights and conditions of doctoral studentships, financial sustainability of doctoral education investments, doctoral student recruitment policies, and the health and wellbeing of students.
Recommendation 8 The existing opportunity to employ graduates on UKRI grants does not replace our main route to doctoral education but could provide a valuable alternative career
Recommendation 9 EPSRC should work with the sector to provide greater recognition and visibility of the wider skills developed alongside research skills during a doctorate to ensure the employability of all doctoral graduates.
Recommendation 10 All EPSRC funded students should have access to opportunities outside of their research project (e.g., conferences, placements, public engagement), irrespective of the funding route. EPSRC should be explicit within each scheme that funding should be made available for opportunities outside of the research project.
Recommendation 11 EPSRC should prioritise funding excellent doctoral experiences and access to opportunities over student numbers, while ensuring value for money.
Recommendation 12 EPSRC should assist those who deliver the EPSRC doctoral investments in developing and sharing good practice.
Recommendation 13 It is essential that EPSRC continues to invest through a diverse range of flexible approaches so that we continue to support doctoral students’ varied needs, backgrounds and potential careers as well as the differing requirements of the research and innovation communities.
Recommendation 14 As EPSRC’s current mechanisms are well regarded, new initiatives should only be introduced where there is a compelling case for an alternative approach.
Recommendation 15 EPSRC should work with all stakeholders to ensure the current flexibilities relating to both collaboration and supporting students are well known and used.
Recommendation 16 Doctoral education should be available to people following a variety of career paths. EPSRC should work with stakeholders to continue to improve access, diversity of entry points to doctoral education and tailored support for individuals.
Recommendation 17 EPSRC should understand detailed EDI issues in each of our research areas or sectors and work with our community and representative bodies to address them. EPSRC will continue to work within UKRI on broader EDI initiatives.
Recommendation 18 EPSRC should explore how doctoral training investments can support the levelling up agenda.
).

 

93 percent club

Earlier in the year I reported on a new University Stakeholder Group that was gaining traction within the sector. Unusually this one was centred on those which form the greatest proportion of school leavers, those from state schools.  There is further news on this on the BBC website.  Sophie Pender expertly brings the situation to the fore saying:

“Truthfully, when many state-educated people reach the pinnacle of their careers, they’ve often dispensed with their state-school identity,”

“Our socioeconomic background is not obvious on the surface.

“It’s a characteristic that we are able to mask if we need to – and that needs to stop.”

 Quotes taken from the BBC website – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-57580910, accessed 12th July 2021

I just wonder how may of us now say ‘dinner’ rather than ‘tea’!?

Further information on this not-for-profit social enterprise can be found by following the link  – 93percent.

Paige Kesemeyer – homelessness to academic success!

A truly brilliant piece from Paige Kesemeyer about her journey from disadvantage and initial lack of opportunity to completing her BA degree in Social Policy and an MA in Society, Culture and Media.   Education for all and the opportunities that it provides are a necessary part of imaging a just and beneficial society which allows all to flourish as they see fit. It also provides us (society) with the widest possible pool of talent and encourages a broader range of innovation and ideas to circulate within different sectors.  It also recognises the importance of taking to account all stakeholder views to ensure that minimal disadvantage is impacted on particular groups.

What does a Lecturer/Professor actually do?

It is pretty much a standard joke about what academics do with their time including the perception we have lengthy holidays when the UG students are on vacation.  This view is held in not only amongst the public at large but by our own students, their parents and, rather alarmingly, by policy makers and even former Ministers of Education (I thought there would have been solidarity amongst professions that have a long summer ‘recess’).

Dr Susan Wardell from Social Anthropology at the University of Otaga, NZ, has produced an infographic of the life of an academic and the various tasks we have perform to fulfil our obligations to our stakeholders (see below). There is further info on Dr Wardell’s twitter feed. What is left off the infographic is the number of hours a typical academic works – which in the UK is in excess of that defined by the working time directive – 48 hours (when the UK was a member of the EU it was the only country to have an exemption from this legislation). Prof. Katherine Sang et al (2015) provides a critique of this phenomena. This is not an isolated discussion (just type ‘How many hours a week do academics work’ into a search engine) especially around the reducing focus on research.

An academic’s role within the University environment. Creative Commons License – Copyright, Susan Wardall – Source Twitter: Unlazy Susan.

10 ingredients for a successful supervisor/PhD student relationship – A thoughtful commentary from Elsevier Connect

The PhD candidate-Supervisor Relationship is probably the cornerstone of academic research, at least in Western Europe. The relationship, which can last anything from 3 to 5 or more years depending on the type and location of the PhD degree, provides a key transition for the student from being a learned individual to one who enhances these attributes and becomes more or less independent in their pursuit of excellence.

Some of the more successful relationships last a lifetime particularly for those candidates that continue a career in academia or a similar domain. Prof Torralba declares 10 key constituents for developing this relationship successfully. How do these attributes/features resonate with your experiences as a supervisor or student?


Leeds: The Summer Careers Festival 2021!

This Summer, we’re excited to share with you a series of virtual events to help you discover opportunities in Yorkshire, the UK and globally. Join us from the 7 – 10 June for the Summer Careers Festival, where you can book 1-to-1 meetings and group sessions with a huge range of employers who are looking to hire now!

We have over 160+ employers with live vacancies waiting to talk to you! If you’re looking for a summer internship, placement or a graduate level job – then the Summer Careers Festival is for you.

See what events we will run during the Summer Careers Festival below and click directly on each event to book your exclusive place.

Summer Careers Festival fairs and events:

To attend the Careers Day fairs you will have to download the CareerFair+ app and get your profile ready! Read the top tips here to stand out from the crowd and make sure to attend the pre-events webinars.

Here are some tips on how to join us and make the most of the Careers Days:

  1. Download the CF+ app (Google Play & App Store)
  2. Create an account – watch this video to see how!
  3. Allow notifications & add the fair to your calendar
  4. Listen to How to prepare for the Summer Careers Festival | Top tips from Marc and Kiera – webinar recording
  5. Browse attending employers (https://cfplus.page.link/ZMm1)
  6. Research the companies and use filters to decide which employers you want to talk to
  7. Book 1-2-1 appointments and group sessions. Employers are adding their availability on daily basis – if you cannot book an appointment for a particular employer – make sure to log in to CF+ at a later date to check their availability again.