Research Councils UK publish independent panel report on future of PG skills agenda
Last year an independent panel, including representation from NUS, met to discuss progress in implementing the researcher skills agenda, which seeks to develop the transferable skills of postgraduate and early career researchers in preparation for employment.
Since 2005, universities in receipt of RCUK funding have received extra money to put into skills development and careers support for postgraduate researchers. The funding was due to end in 2010-11 and the panel was convened to assess how effective the agenda has been and make recommendations about how researcher development should be sustained.
Panel recommendations included the following:
- Future funding arrangements should measure success against clearly-defined goals and a quantified starting point. This was in recognition that attempts to measure the impact of the provision of skills training to researchers were lacking a clear sense of the situation before the funding provision had been made.
- RCUK needs to ensure that specific, identifiable funding is made available to support researcher development so that funding does not get swallowed up in other institution priorities. In RCUK's response, it places responsibility for managing researcher development funding on institutions ie there is no more a clearly identified funding stream for this purpose.
- All funders must contribute to the skills development of PhD students and research staff. RCUK has responded that it expects institutions to recoup costs of provision from both funders AND students.
- Institutions need to focus more on the needs of employers when providing training. The panel found limited evidence that institutions had engaged closely with employers in developing their training, and there were some indications that employers outside academia held the belief that PhD students were not equipped for employment on completion of their PhD.
- The UK needs to promote its skills training provision more widely abroad. The UK as seen as a world-leader in this respect, and there was some evidence that skills training provision was welcomed by international students.
Download the full report of the Hodge review here
Read RCUK's response to the Hodge review here
Recouping the costs from funders and students. RCUK has made it clear that it expects institutions to take forward the skills agenda and provide researcher development training, but is no longer providing specific funds for the purpose. Instead, costs are to be built into postgraduate fees, which in many, but not all cases, can be recouped from funders.
Download the NUS briefing on how unions can address this issue
Other issues might include:
- Fitness for purpose of training provided - does it meet needs of students?
- Cuts to provision in order to save money
- Access to training, especially for part-time research students
If this is an issue that is live at your institution, feel free to contact us for information and advice