Westminster Higher Education Forum

Next steps for postgraduate research - funding, delivery and progression

Morning, Tuesday, 3rd December 2019

Central London


This timely seminar will consider next steps for delivering postgraduate research (PGR) in the UK.

Delegates will assess the effectiveness of current postgraduate funding and delivery methods, including the impact on access and inclusion, and the next steps for supporting career progression for PGR students.

Delegates will discuss the next steps following the recent consultation on the independent review of the Concordat, in which respondents called for a shorter and more accessible document which outlines more clearly the individual responsibilities of stakeholders including funders, employers and principal investigators towards researchers. With the publication of the revised Concordat expected in September this year, attendees will discuss priorities for the implementation of the Concordat, looking at whether principles should be expressed as expectations or obligations so as to recognise the diversity of institutions while ensuring compliance.

Attendees will further examine the current state of training and career progression for PGR students, looking at sector priorities for addressing issues such as poor remuneration, fixed-term contracts and lack of progression. Delegates will also discuss best practice for supporting equality, diversity and inclusion and for preparing students for work in the UK research environment, both within and outside of academia.

Delegates will discuss the balance of funding of PGR, looking at opportunities around increased government research spending, the impact of the new Government loans and priorities for expanding employer-sponsored programmes. This comes as Government looks to grow public R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP as part of the Industrial Strategy, equating to more than double the current levels of investment, which will require another 260,000 researchers working across academia and industry by 2027.

Further discussion will consider the likely impact of the doctoral loans introduced in August 2018 on student numbers and accessibility for traditionally underrepresented groups. This follows research commissioned by the Department for Education which showed that the introduction of Master’s loans in 2016/17 coincided with a 36% increase in uptake in Master’s degrees in England, including a significant increase in the proportion of Black students.

Delegates will also consider the impact of proposed funding changes for European PGR students in the wake of Brexit on international student numbers. This follows the recent announcement by the Government guaranteeing postgraduate support for EU nationals beginning their studies in 2020.

Those attending will assess models for providing doctoral study, looking at the effectiveness of the increasingly-used Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs). This comes following concerns raised by some academics within the sector regarding the implementation of the CDT delivery model, highlighting the expensive administrative burden on universities and the disproportionate exclusion of post-92 institutions from research council funding.

Delegates will also discuss the future of professional doctorates, which seek to integrate professional practice with academic knowledge, looking at how to ensure parity of esteem with traditional PhD qualifications.

Keynote Speaker

Professor David Bogle

Chair, Independent Review of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and Pro-Vice-Provost, Doctoral School, University College London

Keynote Speakers

Professor Julia Buckingham

Chair, Concordat Strategy Group; Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University London and President, Universities UK

Professor David Bogle

Chair, Independent Review of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and Pro-Vice-Provost, Doctoral School, University College London


Lord Broers

former Chair, House of Lords Science and Technology Committee


Alice Churm

Postgraduate Officer, Warwick Students’ Union

Dr Theresa McKinven

Head of Graduate School, Manchester Metropolitan University

Professor Dame Athene Donald

Professor of Experimental Physics and Master, Churchill College, University of Cambridge

Dr Karen Clegg

Head, Research Excellence Training, University of York

Professor Arthur Richards

Director, Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Autonomous and Robotic Systems (FARSCOPE) and Professor of Robotics and Control, University of Bristol

Professor Pamela Cox

Director, South East Network for Social Sciences and Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

Dr Gina Reinhardt

Senior Lecturer, Department of Government, University of Essex

Dr Owen Gower

Director, UK Council for Graduate Education

Frances Burstow

Deputy Director, Skills and Strategy, Economic and Social Research Council

Professor Dianne Berry

Dean of Postgraduate Research Studies and Professor of Psychology, University of Reading