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- Vitae researcher development conference 2008
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A6/B6 Workshop summary and outcomes
Research staff strand
Changes in the supply of doctoral researchers
Dr Mark Gittoes, Head of Quantitative Analysis for Policy, HEFCE and Dr Neil Kemp OBE, Visiting Fellow, Institute of Education
UK HE institutions need to attract high quality research students, both from UK and internationally, to further their research agendas. However, the pattern of demand is changing as competition grows for this limited pool. Mark Gittoes drew on research undertaken by HEFCE on the profile of research students in the UK. Neil Kemp reviewed supply and demand in the international market, including the likely impact of changing policies in other countries, drawing on his recent study for UK HE International. Participants then discussed the strategic implications for UK HE over the medium and long terms.
Doctoral researchers in the UK : Mark Gittoes
Doctorate starters at UK HEIs grew by 22% between 1996-97 and 2004-05. This resulted largely from over 50% growth in numbers of overseas researchers; growth in UK-domiciled students was only 2%. While full-time starters increased, part-time starters declined overall, due to a 14% drop in UK-domiciled students; here again there was an increase in international student numbers.
The mean age for starting a doctorate rose for both full-time and part-time students. More students are entering a doctorate via the Masters route, particularly in the arts and humanities. Female students increased from 38% (1996-97) to 44% (2004--05). By 2004-05 non-white students made up 12% of full-time UK-domiciled research students, 14% of part-time students (up from 9% and 10% respectively). In 2004-05 4% declared a disability, up from 2% (full-time research students) and 1% (part-time research students) in 1996-97.
View Mark Gittoes' presentation.
Supply and demand in the international market: Neil Kemp
The UK will continue to need international postgraduate research students, particularly in the STEM (science, technology and mathematics) disciplines where there is low UK student demand in key subjects. International researchers have made a major contribution to UK research output. They are calculated as (directly) worth up to £600 million per annum to the UK economy - much more indirectly. The UK has been very succesful in attracting international students in recent years, but the current UK recruitment and funding ‘model' is not sustainable. Competition is growing rapidly from the USA, countries across Europe, and Australia among others (eg China, Singapore).
Nearly half the international postgraduate research students in the UK are self-funded; only 15% receive home country scholarships. UK scholarships (government and institutional) fund 10%. Over one in five receive fee discounts from their UK institution. Part-time employment is extremely important, although its necessity is not generally accepted by UK HEIs.
Institutions need to address:
- quality of student experience - particularly as competition grows
- a clearer statement of what institution offers
- supervisory contact
- training available
- funding support - including access to part time work
- flexible delivery.
Although the large majority of UK HEIs prioritise international research student recruitment, most lack a specific approach for postgraduate research students - they are subsumed as part of general international recruitment. Funds are not employed strategically, for either country or subject priorities, and websites are not postgraduate researcher specific.
The UK has many opportunities:
- building on the high quality reputation of UK
- continuing strong demand for medicine and biosciences
- global growth means that HE everywhere requires more trained academic staff
- growth particularly from Middle East, Pakistan, also Thailand and Malaysia
- European students and continuing interest from USA.
Possible strategies include:
- new approaches to marketing - both UK and institutional
- being clear about what a doctorate is and what its ‘offer' is
- improving the student experience
- central investment
- significantly improve websites - institutional and national
- linking national and institutional strategic priorities
- increasing numbers of HE institutions involved in the UK
- more flexible approaches to delivery: in-country/split, etc.
View Neil Kemp's presentation.
Participant questions and discussion highlighted:
- the importance of improving how the UK doctorate is promoted, particularly on the web (on a national basis and by individual HEIs)
- a need to investigate further the factors that have led to the relative decline of UK students among the PGR population
- how competitor countries are funding doctoral researchers to a much higher level than the UK (full funding in many cases).
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