- Previous events
- Vitae researcher development conference 2008
- Workshop programme NEW UPDATE December 08
- C1/D1 Workshop summary and outcomes
C1/D1 Workshop summary and outcomes
Institutional strategies for sustaining personal development and careers support
Dr Iain Cameron, Head of Research Careers and Diversity, Research Councils UK and Sheila Thompson, Director, Researcher Development Programme, University of Edinburgh
Since the Roberts Report in 2002 Research Councils UK has made coordinated payments to universities to support transferable and career development skills and has expected them to prepare an initial outline strategy and to report annually on the innovation resulting from the funding. The funding itself has been ring-fenced and paid centrally to encourage its strategic use.
This session covered:
- the challenges associated with embedding the Roberts Agenda within the normal practices of HE institutions
- a case study of scenario planning considering the implications and possible responses to potential changes in funding levels and mechanisms
- a look ahead, asking participants to consider whether they have created sustainable change within their institution
- reflection on the challenges in planning and development and support strategies for researchers beyond 2011.
RCUK perspective: Iain Cameron
Iain explained how Roberts funding came about, how RCUK manages its allocation, use and monitoring, and set the funding in the context of the overall cost of a doctorate. The key factors affecting future funding are:
- Earmarking is secure until 2011 (as part of RCUK strategy)
- Future funding could be affected by:
- possible change of government
- tighter funding environment (‘flat cash')
- a government policy of progress towards sustainability
- how well ‘impact' is demonstrated.
Evidence of impact is looked for in four areas:
- embedding skills into researcher training
- improved employability of researchers
- improved research outcomes
- research careers perceived as more attractive.
RCUK is measuring these by:
- annual RCUK reporting of Roberts allocations
- Rugby Team Evaluation Framework.
View Iain Cameron's presentation.
Institutional response to the Roberts agenda: Sheila Thompson
With the advent of Roberts funding in 2003, the University of Edinburgh adopted conservative spending plans from 2003-07, to manage uncertainties and risks, with a reserve set aside to cover an exit strategy. When the public spending review confirmed the second tranche of Roberts funding to 2011, Edinburgh increased its annual spend and released some reserve funds for infrastructure (eg PDP and e-learning) and development projects (eg researcher-led initiatives).
During 2007-08 Edinburgh conducted a scenario planning exercise. The possible scenarios identified were:
- A sudden drop in funding between now and 2010-11
- From 2011 planning for:
- no change in funding mechanism
- end of ring fencing
- decrease in level of funding
- new requirements from stakeholders.
This exercise identified that to sustain change the university would need to:
- continue to promote the Roberts agenda by raising awareness and expectations amongst postgraduate researchers , research staff , principal investigators etc.
- transfer ownership by engaging all stakeholders in developing and reviewing university strategy
- build impact by embedding skills awareness into the main stages/processes of the postgraduate researcher and research staff experience
- provide resources and impetus for a major acceleration of local activity both School based (Edinburgh has 21 Graduate Schools) and researcher led
- engage more directly with research staff through research staff societies - to aid ownership and embedding
- further develop university policies to underpin the Roberts Agenda - eg Code of Practice for the Management of Research Staff
- build postgraduate researcher and research staff support into university strategy, ie university strategic plan
- promote national initiatives, eg the revised Concordat .
The advantages of Edinburgh's strategy are:
- increased understanding and involvement in strategy aids embedding
- establishment of new internal funding mechanisms allows a flexible response to possible scenarios (e.g. devolving funding to Schools will now prepare the ground should ring fenced funding change to distributed funding)
- researcher-led funds enhance ownership (and may be attractive to other sources of funding)
- researchers are empowered
- strategy is underpinned by university policy.
View Sheila Thompson's presentation.
Participants discussed and recorded how embedding was being achieved in their institutions, the challenges ahead, and, in terms of sustainability of the agenda, the key questions to feed back to the sector (eg Rugby Team, Vitae).
Key questions for the sector were identified as follows:
- Can the rate of change continue or will it level off?
- (For government) how will they continue to support this agenda (with/without funding)?
- Will there be more pressure to encourage other funders to follow suit?
- Can we use postgraduate recruitment as a ‘business case' for funders?
- Will Roberts money be more evenly distributed among HE institutions?
- Can the driver of change be something other than financial? (eg Quality Assurance Agency making training/needs analysis mandatory)
- How can institutions share resources effectively and cost-effectively?
- What career paths are we preparing research staff for?
Winning hearts and minds
- How do we achieve consensus about the importance of training/skills development as part of the general agenda?
- How do we really get buy-in from principal investigators and heads of department?
- How do we get all academics to recognise these skills as important in an academic career/role?
- How do we buy the time of established academics that don't see the need to change or are used to having success recognised by other parties eg funders?
- How valuable are the changes brought about by Roberts?
- What will the impact framework of the future be?
- Are we on course for establishing career path data by 2011?
- How do we obtain evidence of changing employability of researchers?
- How do we investigate the relationship between research output and the transferable skills agenda?
- How do we capture evidence of change when people go overseas/away?
- How can we get engagement from employers? Do they identify change? NB Start with academics - are research staff better than before?
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