The 1996 Concordat on Contract Research Staff Career Management set standards for the career management and conditions of employment of researchers and was used by the higher education sector as a general reference point for good practice. From 1997-2002 the Research Careers initiative provided a further driver to improve employment conditions and career development for research staff but in his 2002 landmark review, SET for Success, Sir Gareth Roberts, who had chaired the initiative, acknowledged that much remained to be done. The review led to government funding to institutions from 2003 - 2011, to implement its career development recommendations for researchers, widely known as the ‘Roberts money'.
Since 1996, researchers' expectations regarding career development and working conditions have grown. The interests and responsibilities of research funders and HEIs have also changed in response to new legislation, amendments to terms and conditions of grants and the publication, in 2005, of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, which was broadly based on the UK Concordat.
A revised Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers was launched in 2008, following a consultative process managed by an RCUK co-ordinated working group representing the interests of employers, employees and funders. The approach was endorsed by the UK Research Base Funders' Forumand intended to provide a single, unambiguous statement of the expectations and responsibilities of research funders and institutions with respect to the management of researchers. By adopting the principles of the 2008 Concordat along with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education Code of Practice for the Assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, institutions should expect to fulfil the expectations of all funders.
Following a sector-wide consultation, it was clear that implementation and progress would require a higher profile than that achieved by the earlier Concordat. Vitae (previously the UK GRAD Programme) was launched alongside the new Concordat in June 2008. Vitae champions implementation of the Concordat's principles, alongside a Concordat Strategy Group comprising the signatories of the Concordat including representatives of all the main UK funders and employers of researchers.