Institutional case studies: researcher development post- Roberts funding

Eight case studies, contributed by UK universities, describe the structures and activities in place to support professional development  for their doctoral candidates and research staff. The case studies have been created as part of a Research Councils UK (RCUK) funded review by Vitae of the impact of revised funding arrangements ('post-Roberts') for researcher development in the UK.

The corresponding  report, Analysis of institutional responses on funding arrangements for researcher development, Vitae 2013 summarises responses to the RCUK 2013 survey of institutions.

Roberts funding

From 2003 to 2011, the UK government (via the Research Councils) made ring-fenced payments to research performing organisations to develop the career and transferable skills of their researchers. Payments amounting to approximately £20 million per annum were made in response to recommendations made by the 2002 report from Sir Gareth Roberts' review of the supply of people with STEM skills in the UK: 'SET for Success'. This review was undertaken as part of the UK government's strategy for improving the UK's productivity and innovation performance. The funding, widely referred to as 'Roberts payments', was for researchers across all disciplines and was allocated on a 'per head' basis of Research Council-funded doctoral candidates and research staff.

Moves to embed researcher skills development as a core part of the UK PhD have commanded international respect. The UK is ahead of other countries in its extension of researcher career development to postdoctoral research staff, particularly through implementation of the 'Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers'... and the activities of Vitae in this area. 

From the Review of progress in implementing the recommendations of Sir Gareth Roberts, regarding employability and career development of PhD researchers and research staff. A report for Research Councils UK by an independent review panel, October 2010.

The 2010 review made recommendations to take the UK sector beyond the end of ring-fenced Roberts funding. There is a clear message in the report that both funders of research and research organisations should continue to stimulate and reinforce skills and career development opportunities for researchers.

In 2011 RCUK institutions were asked to outline the extent to which funding for researcher development would be embedded within budgets. A further survey in 2013 elicited responses from 75 institutions (representing 91% of the £120 million Roberts funding issued by the research councils between 2003 and 2011). A majority of respondents were looking to maintain levels of provision established during the Roberts-funding years.