New report on Understanding the recruitment and selection of postgraduate researchers

New report was published during the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference

New report by CRAC/Vitae, ‘Understanding the recruitment and selection of postgraduate research students by English higher education institutions’ was published by HEFCE , during the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference this week. 

The research was undertaken for HEFCE by The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC), Vitae and the University of Derby International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), and focused on the policies, processes and experiences of transitions into doctoral programmes. The study explored the recruitment of students to research degree programmes (PhD and MPhil), selection of postgraduate research students (PGRs) from the candidate pool and the role of PGR students in the higher education research base.

The report identifies the processes used by English HEIs to recruit UK and international PGR students to their doctoral programmes, what institutions seek in terms of candidates’ prior attainment or experience, and potential barriers for prospective PGR students to overcome, which may have implications for the sustainability and diversity of the sector. It explores how institutions align the activity of their PGR students with their strategic research missions and how they nurture and develop these students as part of their research capability. 

Sixty English institutions active in PGR participated in the study carried out between January and March 2014.

HEFCE will consider the report’s recommendations in its ongoing joint programme of work on PGR with Research Councils UK and within the context of HEFCEs cross-cutting theme on postgraduate policy and funding.

The report highlights a number of important areas which Vitae will explore further over the coming year with its institutional member organisations. These include:

  • Understanding widening participation in the research degree context, including themes around equity of access, data capture and definitions
  • Selection criteria and the emphasis on evidence of research skills for doctoral candidates as opposed to potential aptitude for research
  • The importance of international markets, including the role of researcher development in ensuring that the UK remains attractive to international researchers