President of UUK highlights doctoral employability as key priority for postgraduate review

29 October 2009...UUK report on Promoting UK Doctorate was discussed at the House of Commons to an audience of MPs and Vice-Chancellors yesterday

This joint UUK and Vitae event hosted by Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (PPS to David Lammy) included speeches from Professor Steve Smith, President, Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of University and Exeter; Dr Janet Metcalfe, Chair and Head of Vitae and co-author of the report; and Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP, Minister for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

During the event the report Promoting the UK Doctorate, authored by Vitae was recognised to provide a strong basis on which the recently announced postgraduate review by BIS can be build on. The report shows how study at doctoral level will provide the high level skills needed to help drive our economy in a post-recession environment.

Professor Steve Smith, President, Universities UK highlighted four areas addressed in Promoting the UK Doctorate for consideration in PG review, a key one being a need to secure the support for the development and the future employability of PhD students.

‘We need to promote the attractiveness of the UK PhD to employers, as well as students. We also need to do more to encourage mobility between academia and business, and vice versa. Transferable employability skills for PhD graduates, allowing them to work effectively within industry as well as academia, are critical.'

To support skills development of researchers Professor Smith underlined the importance of Roberts Funding to be continued ‘beyond the current timeframe of 2010/11 in a clear and identifiable way.'

Another key focus area for the PG review that Professor Smith noted was financial sustainability of doctorate provision. ‘It will be crucial that the review examines the long term pressures and financial problems of sustaining provision. This goes to the heart of universities' ability to maintain quality and standards, as well as to provide a world class environment for the development and training of researchers.'

Also the international competitiveness and reputation of the UK doctorate were discussed. Professor Smith said: ‘UUK will continue to work with organisations such as Vitae, RCUK, the British Council and others to promote the UK PhD brand, to ensure that the UK PhD in all its forms, and in all its diversity, continues to be one of the most highly respected in the world'.

The co-author of Promoting the UK Doctorate report Dr Janet Metcalfe, Chair and Head of Vitae urged all to read the report which underpins these key areas critical to the continued success of the UK's doctoral provision.

‘Our doctoral programmes are the best in the world but we can do better. Now is the time to capitalise on this strength and promote the ‘UK brand' world-wide', Dr Metcalfe said.

‘We need to ensure the financial sustainability of doctoral programmes and continue to improve the researcher experience through continued investment in training and development. We also need to recognise and capitalise on the talent of doctorates - across the whole of the UK.'