University alliances have ‘wealth of expertise’ to support delivery of a new deal for postgraduate researchers

June 29, 2022

Postgraduate students (PGRs) must be placed “at the forefront of the drive” to make the UK a global science superpower, the GW4 Alliance has said.

In a written response to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) consultation on The New Deal for Postgraduate Researchers (“The New Deal”), GW4 cautioned that improvements need to be applicable to all PGRs regardless of funding if the UK Government is to achieve its target of 2.4% GDP spend on research and development.

The New Deal is a long-term piece of work that aims to improve the experience and quality of PGR training in the UK over the coming years. The strategy aims to ensure the UK has an outstanding research culture that truly supports discovery, diversity and innovation, and that values everyone’s contributions. UKRI had called for input into their consultation, seeking responses from across the UK research system.

As part of its response, GW4 called for UKRI to champion inclusive recruitment practices, saying that addressing poor practice in the system would diversify the PGR population, improve research culture, and enrich the R&D landscape.

It pointed out that university alliances have a “wealth of expertise” to support this, noting that GW4:

  • – is unique among regional alliances for its cross-institutional (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter) dedicated programme of support for postgraduate researchers, early career researchers and technical staff.
  • – promotes best practice in doctoral training recruitment for all PGRs, with GW4 institutions hosting over 30 doctoral training partnerships and centres.
  • – has a network of PGR and Doctoral Training Entity (DTE) forums and networks which facilitate collaboration, best practice and knowledge sharing.
  • – delivers a comprehensive programme for personal and professional development, offering workshops, seminars, discussion groups and on-demand resources to train and up-skill PGRs.

Dr Sabrina Fairchild, GW4 Alliance Talent and Skills Manager, said: “GW4 recognises the importance of improving the PGR experience, and is looking to develop new offers which will address gaps in current provision and support marginalised communities.

“Delivering on The New Deal will involve hard decisions from both UKRI and our institutions, but it’s imperative that we work together to make the necessary improvements required.”

Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, GW4 Alliance Director, said: “UKRI’s latest announcement that it is reviewing financial support for research students and how the stipend is set, will go some way to removing an access barrier for PGRs from lower income backgrounds. Yet this should be reviewed alongside more long-term considerations as we have outlined, which we believe will help address persistent inequalities within the system.

“Our extensive experience in supporting postgraduate researchers provides a wealth of information and expertise that speaks directly to The New Deal. Collaboration is at the heart of GW4 and we are eager to drive forward work which improves the experience for postgraduate researchers.”

Read the full written submission here.