In 2011, the ESRC launched its Advanced Training Network with the aim of incorporating training delivered across ESRC Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs), the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) and the Researcher Development Initiative (RDI) investments. The aim was to create an integrated, national network of advanced training and to facilitate access to that training for all social science postgraduate researchers.
To facilitate its development, we opted for a broad definition that would allow investments to determine for themselves what provision met that definition. As stated in the Postgraduate Training and Development Guidelines (2009):
"[advanced training is] additional to core training within an individual [doctoral training] pathway. Some advanced training will be discipline or subject specific, whilst other training may have a wider application. What constitutes advanced training will differ between discipline areas. A method or theory considered to be advanced in one area of social science may be deemed to be core to another."
DTC advanced training courses
The first step to achieving our aims resulted in our Doctoral Training Centres opening up their advanced training courses in key areas of strength, to all social science students who are registered for a PhD and based at a UK Research Organisation.
We support the opening up of this training by offering bursaries to DTCs so that they can subsidise the cost of providing their courses to a wider audience. These training courses offer social science postgraduates access to high quality advanced training both within and outside of their home institutions, whether in their own discipline, a particular research method, or in a different area of research in order to develop new skills and knowledge. Further details of the training can be found on the NCRM Training and Events Database.
Consultation and report
The second step involved a consultation with key stakeholders regarding the training courses available to assess what might be missing, what further provision was needed either to fill a gap or to enhance capacity, and ways in which access to the training on offer might be improved.
In addition, the ESRC commissioned the Scottish DTC to undertake a piece of work to explore the potential of virtual learning environments to deliver some aspects of advanced training:
The Potential of Virtual Learning and Virtual Learning Environments for Advanced Doctoral Training in the UK (PDF, 736Kb)
We are now commissioning an open call for all UK research organisations eligible for research council funding, to provide high quality, nationally leading, truly advanced training courses to complement offerings within the current Advanced Training Network.