The ESRC announces a new national postgraduate training framework

Thursday 21 May 2009

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), today (21 May 2009) announces significant changes to how it supports postgraduate training in the social sciences. The new Postgraduate Training Framework will move the ESRC away from a system of providing training through recognised outlets and individual courses and will instead create a national network of institutional level Doctoral Training Centres (DTC) and Doctoral Training Units (DTU) providing the very best training provision.

The revised framework is the result of more than two years of policy reviews and a constructive consultation with the social science community. The primary purpose of the new framework is to further enhance provision for postgraduate training in the UK by building upon the considerable strengths that already exist. The national network of DTCs and DTUs will rest within the UKs strongest social science research environments offering truly excellent discipline and interdisciplinary postgraduate training in the social sciences.

Julie McLaren, ESRC's Head of Postgraduate Training said: "The main change is that the resulting Centres and Units will be accredited at an institutional level to encourage the development of coherent university-wide training infrastructure in the social sciences that draws on expertise from across the organisation. It is hoped this will lead to greater opportunities for institutions to develop innovative approaches and purposeful interdisciplinary training required to address increasingly complex research questions."

The DTC/DTU network will offer many advantages including creating greater flexibility in UK postgraduate training provision. One of the key features of the new Framework will be greater inter-institutional collaboration centered on cooperative access to advanced or specialist training. DTCs will be expected to open up specialist short courses, workshops and masterclasses to postgraduates from outside the host institution. The aim is to create a co-ordinated regional and national network for advanced training that will be integrated with existing training provided through other Council investments such as the National Centre for Research Methods and Researcher Development Initiative

Ian Diamond, chief executive of the ESRC said: "The collaborative element of the network is very important to ensure that all postgraduate researchers in the social sciences are being equipped with the skills they need to maintain excellence in UK social science research into the future. The Framework provides the opportunity for institutions to take this collaboration further and work together in the design and delivery of training provision and supervision. We of course welcome this sharing of expertise amongst institutions where it enhances high quality postgraduate training provision".

It is estimated that twenty-five Doctoral Training Centres will be established along with a potentially greater number of Doctoral Training Units. Institutions will be invited to submit applications for accredited DTC or DTU status from October 2009. Successful applications will be announced in late 2010 ready to host students starting in 2011.

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Notes for editors

  1. Doctoral Training Centres will receive an annual quota of studentships the precise number of which will be informed by an algorithm, but should be between 5 and 40 per annum. Doctoral Training Units will not receive a quota of studentships but will be eligible to apply through the Council's open studentship competitions.
  2. Each DTC will receive a five-year allocation of studentships, with a review point after three years. The allocation will be accompanied by a broad strategic steer that will focus some studentships to help address the Council's key capacity building priorities.
  3. The framework will offer institutions greater flexibility and part of the allocation will be left to the institution to determine where it places studentships: either to support local research or training strategies or to meet high levels of demand from excellent students.
  4. In addition under the new Framework institutions will be allowed to 'recycle' studentships. If a student leaves during the course of their studies, rather than return the money, which is currently the case, the institution can recruit a replacement.
  5. The framework will permit part funding of studentships. This means institutions can add their own funding to support studentships or secure funding from public, private or third sector sources.
  6. Any kind of studentship can be funded under a DTC. This means that CASE awards or collaborative awards with other Research Councils or agencies can be supported. Funding can also be used to support short term internships as part of a PhD programme.
  7. Institutions will have the flexibility to increase stipend levels to help recruit retain students in national shortage areas.
  8. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.