Applause for those who give young talent a hand

April 7, 2006

Outstanding Support for Early-Careers Researchers

Early-career academics will benefit from a new category in this year's Times Higher Awards. The award, sponsored by Research Councils UK in association with UK GRAD, is open to all higher education institutions in the UK. Individuals or teams may apply whether they work within departments, across a university or on collaborative initiatives between universities.

There are about 30,000 postdoctoral researchers in the UK, at least 50,000 full-time PhD students and about 50,000 part-time PhD students.

Since 2002 and the publication of Gareth Roberts's review Set for Success, which looked at the supply of people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, funding has been made available to ensure that PhD students have transferable skills and that postdoctoral researchers get careers training. Sir Gareth said deficiencies in transferable skills among graduates could undermine the Government's attempts to raise the UK's competitiveness.

The award for Outstanding Support for Early-Careers Researchers will be given to the individual, team or institution that has developed the most innovative scheme to develop the transferable and careers skills of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Research councils fund at least two weeks' training in transferable skills for PhD students and careers training for postdocs. But the judges will not look just at those programmes for students and postdocs that have been funded by the research councils.

An RCUK spokesman said: "We are interested in innovative projects across the board - for all types of students and for all subjects. One of the qualities we will be looking for is the wider applicability of the project."

Claire Sanders

Commonwealth University of the Year

Many universities in the Commonwealth's 53 member states are struggling to meet escalating demands - even in more developed nations such as the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

They all face a common challenge: producing more graduates in exchange for ever-lower state funding as countries compete in the global knowledge economy.

Some institutions in the developed world enjoy economic wealth and political stability. But many operate in politically and economically weakened nations, where even a regular supply of electricity and reliable communications cannot be taken for granted.

The Times Higher 's award for the Commonwealth University of the Year, to be awarded for the first time in 2006, will reward an institution not only for its academic excellence and its efforts in widening educational opportunities, but also for its contribution to national development, sometimes in challenging circumstances.

The judges will be Richard Bourne, former head of the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit at the University of London's Institute of Commonwealth Studies; Brenda Gourley, vice-chancellor, Open University; John Rowett, secretary-general, Association of Commonwealth Universities; and Tim Shaw, director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, London.

Mr Bourne said: "Universities and those who work in them are crucial in preparing the next generation of leaders, scientists, thinkers, innovators and managers. Where they are given the resources to do so, they make discoveries that benefit their nations and the human condition. The Commonwealth is a mutual learning association, and it is right that it should have an award to celebrate university achievement."

David Jobbins

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