Research learns lessons from PhDs' movements

September 16, 2005

Almost half of PhD graduates in the UK move out of the region they study in, according to preliminary findings unveiled at the UK Grad conference this week.

Some 47 per cent of PhD graduates move to another region or overseas, compared with 41 per cent of first-degree graduates. The South East, Scotland, London, Yorkshire and the Humber and the east of England produce the largest numbers of doctoral graduates, reflecting the number of large, research-active universities in these regions.

But Northern Ireland (83.4 per cent) and Scotland (63.2 per cent) are best at retaining their PhD graduates. The South East, east of England, west and east Midlands are least likely to retain their PhD graduates, with more than 54 per cent leaving these regions for employment.

Some 9.4 per cent of PhD graduates go into employment overseas and roughly half go into postdoctoral research positions.

The research follows UK Grad's analysis of the first destinations of PhD graduates in What Do PhDs Do? , a report based on Higher Education Statistics Agency data in 2004, which improved understanding of the range of jobs and areas doctoral graduates enter after graduation.

Ellen Pearce, manager of the UK Grad centre said: "We hope the results will contribute to a strategic debate about how we train and prepare our researchers for their professional careers.

Our postgraduate researchers make a significant contribution to the UK labour market across a wide range of employment sectors and occupations.

Only by understanding the picture more fully can we both support our researchers effectively, and harness their contribution to the regions and the UK as a whole."

UK Grad intends to produce a detailed analysis early in 2006. This will include first destination details of UK-domiciled PhD graduates from each region by category - such as working, studying, employed - and look at employment sectors and occupations of doctoral graduates in each region and the mobility of various occupations.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Team, a working group on how to measure the effectiveness of the research council money universities have to improve postgraduate and postdoctoral research training, will launch a consultation at the conference.

Universities have £20 million for developing research students'

skills. The Rugby Team will present its final report in January 2006 on how to evaluate this.

Chris Park, Rugby Team chairman, said: "We want to get feedback from the sector about how different institutions see the skills development agenda and share ideas about the ways of measuring it, which institutions will buy into.

"We are thinking in terms of measures that institutions can use like submission and completion rates - do they have ways of collecting feedback from graduate supervisors and employers? The group is also looking at measuring for the sector as a whole."

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