Support for early-careers researchers - Gradskills

November 26, 2007

St Andrews University. St Andrews University's GRADskills initiative helps early-career researchers build up their research capabilities and increase their employability. It offers researchers more opportunities to get involved in policy changes, move between academia and industry, engage with wider audiences, be innovative and entrepreneurial, access national and international awards and funding and undertake cutting-edge research.

The programme runs workshops and courses throughout the year. In May, it ran a day-long conference, University Research Futures 2007, that was attended mainly by PhD students. Speakers included leading policy advisers, knowledge-transfer experts, research funders and experienced academics. At the conference, researchers could explore collaborative links with others. The GRADskills initiative has increased interest in generic skills across the graduate community at St Andrews.

One of the award judges, Alison Hodge, director of QinetiQ University Partnerships, said: "St Andrews aims to develop the skills of PhD students and research staff through an annual Research Futures conference, using a mix of speakers from a wide range of organisations. "Some 300 participants attended in 2007 and gave excellent feedback. Podcasts have already been exploited for wider dissemination.

"The distinctive feature was the extensive use of highly relevant and important external speakers. Exposure to such networks at this early career stage is vital and unusual."

Fellow judge Robert Burgess, the vice-chancellor of Leicester University, said: "St Andrews has provided an innovative programme for postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers. The evaluation of the programme also demonstrates the strength of this initiative."

Alun Roberts, a spokesman for the UK GRAD Programme, which sponsored the award with Research Councils UK, said the sponsors were "delighted that the judges have selected a practice that demonstrates such outstanding support for early-career researchers, innovating in delivery and having impact among both postgraduate researchers and research staff".

He added: "It also showed the use of evaluation to inform ongoing development to ensure relevance and quality."

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