GuildHE urges UKRI to reform PGR funding structures

The organisation that represents 57 specialised HE providers across the UK urged the national research funder to diversify the routes to access funding

GuildHE has warned UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that current funding structures “lockout institutions that are small and specialist”.

UKRI earlier this year asked for the sector’s views on the future of postgraduate funding as it looks to improve the experiences of junior researchers.

GuildHE, which represents 57 specialised higher education providers – including schools of art and performance art, STEM colleges and several mid-sized modern universities – said its members “provide unique models of entry and exit for postgraduate research studies”.

Their students were “less likely to be funded from research councils and more likely to be part-time, mature and female”, GuildHE continued.

It said it hoped a new UKRI ‘Deal for PGR’ [postgraduate researchers] would “take into account the full diversity of the sector and recognise the structural challenges associated with establishing, maintaining and developing the research offer” at GuildHE providers.

It suggests modifications to doctoral training partnerships to make the opportunities “proportionate” to the smaller-sized GuildHE institutions. Few can access the match funding that large institutions do through partnerships with large businesses or organisations. It also suggests that UKRI incentivise large institutions to create partnerships with smaller institutions.

Structures have benefitted providers of traditional PhDs, GuildHE observes, suggesting that new models – similar, perhaps, to the Collaborative Doctoral Awards – could better promote PhD students embedded in work, practice or communities. Many GuildHE PhD candidates are pursuing “professional doctorates, applied research and practice research… [but] these alternative pathways are currently not as recognised… with a perception of relatively lower prestige/value”.

GuildHE postgraduates pursue qualifications in subjects as diverse as arts, drama, agriculture, veterinary sciences, hospitality, osteopathy and sports sciences.

GuildHE also urges UKRI to act upon recommendations it made in a January 2022 report about the lived experience of ethnic minority students in postgraduate research. Its key recommendation was the need to improve the “sense of belonging” that many postgraduates from ethnic minority backgrounds lack. Key to this will be helping these students build “connections with academia and industry who understand their lived experience”.

Read more: Postgraduate study still “out of reach for many students” – Sutton Trust

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