Engagement in the future of doctoral training

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is deeply committed to doctoral training and securing the future of the next generation of arts and humanities researchers.

In 2021, AHRC commissioned the Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC)/Vitae to undertake an engagement exercise to help inform our thinking around the future of doctoral provision in the arts and humanities. Through engagement with a wide range of stakeholders we asked them to consider how we might:

  • prioritise our funding to provide the best possible support for doctoral study
  • effectively facilitate the development of doctoral graduate careers
  • adapt to the changing needs of the diverse sectors invested in arts and humanities research and training

We are pleased to publish CRAC/Vitae’s report of the key findings from this engagement exercise. The report identifies areas of strengths and opportunities for change in AHRC’s current doctoral provision. It makes a number of recommendations in respect of key features for any future AHRC doctoral programmes. In addition, it puts forward possible options for change, for AHRC to consider in developing its future strategy for doctoral training.

AHRC welcomes the report, which acknowledges the successes of AHRC’s doctoral training provision, while also identifying areas where a change of focus or greater prioritisation may be beneficial. In the context of the Collective Talent Fund, it is important to note the commonalities with the findings from the recent Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council reviews of doctoral training.

AHRC is now undertaking a process to consider this report within the wider and complex context of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) move towards collective talent funding, UKRI’s New Deal for Postgraduate Researchers and AHRC’s commitment to rebalancing our research portfolio. Further details of this context are provided in Professor Christopher Smith’s blog.

Over the next six months AHRC will be developing our future funding mechanisms for doctoral training. These will be supporting studentships from October 2026 and our first commission will be published in autumn. We aim to provide an update on our progress in the summer.

While this report was commissioned for AHRC, we are aware that we only support a minority proportion of arts and humanities doctorates in the UK. We encourage the diverse stakeholder groups that support students in the arts and humanities community to also consider this report.

We recognise that there are recommendations in the report which others invested in the future of the arts and humanities might take forward, so we can, collectively, create a positive research and innovation culture for future doctoral students.

Read the CRAC/Vitae: doctoral training in the arts and humanities report.

Last updated: 12 September 2023

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