Exploring the value of engineering and physical sciences doctorates

Robotics engineering students in the lab, photo by NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe Stock


What is the issue?

The UK government’s Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap emphasises a strong commitment to attracting, training and retaining diverse talent within the R&D workforce across all employment sectors. Doctoral education is a critical aspect in building this talent base, training students not just for careers in research but beyond.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funds approximately one third of all engineering and physical sciences doctoral students in the UK and has introduced novel approaches to doctoral training, such as cohort-based training. However, the evolving research landscape, alongside the need for increased investment in R&D by industry and businesses, has meant doctoral education may need to adapt further.

How are we helping?

EPSRC is currently undertaking a review of their investment in doctoral education to ensure that their support remains world-leading. The review involves gathering evidence from the community to inform the development of recommendations on the future of EPSRC’s support for doctoral education. Feeding into the review, RAND Europe is working with researcher support programme Vitae to gain insight into the value of engineering and physical sciences doctoral education through a literature review and focus groups.

The project will explore the skills required for doctoral graduates across the engineering and physical sciences sector, and how students see doctoral education contributing to the development of these skills and to their career pathways. The project team will draw on this research to set out recommendations for ways in which doctoral education could be improved.