New deal for postgraduate research


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the UK’s largest single funder of postgraduate research students, with between 20-30% of the UK’s approximately 100,000 doctoral students supported directly through our research councils.

We support postgraduate research training in universities in England through the Research England quality-related research degree programme supervision fund, with equivalent support provided by agencies in the devolved nations in the UK.

Wider UKRI policies, such as student stipend levels or eligibility guidance, often influence the wider sector. As such, we have a responsibility to ensure postgraduate research meets the needs of the entire system, from the students themselves (including the majority of doctoral students who are not supported directly by UKRI) and their research organisations, the economy and wider society.

The UK government’s commitment to a new deal for postgraduate research (PGR) was initially set out in the UK Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap (GOV.UK) (July 2020) and subsequently in the R&D People and Culture Strategy (GOV.UK) (July 2021).

This will be an ambitious, long-term programme of evaluation and change. UKRI will collaborate with partners to deliver this work and will ensure deep sector engagement throughout, including prospective, current and previous postgraduate research students.

We want to ensure that postgraduate research in the UK remains sustainable, open and attractive to a wide range of candidates (both from the UK and internationally), that delivers the highly qualified and skilled researchers and innovators the UK and global societies need.

New deal for PGR

We want to create a ‘new deal’ that delivers for everyone. Including:

Doctoral candidates

For doctoral candidates:

  • to promote and safeguard wellbeing and support a positive research culture
  • to ensure doctoral training is an attractive, affordable and accessible option
  • to gain a breadth of knowledge, experience and skills to support flexible, dynamic careers
  • to support and expand inclusive routes into research and innovation careers and training.

Higher education institutes

For higher education institutes:

  • to attract diverse cohorts of students enabled to produce a breadth of outcomes
  • to have financial sustainability for postgraduate research
  • to be part of an interconnected R&I system with the flexibility to support and provide training and development for a range of careers.

Public, private and third sectors

For public, private and third sectors:

  • to have a variety of opportunities to participate and be able to find a model to suit their research, innovation, and people needs
  • to make the most of engaging and collaborating with universities and other research organisations
  • to benefit from and provide opportunities for students to be involved in real-world experience and problems.

People, society and economies

For people, society and economies:

  • to have a wider diversity of people with the experiences and skills needed for a knowledge-led economy, able to respond to future challenges or crises
  • an outstanding research and innovation system is provided in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally
  • to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.

Four focus areas

UKRI has developed an initial four focus areas to address in this programme:

  1. diversification of models and access
  2. funding and stipend levels
  3. rights and conditions
  4. routes in, through and out.

These focus areas are inter-dependent and carry interacting effects, so need to be tackled holistically.

The choice of focus areas were shaped by our ongoing engagement and feedback from our communities. This included a series of informal discussions to gather insight and help scope out focus areas.

Work across UKRI is already contributing to this wide programme of work. These initial focus areas will now be further shaped and developed and UKRI will ensure that a wide range of voices, including postgraduate research student voices, are embedded and central to this developing long-term programme of work.


This webpage will be used to publish the most current information about the work.

See also:

ESRC: Review of the PhD in the social sciences

EPSRC: Review of EPSRC support for doctoral education

How to get involved

We will soon be inviting expressions of interest to contribute to the new deal for PGR programme.

There will be various ways to get involved and we want to engage with different individuals and groups to gain a diverse range of perspectives and experiences from across our communities including:

  • postgraduate research students
  • supervisors
  • universities
  • industry
  • mission groups etc.

Last updated: 7 October 2021

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