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Policy and frameworks

The research councils have created a wide range of policy documents that provide further information to both students and research organisations.

Postgraduate research

The former Research Councils UK published a Training Grant Guide to complement the Terms and Conditions of Research Council Training Grants which came into effect for all new training grants from 1 February 2014 across all the research councils. These aim to provide clarity and consistency for research organisations (ROs). These documents can be found here.

The Statement of Expectations for Postgraduate Training (PDF, 166KB)  lays out common principles for the support of all research council students. There is  also a Joint Vision for Collaborative Training (PDF, 173KB) and a Common Terminology (PDF, 118KB) for our four different approaches to training.

There is also a statement of expectation (PDF, 30KB) on support for Technology and Skills specialists. 


The  Statement of Expectations for Research Fellowships and Future Research Leaders (PDF, 44KB) (updated 25 June 2018) lays out common principles for the support of all Research Council funded fellows.

Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

UKRI is a signatory of the refreshed Research Development Concordat, published in September 2019. The concordat is an agreement between employers and research funders on the expectations for the professional development and employment conditions of researchers in the UK.

It aims to improve the UK’s research culture by encouraging more inclusive recruitment, better support for flexible working requests and promotion of researchers’ wellbeing by improvements in areas such as effective workload management.

The concordat outlines three defining principles covering environment and culture, employment, and professional and career development. It also identifies working practices and clear responsibilities to be shared across academic and professional communities.

The refreshed concordat has been published following a ten-year review of the original by the Concordat Strategy Group.

We have set out how we intend to implement the revised concordat in our action plan: Researcher Development Concordat Action Plan (PDF, 6.1MB).

European Charter for Researchers

The UK higher education sector is signed up to the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (the Charter and Code), which are implemented through the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) code of practice for research degree programmes and through the Concordat in the case of research staff development. You can view a mapping of the principles of the codes (PDF, 638KB) and the European Commission response (PDF, 593KB).

International recruitment to Research Council studentships.

Excellent research has an international dimension. The Research Councils fund many of the best UK research teams and individuals for whom research is an international endeavour.

World-class institutions attract, train and develop the very best students from the UK and around the world. International students contribute significantly to the output and reputation of these institutions.

PhD graduates who enter employment in the UK after their studentship can make a direct contribution to the UK economy. Those who leave the UK may act as catalysts forging long-term international links with the UK.

RCUK has adopted the following principles in relation to recruitment of non-UK domiciled candidates to Research Council funded studentships:

  • Research Councils recognise the desirability of opening recruitment to attract the best international talent into excellent UK research and training environments – particularly in areas of skills shortage.A number of crucial research skills that are in short supply nationally have been identified by government, industry, the Research Councils and HEI community.Widening access to international candidates increases the opportunities for studentships to be recruited in areas where there is a shortage of UK strategic skills.
  • The benefit to the UK of providing public funding to international students must be balanced against the availability of opportunities for UK-based graduates. The UK is extremely successful in attracting talented non-EU students. These students fund themselves, or are funded by their home nations or educational foundations and, in general, it is not in the UK national interest that this inward investment be displaced by public funding, potentially reducing funding opportunities for UK-based candidate.

These principles should enable the Research Councils to:

  • Attract the best PhD candidates to the UK.
  • Promote access for competitive UK students.
  • Give priority to scarce strategic skills.
  • Demonstrate benefits for the UK.

For information on research council funding for postgraduate research, please see Funding for Research Training.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

The former Research Councils UK published its action plan (PDF, 328KB) in 2016, outlining their ambition to be recognised as a leader in equality and diversity in the research community, working with partners throughout the sector. The action plan builds on the statement of expectations (PDF, 15KB) on Equality and Diversity in January 2013 and a set of principles in 2016. More information about diversity.

Data on the board and committee membership applications and awards by gender (PDF, 70KB) is also available.


An Assurance programme provides assurance to the Research Councils on use of funding and compliance with the terms and conditions of grants. This ensures that public funds destined for research are properly safeguarded and used for the purposes intended by parliament.

Useful links