Early career researchers: career and skills development



Our work to support early career researchers (ECRs) is part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) efforts to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good, and supports people and teams involved in it across career stages.

Our vision of early career development in the arts and humanities is one of partnership between:

  • ECRs
  • academics
  • research organisations
  • partner organisations
  • career advisors and mentors

How AHRC supports ECRs

Watch our video for a more detailed look at how AHRC supports ECRs and how others have negotiated the funding process.

On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript are available on YouTube. Video credit: AHRC.

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How we define an ECR

When we provide information to help the development of early career researchers, we are speaking to anyone who defines their role as that of an ECR.

We do not consider years post-PhD or job title to be a sole marker of career progression. Therefore, we use the narrative CV (‘Resume for Research and Innovation’) in our funding opportunities to enable applicants to describe their careers and experience.

Some AHRC funding opportunities may include specific eligibility requirements, in addition to self-identification as an ECR.

Focus on good practice

There are examples of researcher development good practice available in the community. Colleagues across the sector have already put a lot of hard work into this area, for which we are grateful. UKRI colleagues are in the process of preparing a good practice exchange.

ECR development is continuously changing, of great value, and with no end date, as the pipeline continues to grow and the arts and humanities evolve.

We encourage everyone involved to look beyond the immediate needs of a research project to consider what other development opportunities are available for ECRs.

We recognise that the period following completion of a PhD can be a very challenging time as ECRs look to explore different career options.

Guidance on the training and development of early career researchers

To help support ECRs and those involved with their development we’ve published the AHRC guidance on training and developing early career researchers in the arts and humanities.

The aim of this document is to offer guidance that all arts and humanities ECRs and those who support them might use. It advises on the types of skills ECRs on AHRC grants should be developing, and how research organisations and managers of researchers can support them.

Our intent in publishing this guidance is that it:

  • becomes a catalyst for conversations
  • contributes to building a supportive research culture

We invite you to share your thoughts on this guidance with us to improve future versions. You can do this by emailing us at researcher.development@ahrc.ukri.org

Routes available to ECRs

A doctorate in the arts and humanities equips you with a set of sought-after transferable skills, opening the possibility of careers in a wide and diverse range of sectors. Read our guidance on training and developing early career researchers in the arts and humanities to help you identify these skills.

We offer grant schemes to support research projects and career development at an early stage. Browse our funding opportunities to find out what is available to you.

Many ECRs want to pursue an academic career and will look to colleagues and peers for advice on applying for academic posts. Equally, we recognise and welcome the movement of researchers into other areas.

We encourage you to keep in mind a broad range of career possibilities, considering how highly competitive academic employment is. PhD graduates in the arts and humanities have skills that can make a significant contribution to many different areas of the economy and society.

You can read more about the employability of arts and humanities graduates in the Qualified for the Future report (The British Academy) to which AHRC contributed.

Peer Review College membership for early career researchers

AHRC Peer Review College (PRC) membership reflects the range of disciplines and subjects within our subject domain. By joining us as an ECR, you’ll take on a fundamental role in the peer review process, ensuring that the highest quality research proposals receive funding in accordance with robust and transparent decision-making.

The PRC runs periodic recruitment exercises and accepts applications from ECRs who can demonstrate that they meet the essential criteria for membership. Recruitment exercises will be advertised on our website when they are live.

Feedback from current PRC members points towards a positive relationship between participation in peer review activities and successfully obtaining grant funding. Seeing how other researchers construct proposals is a great learning opportunity.

PRC members also have opportunities to take part in wider activities, such as training new peer reviewers, helping to develop new policies or processes and sharing strategic insights with AHRC.

AHRC’s objective is to further diversity our membership and embed a variety of voices in our decision-making processes.

Read AHRC’s peer review resources for more information.

Last updated: 6 June 2024

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