Doctoral review

This review sets out EPSRC’s future approach to supporting doctoral education.

To be productive and competitive, the UK needs a diverse workforce with the right skills. The ESPRC review of doctoral education was conducted, to ensure that our doctoral education investments support the research and innovation system to adapt to future needs by having the people and skills it requires. The review was launched in February 2020 and concluded in August 2021. The original timeline for the review was extended and reprofiled to allow for more time for data collection and community engagement due to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Evidence was collected through community engagement, data analysis and a literature review.

The review identified that:

  • EPS doctoral graduates are highly employable across multiple sectors and produce significant research outcomes
  • EPSRC investment mechanisms are highly regarded
  • the greatest risk to EPSRC doctoral education is a potential reduction in student numbers caused by increasing costs and constrained funding.

The review makes recommendations for continued improvements to ensure that:

  • our investments meet the challenges of the current landscape
  • all students have access to a high-quality experience
  • there is a greater awareness of the benefits and outcomes of doctoral education.

The recommendations will be used by EPSRC to guide future activity in the doctoral education space, and an action plan will be published, in spring 2022, detailing how recommendations will be taken forward from this review following some initial community engagement.

The full details of how the review was carried out are available in the report.

The EPSRC review has focused on the specific needs of the EPS doctoral education and approaches of EPSRC. Through the UK government’s people and culture strategy, UKRI has committed to looking at a broad suite of discipline agnostic doctoral issues in the new deal for postgraduate research. EPSRC is working across UKRI on this work and relevant information from the EPSRC review is being used within the New Deal activity.

EPSRC immediate action and commitment

The recommendations from the review are guiding principles that EPSRC will be using to direct future action in the doctoral education space, taking into account the wider ecosystem of EPSRC, UKRI and the research community.

EPSRC will be engaging with stakeholders to collect the community’s response to the recommendations and gain input to an action plan. This engagement will occur through our standard communication routes and via a series of webinars in November.

EPSRC will be developing an action plan based on the recommendations and the engagement activities. The action plan will contain both short term and long-term actions for EPSRC and will be launched in early 2022.


Webinars are being held on:

  • 12 November, 10:30am to 12:30pm
  • 22 November, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
  • 2 December, 10:00am to midday

The sign up for the webinars was open from 7 October to 4 November 2021. The webinars are focused on providing additional context to the review and responding to questions.

The equality impact assessment for the webinars is available on the UKRI website, see: Review of EPSRC-funded doctoral education.

Qualitative evidence

You can read reports of all the engagement activities carried out by EPSRC part of the review, including:

  • community workshops
  • workshops with non-academic organisations
  • workshop with the learned societies and other non-representative bodies.

EPSRC contracted RAND Europe and Vitae to carry out a literature review and student and alumni focus groups. The reports created by RAND Europe and Vitae include:

  • Review of the literature on Engineering and Physical Sciences Doctoral Education
  • Report on the student and alumni focus groups.

The data

The UKRI held data used in the report, along with interpretive guidance, is available via the Tableau Public dashboard: explore and download the EPSRC Student data.

We have also used other publicly available data and full details are in the annex of the report.

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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