Doctoral collaboration with non-academic partners

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is keen to promote partnership and research collaborations between our postgraduate students and non-academic organisations.

Creating effective partnerships is key to delivering our strategic objectives. Genuine collaboration engages non-academic partners in the research process from day one. Our Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) are working to ensure that at least 15% of our funded studentships are in collaboration with partners beyond academia.

Collaboration can take many forms – from co-developing the research a postgraduate student will undertake for their PhD, to engaging a PhD student on a specific policy-relevant project that does not link directly to their PhD but does use their skills to address a policy issue. Substantial non-academic user engagement is an important part of collaboration.

From October 2024, as part of the newly introduced Research in Practice, ESRC’s ambition is that all students have the opportunity to complete a placement in academia, policy, business or third sector organisations.

This will help them develop their transferrable skills and apply their research skills in different contexts. ESRC will be working with our DTPs and CDTs to support this ambition.

Benefits of collaboration

Collaborative working benefits both postgraduate researchers and the individuals and organisations involved. Through collaboration, partners learn about each others’ expertise, share knowledge and gain an appreciation of different professional cultures.

Experience has shown that the majority of employers report that students bring new energy and fresh insights to their organisation and their value exceeded all expectations.

For postgraduate researchers, the benefits of knowledge exchange and working collaboratively can include:

  • informing and improving the quality of research
  • enhancing understanding of research users and their needs
  • applying evidence-based knowledge to important business or policy issues

For those using research, the benefits can include:

  • accessing experts and cutting edge research
  • accessing innovative ideas that could improve policy or practice
  • enhancing organisational creativity, performance and productivity

Case studies

Often the best measure of success comes from speaking to those who have taken part. We have spoken with a number of our students who have engaged in collaborative activities. Our case studies provide examples of their experiences.

Student internships

Knowledge exchange

Collaborative studentships

Last updated: 12 April 2024

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.