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In 2013 we commissioned the Careers Research and Advisory Centre and Vitae, supported by the University of Derby International Centre for Guidance Studies, to undertake research to increase our understanding of the transition to postgraduate research (PGR) study.

The study focused on the recruitment of students to research degree programmes (PhD and MPhil), the selection of PGR students from the candidate pool and the role of PGR students in the higher education research base. Sixty English institutions active in postgraduate research participated in the study between January and March 2014.

The study found that research students play an important role in the research activity of all institutions but that changes to funding for undergraduate programmes may have knock-on effects for postgraduate education, including PGR. Despite this, institutions report little difficulty in attracting highly-qualified applicants and most have targets to increase their PGR student numbers. Recruitment processes tend to be complex, and vary greatly. This can mean that applicants have very different experiences.

The report makes a number of recommendations, which we will consider as part of our ongoing programme of work on PGR with Research Councils UK and in the context of our cross-cutting theme on postgraduate policy and funding.