Supporting Research Staff and Students, July 2020

The AGCAS Research Students and Research Staff Task Group have produced a report based on a survey of AGCAS members who support research staff and students. The report aims to highlight how researchers’ (research staff and students) career management is supported across different universities, mainly in the UK but also from some institutions in Ireland.

Supporting Research Staff and Students is designed to be used by colleagues working in the sector – in careers services, but also in allied departments such as researcher development – to compare and contrast the support available and to demonstrate some of the different models employed. In so doing, the report aims to show some of the challenges that researchers may face when seeking out careers support, given the complex variety of departments and teams responsible for delivering such support.

We show that careers support for researchers can be based in many different areas of the university (HR, research offices, organizational development, staff development etc.), as well as careers services. This suggests the importance of clear ‘badging’ and messaging so that researchers know where to find this support in their own institutions.

Key findings:

  • The lack of standardization of definitions of ‘research staff’ means that the kinds of staff supported by careers services often differ between institutions. This lack of standardization may make it difficult for researchers to determine whether their institution’s careers support offer is open to them or not.
  • With different entitlements to support across different institutions, researchers may find it difficult to locate and access careers support when they move between roles and institutions.
  • Support comes from different institutional departments, which creates potential duplication of effort and messaging.
  • We find that 85% of respondents provide support for researchers from within their careers service, and 34% of our respondents have consultants whose sole job it is to provide careers support for researchers (research staff students).
  • It is almost impossible to ascertain a precise mean number of careers and employability practitioners working with researchers given the variety of models of support, the problems identifying client groups, and the colleagues involved in delivering this support. However, in services that have careers and employability practitioners whose sole role is supporting researchers, we estimate a ratio of 1:3000.
  • Engaging researchers with the support on offer is ranked as the top priority for respondents. This connects directly with the potential difficulty researchers face in locating support.
  • Finally, even before the move to virtual working triggered by the Covid-19 crisis, digital learning was a high priority for AGCAS members supporting researchers