The Research Councils are committed to enhancing the quality and output of the UK research base through training the next generation of world-class researchers. The Research Councils exert a specific influence on the higher education (HE) sector through funding a major portion of the human research capital: supporting over 30,000 researchers at any one time including 15,500 doctoral students, 10,000 research staff in universities, 4,000 research staff in research institutes and 2,000 Research Fellows.
The UK's 10 year Science and Innovation Investment Framework (2004) makes clear that science, engineering and technology (SET) skills are essential for the future of the UK. There are several aspects to this, including increasing the participation in SET in HE; ensuring women and ethnic minority groups are fully represented; and being responsive to employers and skills needs of the economy.
The RCUK Research Careers and Diversity Unit aims to build on the Research Councils’ investments in training and fellowships by strengthening the skills base and by leading and influencing the skills agenda. It works alongside the seven Councils to deliver the five aims of the RCUK Research Careers Strategy.
- Attract the most creative minds into research;
- Encourage researchers to get the training they need;
- Help research organisations manage their staff and develop their careers;
- Encourage people from all groups of society to take up research careers;
- Enhance the international reputation of UK research training.
The unit also delivers the Research Councils collective activities in support of transferable and career development skills for researchers. It plays a major role in enhancing cross-Council working and co-ordinates initiatives ranging from the Academic Fellowship scheme to the Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards scheme for excellent doctoral candidates from the developing world.
The Research Careers and Diversity Strategy was launched on 19 January 2007 and sets out three key aims and two cross cutting aims.