Strategic goal three: Postgraduate, postdoctoral and early-career researcher scale and experience

We will grow the postgraduate, postdoctoral, and early-career researcher community, as well as support and enrich their experience and preparation for future careers through our Doctoral College.

Postgraduate, postdoctoral and early-career researchers lie at the heart of our University’s research and innovation ecosystem. We highly value their contribution to the research effort and to the intellectual and overall culture of the University. We seek to instil our values into their experience as emerging researchers and research leaders, and seek to ensure the ‘Surrey Advantage’ prepares them for a lifelong career in research, innovation and beyond. As our research activity has grown over the last five years, our postgraduate research population has not kept pace, and we seek to address this by attracting the best doctoral students to Surrey from around the world, to substantially grow our postgraduate student numbers.

The recently established Doctoral College forms a hub for University research and innovation training, with the ambition to provide development programmes tailored to Surrey students and staff at all stages of their researcher career journeys; inclusive of taught students aspiring to postgraduate research education, postgraduate researchers, early-career researchers, supervisors and our postgraduate and early-career researcher alumni. The Doctoral College will continue to strengthen its role in creating and supporting this community of research scholars. Key to future success will be the extent to which we add value to this community in enhancing their experience at Surrey and in preparing them for the next phase of their careers, so that they are able to take advantage of the full range of opportunities available to them. We aspire to be known as a place of choice to commence a research career, because we not only support our researchers for today, but also prepare them for success tomorrow.

Objective overview

We will substantially grow the number of postgraduate students at the University.

As evident through the creation of the Doctoral College in 2016, the University places great importance on our postgraduate research students and the contribution they make to our research culture and performance. The total number of postgraduate research students at the University (full and part time), however, at just over 1,000 FTE currently, is lower than it was five years ago, and during this time our research volume has increased by 40 per cent. As a result, we have fallen behind a number of peers based on this important measure. Healthy postgraduate research student numbers within research communities are important for the production of research, and for the overall research culture. Low numbers within research areas can lead to student isolation and a less vibrant research culture, making this strategic goal important to enhance the overall experience of our current postgraduate researcher population. During 2018, we embarked on an ambitious strategy to reverse this trend, seeking to grow our postgraduate researcher cohort by up to a factor of two by 2022/23.

To achieve this objective, we will need to take a number of steps. First amongst these is increasing our own investment, and better leveraging that investment, particularly diversifying the sources of funding for studentships, including more funding from industry and philanthropy. We will also need to improve the processes of attraction and recruitment of postgraduate researchers, already underway – with the overall objective of matching the quality of our recruiting and selection processes to our aspiration to attract many more of the brightest and best PhD students to Surrey.

Measures of success

We will assess progress through monitoring the overall number of students enrolled, the level of leverage in funding we achieve, the proportions in both cases drawn from various sources, and the overall quality of the entering cohort.

Key achievements by 2022 
Cohort size of PhDs1,500
Proportion of cohort cost that is internally fundedLess than 25 per cent

Objective overview

We will enhance the postgraduate, postdoctoral and early-career researcher experience.

We are committed to providing our postgraduate, postdoctoral and early-career researchers with the best possible experience, and the Doctoral College has already had considerable success in this regard. Surrey was rated seventh in terms of overall satisfaction in the 2018 Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES). As the postgraduate researcher cohort size increases, we are committed to not compromising on the quality of their experience or rates of progression. Indeed, there is more we can do to enhance this experience, by ensuring a focus on the overall career ambitions from the start of the PhD, improving training in innovation and entrepreneurship, and by improving the quality of supervision. Similarly, we are dedicated to enhancing the experience of our postdoctoral and early-career researchers by ensuring professional development time and opportunities, supportive line managers and specifically tailored careers support.

Measures of success

We will monitor our progress in relation to PhD experience through PRES and through monitoring drop out and completion rates. We will monitor our progress in postdoctoral and early-career researcher experience through careers in research online survey measures of researcher satisfaction, early-stage researcher forum feedback and staff consultation for our human resources excellence in research initiative.

Key achievements by 2022 
PhD completion rates85 per cent
CROS improvement in “Recognition and Value” and “Support and Career Development” 25 per cent

Measuring success

See a summary of all the measures of success of this strategic goal.

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