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Postgraduate training and skills

Postgraduate training programmes must provide appropriate opportunities for students to develop the research, subject specific, communication and other skills they require to become effective researchers, to enhance their employability and assist their career progress after completion of their degree.

Skills training needs vary from student to student, depending on previous experience, and the delivery of any training should be sufficiently flexible to address individual needs. Development can take place through a variety of formats, including formal training or other activities or be embedded in the PhD programme.

The Researcher Development Statement (RDS), developed by Vitae, from the Researcher Development Framework, sets out the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of effective and highly skilled researchers appropriate for a wide range of careers.

Key facts

STFC create impact by training some of our brightest minds so they can improve and influence society. In 2014/15 STFC:

  • Invested £24.1 million in postgraduate training and fellowships in particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy, including 220 new PhD studentships.  Our current cohort of 766 PhD students is trained in the high-end scientific, analytical and technical skills which drive the knowledge economy. 
  • Provided over 16,000 training days to postgraduate students, funded by other research councils, at our facilities and departments across a range of disciplines

In 2011, STFC updated its PhD career paths survey, last performed in 2009, by surveying students whose funding ended between 2004 and 2009. The results showed that STFC PhD graduates enjoy near-complete employment, typically earning more than the average professional worker in the UK.

The survey also indicated the value of PhD training in building capability, and in developing the high-level skills needed to drive a high-value, innovative economy. The results are summarised below:

  • 93% of respondents were in employment
  • 48% were employed in universities, 27% in the private sector and 22% in the public sector
  • 69% were still engaged in scientific research
  • Of those employed in the private sector, 71% work in financial or business services – this reflects the strong demand from these sectors for the high-level computing, modelling, quantitative and transferable skills that are developed through a STFC PhD
  • 41% were earning a salary similar to, or greater than, the £35,000 UK average for professional occupations
  • The five skills considered most useful in subsequent careers were problem solving, programming, knowledge of their subject area, data analysis and written communication

Internships and Placements

STFC supports students undertaking a work placement or internship where this is either directly related to the student’s training or provides valuable transferable skills.  More information can be found in the RCUK Training Grant Guide.

STFC participates in the Research Councils Policy Internships scheme, a programme in which STFC-funded PhD students are given the opportunity to spend three months working in Parliament. Opportunities are available with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) or the Government Office for Science (GO Science). More information can be found on our web page STFC Policy Internships.


Vitae run a small number of GRADschools and support institutions to develop and manage their own GRADschool either in their own or in local or regional collaborations. These GRADschools are not STFC funded.

‘The Gradschool vision is ‘To create an inspirational, challenging and experiential learning environment in which all participants will learn something new about themselves and take away skills, tools or information which will motivate them to complete their studies, further realise their potential, and enable them to make more informed choices about their future careers.’


Last updated: 01 April 2019


Science and Technology Facilities Council
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