Existing data about PhD career outcomes and the use of skills and knowledge developed on research degree programmes - particularly the impact of recent innovations in the approach to research student training and career development - are limited. Although the Higher Education Statistics Agency's (HESA) collection of higher education course-leavers first destination statistics (DLHE) and their recently-developed longitudinal follow-up three years after graduation (L DLHE) now include postgraduates, the latter has not provided the breadth and depth of topic coverage or density of response that is required to provide a clear picture of doctoral outcomes and their contributions. Research Councils and the Wellcome Trust are concerned to establish the feasibility and potential value of conducting more comprehensive investigation of both their funded doctoral graduates and the wider PhD-holder population.
A research team from the IER conducted an options analysis behalf of the UK Joint Research Councils (RCUK) to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing and potential data and data collection mechanisms and to establish the costs and benefits of a range of options to provide longitudinal information about the early careers of PhD-holders. The sponsors were particularly concerned to develop means of assessing the impact of Research Council and Wellcome Foundation-funded and other PhD-trained workers on productivity and innovation both within and beyond research-related activities. In addition to the potential longitudinal study of PhD-holders, the researchers were also been commissioned to assess options for investigating the range and experiences of employers who recruit these highly-qualified employees, across the diverse sectoral and occupational spectrums where they develop careers. The team assessed a wide range of data and carrying out widespread consultations with academic colleagues, employers and other key stakeholders throughout the UK, building on existing experience of conducting longitudinal student, alumni and employer studies for a range of sponsors.
The report is published at http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/researchcareers/opana.pdf and the team is now working with RCUK and the L DLHE team from HESA and IFF to enhance and validate the first revised L DLHE of 2004-2005 graduates.