Doctoral graduates from 2003-2006 – please complete our survey!

There are developments to report on the Doctoral Impact and Career Tracking study. The questionnaire has been developed and has been piloted with the aid of some very helpful doctoral graduates. We asked about their current employment and whether they think that doing a PhD seven years ago mattered for the job they have now and has made a difference to what they have been adding to our knowledge, economy and society.

We have today launched the main survey following completion of the pilot, and this is open until 31st May.

Previously we asked Doctoral graduates what they were doing about three years on from completing their studies. This was published by Vitae in the “What Do Researchers Do?” series ( The publication provides analysis of the Longitudinal survey of the Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education or L DLHE and provides some interesting evidence about the experience of doctoral study, the jobs and impact of doctoral graduates. This is all analysed by job clusters and broad disciplinary grouping.

Of course three years is rarely the whole story in a career and the new study is to ask about careers and impact further on. This presents its own challenges as people move, change jobs and (if they marry) may change names. Reaching enough people for the results of the survey to be robust remains a key challenge. If you, or someone you know finished a doctorate between 2003 and 2006, do please take part in the survey. Please pass this link to anyone else if relevant.

RCUK are not the only ones interested in what doctoral graduates have to say.  The Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales are partners in this study and we have jointly commissioned the research consultancy CFE to undertake it. CFE and their associates from The University of Sheffield and Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) bring not only the technical know-how and resources for managing and conducting the survey, but also expertise in developing questions that will show the impact that doctoral graduates have.

The importance of the project also means that we have a steering group including economics, labour market and survey expertise from government and academe as well as several of my colleagues from the Research Councils. This dedicated group have helped to design the questionnaire and are keenly awaiting the results.

Update on the study into the impact and careers of doctoral graduates

The study into the impact and careers of doctoral graduates is progressing. On February 25th we passed the first checkpoint and we decided to survey doctoral graduates in April.

Even before we have reached the survey itself, hundreds of doctoral graduates from 2003-2006 have contacted CFE to register their willingness to participate. From this, we know many doctoral graduates are willing to help with research into the benefits of doctoral study and inspiring a next generation of researchers. However, there is still much to do and work is on going to reach more people who were awarded a PhD by a UK university between 2003 and 2006, with the start point being UK and EU people.  We hope to survey as many as possible, however they were funded and across all subjects of study. Many universities and professional bodies have offered to help contact their networks.  We hope that current and recent researchers will also mention the study to friends and colleagues who might be in this group.

If you, or someone you know wishes to register for this survey, please visit the CFE website at:

CFE and partners are drafting questions for the survey, building on work done to review relevant literature and develop the logic chain for impact indicators.  These questions will be agreed by the steering group over Easter so that CFE can pilot them in early April. The questions will explore what doctoral graduates have been able to do as a result of their PhD studies.  Impacts may be many and varied, for example: problem solving; technological developments; medical or bioscience advances; environmental benefits; process improvements; policy development; informing standards and legislation; improving our understanding of society and/or; enriching our culture and knowledge.  We will also be interested in the extent to which doctoral graduates inform or lead on innovations and their career paths to their current roles. The survey will inform plans for interviewing employers and doctoral graduates, to explore the impacts further.

If you wish to pass on information about the study, briefings can be found here.

When the survey gets underway we will provide another update and the link to the questionnaire. We are also looking into doing a podcast, seeking volunteers from the pilot to participate in interviews.