YCEDE Response to UKRI Changes to Funding Strategy and Statement of Expectations

On 30th January, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced changes to the way that its funding will be allocated and distributed from 2024 onwards, as well as publishing an updated Statement of Expectations for Doctoral Training. In this article, we summarise these changes and discuss their implications for diversity and inclusion at PGR level.

New Funding Awards and Criteria

From January 2024, all UKRI-funded doctoral training will be delivered through two types of awards as part of a new doctoral training investment framework. This replaces the nine different schemes through which UKRI currently supports doctoral training:

  1. Doctoral Focal Award (DFA – was CDT). This award will see an increase in overall funding available from 2024, and will apply to those projects which are considered more specialist and ‘narrow’ in scope, as well as short-term research projects.
  2. Doctoral Landscape Award (DLA – was DTP). The overall funding available for this type of award will be reduced from 2024 onwards, and be most relevant for broader and more holistic research projects, with a wider scope and a longer-term outlook.

Updated Statement of Expectations for Doctoral Training

Alongside the new funding structure, UKRI also announced an updated Statement of Expectations for funders, supervisors, and students. YCEDE welcomes the increased emphasis on the responsibility of institutions to define, measure, and support success for PGRs from diverse backgrounds, as well as a specific expectation that:

“Research organisations, working with collaborators and supporting supervisors, will:

  • Follow good practice in doctoral recruitment and training […] to support a diverse student population to participate in doctoral study including:
    • undertaking open and transparent recruitment of students with greater focus on assessing potential excellence”

YCEDE’s response to UKRI changes

  • The streamlining of doctoral training investment is welcome and could result in a simpler and more transparent funding landscape. This would benefit doctoral  candidates and also staff supporting PGRs and running doctoral programmes.
  • How increased relative investment in shorter term doctoral awards, via DFAs, affects widening access initiatives remains to be seen. ‘Short-termism’ is a recurring issue with many EDI initiatives.
  • With increased turnover of HEIs receiving doctoral funding, UKRI will need to avoid incentivising competitiveness among DFA applicants in developing ‘novel’ EDI strategies and instead actively promote the sharing of best practice among HEIs.
  • UKRI’s new expectations are a positive step towards implementing the reforms and changes that projects such as YCEDE are working towards. 
  • We urge institutions and researchers to take this as an opportunity to generate renewed momentum and push for further positive reforms to improve ethnic diversity and inclusion across the PGR landscape.
  • YCEDE continues to develop materials and other support for teams from YCEDE partner universities applying for DFAs and DLAs. Contact info@ycede.ac.uk.