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Activity 2: The Next Generation


To deliver on our ambitions for research and achieve our social mission, we need a more diverse staff and research student population to bring a broad range of perspectives and experiences into our research culture and environment.

We need to reduce barriers to engaging with research and focus resources to build the next generation of research leaders across our Faculties and in each of the four Nations.


We will set targets for:

  • Diversity of staff and research students receiving internal support under any scheme within this plan.
  • Graduation of research apprentices and evidence of continued involvement in research in future career.
  • Increase in the number of externally funded fellows and in the number of fellows progressing to permanent roles at any university.
  • PGR completion, Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) overall satisfaction and diversity of our PGR applicants and registered population.
  • Projects with a Four Nations or multi-nation impact.


Improve our understanding of the barriers for the next generation.

We will increase our qualitative and quantitative analysis of research career progression at all career stages and forall protected characteristics within the OU. This analysis will be used to prioritise investment to tackle the most pressing issues.

Create opportunities for staff and students to be actively involved in decision-making processes throughout the implementation of this research plan.

We will continue to consult on the implementation and progress of this plan.

As introduced under the societal challenges activity, we will create panels with memberships drawn from across our student and staff body and with contributions from external stakeholders. These panels will contribute to Research Board recommendations on resource allocation and will play a key role in assessing our progress against our stated outcomes.

Implement recommendations from our Postgraduate Research Futures Review (PGR Futures).

We will review current PGR programmes to strategically consider future developments within the changing external environment. The review will include consideration of on-campus (including four Nations) and online PGR environments, consider the opportunities to strengthen collaborations with Affiliated Research Centres and propose new models to collaborate nationally and internationally.

Prioritise societal challenges and other projects that embed mechanisms to support career progression and address inequalities.

Our criteria for prioritisation of support will include commitment to the next generation. For example, projects that include mentorship, diverse teams and other mechanisms to help the next generation will have a greater chance of receiving funding. Projects lacking these mechanisms will be supported to adopt best practice.

Create a new research apprenticeship programme to enable people outside of the OU to engage with research relevant to their own careers and employers.

We will launch and actively encourage external partners to engage with a new apprenticeship that provides training in research methods and the opportunity to undertake research projects. This programme will directly address the OU mission by providing educational opportunity to open new routes into research active careers.

Simplify mechanisms to attract externally funded fellows.

We will work with our Faculties to create a single route to attract applicants who wish to apply for fellowships and to support them through their applications.

Raise the profile of the Technicians’ Commitment and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor chaired committees will oversee our implementation of plans to fully demonstrate our commitment to these important staff development statements.

Lead a national initiative where the OU can make an impact across the UK.

Building on our experience with undergraduate students with disabilities we will work with other universities and funders to address barriers in research career development for staff and research students with any or specific disabilities.