“The centrepiece of the WRoCAH training programme, Researcher Employability Projects offer a meaningful experience that is ambitious with the opportunity to explore the contexts in which employers operate, in the UK and internationally”
What is a REP?
Between month 15 and month 24 of your studentship, WRoCAH doctoral researchers* will complete a 1-3 month Researcher Employability Project (REP) with an external partner organisation. This is a placement during which you will complete a specific project that will have a tangible outcome such as a report or performance.
REPs are intended to be something different from your PhD and should not be directly related to your research. You will continue to receive your stipend payments (if you usually receive them) during the project.
“My time at White Rose Brussels has proven extremely beneficial as I think increasingly about life after the PhD. Prior to embarking on the PhD I was committed to pursuing a career in academia but as my interest in this has diminished the REP came at the perfect time to show me what other opportunities there are for research-based careers either tangentially or entirely separate from the university.” ~ Joe Rollins, 2015/6 cohort who completed a REP with the White Rose Brussels Office in 2017
* WRoCAH Doctoral researchers with AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards do not complete a Researcher Employability Project. These research degrees are completed with a partner organisation, with the researcher embedded in that organisation.
Why is getting this type of experience so important?
A thorough understanding of a working environment beyond your home institution is an important part of developing your employability skills. The post-doctoral careers market is global and intensely competitive and you will find yourself competing with researchers from other parts of Europe, the US and Asia.
“…more needs to be done in professional development provision to give researchers greater support in making career decisions and improving their employability.”
Source: Final report of the ERA-SGHRM Working Group on Professional Development of Researchers, European Research Area Steering Group on Human Resources Management, May 2012
Vitae also have plenty to say about the importance of gaining additional experience while completing your PhD to enhance employability:
- What do employers look for?
- Employability Lens on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework
- Researcher work experience: Placements and internships outside academia
- The researcher on placement
Your choice of where to do your REP should relate to your career aspirations and will provide an point of difference in your CV on graduation.
The purpose of the project is to identify professional skills that will improve students’ employability and work with a partner organisation to learn and improve those skills.
Projects will be developed with the partner organisation which may be in the UK or overseas and WRoCAH will fund the travel, accommodation and other project-related expenses.
When should I do my REP?
You can complete your REP any time between month 15 and month 24 of your studentship (full time) or month 30 and month 48 of a part time studentship. This may be extended to month 27 if absolutely necessary but you will be into the final year of your doctoral degree by this point and need to have your focus elsewhere.
Does my REP have to be a solid block of time?
No. While REPs do have to be in multiples of whole months, the minimum duration for a project is the equivalent of 1 working month. This means no fewer than 22 working days but these can be spread over a longer period of time, if this suits the project and your partner organisation is agreeable.
WRoCAH will work with you and partner organisations to make sure that you have the greatest range of opportunities available to you, that fit your personal circumstances.
Do I have to work at the partner’s location?
Not necessarily but we would strongly suggest that you do. Now that we have significant experience of REPs, the most rewarding and valuable projects have been those where students have been able to work directly with their host organisation.
Also, if you do not work on-site, previous students have reported that it becomes difficult to separate REP from your PhD research leading to potential stress and conflict for you. Use this opportunity to get away from your research for a brief spell. Students report returning with renewed enthusiasm and vigour when they have had a chance to take their head into a different realm for a while.
How do I go about identifying and organising my REP?
The WRoCAH office will support you and your supervisor in organising your Researcher Employability Project. REPs can take a number of different forms:
- Applied research: You develop a project with a partner organisation.
- Commissioned research: You work on on a project commissioned by a partner organisations.
- Next-step research: You work with a senior researcher in a research organisation outside WRoCAH, or a senior manager in a research-informed industry, to complete a pilot proposal for postdoctoral work (if you are considering this option please ensure that you have an early conversation with the WRoCAH office as there are certain additional requirements to fulfil to follow this route).
- Internationalisation: While any of the above may have an international dimension, WRoCAH students are encouraged to connect with partner organisations outside the UK. This gives the opportunity to experience another working culture. This is quite separate from any plans you may have for internationalisation within your research.
For projects defined by partner organisations (ie. commissioned research), you may need to provide an up to date CV and may be competitively interviewed to ensure your suitability if several researchers express an interest in the same project.
Finding a partner
You may do a REP with any partner organisation. This will normally be with an organisation outside Higher Education, for example, one of the WRoCAH Core Partners or any other organisation in a range of relevant sectors.
If you are interesting in working with one of the WRoCAH Core Partners, please contact the WRoCAH Office first.
You may have contacts yourself, or your supervisor may have suggestions about partner organisations they have worked with or have contacts with. For partner organisations who have never worked with WRoCAH before and will not be aware of the REP scheme, we have created an introductory letter which you may wish to use to make initial introduction to prospective REP partners. The letter has been professionally translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese (suitable for Portugal and Brazil), Spanish and Catalan to help students organising placements overseas.
Link to Introduction letters (WRoCAH login required)
What about costs?
WRoCAH can cover costs relating to REPs up to:
- £870 maximum contribution towards travel and visa costs
- £1500 per month contribution to accommodation expenses
- Plus somtimes a contribution towards consumable costs for small or charitable organisations
Registering your REP
You must register your REP at least 4 months before it is due to commence and no later than 18 months into your Studentship (full time).
This timescale is important is so that you can take that time work up a relatively detailed project plan, in consultation with the partner organisation. Having a project plan is essential to ensure that the time you spend translates into a meaningful experience for you and a worthwhile investment for the partner organisation. Projects planned at the last minute have a great chance of encountering problems later on, especially in relation to managing expectations with the project partner.
Useful Guidance notes
You should ensure that you have read the necessary guidance notes on making applications and shared the guidance notes for partners with any potential partners.
- Click here for the Guidance Notes for making applications to WRoCAH internal funding schemes
- Click here for the Guidance Notes for Host Organisations – these will form part of the Tripartite Agreement
Once you have registered your REP, you will be sent:
- Confirmation that it meets the requirements for a REP (or queries if necessary before confirmation can be made)
- A link to kick start the Tripartite Agreement process
- A link to submit your costs and the full project plan which must include all the parts detailed above.