Building the UK’s cultural and creative talent base

Art painter drawing in studio, holding color palette

AHRC is calling for creative and cultural organisations to host doctoral students to drive forward cutting-edge skills and knowledge needed for future innovation.

The UK has an incredible cultural and creative sector covering, to name a few:

  • design
  • fashion
  • media
  • heritage
  • data and digital innovation
  • storytelling
  • dance and drama.

These are sectors that thrive on innovation and creativity, where there is a perpetual need for new ideas and approaches.

Vibrant and forward-thinking sectors

For these sectors to continue to be vibrant and forward-thinking, they need talented people. They need people from diverse backgrounds who can:

  • question
  • bring fresh perspectives
  • show initiative
  • apply new knowledge and skills.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme supports this flow of new research and innovation into the sector.

The CDP scheme enables organisations to host doctoral students who will undertake a research project which is specific to the needs of that organisation. These students will be dedicated to the project for up to four years, including working within the organisation for up to half of that time.

These are collaborative projects, and the student will be supervised by a university partner, bringing their unique expertise to the project.

Next generation researchers and innovators

The scheme creates an enviable opportunity for doctoral researchers. What doctoral student wouldn’t jump at the chance to gain experience within any of these organisations and delve deeper into these unique resources?

It is more than that, these students can contribute to the UK’s knowledge and innovation pool by working at the interface between the university and the creative and cultural sector. They have access to the wealth of experience within these organisations and the researchers and innovators developing these sectors.

Knowledge and skills

The breadth of knowledge and skills that arts and humanities students possess are valuable in a broad range of sectors.

The scheme has a strong track record in the galleries, libraries, archives and museum (GLAM) sector. But we are open to applications from any sector that supports arts and humanities research where talented students can contribute and develop as researchers.

For any student interested in a career beyond academia, it allows them to gain hands-on experience and develop networks that are invaluable for their CV. For the sector, there is an opportunity to develop a talent pool to draw on for the future. An analysis on the benefits of the scheme can be found in a report produced by JD Hill and Andrew Meek (British Museum).

The CDPs are training awards, as well as research projects, and all those involved need to create a supportive environment in which the student can learn, develop and thrive.

Improving diversity

For this next phase of the scheme, we want to increase the diversity of the student population: we know this is an area in which we can improve. No sector can truly flourish without engaging talent from all backgrounds.

We welcome applications from organisations which share our ambition to provide inclusive environments and can present a clear plan to enable equality and diversity throughout the life of the award.

The opportunity: how you can get involved

The CDP scheme is entering its fourth round and there is information on the website about previous phases.

We support around 50 students per year through the scheme. The non-higher education institution (non-HEI) is the applicant and can apply for a minimum of three studentships per year over three years.

If successful, a CDP award will be made to the non-HEI indicating the notional number of studentships. The non-HEIs then work with university partners to develop projects in line with their strategy and recruit students to take those projects forward.

In addition, the CDP award holders work together closely, creating a supportive environment for all those involved and, collaboratively, providing additional training and development for the students.

Sharing awards

We recognise that three students per year, nine in total, is a lot for a small organisation and you can apply as part of a consortium of organisations, thereby sharing the awards.

There is a requirement to demonstrate a track record in supporting students and we are looking at ways we can make this easier for organisations that are new to the scheme. For example, drawing on partner expertise.

There are challenges to managing these awards: it is a serious undertaking, but we hope these are far outweighed by the rewards of engaging and enabling the next generation of researchers.

Top image:  Credit: valentinrussanov, Getty Images

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