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Coronavirus pandemic steering postgraduate research students into academic careers, survey shows

Postgraduate research students are more likely to enter a career in academia, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, recent research has shown. 

The Advance HE Postgraduate Research survey, published on 5 November 2020, has shown an increase in enthusiasm for a career in academia. 

8,000 responses from postgraduates were collected. The survey was conducted both prior to and during the first national lockdown. Students who responded during lockdown were more likely to wish to stay in academia than those who answered prior to 16 March. 

42% of students in their fourth year or beyond, who completed the survey during lockdown, wanted to stay in academia, compared to 35% who responded before lockdown. 

The study said: “Whereas academic jobs in higher education have been incredibly competitive in recent years, perhaps the reduction in available jobs outside of academia makes an academic career all the more appealing.”

A lower percentage of respondents (26%) considered dropping out of their course during lockdown compared to before (33%).

Those who completed the survey felt the pandemic had hampered their training for an academic career. The study showed that 58% of respondents who answered in lockdown said they received formal training for teaching, down from 70% who responded before lockdown.

80% of postgraduate research students are satisfied with their overall research degree experience.

Jonathan Neves, head of business intelligence and surveys at Advance HE, said: “Strong levels of satisfaction recorded during lockdown provide a powerful endorsement of the excellent levels of support that institutions across the sector have provided to postgraduate researchers during the pandemic.”

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