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Skills & careers

How MRC supports research careers

The people we nurture and support to become tomorrow’s leaders in discovery science are central to the MRC’s mission. We have a leading national role in training future research leaders across a range of biomedical, clinical and health disciplines. We work with universities, industry, units and institutes to:

  • Train and develop the next generation of research leaders
  • Support excellent individuals at critical points of their careers
  • Help address research skills priorities identified with partners

In addition to postdoctoral positions on our research grants to universities, and research staff in MRC units and institutes, we provide flexible support for people at key stages in their careers, funding around 1,900 PhD students and 200 postdoctoral fellows at any one time in universities, units and centres.

MRC support also continues beyond PhD and Postdoctoral level as researchers transition to independence and leadership. Click here (PDF, 9.09MB) to learn more about the MRC Investigators and Directors that we fund to lead a variety of research programmes at MRC Institutes and Units.

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See MRC fellowships and studentships for more information specific to the schemes and see MRC additional career support for information on career support resources and other funding support. 

Training and careers strategy: flexible support targeted to key career stages

Our Training and Careers Group (TCG) takes the lead in developing the MRC's strategy across all aspects of research training, careers and skills. The group takes a broad, long-term perspective on UK skills shortages, our trainees' needs and how we can work with other organisations. In this way, MRC ensures its support for scientists responds to the changing science and careers landscape.

In 2014 and 2015 we conducted three reviews to better understand; skills priorities, concerns relating to pursuing a career in medical research, and the career pathways and barriers to pursuing a clinical academic career. As a consequence of these reviews we refreshed our approach to provide flexible support targeted at key transition points in the careers of future research leaders. Specifically:

  • Development of an interactive framework for non-clinical careers, a new online interactive tool that highlights a range of career options available at any stage of a biomedical research career.
  • Increased flexibility for applicants by removing eligibility criteria based on years of post-doctoral experience. This allows for variations in career paths and recognises that the speed of career progression can be affected by factors unrelated to a person’s scientific potential.
  • The development of guidance on impact of career breaks and flexible working, which recognises that the impact of career breaks cannot be fully defined by the period of an individual’s absence. This will particularly support individuals combining the establishment of a research career with family commitments.
  • Providing new flexible financial support  for the transition of MRC studentships to first post-doc positions via enhancement to the MRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships.
  • Clarification of different mechanisms supporting early career researchers towards independence via MRC’s fellowships and MRC New Investigator Research Grants.
  • Development of a ‘vision for fellowships’ to clarify when fellowship funding might be appropriate to support an individual’s long term career goals.
  • Funding collaborative research to identify the barriers and facilitators to equality in clinical academic careers and the interventions to address these, with a focus on gender inequality.