Supervisor guidance

These pages are intended to support supervisors of AHRC-funded doctoral researchers by providing information on the AHRC’s and broader Research Council expectations, as well as signposting the training opportunities available to doctoral researchers both locally and through the Scottish Doctoral Training Partnership, which forms part of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities.

We welcome your feedback. Contact us at: with any comments, thoughts or queries.

AHRC & UKRI expectations

Please be aware that there are some recent policy changes to the AHRC Training Grant Funding Guide. These supersede all previous versions of such documents, so please disregard any old versions you may still be using.

The full AHRC Training Grant Funding Guide 2019-20 is here.

The full Terms & Conditions of Research Council Training Grants & UKRI Training Grant Guide is available here. The UKRI Statement of Expectations for Doctoral Training is available here.

The following definition of research training is provided by the AHRC in its Teaching Grant Funding Guide 2014-15 (v1.0 February 2014):

“The AHRC uses ‘research training’ in its broadest sense to describe the knowledge, understanding & skills that a student will need to successfully pursue their studies, complete a high quality thesis & prepare for a career once their studies have been completed. We aim not to be prescriptive about the type of training or how it should be delivered. ‘Training’ encompasses all the opportunities – formal & informal – available to postgraduate students to develop as researchers & practitioners in their fields & as highly qualified individuals in preparation for their future careers.

The focus is on the assessment of individual researcher needs & the provision of training to meet those needs. The AHRC considers training to be an ongoing process which takes place throughout a student’s studies & is adapted as new needs arise. This means a programme of monitoring & assessment of the student’s needs at regular intervals.”

The guidance sets out the role of supervisors as follows:

“A student’s primary supervisor (or co-supervisors) plays a key role in supporting the student’s progress & development – in terms of their research project, their development as a researcher, & their wider professional skills.”

SGSAH has developed supervision benchmarks for AHRC-funded doctoral researchers which have been agreed by all the members of the Scottish Doctoral Training Partnership.


As you will be aware, the AHRC monitors submission rates by individual institution. Where an institutional submission rates drop below 75% over a four year average, AHRC will require the consortium to refrain from awarding any studentships to that whole institution for a period of two years.

It is therefore essential that doctoral researchers are supported to complete & submit their theses on time.  The supervision benchmarks are designed to assist this process.

Training & development

The AHRC has high expectations of its doctoral researchers in terms of their ability to develop a broad portfolio of skills, knowledge and experience and at the same time to make an original contribution to knowledge within a set timescale. In recognition of this demand, AHRC has provided funding to enable doctoral researchers to undertake additional training, either directly related to their PhD study or to support their broader skills development. Funding is also available to extend the period of study, subject to agreement with supervisor/home HEI. Such an extension might cover an international study visit or an internship.

The following funds are available from AHRC:

  • Student Development Funds support individual opportunities, including paid internships, extended study periods, international visits. These funds are a key benefit of AHRC studentships and we encourage you to discuss with your doctoral researchers how they might best use the opportunities the funds offer.
  • Cohort Development Funding support opportunities for all students or groups of students.  AHRC-funded doctoral researchers will be required to attend one event per annum and an induction in the first year where they will be able to participate in skills training. There is a rolling competition for funding for staff &/or student led training events.

Details of the opportunities available and how to apply for them are available on the SGSAH website and we urge you to encourage your students to check the website regularly, or to follow us on Twitter where we will tweet regular updates & announcements. Alternatively you can subscribe to our mailing list by emailing with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

Training and development plans

Supervisors are responsible for supporting doctoral researchers to identify and address their training needs throughout their doctoral study. This will include, for AHRC-funded doctoral researchers, consideration of whether additional training would benefit the student. All the HEIs in the Scottish Doctoral Training Partnership already have in place mechanisms to help supervisors and students to identify and meet training needs. Vitae has developed a Researcher Development Framework and local arrangements are often based around this.

The primary contact for students and supervisors will be the researcher development service and/or careers service in your home institution. Contacts for these are provided on the useful contacts page.  Further support is offered by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities.

Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH)

SGSAH brings together HEIs offering doctoral training in the Arts and Humanities with Creative, Cultural & Heritage organisations across Scotland. SGSAH aims through collaboration to open up Scotland's resources to provide its doctoral researchers with the best opportunities to develop and use their skills, knowledge & experience for the benefit of culture, society and the economy in Scotland and beyond.

Practically, this means developing partnerships within, between and beyond our member HEIs to facilitate access for students from all its member organisations to high quality training opportunities. This includes:

  • at its simplest level, either taking students to training at another HEI or bringing training from one HEI to another
  • developing new collaborative training as identified by students themselves or by staff or by both
  • supporting efficient delivery of generic skills training, thus freeing up resource to focus on areas of niche specialism
  • developing training which adds value to that already available, including new coverage and different focus
  • ensuring that generic skills training has relevance for Arts and Humanities disciplines
  • developing structured programmes with supporting and partner organisations which sit alongside doctoral research work, providing students with a broader and deeper portfolio of skills, knowledge & experience than is possible in a typical PhD
  • building on existing good practice in delivering high quality work experience and paid internship opportunities, covering team work and individual projects.

Details of specific programmes are available on the SGSAH website.

Research Leadership Training

All AHRC-funded students are required to attend a residential programme on leadership.  The training will focus on self-awareness and leadership skills and will be a valuable peer-networking opportunity. 

Competitive funding available

Funding is available for doctoral researchers and/or staff collaboratively to identify and address gaps in training and/or opportunities to deliver innovative training. Proposals of up to £2,500 are invited with three annual decision-making points. Proposals must include at least three member HEIs in the design and/or delivery of the training, and must benefit at least ten students.

More information & an application form is available on our Cohort Development Funding pages.