Career stability

The career stage after gaining a doctorate is typically exciting and challenging. Opportunities to develop research expertise and core employability skills are available in cutting-edge institutions across the world, yet almost all are one to three-year positions funded by research grants and without an obvious next step.  In Oxford very few (approximately 40) permanent academic roles are available each year in relation to the large number (over 4,000) of fixed-term researchers. Coping with financial instability and mobility between communities alongside career uncertainty is often stressful and demanding on researchers and their families.

While researchers have responsibility for their own career development, the University is stepping up its offer of excellent support to researchers progressing their careers within and beyond academia. There will be more opportunities to witness and investigate fulfilling roles for researchers in a range of sectors making critical contributions to knowledge and to society.

In parallel, the University will review contract types to ensure greater clarity and fairness. Work with funders and peer universities will focus on establishing recognised roles, for example staff scientists, with related progression pathways, thereby benefitting individual researchers and retaining talent in research. 

Roles within the Action Plan and what you can do to help

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What you need to know and see 

  • You have a responsibility for your own career development and a prime opportunity to build on your role at Oxford
  • Researchers who are pro-active, giving time to career thinking and development (even when research priorities are pressing), tend to feel more confident and happier approaching the next career step

What you need do or do differently 

  • Review your understanding of academic career progression by talking to colleagues, and thinking about whether academia is right for you
  • Gain insight into the working roles of former fixed-term researchers whose research interests mirror yours; reach out to those whose roles appeal and learn how they got there
  • Actively engage in your own career development; plan a career-focused conversation within your annual Personal Development Review or Career Development Review
  • Explore the dedicated support to researchers from the Careers Service including 1:1 appointments to discuss any aspect of career thinking

What you need to know and see 

  • Discussions taking place around contracts would benefit from your engagement
  • Career-focussed review conversations are made all the more positive and productive with some considered preparation by the reviewer and the reviewee

What you need do or do differently 

  • Encourage fixed-term researchers to invest in their career development and explore a range of career pathways, for example by signalling the support available to fixed-term researchers within the department, and centrally via the Careers Service
  • enable a greater sense of stability within the group/team/department by offering your insights (e.g. in a career-focussed review conversation)
  • talk about contract stability with peers, on committees and with funders
  • talk to your divisional academic advocate for research if you have creative and helpful solutions in this area
  • Gain tips on effective reviewing from the Researcher Hub; write to

What you need to know and see 

  • Fixed-term researchers' are frequently anxious about their next contract and when this might begin 
  • some find it particularly difficult to be pro-active towards their next career step; structural disadvantages relating to ethnicity, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation may add to these challenges
  • your support can help; by listening and signposting to effect support locally and across the university

What you can do or do differently

  • Refresh your knowledge of the researcher journey and supports available in your department/division, and centrally. The Researcher’s Trailmap is a good place to start.
  • enable fixed-term researchers to access to career-related conversations within the department via Career Development Reviews (CDRs), Personal Development Reviews (PDRs) or invited speakers
  • ensure that fixed-term researchers are aware of the tailored support available from the Careers Service, including researcher career development programmes and 1:1 appointments with a Careers Adviser specialising in researcher careers

Provisional delivery by Trinity term 2025

Read the Concordat Action Plan

Concordat Action Plan 


Find out more about the Hub's work

Researcher Hub site 

Related links