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Postgraduate researchers more satisfied with HE experience during lockdown than before Covid-19

05 Nov 2020 | Advance HE Advance HE’s annual survey on the postgraduate research experience highlights high satisfaction overall
  • 80% of PGRs are satisfied with their overall research degree experience
  • Top motivations for taking a research degree programme are interest in the subject (35%) and to improve academic career prospects (27%).
  • 80% of PGRs feel prepared for their future career.
  • Only three in five (60%) are satisfied with the research culture at their institution.


Higher education institutions helped to create a positive experience for postgraduate researchers (PGRs) despite the challenges faced due to Covid-19 in 2020.

Results published today (5 November) from Advance HE’s annual Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) 2020 show that respondents reported slightly higher satisfaction during the Covid-19 lockdown (82%) than those who responded to the survey before lockdown (77%). Overall, four out of five (80%) PGRs were satisfied with their experience.

Advance HE’s survey examines the key findings from a dataset which includes the views of over 8,000 students from 45 institutions. Covid-19 restrictions came into effect part way through the PRES fieldwork period, enabling a comparison of responses received during the national lockdown with those received before the lockdown.

A significantly larger proportion of PGRs who responded to PRES during lockdown felt that their feedback was valued and acted upon, and comments reveal examples of supervisors going out of their way to engage with and support PGRs.

However, the disruptive impacts of the lockdown have clearly been felt with those responding after lockdown considerably less likely to have received formal training for their teaching, and less confident they would complete their research degree programme within their institutions’ expected timescale.

Jonathan Neves, Head of Business Intelligence & Surveys at Advance HE, said, “Although our survey took place over a long period and reflected the wider experience, we can still use the data to compare responses provided before and during the spring lockdown. The 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 PGRs during the pandemic.”

Although satisfaction is high overall, 2020 has highlighted a 3% dip in research culture compared with 2019. PGRs have consistently rated their satisfaction in this area as low; this year only three in five (60%) report being satisfied with the research culture in their institution.

Improving opportunities to interact with the research community is key to improving research culture. Institutions can do more to create better opportunities for PGRs to network, enhancing their experience and lifting their levels of satisfaction.

“Thinking ahead to 2021, we are currently consulting with participating institutions in order to ensure that the content of PRES continues to reflect the PGR experience as it evolves in these challenging times.”

Jonathan Neves

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