For studentsPGCert in Researcher Professional Development

The Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development (PG Cert RPD) is the first academic award in the UK to recognise and reward the wide array of skills and experiences that postgraduate research students achieve during their PhD research. ​​​​​​​


The PG Cert RPD are mapped to the Researcher Development Framework which sets out the key competencies and behaviours of a successful researcher.

There are 5 classes in the PGCert RPD. You'll need to gain 60 credits across these classes. You will need to gather and record evidence of your development activities and demonstrate that you have met the class learning outcomes through a short, reflective essay for each class.

The PGCert RPD has no set curriculum or timetable. You, with the support of your supervisor, will identify the development activities best suited to your training needs (we can help you with this too – please get in touch). Activities that contribute to the PGCert RPD classes can be PGT classes, courses and workshops, and any experiential activities.

Classes in the PG Cert in Researcher Professional Development

The PG Cert RPD in Researcher Professional Development has a total of 60 credits, broken down over five classes:

  • RD901: Researcher Knowledge & Intellectual Abilities (20 credits)
  • RD902: Researcher Personal Effectiveness (10 credits)
  • RD903: Researcher Governance & Organisation (10 credits)
  • RD904: Researcher Engagement, Influence & Impact (10 credits)
  • RD905: Researcher Professional Development Elective (10 credits)

The first step is to identify the skills you'll need to complete your research and that will set you up for your chosen career. You also need to consider when is the appropriate time to undertake development activities, and how to spread activities across the five PG Cert RPD classes.

Setting goals for each year of your studies, with the aim of acquiring 20 credits a year, will provide a balance between conducting your research and your professional development.

We have two tools to support planning for the PG Cert RPD. We recommend you work with your supervisor to use these tools and that you review them annually.

Training needs analysis

The PG Cert RPD Training Needs Analysis Tool allows you to see all 63 skills and attributes listed in the Researcher Development Framework. You can rate your current skill level for each descriptor and the skill level you would like to obtain by the end of your research.

Planning template

The PG Cert RPD Planning Template should be used to plan the research-specific training required to complete your research plan, and your personal and professional development needs to allow you to achieve your career aims.

Almost anything can count towards the PG Cert in Researcher Professional Development, as long as you can extract meaningful learning from the activity, and demonstrate how it meets the learning outcomes of one of the PGCert classes. Activities can fall into three categories:

Informal activities
With a defined structure and content, but no formal examination. Can be offered by any provider within the University, or any external provider. Examples include:

  • a workshop delivered through the Researcher Development Programme
  • participation in a faculty research presentation day
  • engagement with a departmental seminar series

Formal activities
A postgraduate taught class offered by your department.

Experiential activities
Almost anything else and unique to each participant. Typically students only understand their learning after reflecting on their experience. Two students taking part in the same general activity (for example, volunteering at a conference) will likely have very different learning experiences depending on their roles and interactions with others.

You are required to record your development activities in either Neptune or Spider, depending on your Faculty by uploading evidence and recording credits. User guides for Neptune and Spider give you a step-by-step process for recording activities.


The portfolio of evidence is your way of demonstrating that you undertook the development activities.

For more formal activities - attendance records, completion certificates, or academic transcripts.

Activities with an output - copies of posters or presentations at conferences can be used.

Other activities may be harder to evidence but can include email chains, or direct requests from someone involved in organising the activity to provide a testimonial.

Ask yourself: does my evidence show that I was involved, and how long I was involved for? If the answer is yes, it's good enough!


The number of credits you record in Neptune/Spider should accurately reflect the number of hours you spent on each activity, and the evidence you provide should support the number of credits claimed.

1 credit is the equivalent of 10 learning hours or one full day. Therefore, a 10 credit class nominally requires 100 hours of active engagement, including exams and assessments.

Once you have the necessary learning hours for a class, you will complete an assessment in the form of a reflective essay - you will be assessed on your ability to demonstrate that you have developed a range of skills, knowledge and attributes that meet the learning outcomes of that class. You will submit an essay for each of the five classes.

To help in this assessment, we recommend using the Training Needs Analysis tool to track your development and reflection.

Your assessment will be reviewed by your supervisor before being marked by a second marker. The marking cycle for 2022/23 is below - if your assessment is approved by your supervisor by the deadline given, the second marker feedback will be returned to you approximately three weeks later.

If an essay is approved by your supervisor by......then your feedback is returned in...
2 November 2023 Week commencing: 20 November 2023
30 November 2023 Week commencing: 18 December 2023
4 January 2024 Week commencing: 22 January 2024
1 February 2024 Week commencing: 19 February 2024
29 February 2024 Week commencing: 18 March 2024
28 March 2024 Week commencing: 15 April 2024

Further dates to be announced. 

Marking criteria

Your supervisor needs to approve your assessment and will answer the following questions as part of the approval process:

  1. Did the student demonstrate that they met at least one of the learning outcomes?
  2. Did the student describe what aspects of each activity contributed to the learning outcomes?
  3. Did the student describe why they chose the activities listed in the form, and how the activities met their training needs?
  4. Did the student reflect on the new skills acquired during each activity, or how they applied existing skills to a new situation?
  5. Did the student reflect on how they can apply their new knowledge to their research, and to their overall professional development?
  6. Did the student reflect on their expectations of the activity, and if those expectations were met?

RD901 Researcher Knowledge & Intellectual Abilities

2000 words+ evidence for each activity

  1. Enhanced knowledge base in a research context, including: subject knowledge; theoretical knowledge of research methods; practical application of research methods; information seeking; information literacy and management; languages; academic literacy and numeracy
  2. Enhanced cognitive abilities in a research context, including: analysing; synthesising; critical thinking; evaluation; problem solving
  3. Enhanced creativity in a research context, including: inquiring mind; intellectual insight; innovation; argument construction; intellectual risk
RD902 Researcher Personal Effectiveness

1000 words+ evidence for each activity

  1. Enhanced personal qualities in a research context, including: enthusiasm; perseverance; integrity; self-confidence; self-reflection; responsibility
  2. Enhanced self-management in a research context, including: preparation and prioritisation; commitment to research; time management; responsiveness to change; work-life balance
  3. Enhanced professional and career development in a research context, including: career management; continuing professional development; responsiveness to opportunities; networking; reputation and esteem
RD903 Researcher Governance & Organisation

1000 words+ evidence for each activity

  1. Enhanced professional conduct in a research context, including: health and safety; ethics, principles, and sustainability; legal requirements; IPR and copyright; respect and confidentiality; attribution and co-authorship; appropriate practice.
  2. Enhanced understanding of research management in a research context, including: research strategy; project planning and delivery; risk management.
  3. Enhanced understanding finance, funding and resources in a research context, including: income and funding generation; financial management; infrastructure and resources.
RD904 Researcher Engagement, Influence & Impact

1000 words+ evidence for each activity.

  1. Enhanced ability to work with others in a research context, including: collegiality; team working; people management; supervision; mentoring; influence and leadership; collaboration; equality and diversity
  2. Enhanced abilities to communicate and disseminate in a research context, including: communication methods; communication media; publication
  3. Enhanced engagement and impact in a research context, including: teaching; public engagement; enterprise, policy; society and culture; global citizenship
RD905 Researcher Professional Development Elective

1000 words+ evidence for each activity

  1. Enhanced knowledge and intellectual abilities needed to carry out excellent research
  2. Enhance personal qualities, career and self-management skills required to take ownership for and engage in professional development
  3. Enhanced knowledge of the standards, requirements and professional conduct that are needed for the effective management of research
  4. Enhanced knowledge, understanding and skills needed to engage with, influence and impact on the academic, social, cultural, economic and broader context

MPhil students

If you are studying for an MPhil then you need to complete RD906 (20 credits) and demonstrate development across the four domains of the Researcher Development Framework.

Download MPhil Professional Development Guidance for information on how to plan and record your 20 credits of professional development

If you then go on to upgrade to PhD you will be required to complete the full PGCert Researcher Development Programme.

Please get in touch if you are an MPhil student upgrading, or if you are a PhD student transferring to MPhil.

Opting in and opting out

Opting out of the PG Cert RPD is only permitted in exceptional circumstances. A case must be made to the PGR Director and approved by the Vice Dean demonstrating a level of skill/experience in each of the classes.

If you are on a doctoral programme (within a CDT, for example) where you are not required to complete the PG Cert RPD you may request to opt-in. Your supervisor can make a case demonstrating that you have the time and capacity to undertake the work required to gain the PG Cert RPD. If you are interested in opting in then please get in touch.

Recognition of prior learning

Prior learning can contribute to the credit requirements of the PG Cert RPD.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) must have occurred within the five years prior to your start date and can be based on a previous qualification, work-based experience or any other relevant experience.

You can apply for up to 30 credits of RPL across classes RD901 to RD904. You must demonstrate how the previous experience meets the learning outcomes of the PG Cert RPD class it is being applied to.

Please get in touch for more information.