Report summary

Wellcome review of PhD training in biomedical research

Our review reveals high levels of satisfaction with biomedical PhD training overall, but significant levels of worry and uncertainty among students.

We're looking at how we can improve our PhD programmes in science to support a more positive research culture.

Key findings 

  • There have been positive system-wide changes in PhD training over the past 20 years, with programme-based funding and four-year programmes now widely adopted.
  • Students supported through programme-based cohorts appear well-placed to continue a career in research, with higher retention rates than the national average for biomedical PhD graduates. 
  • However, there are consistent concerns around PhD training, including:
    • pressure to deliver high-impact journal publications 
    • pressure to finish on time
    • a lack of support – especially around career progression
    • numerous self-reported incidences of poor mental health.
  • PhD training could be improved to support a more positive research culture. We want to redesign our PhD programmes so they combine scientific excellence with a commitment to improving the working environment for students.



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Help us reimagine research

This article is part of our campaign to build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest. Tell us what matters.

Opinion5 September 2019 

The emphasis on excellence in the research system is stifling diverse thinking and positive behaviours. As a community we can rethink our approach to research culture.