School of Social and Political Science

Researcher Development Award


The SPS Edinburgh Award for Researcher Development and Academic Practice is a two-year skills development programme run by the Student Development Office (SDO).

The Award is based on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF), an internationally recognised framework for managing researcher development in academia. It focuses on the individual's development as a researcher; promoting a range of skills including public engagement, impact, personal effectiveness and research organisation.

The Award is open to all PhD students in the School of Social and Political Science. This is a largely self-directed Award. 


Award Structure and Timeline

The Award features a mix of skills development, academic experience and 1-1 coaching, supplemented by short reflective written submissions.

To complete the Award you must:

  1. Attend 'Skills for Success - PhD' session (Input 1), review recorded Input 2 & 3 sessions and associated reflective activities 
  2. Complete 20 hours of skills training via SDO and IAD workshops
  3. Complete 30 hrs of academic activity
  4. Attend 6 coaching sessions
  5. Submit 6 reflective summaries 

In total, the Award will take approximately 56 hours to complete.  The Award must be completed within 24 months.

Example timeline:

Attend Input 1 (November 2022) - Reflective submission 1 (900 words)

  • Career coaching session 1 - December 2022/January 2023
  • Reflective submission 2 (400 words) - March 2023
  • Career coaching session 2 - April/May 2023
  • Reflective submission 3 (400 words) - July 2023
  • Career coaching session 3 - September/October 2023

Access Input 2 (October 2023) - Reflective submission 4 (900 words)

  • Career coaching session 4 - January/February 2024
  • Reflective submission 5 (400 words) - February 2024
  • Career coaching session 5 - May/June 2024

Access Input 3 (October 2024) - Reflective submission 6 (900 words)

  • Career coaching session 6 - October 2024

See a side-by-side comparison of our various awards

Part 1: Input Sessions

Input sessions last one hour and are run by SDO staff. In each session, we will discuss your progress on the Award, think about the skills that you are developing and reflect on how you can use these to further your academic development.

  • Input 1 - Aspiring
  • Input 2 - Developing
  • Input 3 - Owning

Input sessions will feature a mix of presentations, group activities and individual reflections. All input sessions will be delivered online. The first Input session will be facilitated live as a 'Skills for Success - PhD' workshop, and Input 2 & 3 will be recorded and sent to students after the successful completion of the corresponding parts of the Award. 

Part 2: Skills Training Workshops (20 hours)

Students must attend at least 20 hours of skills training workshops over the duration of the Award. You may attend skills workshops run by providers from across the university but a minimum of 10 hours must be taken from SDO-run sessions.

All SDO skills workshops are mapped to the RDF.

SDO skills sessions

Part 3: Academic Activity (30 hours)

Academic activities can include the following:

  • Academic presentations and conference attendance (up to 10 hours)
  • Public engagement activities (up to 30 hours)
  • Committee membership and contribution (up to 30 hours if the student can demonstrate evidence of active contribution)
  • Organising and delivering training, seminars or conferences (up to 30 hours - does not include tutoring)

Please speak to the SDO if you are unsure which activities are suitable for this part of the Award.

Part 4: Coaching Sessions

All students on the Award are eligible for 6 coaching sessions. Your coach will support you to identify career goals, as well as the smaller, incremental steps to help you achieve them.

SDO coaching

Part 5: Reflective Summaries

Reflective summaries are short submissions focussing on your progress through the Award. You should think about your goals for the Award and how your training and academic activities are building your experience and skills.

Reflectors Toolkit

Additional Information

The Award will appear on your HEAR Transcript. You can use this during interviews as evidence of your wider skills set and commitment to personal development.

Sign up and Support

To enrol on the Award you must attend the SDO 'Skills for Success - PhD' workshop. After the event, an 800-word reflective submission is required. Information about the submission will be shared at the 'Skills for Success' Workshop.

Workshops and Events

Questions? Feel free to get in touch with the SDO team:

Support Available

  • Group - Access a specific Teams group to network and support with others on this Edinburgh Award.
  • One-to-One - appointments available to meet with an SDO member to discuss your progress
  • Dates and Deadlines - Dates and deadlines will depend on your start date. You will need to keep a track of your progress. There is a tracking document available once you have registered for the Award.
Student category
Development Hub