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Academics and students from across Scotland and the UK gathered to learn more about Skills Development Scotland’s collaborative PhD programme.

The PhD Networking Event, hosted by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), gave delegates the chance to find out more about the work of SDS’s sponsored PhD students.

Working in conjunction with the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences, SDS currently has 16 PhD students enrolled across a number of Scottish universities.

The programme is aligned to the new Centre for Work Based Learning, a collaboration between SDS and the University of Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt University and Robert Gordon University.

Skills Development Scotland Chief Executive Damien Yeates said: “The PhD programme is extending knowledge in order to inform policy.”

Prof Mhairi MacKenzie, Depute Director at the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, says the nature of academic research and PhDs are changing, and praised the SDS approach.

She said: “SDS is positioned as a jewel in the crown for our collaborative PhD programmes.”

Prof Ewart Keep, Director of the ESRC Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE), says that Scotland should be proud of the approach which could usefully be replicated elsewhere.

“The SDS programme provides the mechanisms for locking together academic research and policy making.”

Prof Ewart Keep

He said there is no shortage of topics to research in terms of skills and employment, due to challenges such as Brexit, change to the workforce demographic and the impact of new technology– and the programme gives students the chance to tackle the issues which need answers now.

Prof Keep said: “The SDS programme provides the mechanisms for locking together academic research and policy making.”

SDS puts forward questions and areas of research for individuals to tackle and shape a PhD thesis, while providing a mentor, support and access to information and contacts.

Professor Liam Delaney, Professor of Economics at University College Dublin and Visiting Professor of Economics University of Stirling, praised the impact of one of the first PhDs completed through the SDS programme, which he supervised.

Mark Egan’s work, investigating the impact of unemployment on mental health, has potential to shape future policy and has already been cited in other works.

The event’s talks were followed up by breakout sessions, with current candidates discussing their work, covering topics such as the impact of Big Data on skills and inequalities and the world of work.

PhD programme manager at SDS, Dr Lynne Robson said: “The event provided an opportunity for the students, academics, SDS colleagues and wider partners to learn first-hand the strengths and benefits of the collaborative programme.  

“The speeches and talks given by academics and sponsored PhD students gave attendees valuable insight into the workings of the PhD programme, the research it produces and the impact it can have on policy.”

The online brochure from the event includes details of all the PhD students, their topics, supervisors and SDS sponsors. It is available here.

More infomation

To find out more about SDS’s collaborative PhD programme please contact Dr Lynne Robson from SDS’s Evaluation and Research team (

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