SOAS University of London

Staff Development

Information for Research Staff

SOAS is committed to supporting and developing our research staff (postdoctoral researchers, research assistants and independently funded research fellows). We recognise the important role that this group plays in helping to achieve our research goals – both people at the beginning of their career, as well as those at more advanced stages. The successful achievement of the HR Excellence in Research Award in 2012 confirms this support (see below).

Who do we mean by ‘research staff’?

Our definition of research staff is drawn from the Concordat, and defines researchers as 'Individuals whose primary responsibility is to conduct research and who are employed for this purpose.’
We also recognise that ‘research staff’ refers to a wide range of staff including those with:  

  • different disciplinary backgrounds;
  • varying levels of training, including Early Career Researchers;
  • a wide variety of different experiences and responsibility types;
  • different types of contract (fixed or permanent, full or part time);
  • diverse career expectations.

What support do we offer?

The School offers a comprehensive range of support for its research staff, this includes:

HR Excellence in Research Award

HR Excellence in Research

SOAS successfully applied for the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award (March 2012 round) and as such our commitment to the development of our researchers has been recognised. We successfully submitted our 2 year review plan for assessment in 2014 and successfully underwent a more rigorous re-accreditation process in 2016. The HR Excellence in Research Working Group has monitored progress and the development of the next action plan, approved by Research and Enterprise Committee.

SOAS is joined by over 120 other UK institutions in holding this award which is an important mechanism for implementing the Concordat principles.

Key documents in the 2016-20 review process are:

SD-HR Excellence Award Action Plan 2016-20 (msword; 85kb)

SD-HR Excellence Award 4 Year Report (msword; 81kb)

Previous documents:

Previous documents in relation to initial submission:

The award identifies organisations as providers and supporters of a stimulating and favourable working environment for researchers. In addition it recognises the identification of career development opportunities for its researchers and the provision of a clear  Concordat Action Plan (pdf; 156kb)   for future developments. SOAS will now be able to use the HR Excellence in Research logo, and this will help in the recruitment of research staff who will be encouraged to choose an employer or funder who has earned the right to use the logo because:

  • their rights as a professional will be recognised and enhanced
  • their mobility experience will be valued
  • their work-life balance will be respected
  • their recruitment will follow a transparent process
  • they will join a truly pan-European network consisting of research organisations and researchers.

This will help researchers chose SOAS as their employer of choice. Research and Human Resources Committees will monitor the implementation of the action plan and its effectiveness on an annual basis.

The Concordat

The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers sets out the expectations and responsibilities of researchers, their managers, employers and funders. It aims to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK and to improve the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society.

The School is committed to the seven principles of The Concordat to support the career development of researchers. In 2011, the School conducted a review of policies and practices against the principles of the Concordat and noted how our current provision is already meeting many of the expectations contained within the Concordat. This work led to the development of a Concordat Gap Analysis and Action Plan which has been approved by both Research and Human Resources Committees, and which has identified areas that we intend to work on to build on these successes. 

Staff Surveys for Research Staff

In order to ensure that research staff have a chance to feedback on their experiences at SOAS, the School runs an annual Staff Survey or Pulse Survey which all staff are encouraged too complete. From 2016-17 there will also be annual opportunities for research staff to comment on progress against specific targets outlined in the SD-HR Excellence Award Action Plan 2016-20 (msword; 85kb) .

Previously SOAS has participated in the Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and the Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS). These were last ran in April - May 2011,   CROS PIRLS Survey (pdf; 77kb)   and information from these surveys informed the original Concordat Gap Analysis and Action Plan. In order to get more complete data research staff will have targetted SOAS specific questions addressed to them in future.


Vitae is a national organisation championing the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff in higher education institutions and research institutes. Their website contains lots of useful information for research staff.