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European Commission HR Excellence in Research Award

The University of St Andrews was awarded the European Commission HR Excellence in Research award in May 2012 and has since successfully retained the award by completing a 2-year internal review (2014) and a 4-year external review (2016).  The 6 year internal review was submitted to Vitae in May 2018 and the award was successfully retained under the condition that SMART objectives were added to our new and ongoing action plan, and that these were separated from our completed actions for clarity. The updated documents were approved by Vitae in October 2018. We now look forward to the 8 year, external review in 2020.

The Award recognises the University's alignment with the principles laid out in Vitae's Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Concordat Consultation

The Concordat Consultation has now closed and is being reviewed, updates will be provided when available.

The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, to which the University is a signatory, is being updated and an online consultation is underway. 

The consultation presents a ten-year opportunity to shape the revisions that are needed to ensure the Concordat remains fit for the future. The Concordat can make a real difference in improving the research environment and career development for researchers.


Organisations and individuals, including all staff engaged in research, as well as those managing or supporting research and researchers are welcome to respond to the consultation.


Who’s responding?

Institutional response

The HR Excellence in Research Working Group will lead on the institutional response with input from key University stakeholder representatives.


School input to the institutional response

Academic Schools have been invited to feed into the institutional response, by providing their views on any of theof the 15 review recommendationswhich include:

  • Increasing support for researcher independence

  • Including new principles for principal investigators and funders

  • Broadening the definition of ‘researchers’ to include all staff engaged in research

  • Finding solutions to the problems of mobility, time-limited contracts and promotion

Heads of School are welcome to submit any comments they would like to make on behalf of their School, to Diane Munday (dcm24@) by end of day 9thDec 2018.


Individual responses

All those involved in research are invited to make an individual, direct response to the consultation.


Click here to complete the Concordat Consultation Survey by 7th Jan 2019


Supporting documents

If you wish to view the relevant documents which will provide a complete background to the Concordat Consultation, they are available on the Concordat Consultation Survey Homepage

You can view all versions of the University's HR Excellence in Research action plan on the HR Excellence documents and updates page. 

This includes:

  • The original 2012-14 action plan 
  • The 2014-16 action plan - produced at the 2-year internal review stage
  • The 2016-18 action plan - produced at the 4-year external review stage
  • The 2018-2020 action plan and review report for the which was finalised in May 2018 and approved by VP Research on behalf of the Principal's Office. 
  • Two versions of the 2018-2020 action plan which were requested by Vitae and approved by them for publication on 31.10.18:  Current and ongoing SMART objectives and Completed Objectives (for 2018-20 action plan) 

HR Excellence Working Group

The HR Excellence Working Group (see member details below) meets regularly throughout the year to review and update the action plan and to ensure that progress is being made in alignment with the Concordat. Feedback and input from staff is considered important and is incorporated in the action plan. 

Periodically, in-between the 2 year formal reviews, the action plan is revised by the Working Group. All the iterations of the action plan and the review reports are available on the HR Excellence documents and updates page.

The 7 principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, which are addressed in the Action Plan, are detailed below.

Any additional feedback or comments about the project, please contact:

HR Excellence documents and updates

The original action plan was published in May 2012, since then a lot has happened and the plan has evolved and developed.   


In order to retain the award a two year internal review was undertaken between January and May 2014 and a revised revised action plan for 2014-2016 drawn up.


An external, four year review took place between May and August 2016 and as part of this review process, a revised action plan for 2016-2018 was drawn up.

The internal, six year review took place between May 2017 and May 2018 and a revised action plan for 2018-2020 was drawn up alongside a six year internal report, which is currently being reviewed by Vitae



You can view ALL iterations of the action plan along with the two, four and six year reports on the HR excellence in research documents page.  As actions are progressed and new actions added, the action plan continues to be reviewed and updated.

What is the European Commission HR Excellence in Research award?

A UK-wide process which incorporates the QAA Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, enables institutions to earn the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research award. 


This acknowledges alignment with the:

  • Principles of the European Charter for Researchers;

  • Code of Conduct for their Recruitment.

A document demonstrating the implementation of the Concordat, is required from the University. The concordat has been agreed and signed by a number of bodies, including University Research Councils and Universities UK.

What is the Concordat?

Full title: Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

What is the Concordat?

The Concordat focuses on researchers employed by HEIs on fixed term (or similar) contracts and funded through research grants or analogue schemes.  It aims to set the standards and conditions of employment for these researchers.  It is a benchmark reference point for good practice, across the UK Higher Education sector.


The University must demonstrate the 7 principles of the Concordat as follows:

  • Principle 1:

    • Recognition of the importance of recruiting, selecting and retaining researchers with the highest potential to achieve excellence in research.

  • Principle 2:

    • Researchers are recognised and valued by their employing organisation as an essential part of their organisation’s human resources and a key component of their overall strategy to develop and deliver world-class research.

  • Principle 3:

    • Researchers are equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse, mobile, global research environment.

  • Principle 4:

    • The importance of researchers’ personal and career development, and lifelong learning, is clearly recognised and promoted at all stages of their career.

  • Principle 5:

    • Individual researchers share the responsibility for and need to pro-actively engage in their own personal and career development, and lifelong learning.

  • Principle 6:

    • Diversity and equality must be promoted in all aspects of the recruitment and career management of researchers.

  • Principle 7:

    • The sector and all stakeholders will undertake regular and collective review of their progress in strengthening the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK.

Earning the award

The University of St Andrews demonstrated it was within the 7 principles of the concordat, by the following methods:

  • An internal analysis conducted by the University, involving all key players to compare policies and practices against the Charter & Code principles.

  • Based on the results of analysis an HR strategy for researchers was developed and included a concrete action plan. The original action plan and all subsequent updates can be viewed on the action plan updates page.

  • The European Commission reviewed and acknowledged the University of St Andrews analysis and action plan. Acknowledgement implies the right to use the HR Excellence in Research logo on university materials and website.

  • After two years, a self-assesment of progress with the implementation of the strategy and action plan, is required by the European Commission.

  • An external evaluation is required to be carried out every four years.

HR Excellence working Group

An 'HR Excellence' working group was created in 2011, with a series of meetings scheduled to review the University's application. A comprehensive action plan was developed to ensure all 7 principles were covered within the plan. The working group comprises of: 

  • Academic Lead: Vice-Principal Research

  • Head of Organisational and Staff Development (Chair)

  • Director of Research Policy

  • Research Policy Officer

  • Human Resources Business Partner

  • Equality & Diversity Officer

  • Careers Centre (advisor)

  • Staff Developer (Research Staff)

  • Educational & Postgraduate Researcher Development

  • Post Grad Reps

  • Post Doc Reps

  • Early Career Academic

All members of the University, particularly Research and Academic staff, are consulted and asked for feedback / comments on the action plan. 

The group submitted the University’s proposal to the European Commission on 16 March 2012 and were informed of its success on 14 May 2012. Work will now continue on completing the actions highlighted in the action plan and the working group will meet regularly to drive progress. 

You can view the original action plan and all subsequent updates on the action plan updates page


The European Commission are increasingly building in references to the ‘European Charter and Code’ for funding criteria. The ‘HR Excellence in Research' award demonstrates to funders our institutional commitment to meeting the principles of the ‘European Charter and Code’.

For further details please view: Fairness=Funding Process (PDF, 428 KB)

CROS and PIRLS surveys

Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS)

Gathers data regarding working conditions, career aspirations and career development opportunities for research staff in UK Higher Education.


Principal Investigators & Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS)

Aims to capture activities and attitudes in relation to research leadership, the management of research staff and the supervision of PGRs.


Further details ...

For further details on both the CROS and PIRLS survey, please visit the dedicated page:

HR Excellence Group Members

Units Representatives





  • Dr Diane Munday (Staff Developer, Research Staff): dcm24@

  • Jos Finer (Head of Organisation & Staff Development): jaf21@

  • Dr Heather McKiggan-Fee (Educational and PG Researcher Developer): hcm@

  • Katherine Gill (Organisational Development Coordinator): kjg5@

Research Fellow representatives



  • Dr Sarah Greer – (Research Fellow, History): slg6@

  • Dr Duncan Robertson (Senior Research Fellow, School of Physics and Astronomy): dar@

  • Dr Alexander Konovalov, (Research Fellow, School of Computer Science): alexander.konovalov@

Postgraduate researcher representatives


  • Olga Burkhardt-Vetter, (PGR, International Relations): olbv@

  • *Place available for Sciences representative* - please contact Diane Munday if you would like to be involved

Careers Centre


  • Dr Delia Bellili (Careers Adviser) – maternity cover for Dr Bhavya Rao (Careers Adviser): db72@

Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

  • Sukhi Bains (Equality and Diversity Officer): sb104@

Human resources


  • Louise Milne (Human Resources Business Partner): lm80@

Research policy office



  • Dr Helen Reddy (Director of Research and Innovation Services): helen.reddy@

  • Dr Richard Malham (Senior Research Policy and Integrity Manager): rwm7@



Jos Finer
Co-Director, Head of OD
T: 01334 46 2599

New and ongoing SMART objectives (PDF, 3,965 KB)

Completed objectives (PDF, 3,488 KB)

HR Excellence 2018-2020 Action Plan May 2018 (PDF, 2,368 KB)

HR Excellence 6 yr Review Report May 2018 (PDF, 554 KB)

Additional links

- Staff section (CAPOD)
- Research and Innovation Services
- Human Resources
- Vitae