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

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 2014-2016 action plan (produced at the 2-year review stage) and the most recent version, the 2016-18 HR Excellence in Research action plan (produced for the 4-year external review) which was finalised in May 2016 and approved by VP Research on behalf of the Principal's Office. 

HR Excellence Working Group

The HR Excellence Working Group meets regularly throughout the year to review and update the action plan and to ensure that progress is being made. Feedback from staff has been considered and has been incorporated in the action plan throughout.

Periodically, in-between the 2 year formal reviews, the action plan has been revised and all the iterations of the plan are also 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 takes place between May and August 2016 and as part of this review process a revised action plan for 2016-2018 has been drawn up.


You can view the two year internal review document, 2014-2016 action plan, the four year review document and 2016-2018 action plan on the HR excellence in research documents page.



As actions are progressed and new actions added, as a result of our on-going internal review meetings and survey findings, the action plan is revised and updated. All versions of the action plan can be found on the main HR excellence in research documents page.

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:



Jos Finer
Head, Organisational Development and Staff Development
T: 01334 46 2599

HR Excellence Action Plan 2016-18 (PDF, 532 KB)

HR Excellence 4 Year Review Document May 2016 (Word, 40 KB)

HR Excellence 4 Year Review Document May 2016 (PDF, 114 KB)

HR Excellence 2 year review document May 2014 (PDF, 320 KB)

HR Excellence Action Plan March 2012 (Excel, 18 KB)

Additional links

- Staff section (CAPOD)
- Research Policy Office
- Human Resources
- Athena Swan