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Joint work between European HE employers and trade unions supports researchers

Joint work between European HE employers and trade unions supports early career researchers

During the past two years the UK’s Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has been leading on a European Commission funded project jointly supported by the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE). The project has been examining how best to support HE researchers through the many challenges faced in the early stages of their careers.

The project has concluded with the publication of the report, ‘Supporting early career researchers in higher education in Europe’* that explores both the attractions and challenges of a research career, with a particular exploration of the ways in which employers and trade unions have demonstrated the contribution that their joint work can contribute to improving the quality of education and research across Europe.  

The report offers recommendations in the key areas of mobility, gender equality and employability among this group, based on literature, data and evidence drawn from six in-depth case studies undertaken in Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Italy, Romania and the UK.

The research identifies several specific challenges and barriers that can affect research staff in EU HE institutions including work/life balance issues, the short-term nature of some research contracts and related job insecurity, social security rights, and career paths and progression, beyond as well as within higher education institutions. The report also highlights a range of successful initiatives that have contributed towards the objectives of the EU Charter and Code in the six in-depth country studies. The report includes a ‘Joint Declaration’ from the EFEE and the ETUCE that emphasises their shared views on the importance of promoting the employability and mobility of early career researchers.

Helen Fairfoul, Chief Executive of UCEA, said:

“We are grateful to the Commission for supporting this project and through this recognising the contribution that the social partners at European level could make to Europe’s research ambitions. The report highlights compelling examples of initiatives in various European countries, demonstrating the value of work such as this that identifies and shares practice and experiences. There is work on supporting early career researchers at both national and institutional levels that puts the UK among the leaders in European countries, but we know we have as much to learn as to share on this continuing challenge. Vitae**, the UK based organisation for the development for researchers, plays a key role which we believe is unique among European Member States. The UK Research Concordat has also delivered widespread adherence to the principles of the European Charter and Code for Researchers.”

This report’s launch has coincided with the European Commission’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the ‘European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers’***. The Code of Conduct anniversary and Report launch serve as timely reminders to ensure that the processes for hiring and promoting researchers are fair, merit-based and transparent.

While the implementation of the Charter and Code is on a voluntary basis and is the responsibility of employers, funding organisations and researchers, the report highlights that HE trade unions play an important role at institutional level in helping to consider the practices of HE institutions against the principles of the Charter and Code and developing joint solutions with employers.

*The report, with the associated literature review and country case studies, is available at:

** Vitae, dedicated to realising the potential of researchers through transforming their professional and career development, is an international programme and a not-for-profit registered UK charity

***The ‘European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers’ celebrated its 10th anniversary on 3 March 2015. More details available at and

For further information please go to
Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Officer ( For project details please contact Laurence Hopkins, Head of Research (

Call: 0044 (0)20 7383 2444.