Frequently asked questions

Here you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions about the cohort.

Please note: applications for the 2024 Prosper cohort are now closed. For Prosper events, see our upcoming events calendar.


Who is eligible to apply?

All postdocs who wish to apply must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are employed as a University of Liverpool postdoc, defined as anyone employed on an Academic Research Only contract (ARON) grade 6 to 9.
  • You’re able to engage for the duration of the cohort from February to July 2024.

For those unable to participate in the cohort at this time, development sessions will be advertised. In addition any postdoc can use the Prosper portal which houses a range of resources. Here, postdocs can benefit from self-reflection tools, insights and tips from our employer partners and a library of case studies from postdocs who have forged careers beyond academia.

What if my current contract doesn’t run for that long but I expect to get another one?

We know many postdocs have a patchwork of contracts so we don’t insist that your current contract lasts until July 2024. You can apply if you’ve a reasonable expectation that your contract will extend until the end of July 2024.

Can postdocs who travel with their research or aren’t based on- campus (or even in the UK) still apply and participate?

Yes, postdocs in this position are welcome to apply. The career coaching will be delivered online. However, some cohort-only sessions will be hosted in-person at the University of Liverpool.

Can internally funded postdocs apply?

Yes, if they are employed on a research only contract as specified in the eligibility criteria.

Why is this only open to postdocs?

Prosper has been developed specifically for and with postdocs. For tailored PGR development, visit the PGR development hub. For technicians, please see the Technicians hub. For all other researcher staff, please check out the development opportunities here.

Other researchers are very welcome to use Prosper’s resources and attend our open sessions, but are ineligible to apply to join the cohort.

Benefits of the pilot

What are the benefits of being part of the cohort?

Prosper gives postdocs the chance to expand how they view their career pathway.

In summary the benefits of being part of the cohort are:

  • Professional career coaching, consisting of one 30-minute one to one introductory session, followed by a monthly 1-hour group coaching session (6 sessions in total).
  • Cohort-only events (a mix of online and in-person) building on the open development sessions. 
  • Priority access to register for live development sessions where participant numbers are limited.
  • An accountability-cohort buddy scheme, where you’ll be grouped with a small number of your fellow cohort members to encourage each other to focus on your career development. These groups will be re-mixed after 3 months, so you get the benefit of interacting with a broader range of people/views/experience. 
  • A dedicated MS teams channel to keep you updated on what’s coming and as a dedicated space to discuss topics with other cohort members.
  • A monthly email to round-up what has happened, highlight what’s coming up and prompt your career development.
  • Opportunity to feedback and shape Prosper’s career development future cohorts.

You’ve mentioned the co-creation with employers, is this a placement scheme?

No, Prosper is a career development approach developed closely with employer partners. It is not a placement or internship scheme.

Will there be another cohort in the future? When will the next cohort be?

We plan on running a cohort programme every academic year at the University of Liverpool. The cohort will give participating postdocs the opportunity to engage and network with fellow postdocs across all disciplines, whilst working on their career development.


What is the selection process?

Following an online application process, applications will be reviewed by a selection panel.

The selection panel members will anonymously mark the two motivation questions of all valid submitted applications against a set of marking criteria. Marks awarded for both motivation questions will be equally weighted. Depending on the numbers of applications received, the lowest scoring applications may be sifted at this stage and not go forward for discussion at the selection panels.

The remaining applications will be discussed by the selection panel and ranked lists of applications produced.

The Prosper team and Chair of the panel will then use the ranked list of applicants and the panel’s commentary in conjunction with aggregate data on participants’ discipline, gender and ethnicity to inform which applicants are invited to join the cohort. Discipline, ethnicity and gender information will be used as a deciding factor if the panel has marked the motivation questions of two applications identically at our cut-off point for selection to the cohort.

How many places are available on the cohort?

Up to 30 places are available in total on the cohort.

How will you ensure you recruit a diverse cohort?

Democratisation of access is central to Prosper and as part of this commitment, we want to be proactive in providing postdoc career development that is both accessible and valuable to our diverse postdoc community - addressing traditional barriers to engagement.

You can read more about the make-up of our first and second pilot cohorts, including the lessons we learnt presented in our blogs.

Based on our learnings from recruiting our pilot cohorts we will:

  • Build on previous engagement with our target populations (for example, through continuing to engage with relevant staff networks) throughout the recruitment process to make sure that we are active in reaching out to the widest postdoc community.
  • Include in the application process a motivation statement that asks all applicants to provide a commentary how the plan to use being part of the cohort to maximise their own career development. Applicants can include information on their own circumstances and experiences that would contribute to the Prosper cohort.
  • Aim to meet our minimum thresholds for representation in relation to gender and ethnicity as these are two equality and diversity characteristics that have historically related to unequal access to career development and progression.
  • Aim to meet a minimum target for participation by broad disciplinary areas.

Our minimum targets have remained the same as for our pilot cohorts.

Minimum targets:

1. At least 20% representation from each of the three broad disciplinary areas below.

2. Overall 50/50 gender representation, with further gender by disciplinary area targets:

  • Biomedical and Biological Sciences - 50% female / 50% male
  • Physical and Environmental Sciences and Engineering - 30% female / 70% male
  • Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences - 60% female/ 40% male

3. Minimum 25% representation of postdocs from ethnically minoritised groups; including:

  • Postdocs from Black, Asian, or other minority ethnic groups
  • Postdocs with dual heritage/mixed ethnic backgrounds.

As well as the threshold targets, we are also keen to ensure that the group of postdocs joining the cohort represent the broadest possible range of experiences and backgrounds. We strongly encourage applications from all postdocs, and especially those who may have previously found accessing career development challenging. This includes, but isn’t limited to, those with caring responsibilities, disabilities, and part-time postdocs.

Operational considerations

Do postdocs need line manager/PI approval to take part?

Yes, in line with other professional career development opportunities available at the University of Liverpool, postdocs need the agreement of their line manager/PI to participate in the cohort.

Why is line manager/PI approval for participation needed?

Participation in the Prosper cohort occurs simultaneously alongside existing research projects. It is reasonably flexible, but this will require postdocs and PIs to determine together how postdocs’ participation will work alongside their research role.

Participating in the cohort

What does participating in the cohort involve?

The cohort is an opportunity for postdocs to benefit from dedicated time for personal career development and exploring multiple career pathways. In practice, this means engaging with a mixture of self-reflection activities and tools, participating in career development sessions, regular professional career coaching, and peer-support via the cohort. Throughout the programme there will be opportunities to interact with fellow postdocs and share learnings around career development and career aspirations

Is the cohort aimed only at exploring careers beyond academia?

No. The emphasis in the cohort is on participating postdocs exploring their skills, values, attributes and ambitions in the broadest possible sense and using these insights to guide the direction in which their career develops, be that within or beyond academia.

Prosper was conceptualised with an understanding that while there are many existing resources and development opportunities aimed at postdocs who wish to continue pursuing an academic career, there was a need for an approach that could enable postdocs to explore the broad range of opportunities available to them beyond academia too. For this reason, much of the employer-based content of the pilot comes from sectors beyond academia.

What is the weekly/monthly time commitment to the pilot?

We anticipate cohort members spending around 6 to 7 hours (approximately one working day) per month, for six months focusing on their Prosper cohort career development.

This is well within the University’s commitment for all research staff to spend a minimum of 10 days per year pro rata on their career development.

Is the cohort suitable for postdocs from all disciplinary backgrounds?

Yes. Participants are encouraged to explore different careers options through our 12 career clusters, which showcase career pathways that are relevant to all disciplines, as well as their own explorations. The career clusters consist of:

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Materials
  • Creative and Cultural Industries
  • Higher Education and Publishing
  • Environment and Energy
  • Financial, Business and Professional Services
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Government and Non-profit
  • Health and Care
  • ICT and Digital Technology
  • Life Sciences and Pharmaceuticals
  • Start-ups and Entrepreneurship
  • Transport Systems.

If you have any further questions, please contact us at

You can also attend one of our informal drop-in sessions taking place during the recruitment period.


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