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Focus On: The Postgraduate Research (PGR) Student Experience

Focus On: What is it?

Focus On projects cover topics that occur frequently in Enhancement-led Institution Review outcomes (either as areas for development or, sometimes, as good practice). All of the HEIs in the Scottish university sector work collectively to promote policy and practice around the topic.

Projects begin and complete in a single academic year. Staff and students identify priority areas within the topic and a programme of practical activity is designed to allow the sharing of practice around those areas to help colleagues make a real difference in a short space of time.

Focus On: The Postgraduate Research (PGR) Student Experience (2016-17)

Priority areas are:

  1. Training and support for postgraduate students who teach
  2. Support for staff who supervise research students
  3. Building a research community for postgraduate research students
  4. Student representation for postgraduate research students

Activities and outputs:

Activity is now underway on each of the priority areas for 2016-17:

Support for staff who supervise research students

As part of the second strand of this project, we consulted with Scottish higher education institutions in order to gain insights into current practice around the support offered to staff who support research students.  Such support often takes the form of professional development resources, delivered as part of a professional qualification (such as a PG CAP) or on an ongoing basis.  Where Graduate Schools exist, they are often responsible for the delivery of such resources.

The University of Glasgow provided nine short videos used in their Pg Cert in Academic Practice (PgCAP).  These feature research supervisors, from a broad range of disciplines, discussing their approaches to supervision in the following contexts:

  • Advice for new research supervisors
  • Approaches to supervising
  • Supervising staff
  • Rewards of supervision
  • Challenges of supervision
  • Supervising international students
  • Supervising part-time students
  • Supervising distance learning students
  • Enhancing students' career prospects

QAA Scotland have produced two short videos designed to complement the resources shared by the University of Glasgow.  The first, 'Developing Effective Supervision Practice', features principal investigators based in clinical subjects at the University of Edinburgh.  In the second, 'Supporting Industry-Based Research Supervisors', Rob Daley from Heriot-Watt University discusses the relationships between research students based in industry, their industry-based supervisors, and their academic institution.

Student representation for postgraduate research students

If you or anyone at your institution would like to be part of a working group on PGR Student Representation then please contact Morven Stewart at sparqs. sparqs are particularly keen to hear for students and staff from the following areas: Graduate Schools; Students’ Associations; PGR Student body; and Subject Specific.

Upcoming events

We are pleased to be able to offer two free webinars aimed at anyone with responsibility for the supervision of research students.  

  1. Setting expectations: clarifying roles, preferences and working practices - Find out more and register
  2. your student to complete: some ideas about motivation and how to manage the thesis writing process effectively supporting - Find out more and register

The topics of these webinars were selected by poll, and we hope they will prove to be engaging and useful.  Each webinar will consist of a 20 minute online presentation followed by an opportunity for discussion and Q&A with the facilitator, an experienced supervisor and the other participants.

Get involved

Anyone with an interest in the topic can be involved and we actively encourage students and students’ associations to become involved and help us achieve the project aims. If you would like to keep up to date with our events and activities or learn more about how you can become involved, please join our mailing list or get in touch by e-mailing