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Maximising the Potential of PGRs: Strathclyde’s unique approach

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Strathclyde's unique approach revolutionises conventional models of PhD transferable skills training in the UK.

Background to the project

In early 2012 a cross-disciplinary short-life working group comprised of Vice Deans Academic, Vice Deans Research, researchers and the Researcher Development Manager developed a set of proposals, based on consultation with key stakeholders, PGR survey data, government recommendations and examples of best practice from across the sector. This focused on a number of amendments to the training of doctoral research students, with an aim to:

  • further enhance the career prospects of Strathclyde doctoral students
  • create a consistent approach to research training across the university
  • create a distinctive Strathclyde doctoral student experience
  • fully align Strathclyde with the expectations of funders.

The PGR Credits Implementation Group was then assembled to develop the proposal into a project and ensure successful roll-out of the project for session 2013/14.


Benefits of the Strathclyde approach

Strathclyde's innovative approach to PhD training differentiates our doctoral graduates as employers demand greater skills from postgraduate employees.

By introducing a formalised PGR credits framework and award at a University-wide level we are ensuring each student receives a consistent researcher development experience. Offering high-quality and flexible training opportunities through a tailored programme helps Strathclyde graduates stand out in an increasingly competitive employment market, whilst supporting high-quality training essential to completing the PhD effectively.

RCUK's Statement of Expectations for Doctoral Training only reinforces the relevance of Strathclyde's approach as it states that 'Research Organisations must have mechanisms to assess, provide for and monitor individual student needs and offer the student appropriate development opportunities' and students 'are expected to develop the higher-level capabilities outlined in the Researcher Development Statement'.

Embedded within the standard duration of doctoral programmes, the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development has clear benefits to the student, the institution and the economy. Doctoral researchers receive an additional academic award in research-related and transferable skills for enhanced career prospects whilst we ensure that expertise and resources are directed at provision with academic excellence and employer relevance. Providing an improved student experience for doctoral researchers, this approach ensures enhanced quality assurance and rigour of researcher training, supported by bespoke systems to enable consistent record-keeping and progress monitoring.

Overview of the Award

The innovative award provides:

  • a regulated, 60 credit academic award that all eligible PGRs are enrolled on at registration
  • formal recognition of the skills training, action-based and experiential learning and engagement students undertake during the course of a PhD.
  • classes and activities mapped to the 4 domains of the UK’s professionally recognised Researcher Development Framework and Statement (RDF/S), supporting discipline-specific (approx. 33%) and transferable skills (approx. 67%) provision.
  • existing provision within departments and Faculties, the University’s Researcher Development Programme (RDP) and external developmental training as credit-bearing options, including formal training, international and external engagements, internships and industrial placements and initiatives through partner institutions/research pools.
  • flexibility at the core of the programme, supporting a bespoke personal training package that meets the needs of the research student. The course doesn't have a prescribed curriculum; instead it is designed to be as formative as possible to give every student a tailored researcher professional development experience.
  • a demonstrable record of the transferable skills acquired whilst completing the research degree, which employers and funders increasingly value.