Medical Sciences Division (MSD) Skills Training Programme
- University of Oxford
- South East
- Date first submitted:
- 14 Nov 2005
- Date last modified:
- 25 Mar 2011
- Personal effectiveness
- Research project skills
- Academic practice
- Researcher development strategy/management
- Enterprise-related activities
- Career development
- Postgraduate researchers
- Research staff
- Research masters
Rationale, aims and outcomes
What is the rationale for doing this?
How does it fit with institutional strategy?
What are the main features of the provision?
What are the aims and expected outcomes?
The Division's Programme aims to complement the excellent training available in its 20 plus departments with skills training developed in the company of researchers from different scientific disciplines. A Divisional Programme avoids duplication, ensures availability to all, maintains high standards across the Division's departments, and the Programme itself promotes communication, collaboration, team-working and networking across the Division and helps contextualise skills training for students and Research Staff by allowing them to see beyond the demands of their project, supervisor and department. The addition of the Divisional programme to the excellent local training has been a significant enhancement of skills training provision in the University. It has also promoted new scientific collaboration and also provided opportunities for Research Staff to participate in other areas of training where they can develop expertise. Courses are always being added and modified to meet the needs of researchers.
The Medical Sciences Division works closely with other Divisions on skills provision and the programme is formally integrated with their activites and with the activities of other University Support Departments such as the Careers Service, the Oxford Learning Institute. The Programme is embedded in guidance literature and and departmental and Divisional induction events. Furthermore, the formalisation of a student’s progression through skills acquisition is integrated into the University’s formal academic assessment of research progress at transfer to DPhil status (at 4th to 6th terms) and confirmation of DPhil status (at 6th to 9th term) stages. The Division is now considering making some courses, such as the online Avoiding Plagiarism course, compulsory. The Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre launched in September 2008 has a set of compulsory courses which are delivered as part of the divisional skills programme. As a result of the comprehensive skills training and the first rate departmental research environment, the University can confidently promote Medical Sciences at Oxford as first rate and which set researchers on to career path with internationally-recognised credentials.
The Programme uses the RDF and RDS as the skills base on which to run courses on writing, presentation skills, networking, teamworking, teaching skills, personal effectiveness skills while also assisting in the acquisition of more discipline-specific skills such as Statistics. The Division tries to strike a balance whereby any course is customised to the point of being directly relevant to the attendees’ needs, while ensuring that attendees do not fail to be stretched and challenged by interacting with students from other disciplines.
The aim of the Programme is to equip students and researchers with the means by which to establish a productive career and the Division expects that, in conjunction with the local departmental research and training, such an aim will be met. The programme comprises of half-day courses, one day courses, seminars and four-day courses run on the Division’s three sites. The Division is working closely with the Careers Service and departments to provide a time-plan of acquisition of these skills for each researcher. This innovative development will allow researchers to personally customise their skills training acquisition to the needs of their research and career development.
Are there any pre-requisites for engagement, e.g. levels of skill, years of experience, essential pre-activities?
How many participate in each 'activity'?
As the Programme has developed, it has paid more heed to the timing of the needs in an individual’s career. This is results in generic courses and more advanced courses (attendance on which would require previous experience or other course attendance).
With approximately 1000 students and over 2,000 Research Staff, the Division endeavours to cater for demand. Courses run at full capacity and are repeated on a termly basis to cope with demand. Those unable to attend are put on waiting lists for the later courses. This is in addition to the local departmental and Research Institute seminars and training. All students are receiving skills training and all Contract Research Staff are receiving training should they wish to attend. The programme currently comprises 80 courses and events each academic year offering at least 600 hours of training anf 2000 attendee places.
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
The feedback states that the students value the courses and informal feedback from the supervisors suggest that the benefits are being felt on return to the laboratory. The Programme seeks to embed high standards and encourage students as they embark on their careers and therefore complements their ultimate research career aspirations.
In a demanding environment of research competitiveness, the Programme’s role in the development of ‘the effective researcher’ is now being appreciated by all levels of the research community. The Roberts funding has allowed dedicated staff time to implement and develop an effective Divisional Programme in a very devolved institution and this has been appreciated by the Division’s 20 plus departments. Furthermore, in a Collegiate University like Oxford, a Divisional Programme ensures maximum efficiency while simultaneously laying the foundation for the sharing of best practice across departments.
The Division anticipates further development of the courses, but its main objectives are, firstly, to embed the skills training (and Personal Development Planning) into a student or postdoc’s research career and, secondly, to embed effective monitoring and assessment of the Programme and its results. This should admirably equip a researcher for a productive future in his/her chosen career path. The Divisional Programme is always seeking further collaboration with other Divisions, the Colleges, the Careers Service, the Computing Service and other University bodies in order to maximise efficiency and effectiveness of skills training. Furthermore, tools are being tested to allow for the detailed analysis of participation which will, in turn, inform the development of the programme while providing the information for future investigations of benefit.
The programme is now embedded and the Division is exploring options for expanding the training provision by using existing resources available.