- Database of practice
- Skills Training Programme, Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division, University of Oxford
Skills Training Programme, Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division, University of Oxford
- University of Oxford
- South East
- Date first submitted:
- 15 Nov 2005
- Date last modified:
- 23 Nov 2009
- 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 aims are to provide researchers with the opportunity to acquire a wide-range of skills, along the lines of the JSS, to assist them in becoming aware of the skills they have developed and to be able to articulate these, and to be able to identify further development needs. This should enable participants to become more effective researchers, and equip them with skills necessary for their future careers.
2. How does it fit?
The programme includes courses that are suitable for all early career researchers and others that are aimed at specific groups, for example first and second year doctoral students.
The provision of training in transferable skills is integral to the University's doctoral training programmes. A framework is provided which recommends which topics should be addressed at which points in a researcher’s career, although this is completely flexible.
Those courses developed specifically for postdoctoral researchers are tailored for their specific needs within their professional context. Embedding is encouraged via different methods of publicity which include posters and flyers, monthly email alerts and a presence on the Facebook networking site.
The programme is funded by the Roberts funding. The Division’s overall aim for the programme is to provide researchers with the opportunity to acquire and develop skills that will initially enable them to successful complete their doctorate, but further than that, will equip them to successfully pursue the career of their choice.
3. What are the main features of the provision? How long has the provision been running? is it customised for different groups?
Many of the skills included in the JSS can be acquired and developed during a researcher’s day-to-day work in their research group or department, and this was the starting point for the Division’s programme.
The following areas are covered, tailored by department:
practice in presentation skills and writing skills;
project related IT needs; e.g. programming skills, database management, data analysis;
guidance on project management;
introduction to health and safety;
introduction to libraries and information/literature search skills;
some departments require satisfactory completion of a number of taught courses, perhaps run as part of a departmental MSc course;
requirements at transfer and confirmation of status: these vary between departments, but include written reports, literature reviews, presentations;
departmentally organised student conferences and symposia or departmental retreats;
personal development planning, project management, time management.
However the specific topics covered will vary by department.
The Division’s rationale therefore is to provide the overarching framework of personal and professional development programmes mentioned above, and thereafter to ‘plug the gaps’ for researchers whose departments may not cover particular areas of the JSS, so that every postgraduate student and postdoctoral researcher has the opportunity to attend appropriate training.
The personal and professional development framework starts with ‘Foundations for a Successful DPhil’ – and induction course for first year doctoral students, takes in GRAD Schools, the Springboard (for women) and Navigator (for men) programmes, and culminates in the Division’s Preparation for Academic Practice programme (see Practice 721, http://vitae.ac.uk/policy-practice/34837/Database-of-practice.html)
The shorter courses include topics such as Time Management, Presentation Skills, Networking, Careers events and training in teaching skills.
The programme in its current form has been running since 2007.
Some of the courses are open to all postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, for example Networking, others are tailored to particular groups. Examples of these are: the generic Presentation Skills course, which is aimed primarily at new research students and Time Management, which is intended exclusively for postdoctoral researchers.
5. Are there any pre-requisites?
As noted above, some workshops are intended for particular groups, others are more flexible. There are a number of particular courses that have specific prerequisites, such as foreign language courses.
6. How many participate in each activity?
This varies by course/activity.
For Divisional courses, the number of participants varies according to how participative the content is. The minimum number is 18, the maximum 80.
Uptake is variable according to individual topic.
4. What are the expected aims and outcomes?
The aim is twofold:
(i) to ensure that all postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Division have the opportunity to acquire and develop a wide range of transferable skills (along the lines of the JSS), to be aware of those they have developed, and to be able to identify further development needs.
(ii) for the programme to provide researchers with the opportunity to acquire and develop skills that will initially enable them to successful complete their doctorate, but further than that, will equip them to successfully pursue the career of their choice.
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 noted above, some workshops are intended for particular groups, others are more flexible. There are a number of particular courses that have specific prerequisites, such as foreign language courses. In addition, the CETL activities are categorised either as Preparation for Teaching and Learning (PLT) or Developing Teaching and Learning (DLT). It is generally understood that participants may not attend DLT activities until they have completed the PLT stage.
This varies by course/activity. For Divisional courses, the number of participants varies according to how participative the content is. The minimum number is 18, the maximum 80. Uptake is variable according to topic.
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
Benefits should flow through students’ individual work for the DPhil, and in their preparation for their future career. Postdoctoral researchers will make use of skills acquired in their day-to-day work and in planning for their careers. The personal effectiveness and responsibility of both groups is increased by the provision. The usefulness of the provision is measured through evaluation as set out in the Evaluation section above.
The main challenge is in ensuring that all postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Division (a total number of some 1800) are aware that the provision exists.
The steps put in place so far to meet this challenge are:
The new induction course for DPhil students – ‘Foundations for a Successful DPhil’ – which will be piloted in 2009-10
The Skills Portal – a website giving details of all skills training opportunities both inside and outside the University
Dedicated Skills Training Pages on the MPLS Division’s own website
A monthly email alert with updated information about all Divisional activity, and information about other activity elsewhere, which is distributed via departments
A Skills Training Handbook for every new postgraduate student and new member of research staff
Posters and flyers displayed in departments
A presence on the Facebook networking website
The overall objective is for every postgraduate student and postdoctoral researcher in the Division to be aware of the importance of acquiring and developing transferable skills, and for their skills development to be embedded within the different stages of a research student’s progression, and a postdoctoral researcher’s career progression. Courses or programmes that encourage the development of personal effectiveness and responsibility, for example the UKGRAD School, are successful and effective, and in themselves encourage the development of further skills.
During 2009-10 the success of the new personal and professional development framework will therefore be monitored to gauge its success.
A broader Divisional aim is to encourage further training at department and cross-departmental level, and developing this will be a priority during the coming academic year.