C2 - Supporting PGR Mental Wellbeing: initiatives at Kent and University of Liverpool

Day Day 2
Code C2
Start time 13:40
Room Lancaster
Work with Doctoral Researchers

Dr Kate Jones, Head of Operations, University of Liverpool

Steve Bickerstaffe, Doctoral College Manager, University of Liverpool

Nicole Brown, Lecturer in Education, University College London

Dr Jo Collins, Postgraduate Development Advisor, University of Kent

Workshop Overview:

This workshop showcases two separate projects at the Universities of Kent and Liverpool centered around building support for PGR mental health and wellbeing, and driving a culture change promoting self-management.  We will be asking participants to share their experiences and ideas, as well as taking part in practical workshop activities.

The workshop will open with an overview of the key mental health and wellbeing issues affecting PGRs and the sector more generally.  After setting this context we will deliver elements of a workshop which grew from a student-staff partnership and is delivered to postgraduate students at the University of Kent's Graduate School.  The workshop uses building Lego models to prompt reflective practice.  This affords insights into students’ wellbeing, as well as providing participants with reflective tools, which, if applied consistently, help students understand their innermost emotions, concerns and needs.  The University of Liverpool will then present on their OfS Catalyst project, which aims to better prepare PGR’s with the transition into the early stages of the PhD.  Piloting a multi-layered induction, training & development framework, the project aims to improve support structures for the PGR community in the form of supplementary training for supervisors and other student facing staff and the introduction of peer-led health and wellbeing support. Following this, we will then facilitate discussion to consider:

  1. the benefits and limitations of the various approaches, (eg. the benefits and limitations of creative activities, and where targetted institutional interventions most need to be built)
  2. examples of best practice, and how inclusive research cultures and environments might be built/enhanced at different institutions
  3. ideas on guiding and supporting students into and through the PhD (e.g. by local and early interventions; establishing health supervisor/PGR relationships; workshops or activities)
  4. building a community of practice for those supporting PGR mental health and wellbeing.

Workshop topics covered:  

  • Mental Health & Wellbeing for PGRs
  • Introduction and background to the OfS Catalyst project work at the University of Liverpool
  • Introduction and background to the existing PhD student workshop at the University of Kent
  • The practical experience of a doctoral training workshop and its innovative delivery
  • discussion and evaluation of creative activities, and identifying and building local interventions in supporting the wellbeing and mental health of doctoral researchers
  • experiences from other institution
  • Development of bespoke support and interventions for different stages of the PhD journey: e.g.
            - Transition into PhD study
            - PGR/Supervisory relationships
            - Training & development framework for all PGR stakeholders

Themes covered: 

  • Research environment and culture; shaping an inclusive research environment; wellbeing and mental health, gender equality and diversity research integrity and open research
  • Continuing professional development of those involved in the development of researchers
  • Research staff and supply of talent; strategies and practice, developing a pipeline of research talent through strategies to attract and retain researchers
  • Research environment and culture; shaping an inclusive research environment; wellbeing and mental health, gender equality and diversity research integrity and open research
  • Engaging research leaders, principal investigators and supervisors in professional development and nurturing the careers of researchers
  • Innovations in doctoral training programmes; new modes of delivery; delivering at scale, doctoral training centres/ partnerships, Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) and other cohort-based models

Workshop outcomes:  

By the end of the workshop, participants should: 

  • gain practical ideas for implementation in their own contexts of researcher development
  • have considered the benefits of using creative and playful methods for serious purposes and outcomes
  • have the opportunity to participate in developing of a Community of Practice in supporting PGR Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • have shared examples of good practice, exploring common themes & challenges


Interactive Workshop with LEGO model building and round table discussions (possibly world cafe style).