GRADschools have continually evolved since 1968 as one of our flagship training and development programmes for doctoral candidates. The GRADschool model has provided a foundation for approaches to programme and resource development – for Vitae and for HE institutions.

'A highly interactive, demanding and mentally stimulating course which blew me away and shattered all my expectations’


GRADschools are 3 – 4 day courses for doctoral candidates in the middle to later years of a doctorate. Many researchers who attend the course have a transformational experience and are empowered to take charge of their own learning and career.  Over the last 10 years over 2000 doctoral researchers have participated and many have returned as mentors or tutors, to inspire and support other researchers.

GRADschools take an experiential approach which means that for the most part researchers are actively participating in the sessions and activities. Every programme is unique and may or may not focus on a particular theme, for example innovation or leadership and impact.  Course length will also vary, for example depending on whether the programme is residential or non-residential. All GRADschools provide plenty of opportunity for reflection and discussion.

Typical features

Between 60-80 researchers are led by an experienced team of tutors with strong practical experience of team-building and facilitating learning in the workplace. Tutors are recruited from a range of organisations, including research and academia, public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

In groups (typically 7 - 8 people) researchers then work through a range of challenging situations and experiences. These include working in a simulated academic or business environment, practical individual and team exercises and sessions about personal motivations and careers.  Each group is supported by a tutor in reviewing experiences of the day and making links between what they have experienced, their research and their future careers.

‘It was almost entirely because of the course that I researched, applied for and got my current job. The skills I learned at the school were exceptionally useful at the selection stages’

UK GRADschools

UK GRADschools are residential and are open to 60-80 researchers from all institutions, disciplines, age ranges and experience. Most courses include a half day of ‘high-rope’ outdoor activities.

Institution run GRADschools

We provide support for institutions to develop and manage their own GRADschool, either on their own or in local or regional collaborations. Examples of support available include:

  • consultancy and guidance on programme design and content
  • materials and templates covering all aspects of the content, organisation and delivery of a GRADschool
  • access to a network of experienced course leaders (directors) and facilitators (tutors)
  • training workshops for staff at institutions in order to prepare them for their role.

‘The GRADschool is seen as the flagship training activity within Durham.  It was also the first collaborative venture to come out of the Northeast Collaboration Group for Researcher Development and has led the way for other regional skills developments'

Dr Lowry McComb, Director of Postgraduate Training, Durham University

Benefits for researchers

GRADschools provide researchers with the opportunity to:

  • develop their professional and personal effectiveness   
  • understand themselves better as individuals and as team members, communicating, engaging with others and sharing experiences
  • consider, plan and manage the next steps of their career
  • broaden their thinking  on the range of career options open to them
  • meet peers from a variety of disciplines, backgrounds and countries and with different professional experience
  • be inspired by working with a range of experienced tutors who openly share their career experiences

Feedback from past courses indicates that 92% of participants leave the programme feeling confident that they are employable, 93% are able to see the relevance of their skills in different environments and 92% feel motivated to complete their doctorate. For more reasons to get involved see the feedback and testimonials from other researchers.

for more information or if your organisation would like to run a GRADschool.