As one academic year closes, another one begins, and with it a deep breath, a sense of hope and re-energised vision of what we all hope to achieve in the coming year. It’s like a New Year resolution, focusing our minds on what we want to achieve to improve ourselves to assist our members in the best way possible. Reﬂecting back on the achievements and issues of the last year, the Council is using them as a steer for the year ahead.
The Council concluded its year of events with the Summer Conference held at Nottingham Conference Centre on 4th – 5th July focussed on the Impact Agenda, which is fast becoming a key inﬂuence over Higher Education strategy and policies, where successful postgraduate outcomes are important in their own right and also for their contribution to research outputs and REF. Employability is increasingly recognized as an essential measure of success. The Summer Conference addressed PGR and PGT outcomes, particularly in relation to employability. Through the combination of plenary lectures, facilitated workshops and discussion groups, delegates had an excellent opportunity to explore factors inﬂuencing the employability of postgraduates and to network among colleagues. Discussion was also largely focussed on the needs of employers, training requirements and the changing nature and purpose of PG Education at Masters and Doctoral levels in the 21st century.
Over the last academic year, the Council continued to cover a wide range of issues in the postgraduate arena. The positive response to the topics covered within our events programme, particularly the “Good Practice in … ” series of workshops has often seen repeat workshops due to popular demand and post event discussions on the Council’s new online discussion forums. The continued work of our Engagement Ofﬁcer has allowed the Council to work more closely with member institutions and encouraging liaison and development with members and has resulted in the ﬁrst of our member-led workshops, more of which are planned for this next year. This new initiative was launched in association with Bath Spa University in June 2011, who took the lead in designing the structure of the workshop “Practice-Based and Practice-Led Doctorates: Supervision and Success” having approached the Council with the suggestion that the topic area would beneﬁt from more discussion. The Council therefore welcomes ideas and suggestions from its membership and is looking forward to working with institutions in the delivery of future member-led events.
The Council has continued to collaborate and work with other organisations in the sector such as the Research Information Network, Vitae, NUS and QAA. In November 2011, the Council, in collaboration with NUS, The British Library and Vitae will be hosting “Postgraduate Researcher Symposium”. This unique occasion will bring together doctoral researchers, supervisors, librarians and other researcher developers to discuss how the doctoral experience can be improved. The academic apprentice model, where a doctoral candidate learns only from their supervisor, is changing and so the symposium will be discussing for the ﬁrst time to what extent the doctoral experience is a collaborative process and what roles the different parties do or should play in shaping and enhancing the doctoral experience.
Using a mixture of facilitated discussion and inputs from researchers in the ﬁeld the symposium will result in a report with a matrix of recommendations for the use of students, institutional staff and external organisations. There will also be the opportunity to showcase examples of practices designed to promote engagement between doctoral researchers, researcher developers, librarians and doctoral supervisors. Further information can be found at http://www.postgradsymposium.org.uk/.
The ongoing debate concerned with the future of postgraduate funding and provision in the UK and the focus on the implications for postgraduate education in UK Higher Education Institutions has seen the Council respond to several consultations over the year and remains a large part of the Council’s focus for this next year.
Following the success of the 2nd International Conference on Professional Doctorates (ICPD) in April 2011 in collaboration with Middlesex University and the continued interest in this area will see the third ICPD Conference in April 2012 in Florence, Italy. The growing success of the Special Interest Group Professional and Practice-Led Doctoral Research is indicative of the growth in this area of postgraduate education, not just within the UK but on an International Level, and in collaboration with Middlesex University, the Council is informing debate on the design, validation, audit and relevance of Professional Doctorates to the needs and aspirations of the doctoral candidate, the requirements of Universities, the industrial and professional employers and society at large. In the Council’s recent publication “Professional Doctorates in the UK 2011”, the design, development and policy issues relating to Professional Doctorate programmes are reviewed across a range of disciplines.
For more information on the Council and its work over the next academic year, please visit the website at http://www.ukcge.ac.uk/
Principal Ofﬁcer, UKCGE