This section provides information, guidance and resources to help supervisors support the career and professional development of their students.
Contents of this section (please scroll down to see each):
In MPLS all training and related development activity for DPhil students is badged as Career and Professional Development Training. Students are encouraged to engage with these kind of activities across the life cycle of the DPhil, adding structure and coherence so that DPhil progression and training become completely integrated.
Career and professional development is not just about attending training courses. Certainly students learn and develop skills and other knowledge from courses; and they also learn from their day to day work, from working with you and other colleagues, and from other experiences. So it is important that students are encouraged to reflect on and record their learning, both formal and informal. You might include these types of reflections in your termly reports on GSR, and encourage your students to do the same.
It is one of your supervisory responsibilities to formally assess your student’s personal and professional skills training needs regularly and discuss with them how to learn the skills they need. See the MPLS Code of Practice for the Supervision of Graduate Research Students and section 6 of the University Policy on Research Degrees - Researcher Development (skills training).
External stakeholders recognise this holistic approach to training as good practice and require doctoral training organisations to adopt it.The RCUK Statement of Expectations for Postgraduate Training states ‘Supervisors should recognise doctoral study as a wider training opportunity and encourage and support students in developing their careers.’ The QAA also provide this context: ‘Whereas until the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries the primary purpose of acquiring a doctorate in the UK was for entry to the academic profession, now this is just one of many options for doctoral graduates, who enter diverse jobs across all sectors, bringing their research skills to bear in their own professional context.’ (QAA Characteristics Statement: Doctoral Degree, September 2015).
DPhil students are future research leaders for a wide range of sectors, and supervisors are expected to support them in preparing themselves accordingly.
Until relatively recently, doing a doctorate was probably the only preparation academics had before going on to supervising DPhil students themselves, so some supervisors may feel they lack the skills to support their student in this area. Some departments organise briefing and discussion sessions for their supervisors, which are useful opportunities to update yourself and share practice and discuss experiences. Please contact your Director of Graduate Studies to find out if your department is planning such a session.
Vitae have a series of resources on Supervising and Managing Researchers. Vitae is a national organisation providing support for realising the potential of researchers and supporting their professional and career development.
You should encourage your student from the outset to consider the skills and experience they need to define, carry out and complete their DPhil successfully; they should also think about their career aspirations at this early stage, and discuss with you how this will influence their training and development needs. It may seem premature to think about careers during the first stages of the doctorate. However having a plan will lend structure to the DPhil (it should remain flexible); and developing a broad range of skills and experience will increase the student’s options rather than restricting them. This approach will help your student develop as an independent professional researcher and should be an integral part of your ongoing interactions with them. At the beginning you may find the division’s Project Initiation Plan Template useful, along with the documents on Training Needs Analysis; the Researcher Development Statement is also a good document to support the process throughout the DPhil. These tools can help you and your student identify their current level of skill and understand their motivations, and assess the areas they need to work on at each stage. In this context you may want to consider developing coaching and mentoring skills for yourself. If you would be interested in doing this please contact Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org or Alison.email@example.com
You should consider both the academic and subject and research specific skills that your student will need. Think in particular about skills in these areas:
- Networking and collaborating
- Presenting at seminars and conferences
- Publishing during the doctorate
- Oral and written communication, both within and beyond the discipline
- Analytical skills and specific research skills
- Personal effectiveness skills such as resilience, perseverance, self-management, time management
The MPLS Division considers career and professional development training / broadening activity to be a legitimate part of the DPhil, and that a norm of 100 hours per year should be included within standard working hours. See the division's Policy on DPhil Working Hours and Holidays. It is anticipated that this amount should be reduced once the student is writing up.
The Oxford Learning Institute hosts an online course on DPhil Supervision at Oxford that covers the following topics:
- Milestones and timelines
- Role and responsibilities
- Monitoring and supporting progress
- Getting started with research supervision
- Challenges of DPhil supervision
Some departments also organise briefing and discussion sessions for their supervisors. These are good opportunities to be updated on policies and processes, and to share practice with colleagues. Please contact your Director of Graduate Studies to find out if your department is planning a sessions.
The University’s Careers Service offers a wide range of support.
Vitae has a range of resources for career development
The Researcher Development Framework provides a structure for considering areas for development.
There are also a range of training providers (including the MPLS division and its departments – see below) in the University who offer courses for research students, and for staff, which includes DPhil supervisors.
MPLS Training and resources
The MPLS Graduate Academic programme brings together training offered by MPLS departments and the division, and offers a range of interdisciplinary courses covering academic, research, subject specific and generic skills. DPhil students from any department can sign up for a place on another department's courses.
The MPLS Division offers a range of generic graduate training, together with information and provision for Enterprise and Public Engagement (through Oxford Sparks). The MPLS Training Framework was created to provide guidance and support in deciding which training is appropriate at which stage of the DPhil.