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This section contains advice and guidance on your own training and development, expectations and gaining teaching experience

The DPhil is a period of professional training and preparation for a range of careers that will use your research skills and have the potential for economic, societal and industrial impact. Even if you are not sure yet about which career to pursue, having a plan and developing academic, research and generic skills and experience to support your research will provide structure and coherence to your DPhil, and mean that you are well prepared for a career. Remember that the best plans are flexible and evolve as time goes on.

Your supervisor can be a useful source of information and advice about careers and training in your field. You should discuss your development and training needs – and how to fill them – with them.

Doctoral training in the MPLS Division and in your department aims to support these principles. You learning and development will happen formally and informally as part of your day to day work with your supervisor, your research group, and in your department. 

Training courses are available:

Expectations about training

The Research Councils have the following expectations of students in relation to their broader training. Even if you are not funded by a Research Council, these represent valuable guidelines for your approach to your broader career and professional development:

  • Students should take responsibility for shaping, managing and directing their research project and training, taking advice from their supervisor
  • Students are expected to develop the higher-level capabilities outlined in the Researcher Development Statement (see paragraph below)
  • Where students have the opportunity to work in a non-academic environment, they should maximise the opportunity by seeking to understand the role of research within the organisation and the wider context
  • Students should recognise their responsibility for developing personal career goals during their doctoral training and consider their possible career options, recognising that these may be outside academe. They should ensure that they are aware of the range of advice available and reflect on their training and development needs to assist in their future employability.

The Researcher Development Framework and Statement

Vitae is a national organisation that champions the career and professional development of researchers. Its vision is for the UK to be world-class in supporting the professional development of researchers and researcher careers. It has, in conjunction with the research councils, developed the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which provides a framework for planning and supporting your personal, professional and career development. It will help you to consider the skills and experiences that help you achieve your career and research goals.

Your own career and professional development

Because much of your learning and development will happen informally, it is a good idea to think consciously about when and how you are developing new skills, and keep a record of what you are learning – for example you might learn about a new experimental technique from your supervisor, or make a presentation to your research group on which you receive feedback. The Graduate Supervision System (GSS) provides an opportunity to reflect on your development and progress, and to record career and professional development training needs and training attended. If you have any queries about graduate training, please contact skillscourses@mpls.ox.ac.uk.

Teaching

The MPLS Division recognises that graduate students may benefit in a variety of ways from carrying out some undergraduate teaching, provided that it does not conflict with work for the graduate degree.

Teaching will provide the opportunity to develop useful skills. The most useful type of teaching, from this perspective, involves student contact through involvement in class or tutorial teaching or laboratory demonstrating. However, teaching is potentially very time consuming and can significantly interfere with the progress of a research project. The arbiter of this is the supervisor and, if consulted by either the student or supervisor, the Director of Graduate Studies. Any proposal to take on a significant amount of teaching, for either a College or Department, should be discussed with your supervisor in advance, and he or she should be able to request that the arrangement should cease, if in his or her judgement it is interfering significantly with research progress.

Guidelines on the amount of teaching undertaken

The MPLS Division recommends a guideline of 120 hours' work overall in any year, to balance the desirable development of teaching skills against the potential impact on research progress. For tutorial or class teaching it is recognised that each hour spent in contact is likely to involve (for a graduate student) at least two hours of preparation and marking and it is therefore recommended that no more than 40 contact hours should be arranged. For demonstrating or marking, no more than 120 hours should be undertaken.

Training to support teaching

Graduate students in the MPLS Division must attend an appropriate teaching skills training course, before undertaking any teaching activity, which also carries an additional time demand. The Division and Departments organise and advertise this training, and in some departments it is compulsory for all students. Please see the divisional webpages on training for teaching for further information. The Division specifies a guide to the number of hours a student should teach annually in order to allow flexibility for substantial involvement in a particular course for a limited amount of time. It is recognised that students may be departmentally funded (in lieu of a research council or other grant) but this should not carry a condition of teaching beyond the guidelines introduced above, except where a specific Teaching Assistantship Scheme has been established.

It is recognised that students who have run off the end of their regular funding may need to exceed these guidelines.

To facilitate contact between graduate students who want to teach, and college tutors who require teaching, each department maintains a teaching register of those interested in teaching and who have attended appropriate training.