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Learning and Teaching Handbook

7.2: Postgraduate Strategy

Vision

1. The postgraduate strategy aims to ensure Durham achieves excellence in and recognition for the quality of its postgraduate education and research.

2. This strategy therefore supports the continuing growth of the postgraduate student community at Durham, and the ongoing development of the appropriate resources which maintain it to ensure all postgraduate students are provided with the best possible quality of experience. Hence, it promotes the benefits of postgraduate education and of early career research at Durham, and ensures that the specific needs of our postgraduate students, and of the staff who support them, are given the prominence required for the achievement of the University's objectives.

3. This new strategy provides an opportunity to redefine what a Graduate School should mean to Durham, and this new Graduate School - an inclusive entity which must bring together all of our postgraduate students and all of the staff who support them - should emerge from the outcome of the actions within the Postgraduate Strategy, particularly the embedding of Durham's Doctoral Training Centre Framework across the University.

Introduction: the Role of the Postgraduate Strategy

4. The University Strategy 2010 - 2020 sets out clear and ambitious targets for the provision of research and educational excellence at Durham. These dual aims are of equal importance, and are given equal priority. Postgraduate students, and postgraduate issues, are integral to both.

5. The role of the Postgraduate Strategy will be one of facilitation and of coordination. It will provide a link between the two central objectives within the University strategy, and between the Research and Education workplans ensuring that work towards common goals is neither duplicated nor overlooked. It will promote the benefits of graduate education and of early career research at Durham, supporting the continuing growth of our postgraduate student community, and the ongoing development of the resources which maintain it. Perhaps most importantly, the Postgraduate Strategy will ensure that the specific needs of our postgraduate students, and of the staff who support them, are given the prominence required for the achievement of the University's objectives and, in particular, Aim 2:

  • 'to increase significantly the number and proportion of both postgraduate Masters and PhD students, and post-doctoral researchers, providing each with the best possible quality of experience'.

6. In achieving this aim the University would have also to ensure an appropriate balance in the student populations across departments.

Graduate School

7. This strategy is a Postgraduate Strategy and not a Graduate School Strategy:

In recognition of the collaborative nature of the work required

8. The Dean of the Graduate School will lead the implementation of this strategy, but as a coordinator and a facilitator: this strategy must bring together the network of staff in Academic Departments and Research Institutes, staff in Colleges, staff in the Professional Support Services, and the postgraduate student community, if we are to achieve the aims and objectives of the University Strategy.

In recognition of the changing role and nature of the Graduate School

9. The Graduate School is not an administrative function - the Graduate School Office closed in 2008 - nor is it simply the Dean and those staff who support him directly. The evolving nature of Graduate School is something to be determined by the Postgraduate Strategy, not something which drives it. This new strategy provides an opportunity to redefine what a Graduate School should mean to Durham, and this new Graduate School - an inclusive entity which must bring together all of our postgraduate students and all of the staff who support them - should emerge from the actions within the Postgraduate Strategy, particularly the embedding of Durham's Doctoral Training Centre Framework across the University.

Key themes

Research-led education

10. Durham is a research-led institution, and research-led education is central to the University strategy. The University has, and must maintain, a thriving and vibrant research culture amongst those undertaking postgraduate and postdoctoral study. Durham has detailed processes and procedures to support departments wishing to develop new programmes in response to departmental priorities or external stimuli. The Postgraduate Strategy will act as a catalyst for the further development of new forms of high quality research-led education, encouraging departments to work together in response to emerging faculty- and University-level research themes and strengths, interdisciplinary opportunities, and strong market demand in areas of research expertise. The Postgraduate Strategy will build on the University's programme of training and support for research activities at all levels via the Doctoral Training Centre Framework, maximising the value to be derived from the involvement of research institutes in the provision of postgraduate education. The Postgraduate Strategy will provide the University with a mechanism for taking a leading role in discussions of postgraduate training at a regional and national level.

Student experience

11. Students must take responsibility for their own learning and development, but equally the University must provide opportunities for that development to all who study here. Durham is in a position of strength: as a research-led and collegiate institution it has resources from academic departments to colleges, research institutes, student organisations and professional support services, but these resources must be utilised and integrated in an effective manner. Moreover, they must be utilised for a postgraduate student community whose needs are recognisably and increasingly diverse. Durham must continue to ensure, in line with developments at a national level, that access to postgraduate provision is fair, and that our programmes are open to all students with the ability to undertake them.  Just as the needs of postgraduate students differ significantly from those of undergraduates, the needs of postgraduate research students are distinct from those of our taught postgraduates, and Durham has students of many nationalities studying in a wide range of disciplines, part-time and full-time, on campus or at a distance: we must maintain inclusive policies that properly account for the specific needs of those students who study with us.

12. The University aims to recruit increasing numbers of postgraduate students while maintaining the quality of that intake, and quality of the student experience for all postgraduates. The Postgraduate Strategy will look at the student experience of postgraduates from pre-entry onwards, with a remit to assure and enhance institutional processes for, and positions on, admissions, resourcing and funding, facilities, the college experience, engagement and feedback. Durham is not just an undergraduate University, and postgraduate provision and postgraduate support are no less important than their undergraduate counterparts.

Employability and skills

13. Our completing taught postgraduate students, research postgraduate students, and our new research staff, should be in high demand, and should stand the best possible chance of securing the employment which they want, whether that be in higher education, or elsewhere in the private or public sectors, in the UK, or in Europe or beyond.

14. Through our Doctoral Training Programme, Durham delivers a level of employability and skills training for postgraduate research students which has rightly been recognised for excellence at a national level. In a changing funding environment the model of delivery may need to change but the University will ensure that the quality of this training is maintained, and that we provide training of a comparable standard for our taught postgraduate students, and for our early career researchers. The quality of our provision, and the employability of our completing students, must be recognised at a national and international level.

Internationalisation

15. The University strategy articulates Durham's place on the world stage, and commits the University to being an inclusive institution that both welcomes and supports those from all countries. In a competitive market, Durham must ensure that it provides appropriate support and funding for overseas students prior to, during and after entry. At the postgraduate level, there is a need to support and co-ordinate activity to ensure that the University is able to market itself effectively overseas and to maximise external funding for international students. Similarly, we must ensure both that our international students are adequately prepared for study in UK higher education (from pre-entry to induction), and that our postgraduate policies and procedures take account of the specific needs and requirements of the international student body. There is much good practice within those departments and colleges with more extensive experience of providing academic and pastoral support for international students: the University must draw upon this.

16. To internationalise the student experience we must do more than simply mainstream the mechanisms for attracting and supporting international students. We must ensure that all of our students are given the opportunity to become international citizens with an understanding of cultures, languages and belief systems other than their own, so they may make a positive contribution to an increasingly multi-cultural and globalized society. To compete on the world stage we must ensure that new and existing programmes are internationally relevant, and that we develop the inter-cultural competence, skills and employability of our students. This Postgraduate Strategy will encourage the broadening of students' international experience by supporting the development of opportunities for students to study languages, to volunteer, to attend conferences, and to undertake exchanges and placements. 

 

Cross referencing

 

University Strategy

Education

Research    

Locus of Responsibility

Research-led education

 

 

In addition to the specific Postgraduate Strategy Objectives listed below, the following objectives in the Education Strategy require specific  input in relation to Postgraduate issues: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12

 

  • O1.

To embed the Doctoral Training Centre Framework across the University to support the integrated development of state-of-the-art research training across disciplinary boundaries in Faculties, Departments and research institutes.

RA2, O(i)

ESO1

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

  • O2.

To extend and develop the Graduate School Doctoral Training Programme to meet the needs of early career researchers.

RA2, O(ii)

 

ECA

RC

  • O3.

To put in place structures and processes to facilitate and encourage the strategic development of the University's portfolio of postgraduate programmes in response to the emergence at faculty and University levels of new research themes and strengths, interdisciplinary opportunities (including those associated with the University's research institutes) and evidence of strong market demand in areas aligned with the University's research expertise.

RA5, O(i)

EA1, O(i)

ESO4

 

EC

  • O4.

To review the current provision of financial support to postgraduate students, to ensure that the University is gaining the maximum benefit from the funding allocated to this area and that the mechanisms for managing these funds are fit for purpose and aligned to University, faculty and departmental needs and priorities.

RA2, O(iii)

ESO11

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

  • O5.

To work with Colleges, Departments and the Communications Office to develop endowed research studentships.

RA3, O(vi)

 

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

  • O6.

To ensure, via strategic engagement, that the University makes effective representations to, and is effectively represented on, key decision-making and grant-awarding bodies relating to Postgraduate matters.

RA3, O(ii)

 

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC

 

Student experience

 

 

In addition to the specific Postgraduate Strategy Objectives listed below, the following objectives in the Education Strategy require specific input in relation to Postgraduate issues: 14, 15, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28 and 29

 

  • O7.

To conduct a full review of the University's postgraduate admissions and recruitment strategy, and the supporting policies and processes.

RA2, O(i)

EA1, O(vi)

ESO24,

ESO26, 43

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC

  • O8.

To establish core levels of facilities provision for taught and research postgraduate students, and to implement these across the University.

RA2, O(iii)

EA1, O(iii)

ESO18

ESO19

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

  • O9.

To diversify and enhance the postgraduate experience across the University's colleges.

RA2, O(ii) RA3, O(iv)

ESO17

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC

  • O10.

To review and embed the role of the colleges in the delivery and support of postgraduate education and research training, and in particular within the emerging Doctoral Training Centre Framework.

RA2, O(ii) RA3, O(iv)

ESO16

ESO17

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC

  • O11.

To review and redefine the nature and purpose of Durham's Graduate School, in light of the changes to governance, and the closure of Graduate School Office.

 

 

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

Employability and skills

 

 

In addition to the specific Postgraduate Strategy Objective listed below, the following objectives in the Education Strategy require specific input in relation to Postgraduate issues: 32, 33, 34, 35 (and objectives 2 and 3, which will also address this theme)

 

  • O12.

To review the current financial support for the Graduate School Doctoral Training Programme, and prepare the University for future changes in funding arrangements for researcher development.

RA2, O(i)

 

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

 

  • O13.

To draw on good practice within departments to support the development and promotion, where appropriate, of studentships which include formal teaching 'assistantship' roles.

RA2, O(iii)

ESO11

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC

  • O14.

To develop a model for the provision of employability and skills development opportunities for postgraduate students.

RA2, O(iii)

ESO30

 

EC

 

Internationalisation

 

 

The following objectives in the Education Strategy require specific input in relation to Postgraduate issues: 38, 39, 40, 41 and 43  (and objectives 2, 3, 15, 21 and 34, which will also address this theme)

 

  • O15.

To work with the International Office to maximise the number of our external international scholarships, and deepen our relationships with funding bodies.

RA2, O(iii)

 

EA3, O(iii)

ERFaPfRS

EC, RC, UEC

  • O16.

To review the University's engagement with the EU market for postgraduate recruitment, in order raise the University's profile and recruitment from this area.

EA3, O(i)

ESO42

 

EC

  • O17.

To ensure both that University policy and procedure, including emerging employability and skills proposals, takes account of the specific needs of international students, and that international students are made aware of the specific policies and procedures which will apply to them during their period of study.

EA3, O(i)

ESO30

 

EC