I’m starting this Reps Update series to share the reports I deliver to the University Research Degree Committee at the quarterly meetings. The reports summarise the concerns, questions, and opportunities highlighted by School Reps in our monthly meetings and ongoing conversations, in an effort to keep the Committee aware of research degree experiences. Here is my report from January 2022.
The end of 2021 and the start of the new year has seen a flurry of activity across the Schools as Reps work with staff and students to continue developing the research community’s engagement and offerings. We had our last PGR Reps meeting on Tuesday 11th January 2022 and saw good attendance from across the schools. The following will summarise key topics we have discussed at our previous meetings.
- Student activities
At School level, there are various activities taking place across the university to engage students in research development, for example SAS Reps are organising an in-person conference and a School research engagement programme to discuss topics of interest and encourage community building. SAS are also piloting a buddy scheme to help foster the research community and will report back after their first three months. SACI have RPG Seminars forthcoming, co-designed by students. SOC have been carrying out virtual networking groups.
Students from the School of Computing have queried the possibility of setting up professional placements as part of the research degree process to support them with gaining industry experience.
Reps have offered to run university-wide workshops for other students on topics based on their skillsets. It was suggested that workshops might be a way to tackle students’ anxieties around Reflective Reports (RD6) as well, helping students to understand and practice reflexivity for the purposes of their research.
I have been representing the university along with Calum at the SPARQS Research Postgraduate Student Learning Experience working group. The conversations have been fruitful, and I look forward to being able to share the formal outputs from this collaboration.
On the socialising and community-building front, School Reps are continuing to organise School-level social events. SAS Rep Terry Osborne has organised monthly Walk and Talk social events to create an in- person opportunity for students to connect.
I have collaborated with Vani Naik from RIE to create the Community Advice and Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) Network launching on Friday 28th January 2022. The Network will host online meetings for students across the university to connect and offer support around common RPG student experiences.
- RPG student wellbeing
SACI Rep Ali has created and distributed sensory packs to PGR offices across the university with help from School reps. Informal feedback reports a positive response to these so far, with more formal feedback to come. We are delighted that the toolkits are being used and expect that this will continue to help students manage stress levels and offer another means of fast-acting support while students are working from campus.
There has been ongoing confusion about how and why students should be using Worktribe. With Research Integrity applications now required in Worktribe, it has become clear that many students are struggling to access Worktribe, some are not aware what Worktribe is, and that the benefits of Worktribe have not been communicated fully to some students. Reps recommend Worktribe introductory workshops for research students, one on how to access and use it, and a separate workshop on Worktribe and Ethics for research students.
- The ongoing and evolving impacts of the pandemic
School Reps are currently gathering feedback on the impacts of the Pandemic Mitigation Process and Hardship Fund. This will be shared at the next URDC meeting.
Based on the confusion and anxieties reported to Reps from the Pandemic Mitigation Process and Hardship Fund, we recommend naming an individual on forms for students to contact with questions. We also recommend hosting drop-in sessions alongside such announcements (particularly where funding opportunities are made available), to allow students the chance to speak with a nominated member of staff. We believe this will help students access support more easily and may help with gathering feedback as to how these measures have impacted students’ wellbeing and research abilities.
If you would like to share feedback or raise concerns for the URDC about your research degree experience, you can contact your School Reps or email me: Amy.King@napier.ac.uk. Individual feedback will be delivered to the Committee anonymously unless specifically discussed.