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Manchester Doctoral College Response to the Open Letter from PGRs to the University's Senior Leadership Team

Postgraduate Researcher Experience Survey (PRES)

The Postgraduate Researcher Experience Survey (PRES), designed by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) is a biennial, national, sector-wide survey which collates feedback and information about the experience of research students on a doctoral or research Master’s programme.

PRES 2019

The 2019 survey is open and will run until 17 May 2019, a staff briefing guide is available here.

Promotional Materials

The Student Communications and Marketing Team will run a comprehensive campaign across University-wide channels including:

  • The Post – the weekly postgraduate newsletter
  • Screensavers in centrally managed PC clusters
  • The My Manchester student portal
  • E-Prog

However, to help push up response rates wherever possible these should be complemented by local communications. We would like to maintain 2017’s response rate of 62% and staff who have regular contact with students are vital in helping achieve this. Posters and postcards will be distributed to Schools in the week ahead of the survey launch.

Posters

Posters should be displayed in relevant areas for research students.  Specific social or study areas for example are ideal, as are offices that students regularly visit. We only have a limited number of posters but further copies can be downloaded below for printing if you require more.

Postcards

Wherever possible, postcards should be handed out - ideally as part of a conversation about completing PRES. If they are left out for collection, make sure they are in high traffic areas and very visible.

Downloadable materials

You can access downloadable materials for use in your own School, department or area here. The pack includes posters, digital signage and email signatures. 

University Incentives

For each response submitted the University will also make a £1 donation to charity. This will be done automatically and the amount will be split equally between Student Minds and Students against DepressionMessages about the charity donations will be included in communications from Student Communications and Marketing and can also be used in School promotional messages. 

Good Practice

Many of the same considerations that apply to promoting the NSS also apply to the PRES and you will find lots of useful general advice in the NSS Promotion section of these pages.  Specific promotional materials for the PRES can be found below - please contact studentnews@manchester.ac.uk with any queries about materials.

 

PRES 2017

In 2017, 57,689 students responded from 117 institutions – including 22 of the 24 Russell Group universities. A national sector wide report is available here.

The University of Manchester has participated in the biannual survey since 2011, and results have been used by Schools, Faculties, the Manchester Doctoral College and The Senior Leadership Team to target enhancements to our postgraduate provision.

In 2017 the University secured a 62% response rate, detailed analysis and results is available on request. 

PGR Led Initiatives

The University is committed to supporting and creating a vibrant postgraduate research environment where each researcher can flourish and reach their full potential.  In addition to offering a suite of development, social and wellbeing activities we encourage our postgraduate researchers to take a lead role in the design and implementation of initiatives that will benefit the PGR community.  Some of our PGR led initiatives include;

Postgraduate Summer Research Showcase

Launched in 2014 the Postgraduate Summer Research Showcase is an exciting series of events bringing together researchers from across the University, fostering interdisciplinary networking and promoting a communication of ideas.  It is the style and scope of the Showcase that makes it unique as it allows researchers to present their ideas and their work in the form of posters, images, or short films.  Not only does the Showcase encourage communication between researchers, making surprising links across the three faculties and enriching the calibre of research, but it also enables links beyond academia.

The 2020 Postgraduate Summer Research Showcase will take place on Wednesday 24th June 2020, and promises to be a spectacular celebration of research at the University of Manchester.

Visit http://www.psrs.manchester.ac.uk for full details. 

Anything but Research

‘Anything but Research’ (AbR) is a PGR-led initiative to help PGR students to fund their non-research ideas. AbR aims to improve the PGR experience through allowing students to realise novel schemes not presently offered to PGR students at the University of Manchester. Prospective applications must be submitted following open call funding rounds during each semester, and will be assessed by a panel before funds are distributed to successful applicants through Manchester Doctoral College.

The maximum amount for consideration is £2500 per application, however projects with smaller budgets are more likely to secure funding.

What are the Aims of the AbR Fund?

We aim to improve the PGR experience by supporting and encouraging student initiation of, and participation in, cross-disciplinary events outside of their research. It will provide the opportunity for well-conceived ideas to come to fruition, with the aim of helping to develop a healthy work/life balance for PGR students. The core values of our fund are to enhance:

  •          Wellbeing and healthy work/life balance of PGR students at the University of Manchester
  •          Inclusivity across disciplines where new ventures should aim to be open to anyone within the PGR community
  •          Encouragement of student-led initiatives

Is my Idea Eligible for Funding by AbR?

In general, any project that conforms to the aims and core-values of the AbR fund, and which is established by PGR students at the University of Manchester, is eligible for funding. Check the guidelines document to see whether your project meets all relevant criteria.

How to Apply to the AbR Fund

Please complete the AbR project application form and return to abr@manchester.ac.uk by 16th December 2019

Anything but Research guidelines are available to support you with your project proposal. 

Key dates for the 2019/2020 funding period:

  • Project proposal application window opens: 15th October 2019
  • Project proposal deadline date: 16th December 2019
  • Funding decision: 15th January 2020
  • Funding window start date: 1st March 2020
  • Funding window close date: 1st March 2021 
  • Final Report Deadline: 1st April 2021 (or one month after the last day of funding) 

PGR Pals

Content to be updated

Postgraduate Research Reps

The University of Manchester is committed to ensuring that all of our postgraduate researchers (PGR) have a positive learning and research experience and our PGR representatives play a key role in achieving this. The core aims of PGR representation are to:

  • Ensure that the views of PGRs about their learning and research experience are represented and included in key decision-making processes and discussions at the University.
  • Help the University identify ways in which to improve the PGR experience.

Introduction

As a PGR Rep you will have the opportunity to attend training and receive continued support and advice via the PGR Reps Network. The areas you will develop skills in and covered in this handbook include:

  • Engagement – you will develop networks within your research area and across the University and you will learn how to gather PGR opinion.
  • Communication – you will develop your written and oral communication skills and learn the different ways to influence, negotiate and help develop solutions. 
  • Feedback – you will learn the importance of feedback and how to effectively feedback discussions.
  • Meetings – you will learn how to prepare for and get the most out of meetings.

The Role of the PGR Representative

A PGR Rep will:

  • Be an effective channel of communication between PGRs and the University.
  • Have the opportunity to comment directly on issues that affect the learning and research experience of all PGRs.
  • Consult and engage with fellow PGRs and represent their views.
  • Represent the views of PGRs via the right channels and negotiate, discuss and find solutions to the issues raised.
  • Report back the outcomes of discussions to their PGR community.
  • Work with colleagues to facilitate change and make improvements.

 

PGR Rep Role

 

Engagement

An effective PGR rep will fully engage with their fellow PGRs and with academic and professional support staff in their School, Faculty and the University. You and the others undertaking a PhD are the experts at being able to comment on the learning you are receiving, and the research environment you are in, and, as a representative, it’s you who puts that comment and opinion forward. You will need to:

  • Introducing yourself to the PGRs you are representing.
  • Gather the opinions of your fellow PGRs.
  • Be a voice for and represent your fellow PGRs’ views and opinions on all matters relating to learning, supervision and the research environment.

How to Collect Opinion?

  • Speak first to your friends then approach others in your area of research to collect their opinions.
  • Listen for what people are saying when you are in an informal setting e.g. at lunch or over coffee.
  • Use blogs and websites to generate discussions and keep in touch with other PGRs, including those you represent and other PGR reps.
  • Use social media and encourage your fellow PGRs to do the same to stimulate discussion.
  • If you have a specific issue you want to gather feedback on set up an online survey.
  • Leave a suggestion box and post it notes in PGR common areas.
  • Work with your local professional support team to ensure your contact details are visible and that you are known to your fellow PGRs.

Assure those you represent that any comments or opinions that you put forward in, for example, a committee meeting, will remain anonymous and that you will not personally name anyone.

When collecting opinion things to consider are:

  • People will find it easier to talk about aspects of their environment that they don’t like but may find it harder to be objective about how things could be improved.
  • Some people are more vocal than others, make sure you find ways to include and encourage comments and feedback from everyone.
  • Be specific, asking a fellow PGR to tell you about their whole learning and research experience may not get a response. Breaking your questions down into different elements will help. 

Communication

A key aspect of the PGR role is to be an effective communicator, in your role you will be:

  • Attending meetings with staff in your School and Faculty and presenting PGRs’ views at these meetings.
  • Speaking to PGRs outside of meetings.
  • Passing issues on to other teams where appropriate.
  • Contributing to School and institutional activities such as the PRES.
  • Working with colleagues to come up with solutions.
  • Keeping your PGR community updated about what’s going on.

Starting Conversations with your PGR Community

  • Use whatever method of communication is best for you – face to face, online.
  • Make sure you are visible and known to the PGRs you are representing, the Faculty teams can ensure your name and contact details are visible online.
  • Be open and approachable.
  • Ask open ended questions.  

 Having Difficult Conversations

When dealing with staff members there are some key points to be aware of, particularly if you are raising a problem or issue about something they have done or not done:

  • Be clear and concise in what you want to say.
  • Think about what you are hoping to achieve from raising a particular issue.
  • Most staff will be happy to listen to you but be conscious of their time. They are busy people too.
  • If you are raising a concern about an individual member of staff, make sure you speak on behalf of everyone you represent, and be reasonable about how you convey a problem.
  • Be aware of any nonverbal behaviours such as posture, volume and tone of voice.

You may find it useful to attend one of your Faculty researcher development team training sessions on communication skills.

Feedback

As a PGR rep, your role is to:

  • Provide both positive and negative feedback to staff.
  • Act as a communication channel between staff and PGRs.
  • Providing feedback to staff and PGRs and closing the feedback loop.

 How Do You Feedback Effectively?

The ABCD method of feedback is a good place to start:

Accurate: When commenting on a particular learning or research experience be specific and provide evidence for what you are saying. Avoid sweeping generalisations or emotional language. For example, if you have a survey that tells you that 68% of respondents don’t feel valued; don’t tell staff that “nobody feels valued”.

Balanced: Don’t just pass on negative comments to staff. Recipients are more likely to feel defensive and reject your suggestions out of hand. Say positive things too – the so-called “feedback sandwich”.

Constructive: You are not there just here to identify problems; you are also here to help find a solution. If you raise an issue, make a suggestion at the same time.

Depersonalisation: Even if those PGRs you represent think that a member of staff has done something wrong, it’s always hard to make or receive personal comments. Try not to comment on the supervisor for example, but talk simply about the impact on your learning and research experience. If there are grounds for a formal complaint about a supervisor, then that is best taken through the University’s formal complaints procedures.

And always make sure you close the feedback loop...

 

Feedback Loop

  

Meetings

As a representative, you will be required to attend School, Faculty and University meetings. The aim of the meetings you are invited to is to get PGR reps and staff from your School and Faculty to discuss important issues affecting you and the PGRs you represent.                 

How to prepare for meetings?

Before the meeting

  • Find out who the secretary and chair of the meeting are so you have full details of dates, venue, time and will receive the agenda, minutes and other relevant papers.
  • Read the papers before the meeting and think about any issues particularly relevant to PGRs on the meeting agenda and plan adequate time to collect, collate, and summarise the views of the PGRs you represent.
  • Gather feedback from your PGRs and decide if you would like to have anything added to the agenda.

During the meeting

  • Be on time, let the chair and secretary know if you are going to be delayed.
  • Be prepared to take notes via iPad, tablet, laptop or pen & paper and record any key points raised in the meetings as well as any reflections you have.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions or to challenge views and opinions.
  • If there is something you don’t understand, the chances are there’s someone else in the meeting who does not understand either.
  • Remember the ABCD of effective feedback.
  •  

After the meeting

  • It may take a while for minutes from a meeting to be issued. So note down any action points and for you and act on them as soon as possible.
  • Don’t forget to report back to the PGRs you represent.
  • Check the minutes when you receive them.

Training and Contacts

At the start of the academic year there will be a training session for all new PGR reps within your Faculty or at the Student’s Union as detailed below. The session will introduce you to the skills you need to be effective in your role and will help you understand the University’s structures and mechanisms for student engagement and representation, so that you know how to work within these to represent PGR opinions.

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Humanities

Faculty of Science and Engineering

Student’s Union

In addition we will hold PGR Reps Networking events throughout the year.

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

For questions about programmes contact Abbie Roberts.

For questions about PGR training and development opportunities contact Louis Byrne.

Faculty of Humanities

For questions about programmes contact your School administration teams.

Alliance Manchester Business School

School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

School of Environment, Education and Development

School of Law

School of Social Sciences

For information about PGR training and development opportunities contact the Faculty Researcher Development team.

Faculty of Science and Engineering

For questions about programmes contact:

School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

School of Chemistry

School of Computer Science

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

School of Materials

School of Mathematics

School of Physics and Astronomy

For information about PGR training and development opportunities contact the Faculty Researcher Development team

Hints and Tips

Here are some dos and don’ts from previous PGR Reps.

Do

Don’t

Pass on information

Be Accessible

Signpost

Listen

Represent

Be trustworthy

Solve students problems

Proof read

Judge

Coach them through the viva

Take on responsibility for their mental health

Resolve disputes