The content of this site is brought together under easily navigable headings, with descriptions of resources and suggestions as to how the material might be used in training seminars and workshops.

Becoming a PhD researcher

Research title: Entering a Community of Practice: the acculturation of international postgraduates in science and engineering

Research team

Michaela Borg, Nottingham Trent University, UK
Rachel Maunder, University of Northampton, UK
Elaine Walsh, Imperial College London, UK
Heather Fry, Higher Education Funding Council for England, UK
Roberto Di Napoli, Imperial College London, UK
Xiaoli Jiang, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China

About this project

The research drawn on here was an investigation into the learning experiences of international postgraduate research students and academic staff from China and Central/South America in Science and Engineering disciplines as they adapted to UK academic Practice.

The research questions which underpinned the research project were as follows:

  • What motivations and conceptions of academic practice do international postgraduate research students bring to their study in the UK
  • How do they perceive the role of an academic both in their home country and in the UK?
  • How do they conceptualise the culture(s) in which they are currently studying and in which they may pursue an academic career
  • What can we learn by studying the experiences and perceptions of international academics about the degree to which international research students’ expectations and conceptions are borne out?

The study not only confirmed that students’ relationship with their supervisors contributes significantly to students’ academic performance (Petersen 2007) but also revealed that relationships with their peers and significant others were central to their experience.

Full research project

Download the full research report hereOpens in new window

A publication has also emanated from this research: The chapter, entitled 'International students and academic acculturation: the role of relationships in the doctoral process’ can be read hereOpens new window

What to expect from your PhD

Visit the student site here

Spheres of support and Influence model

This resource can be used in group sessions to help doctoral researchers reflect on where their support and influence comes from and where there is scope to develop new connections and networks. View the model

Related resources

View a list of related resources here

Being an international PhD researcher

Research title: Entering a Community of Practice: the acculturation of international postgraduates in science and engineering

Research team

Michaela Borg, Nottingham Trent University, UK
Rachel Maunder, University of Northampton, UK
Elaine Walsh, Imperial College London, UK
Heather Fry, Higher Education Funding Council for England, UK
Roberto Di Napoli, Imperial College London, UK
Xiaoli Jiang, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China

About this project

The research drawn on here was an investigation into the learning experiences of international postgraduate research students and academic staff from China and Central/South America in Science and Engineering disciplines as they adapted to UK academic Practice.

The research questions which underpinned the research project were as follows:

  • What motivations and conceptions of academic practice do international postgraduate research students bring to their study in the UK
  • How do they perceive the role of an academic both in their home country and in the UK?
  • How do they conceptualise the culture(s) in which they are currently studying and in which they may pursue an academic career
  • What can we learn by studying the experiences and perceptions of international academics about the degree to which international research students’ expectations and conceptions are borne out?

The study not only confirmed that students’ relationship with their supervisors contributes significantly to students’ academic performance (Petersen 2007) but also revealed that relationships with their peers and significant others were central to their experience.

Full research project

Download the full research report hereOpens in new window

A publication has also emanated from this research: The chapter, entitled 'International students and academic acculturation: the role of relationships in the doctoral process’ can be read hereOpens new window

What to expect from your PhD

Click here to view Student site

Spheres of support and Influence model

This resource can be used in group sessions to help doctoral researchers reflect on where their support and influence comes from and where there is scope to develop new connections and networks. View the model

Workshop for New Staff – Prompts for discussion

This resource could be used as an opening activity in a workshop for new academic staff, to encourage them to consider the different academic cultures of different universities. It might be a useful way to introduce them to the particular concerns and priorities of your institution. Click to view

Related resources

View a list of related resources here

Research title: Internationalisation and the next generation of social scientists: Experiences of early career academics from sub-saharan Africa

Research team

David Mills, Melody Cox, Jingjing Zhang, Nick Hopwood, Lynn McAlpine (Oxford CETL Network Research)

About this project

The thrust of this policy report is to question the value of a blanket category of ‘international students’. We argue instead for an understanding of the student biographies within particular institutions and the complex geopolitics of global higher education. Yes, an attentiveness to the higher education systems from which students come is vitally important for understanding the economic relationships structuring individual career choices and possibilities, but generic labels – such as ‘African students’ – can be misleading. On the other hand, we do not wish to deny or downplay all differences, as our interviews pointed to aspects of UK academic culture that the literature on international students has already highlighted as troubling. Yet one also has to acknowledge the very adoption of the ‘international’ label can lead people into thinking about their expereince in certain predetermined ways.

Full research project

Download the full research report hereDownload full report

Workshop ideas

It can be useful to challenge staff’s notions, perspectives, attitudes and approaches concerning international researchers. Click here to access the student pages based around the above research project; the quotations and their accompanying advice can be used in sessions with staff to aid them in articulating their own experiences with international PhD students. Use the ideas discussed on this page to question presumptions, unearth misconceptions, investigate difference and enable best practice for supporting a diverse range of international researchers.

These pages can of course also be used for those involved in the training and development of new international academic staff, particularly to enable a more nuanced approach to transitions into UK academia, by highlighting the range of experiences and backgrounds in transnational academic networks.

Click here for further reflective questions for use with international researchers, supervisors and other academic members of staff in workshops/training sessions.

 

Venturing into teaching

Research title: Theoretical frameworks underpinning GTA programmes: their influence on course participants and on the staff delivering these programmes.

Research team

Researcher: Deesha Chadha, (King’s College London)

CETL network associates: Nancy Turner, (Royal Holloway College) Rachel Maunder, (University of Warwick)

About the project

The purpose of this research was to explore the underpinning theory that guides the development of graduate teaching assistants’ (GTA) programmes and to evaluate how teaching staff on these programmes interpret and apply theory in their courses with a consideration of the possible philosophical conflicts (between teaching and research) experienced by some course participants. By identifying a number of issues, through interview and a review of course material and literature, it was possible to determine which key factors act as indicators of underlying theory.

Research findings have suggested that teaching staff from across the institutions (KCL, Royal Holloway and Warwick) base their GTA programmes on different philosophies on how best to inform academic practice. Questions are therefore raised about whether a best practice model exists for GTA programmes and what this might actually look like. Two variations of such a model were subsequently produced which were subsequently validated by teaching staff and course participants. From these a hybrid model has been identified.

Research Questions

The research undertaken was conducted to fulfil the following two research objectives:

  • To make explicit the underpinning theory that guides the development of GTA programmes
  • To evaluate how staff on these courses interpret and apply theory in their courses with a consideration of the possible philosophical conflicts (between teaching and research) experienced by some course participants.

By bringing these issues to the fore, it was anticipated that reflection upon the consequences of a dominant theoretical framework could be produced to guide future course development and achieve greater philosophical alignment with the needs of the course participants.

Download the full research report hereOpens new window

Thinking through 4 key themes relating to the development of graduate teaching assistants

Description to come Click here to view

Research title: GTAs’ Perspectives on their Roles as Novice Academic Practitioners

Researcher team

Miesbeth Knottenbelt (PI), Dai Hounsell, Carolin Kreber, Jane Ewins and Chun Ming Tai (University of Edinburgh); Liz Barnett and Neil Mclean (London School of Economics); Heather Fry, Roberto Di Napoli and Martyn Kingsbury (Imperial College London).

About the research and the resources

This summary is intended to be of interest to staff with responsibilities over teaching research students, staff developers in central units who work with them, and, indirectly, to those with responsibilities for planning teaching in higher education institutions. The resources draw on research into the teaching experiences of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) as novice academic practitioners. We chose to focus on a sample of 23 GTAs in two subject areas. They were teaching in three different research-intensive ancient UK universities. Thirteen GTAs were teaching in the BioSciences (BS), while ten were teaching in Economics (Ec). We gathered data by individual questionnaires and interviewing using a common interview schedule. The study focused on the following clusters of questions:

  • A. What were the GTAs’ conceptions of the teaching roles they were asked to perform; what were the challenges and rewards they had experienced in their teaching; and how did these evolve at these early stages in their academic careers?
  • B. How well prepared for their teaching roles – and how well supported in them – did they see themselves as being? And in particular, what did they make of the briefing, training and other support that was offered to them?
  • C. How did these GTAs view their teaching roles and their development in the context of their wider responsibilities as novice academic practitioners?

Download the summary report hereOpens new window

Preparing for the Challenges of Tutoring and Demonstrating

Resource materials for tutors and demonstrators, and staff with responsibilities over them. Read more

‘Teaching research students as novice practitioners: perceptions and experiences of teaching’

Description to be added. Read more

Related resources

View a list of related resources here

Getting through your PhD

Research title: The next generation of social scientists- navigating the shifting academic landscape

Researcher team

Lynn McAlpine (Oxford), Nick Hopwood (Oxford), David Mills (Oxford), Susan Harris-Huemmert (Oxford), Patrick Alexander (Oxford)

About this project

During the last decade, research training and development policies in the UK have been driven by political and funding pressures. Policy makers (eg. ESRC, UK GRAD), while referring to Early Career Academics (ECAs), remain relatively uninformed about ECA development across a continuum of experience from doctoral study through postdoctoral research to academic work. This research will document the challenges and tensions between new employment practices and academic career development in the social sciences, and how these are experienced by ECAs (doctoral students intent on academic careers, contract research staff, postdoctoral research fellows).

Research Questions

  • How are early career academics constructing, embodying and performing academic practice?
  • What narratives do they privilege? How do we interpret their stories?

About the resources

These resources provide PhD researchers with the opportunity to reflect on their progress during a week and to set goals for the future.

Doctoral researcher weekly log

Downlaod the PDFOpens new window

What progress did I make tool

Download the PDF toolOpens in new window

Purpose These resources provides PhD researchers with the opportunity to reflect on their progress during a week and to set goals for the future

Possible uses:

  • Researchers could complete it on their own (access via a website, for instance)
  • Researchers could complete it and discuss it with their supervisor (distribute, include in supervisor resources so they could consider this)
  • It could also be used collectively in a workshop

Time and process:

  • Completing the log takes 5-10 minutes (varies by individual)
    • Document a) time spent, b) activities undertaken, c) individuals interacted with and d) what might not have been done
    • Draw in this to set goals for the coming period
  • Discussion with supervisor or in a group could vary in length from 10-20 minutes depending on focus of discussion

Who helped me tool

Download the PDF toolOpens new window

Purpose These resources provides PhD researchers with the opportunity to reflect on their progress during a week and to set goals for the future

Possible uses:

  • Researchers could complete it on their own (access via a website, for instance)
  • Researchers could complete it and discuss it with their supervisor (distribute, include in supervisor resources so they could consider this)
  • It could also be used collectively in a workshop

Time and process:

  • Completing the log takes 5-10 minutes (varies by individual)
    • Document a) time spent, b) activities undertaken, c) individuals interacted with and d) what might not have been done
    • Draw in this to set goals for the coming period
  • Discussion with supervisor or in a group could vary in length from 10-20 minutes depending on focus of discussion

PhD researchers talking about the importance of supportive relationships during the PhD

Play these short enacted audio clips of PhD researchers talking about the importance of supportive relationships during the PhD in group sessions to prompt discussion about sources of support and work/life balance. Read more

Related resources

View a list of useful resources here

Academic Career Paths

Research title: Academic career paths of social science PhD graduates

Research team:

Rhiannon Thompson, Frances Meegan, Gita Subrahmanyam, Liz Barnett (LSE), Frederico Matos (Cambridge), David Mills (Oxford), Karen Barnard (UCL)

About the project

This project examined the career paths and experiences of recent social science PhD graduates working in academia in the UK and USA. This document presents the project’s findings in the form of a summary report and set of recommendations, which we hope will prove useful both to PhD students considering a career in academia and to career professionals advising students and early-career researchers.

Download the full research report hereOpens new window

Academic career stories

The career stories linked to below are loosely based on interviews with current academics. They are not exemplary paths to an academic career, but rather demonstrate how people with different personalities, priorities and attitudes have negotiated the academic job market with varying degrees of success. These careers stories could be used in group work to prompt discussion about what doctoral researchers need to be doing alongside their thesis if they want to work in academia.

Dominic's story
Florence's story
Jill's story
John's story
Margaret's story
Susan's story

Considering an academic career

View resource

Related resources

View a list of related resources here

From Practice to academia

Research title: Transitions into the Academic World: Identities and Academic/Literary Practices

Research team:

Lesley Gourlay

About the project

This study focused on a small group of staff at a post-92 institution, who had entered the academic world from professional or practice roles, predominantly in Health and Social Care. Using in-depth semi-structured interviews and audio-journals, career histories, motivations and day-to-day experiences were explored, paying particular attention to orientations towards research and scholarship. This revealed initial confusion around the requirements of the new role, and ambivalence towards scholarship and research; seen as simultaneously desirable and 'scary', or even a 'selfish' activity.

Download the full research report hereOpens new window

Workshop ideas for supporting academic staff from practice backgrounds

Click here to access the student pages: transcript quotations, mp3 clips and the surrounding issues raised can be used as the basis for discussion in staff training sessions as to how they would go about advising new members of staff in similar predicaments, if encountered within their own department or institution. The reflective questions and advice provided on these pages can also be questioned, added to and further discussed in group work to develop support academic staff from practice backgrounds.

Click hereDownload file for a workshop outline for direct use with new academic members of staff from practice backgrounds.

Click hereDownload file for a workshop outline for use with existing members of staff seeking to support new colleagues from practice backgrounds.

Related resources

Download a PDF file hereOpen s in new window