This year I have been involved in the development of the new Postgraduate Research (PGR) Framework at Coventry University for PhD and MRes students. The past few weeks I have been sharing my thoughts about switching to the new framework. This post is an opportunity to formally share my thoughts about the changes to the PGR framework.
The changes in the framework are based on a review of the old system established 10 years ago. The changes will give PGR students a smoother and simpler way to progress to the next stage of their research. Improvements have come about from talks involving PGR reps, supervisors, Associate Deans, Executive Directors, Research Degree leads and staff from professional services. As a Research Rep for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, that included me. In the meetings we discussed how the framework could be changed to benefit supervisors, the student lifecycle team and most of all the PGRs. Through all the approval processes and academic committee’s these changes are in the process of being rolled out to students giving them the option of switching over to the new framework at their next Progress review panel (PRP) and enrolment period.
So, what’s changed?
So, in short the biggest changes are the removal of the checklists (forms that students have to fill out at each stage of the research degree to monitor progress). The completion of these checklists were time consuming and repetitive. Removing these checklists will decrease the administrative burden on students allowing them to focus on their actual research rather than unnecessary form filling and administration.
Research Development Activities
There is a slight change in the way students have to collect credits to demonstrate development as a researcher. Within the new framework, rather than obtaining a number of credits there’s a requirement to complete 300 hours of research development activity over 2 years (full time PhD) which could include attending development courses, presenting at conferences, or publishing papers. Changing from credits to hours enhances the focus of the researcher developing as an academic and better recognises additional efforts and extra activities.
There are also changes to the outputs (work to be submitted for the PRP). Outputs are now called ‘Deliverables’ and there is a requirement to only submit one, rather than two, for the PRP ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 words. The focus is much more on the relevance to the research project and give more flexibility for different disciplines across the university.
Research Degree Development Agreement
The Research Degree Development Agreement (RDDA) is a brilliant addition to the framework. The RDDA is a formalised talk between student and supervisor to agree what the next 9 months of the degree will look like. This is beneficial in many ways, to address what the development activities might be, what the deliverable will be and make sure the student and supervisor are on the same page.
Progress Review Panels
Probably the biggest change with be the timing for PRPs, instead of being aligned with the enrolment periods every 12 months they will be every 9 months. This will be great to recognise those doing well so they can progress to the next phase of the research program, but also for those who may need a bit extra support as an early intervention. A special option of a pre-submission PRP will be available for those aiming for submission at 36 months (end of third year).
Many of the other aspects to the framework remain the same, such as ethics, the research log book, supervision meetings.
How do these changes help me?
For me the changes will be beneficial in terms of reducing the administrative work around preparing for my Progress Review with not having the checklists to complete. Having the PRP slightly earlier at 33 months will be useful to be able to get support from the PRP panel on what I need to do to make sure that I can complete and submit my PhD.
There has been a lot of hard work and dedication from the Doctoral College, supervisors and other students on this project. So, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for being involved in the discussions around the framework and the Doctoral College for their time listening and making the changes.