Including and engaging students

Issue: Might mixing candidates and supervisors make it difficult for candidates to feel at ease, particularly in some cross-cultural settings? On the other hand are there times when it is important to put candidates in a challenging situation—so perhaps it depends on the purpose?


  • Alert staff to their particular role in seminars and expect a level of support. It might even be necessary to ask a staff member who was being particularly difficult to leave
  • Have a pool of trained chairs for seminars to ensure candidates are well-treated
  • Do a “show and tell” for candidates and staff before any seminar e.g. any papers published, conference presentations
  • In Science (in particular) invite people to talk about what they are working on (that is, not finished) and so can be helpful to students to see how a project is going (or not) – could this work in non-science area? “The warts and all approach”.
  • Informal sessions are also helpful, it doesn’t always have to be a seminar, sometimes a group discussion over a drink/coffee can be more relaxed
  • Be very clear about the purpose of the seminar e.g. is it to deliberately (and with their understanding) to give the candidates a “tough time” before a conference, or is it to be supportive of a candidate trying out new ideas?

Issue: How might we involve part-time candidates, and particularly those at a distance, within the research culture?


  • Develop a series of discipline or topic-based university or national seminars which are advertised well in advance, and promoted as a way “to be known” outside your own university
  • Important to make the reasons for attending very explicit, including the value of serendipity in that you never know what you might learn
  • It is important that candidates are involved in developing activities
  • In addition to regular residential seminars, consider seminars on Friday afternoons (over wine and cheese?) or on Saturdays
  • Have an annual symposium that candidates have to attend as part of their enrolment

Issue: One of the criticisms made of a faculty’s research culture was that candidates were only involving themselves in research on specific topics, not broadening their understandings of research more generally.


  • A School introduced a candidate colloquium where during the year each academic had to present on a theory (or similar) and then another academic would respond to that
  • Consider a student-organised seminar where every staff member has to present to the students once a year (on their research, their career, an interesting paper etc.)
  • Is there value in having students, with help from convener, initiate activities?

Issue: Despite a lot of hard work by the REC to organise and promote seminars, some candidates are simply not attending.


  • Do we need to make attendance a requirement of enrolment?
  • Tell students the ones who tend to attend the most seminars are the ones most likely to pass!!!!
  • Teach students how to recognise when something is innovative or…in other words, some candidates only look at the topic, not the manner of presenting, or networking etc.
  • One school required students who weren’t going to a seminar to write a 2000 word reason for why the topic was not relevant
  • Make HDR funding contingent on attending seminars (so take attendance record)

 Issue: But what about when staff don’t attend?

  • Sometimes you can bring in the head of school if staff are not attending, but that doesn’t always work. Could give an academic the role of being a reviewer and have to give some feedback and that everyone is expected to do that at least once a year
  • The convenor can develop activities etc but someone in authority needs to support/attend as well as involving students to be involved
  • If the school has a research committee take ideas to them and get their comments and endorsement
  • Tends to depend a lot on the supervisor, if she/he sees it as part of the culture then it tends to happen, so work with supervisors

 Issue: Not all seminars need to be about someone’s research, there are other ways of developing a culture.


  • In addition to university graduation ceremony, have a school-based one for students in that school
  • Doctoral master class, students to present their work to a visiting professor who then gives feedback – but the REC needs to convince the students it is worthwhile and then convince the visiting professor
  • Get students to practice their conference presentations in advance and get feedback
  • Student-led reading group where a student picks a paper and then gets peers to read and give insight
  • Also worth spending some of the time discussing the paper as a model of writing as well as discussing the ideas/content of the paper
  • Example of a staff reading group as a way of developing a shared culture
  • Students developed a writing group and then researched the culture by looking at the different ways in which different groups within the faculty operated as a writing group and so researched it, presented at a conference and got a journal publication as a result
  • Potential for seminars by experienced researchers to talk about their research, their career or…
  • Particular issues when professional areas involved as students get to hear from them and get to be known by them.

Additional comments

  • While we are trying to build this culture is the project asking students what they need rather than necessarily research topics e.g. the use of theory?
  • Do science students tend to have a more collegial experience because they work in labs/teams?

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