Warwick is home to around 12,000 postgraduate students, and many of these are researchers. Studying for a doctorate of some kind, Warwick’s research students contribute to the vibrant research culture at the university, whilst having a strong community of their own. Balancing commitments of supervisions, writing conference papers, and teaching, research life can be busy, varied, and sometimes challenging. This week, blog editor Ellie explores.
Sometimes, being a researcher feels like so many things are all going on at once. With a lack of a set timetable of seminars and lectures, we are left to our own initiatives to make progress, read relevant literature, and undertake courses or training for our development. Our social life can blend too, with us catching a coffee and cake with friends at Research Refresh or taking part in a weekly football match with other students. Some of us may have families or caring responsibilities to attend to, or even part time jobs on the side.
Student life as a researcher is therefore a jumble of commitments and responsibilities. Sometimes, it can feel lonely, with no classmates as such like we had in our undergrad courses. We’re the only people working on our area of research, and that can feel isolating.
But at Warwick, there are plenty of places to find your community. With a vibrant hub of sports clubs and societies to join, there’s always a group of people similar to you. The community engagement team at the library host a range of events for PGRs, especially during out-of-term periods where the campus can feel somewhat empty. Similarly, the Doctoral College support researchers through official areas of their research as well as supporting skills development and career progression.
A key element of building a community and providing support for researchers is by the university listening and responding to feedback. Every two years, Warwick takes part in the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey, a UK-wide survey to capture feedback from researchers on a range of elements of their university life. It explores various aspects of your research course, and the results mean we can compare Warwick with other institutions across the UK. Areas of improvement are identified and acted upon, ensuring that researchers at Warwick are well catered for.
The last PRES was in 2021, in which 47% of Warwick researchers took part. As one of 94 Higher Education institutions who responded, the survey explored postgraduate research life in the areas of supervision, resources, research culture, progression and assessment, responsibilities, support, research skills and professional development. Some highlights of the results include:
- 77% of respondents felt that would complete their research degree on time, with only 2% saying they struggled to balance research with other commitments
- Over 90% of Warwick PGRs are happy with their Supervisor’s subject knowledge, contact with them and feedback, which is above the Russell Group average.
- 89% of respondents felt their ability to apply appropriate research methods to their research has improved during their PhD.
- 74% of Warwick respondents have sufficient study space on campus, with 73% feeling the same when working remotely
- 88% are impressed with access to online Library resources, and 76% with access to physical library resources
As a result of these results, the Doctoral College took several actions, which included:
- Running a series of PGR Focus Groups to understand how to improve services
- Supervision and pastoral support for PGRs is being reviewed, including the production of a Guidance Sheet for departments.
- A Networking Fund was launched to provide seed money to a variety of PGR networks to support independent professional development.
- Departments reflected on results and produced their own Annual Reports, with visits from the Doctoral College to improve liaison and consistency between departments and the central university.
You can find more information on the results of PRES 2021 here.
Now you can have your say about researcher life at Warwick. The PRES 2023 opened on Monday 17th April and takes around 15 minutes to complete. You’ll have received an email about completing the PRES direct to your inbox, so please fill it out and share your feedback. It’s really important for the university to gather this feedback so research experience at Warwick continually improves.
What is your favourite part of being a researcher at Warwick? Let us know by tweeting us @researchex, messaging us on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to find more information about the Doctoral College, take a look at our blog post here. If you want to read about more experiences from researchers at Warwick, take a look at the Your Experiences tab on the blog.
Want to get the latest PhD Life posts direct to your inbox? Subscribe below.