New Publication Released on Personal Development Planning for Postgraduate Research Students

NPC is pleased to announce yet another publication is now freely available in our library amongst a set of other publications that have made such a significant impact amongst the postgraduate community in the UK.

This publication is a detailed writeup of a national survey carried out last year jointly with the UK GRAD Programme and the Centre for Recording Achievement to determine the perceptions of research students with regards to keeping progress logs and planning their personal development.

Important aspects of the report showed where personal development planning had some benefit in helping training needs, monitoring progress but at the same time could create highly unnecessary bureaucracy. Corect use of personal development planning depends highly on the student and supervisor and how they treat the process as highlighted in responses from the report.

NPC hopes this document will serve as a helpful resource to the wider community developing better schemes on personal development planning. To view the report you can click here and also you can follow this link to view the official briefing report produced by UK GRAD, the Centre for Recording Achievement and the National Postgraduate Committee that was first published in September 2004 at the UK GRAD Conference. NPC was highly praised for its contributions at this event, where we can happily say this project was one majorly useful output of our existence.

The executive summary of the report is as follows.

Executive Summary

This section is covering the results of a survey conducted jointly by UK GRAD, the Centre for Recording Achievement (CRA) and the National Postgraduate Committee (NPC) to gather some views from individual postgraduates by means of an online survey. The survey was placed on NPC's own website through which it could promote the survey to individual postgraduates via its well used email list resources. Further to this individuals on the email list were able to distribute the survey further to email lists they had access to. UK GRAD assisted the process also by distributing the survey to alumni members. In this section a summary is given of the demography of respondents, the statistics generated from appropriate questions and also commentary on the written responses given in the survey.

Demography of respondents:

  • Mainly UK (74%), full time (86%), under 35 (82%) responding. Therefore it is largely those seeking to pursue a career while training in research at an earlier stage of life.
  • 39% of respondents were male and 61% were female.
  • 50% were research council or Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) funded.

Statistical results:

  • More students indicated that a progress review system is regarded as a research progress log (1152 responses) rather than something to assess training needs (only 425 responses).
  • Over 80% claimed to use a paper based system rather than an electronic or other system.
  • Less than half had their progress log shared widely as part of a review process (39%).
  • An overwhelming majority, 1207, indicated that their progress review system is carried out on a compulsory basis.
  • A vast majority, 991, indicated that support was received from the supervisory team.
  • Over half of the respondents, 540, completed a yearly review with a number of others undertaking a six monthly review.
  • 66% of students claimed to be supported in how to use their progress review system.
  • Mixed responses were given by students on a scale of 0 to 9 as to how supportive their supervisor was, with 19% indicating no support with 0 while 17% felt strong support from their supervisor with 9 as the score.

Negative comments from the written results:

  • Strong responses indicated that there were bureaucratic processes involved creating excessive paperwork and unnecessary use of time. Further to that it created obstacles for supervisors to get around.
  • Lack of supervisor interest and support was reducing popularity in a number of circumstances.
  • Badly tailored progress review forms also made the process tedious and lacking benefit.
  • Some expressed a need to have feedback mechanisms to deal with supervisory difficulties on a confidential and impartial level.

Positive comments from the written results:

  • The strongest response indicated that the review system was a helpful means of reviewing progress and planning mileposts for the future.
  • Career planning and training was praised by some and it was a helpful tool for their personal development.
  • It provides an opportunity to meet with and interact with supervisor to monitor work, especially where supervisors need to be urged to meet with their students and regularly monitor progress.
  • It facilitates work sharing with others since it is a default part of the whole process.

Other comments received:

  • A vast majority claimed support was mainly from their supervisors, although some did indicate support came from other students, graduate schools and research student forums.

The structure of this report outlines the statistical results where only numerical or multiple choice answers were requested in the survey as indicated in the questionnaire in the Annex. Following this, a summary is given of the written responses that were received and condensed due to the large volume of respondents to deal with.