February 28, 2019, by Susan Lim

Shaping UNM’s Graduate School for research leaders of the future

Graduate School was established here at the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) in 2008. It has great facilities in H block that includes a training room, social space as well as comfortable working spaces. This is available to all registered postgraduate students, on taught and research programmes as well as Early Career Researcher staff (ECRs). UNM has a very flexible definition of an ECR which is anyone with a doctorate or registered for completion, who are within five (5) years of having gained their first academic post for teaching and research or research-only at any Higher Education Institution (HEI). The Graduate School’s mission is therefore very broadly defined as being committed to enhancing the research experience of our postgraduates and early-career research staff as well as your personal career development by providing you with the skills and confidence to maximise your potential at UNM and beyond.

The University is continually striving to improve its services and to meet your personal career development needs. Clearly, postgraduate needs are somewhat different from staff needs, and we have only a small team to cater to more than 300 postgraduates and about 85 ECRs.

We therefore need to prioritise what we can deliver, to consider what circumstances are specific to the Malaysian academic environment, as well as to explore what resources we can draw on from the larger Graduate School at the UK Nottingham campus. Our suggested focus includes: (1) to consider how we can best support those ECRs who are making the sometimes difficult transition from PhD candidate to an independent academician, and; (2) to improve our provision of online training for greater personal flexibility. These are our own ideas within the team. Nevertheless, it’s important that as our students and ECRs, you bring your own voice to the discussion as well. This is to ensure that we deliver what you need, most and what you cannot receive from your respective Schools or Departments and Faculties.

To this end, we are currently engaged in two surveys.

For postgraduate research students, The University of Nottingham and Advance Higher Education has launched the biennial Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES). This is the only UK higher education sector-wide survey to gain insight from postgraduate research students about their learning and supervision experience. In 2019, we added several questions tailored specifically to our campus at UNM asking about access, training delivery, feedback on development opportunities, the hub, events and activities that the graduate school runs.

I would like, therefore, to remind you to respond to this short survey which is open until Friday 22 March. You have already received an email with a link to the questionnaire (and reminders are being sent!). You may even win one of three RM150 cash prizes!

How the postgraduate survey results will be used This survey asks about your experiences of your postgraduate research course. Your responses will be combined with those of others to help inform our institution about the experience of postgraduate researchers. This will help improve future support for the learning of postgraduates like you. The results are also used nationally to help advise policy and help improve the learning and teaching of postgraduate researchers across the sector. A UNM-specific report will be produced and presented to various UK and UNM strategic and planning committees.

For Early Career Researchers, I am supporting the Graduate School in working with the UK Nottingham team to continue to enhance support for ECRs. In the UK, ECRs are defined as those on Grades Level 4a to Level 5 for the purposes of this particular survey. The UK team is wide-ranging and includes Graduate School, Careers & Employability Service as well as the Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Graduate School and Researcher Career Development.

An essential part of this is that we hear from ECRs about the:

  • Careers and professional development support they are aware of and use
  • Reasons for seeking this support
  • Challenges to seeking this support
  • Future support they would find most useful and accessible
  • Experiences of the appraisal process and workload

I would like, therefore, to remind you to respond to this short survey: https://moodle.nottingham.ac.uk/mod/feedback/view.php?id=3521936, which is now open, until Wednesday 13 March.

How the ECR survey results will be used A report will be produced, which will be made available to ECRs. The report may include quotes but these will not be attributed to individuals. The report will be considered by the Research Staff Group and the Graduate School as part of the current tri-campus review of activities, and recommendations for further action will be taken forward.

It is important that we hear from the research community at UNM and so I would strongly urge you to respond to these surveys.

 

Professor Deborah Hall

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