‘We don’t want to change everything but we want to keep improving.’ The Graduate School simplified their competences model in order to make a coherent programme that supports PhD candidates in becoming highly skilled autonomous researchers.

Over the last year and a half the Graduate School (GS), together with Human Resources and the Career Centre, worked at taking the old model, with 14 competences, to a more simplified nine point model. The revised model groups the competences into three categories: research skills, discipline related skills and transferable skills.
With the start of the GS there were many things that needed to be put into place. Now with four years behind them the team is working to improve things as they learn and this revised model is one example of that. "We felt a new model could be more clear and transparent in order to support their development," said Maddy Peters, Doctoral Education Programme Manager. "The target was to ensure that PhD candidates would see the same competences in the DE Programme as in Human Resources and Career Development. We don't want to change everything but we want to keep improving."
Completing a PhD is a challenging process that involves more than just research. Through its mandatory DE Skills Training Programme, the GS offers courses aimed at helping candidates get the most out of the PhD and preparing graduates for what comes after they finish. According to Peters, the general idea is to make a coherent programme that supports PhD candidates in becoming highly skilled autonomous researchers. A wide range of courses are offered and can be selected to cater to the specific personal and professional development needs of each candidate.

The DE learning programme operates with a pool of about 50 trainers, both internal (some are professors) and external. "They have to understand the academic world and PhD candidates in order to be able to teach or train them," said Peters. "The whole idea is that we want PhD candidates to take the lead in their own development, both scientifically and personally, so if someone doesn't do that from the start the trainers have to be able to inspire them to turn around."

The revised competence model coincides with the early-September launch of an online magazine by the GS. The website aims to inspire PhDs and their supervisors about personal development and preparing for the next step whether that be in or outside of academia. With regard to practical matters, the new competence model will be on the GS website, Blackboard and in the HR development cycle forms. DE course descriptions, requirements and guidelines will be migrating to Blackboard to make it easier for PhD candidates to find all the necessary information in one place. The GS will keep some information about DE on the website but it will be considerably minimised.