QAA pans uneven postgrad support

February 16, 2007

Many UK universities still fail to provide the personal development and training needed by novice researchers to help set them up for a career as an academic, the Quality Assurance Agency said this week.

After the first major quality inspection of UK postgraduate research programmes, the QAA said that, in general, universities ran well-managed and high-quality research programmes, from masters to PhDs.

But the report, which rounds up the results of inspections in 124 institutions, says that some universities' provision for research skills training and support for personal development are not "fit for purpose".

A significant number of institutions, it says, are failing to engage with the Research Councils UK's joint statement on developing careers of PhD students and early-career researchers. Some are also possibly in breach of the QAA's code of practice on postgraduate programmes, according to the agency.

Of provision in England and Northern Ireland, the report says: "The review teams identified a large number and wide range of areas of further consideration in respect of the development of research and other skills, relating particularly to the development and delivery of training programmes, and personal development planning.

"While most institutions have now formalised research training programmes, the review teams concluded that many could and should be further enhanced to make them more fit for purpose."

Wales had the most problems. The review teams inspected ten institutions and identified four where more work was needed to improve skills training, compared with only two institutions where good practice was identified.

The report says the teams had come across one institution that made no reference to the joint skills statement of the research councils. The QAA suggested the institution should reconsider its arrangements.

The QAA is concerned about another institution's lack of interest in research students' personal development and whether it met the requirements of the QAA's code of practice on research degree programmes.

The report says that in Wales, "the overall conclusion is that the review teams have identified a number of weaknesses for this aspect of research degree programme provision".


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