UWE runs first South West Universities Gradschool

Issue date: 02 June 2009

Students at UWE's South West Gradschool Research students from thirteen different countries based at nine higher education institutions across the South West will have an opportunity to escape from their studies for a few days this week to grapple with some rather different problems. Working in a team to build a platform from straws that is strong enough to support a brick, arguing the case for local council resources for their 'department' and operating as part of a consultancy team in response to a real-life brief are just a few of the challenges facing participants in the first ever South West Universities GradSchool.

Organised by the University of the West of England, the South West Universities residential GradSchool is being held at Buckland Hall in the impressive surroundings of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. Richard Bond, Assistant Director, Research, Business and Innovation at UWE said, “The focus of the course is on the development of personal, team working and career skills and is aimed at research students typically mid-way through their research programme, the ideal time to stop and reflect on their progress and career aspirations”.

UWE's own pioneering GradSchool has run every year since 2003 and has become a highly regarded part of the skills development landscape in the region. So much so that this year, for the first time, eight other higher education institutions agreed to send students on the programme under the auspices of the Higher Education Regional Development Association–South West (HERDA-SW). Apart from UWE, students are attending from the Universities of Bath, Bath Spa, Bournemouth, Bristol, Exeter, Gloucestershire and Plymouth as well as University College Plymouth St Mark & St John.

“It is a tribute to the reputation of the UWE programme that the other universities in the region have committed to joining in with us this year,” said course manager Dr Paul Spencer. “The course has always attracted students from other universities, but to attract support from all the major HE institutions in the south west is fantastic.”

A particular feature of the UWE GradSchool has been its international flavour and this year is no exception with students from thirteen different countries, including Greece, Egypt, Libya, India, China, Japan and Australia. The course also attracts a range of ages, from 23 to 52 years old, reflecting the diverse population of students undertaking doctoral studies. “Having students from such a range of backgrounds and with such different life experiences provides a great stimulus to the sort of learning that a GradSchool can generate,” says Paul Spencer.

The four day programme is being directed by training consultant Paul Toombs and organised by UWE's Research, Business and Innovation group in collaboration with the South West and Wales Hub of Vitae. Vitae is the national organisation, funded by the Research Councils, that promotes the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff in UK universities. Formerly known as UKGrad, Vitae developed the residential GradSchool model over many years and supported the early development of the UWE programme.

Richard Bond says, “We welcome the continuing support of Vitae and HERDA-SW in taking forward our programme as a collaborative venture across the region. There is much to be gained from this sort of experiential development opportunity, not only by bringing together research students from different institutions but from all over the world.”

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