Preparing Postgraduate Researchers for Life beyond the Degree
Until two decades ago in postgraduate education there was an almost exclusive emphasis within universities worldwide, unfettered by external intervention, on the quality of the research undertaken and its presentation in a thesis or dissertation and in published work. However, the 1990s witnessed an unprecedented rise in concern from associated organizations about the preparedness of postgraduate researchers for work in other institutions within or outside the Higher Education (HE) sector. In particular the transferability of learning and expertise between the academy and professional work has risen in importance as doctoral graduates increase in number, diversity, and career aspirations. Further, the “fitness for purpose” of doctoral education for subsequent work, even for an academic career, and as a contribution to national economies has been questioned, while governments and other funders have increased their influence on the structure and content of research training in the HE sector.
HE institutions globally have developed various forms of “generic” skills training (skills in addition to those required for the immediate project) and engaged with employers to bridge theory-practice gaps, nurturing collaborative projects of varying kinds. The desire that doctoral researchers produce research that has influence beyond a contribution to knowledge has been extended to a more formal requirement for them to demonstrate “employability skills.” Responding to such challenges to traditional postgraduate education and conventional academic practice, many UK universities are in the vanguard of initiatives such as the Skills Agenda and the Public Engagement/Impact Agendas thus providing examples which illustrate the impact on HE staff and students for institutions worldwide. Nevertheless, those working within particular units of institutions are varyingly aware of the strength and pervasiveness of these changes.
KeywordsDoctoral education Discourse and practice Employability skills Researcher developer Research impact Public engagement Collaboration Codes of practice Researcher development framework (RDF)
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