General description, objectives and theoretical framework
The FEASST@8 project, funded by the Institute of Learning and Teaching, Learning Enhancement Innovation Grant, addresses the dual need of developing doctoral training and embedding employability skills at doctoral level. In acknowledging that there has been an increased interest both at the EU (EC, 2011, 2013; Blackmore and Burquel, 2012) and UK level (BERA, 2008; ESRC, 2015; RCUK, 2016) doctoral training and career development remain an under-researched and, somehow, overlooked area of pedagogical practice. Current HE sector changes across Europe have highlighted the importance of providing Doctoral students with the opportunity to gain valuable employability skills within an excellent research environment, encapsulated in the Seven Principle for Innovative Doctoral Training (https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/belgium/jobs-funding/doctoral-training-principles). Such principles have been included in the regulatory frameworks for UK universities in the form of both Research Excellence requirements (Stern, 2016) and quality assurance (QAA, 2012), and the incoming Teaching Excellence Framework (HEFCE, 2017). All such documents stress the need to prepare PhD students for a diverse and complex employment scenario through the provision of a more structured, supportive and varied approach to doctoral training programmes.
Specifically to the University of Northampton, a number of major strategic and operational changes in response to external drivers are impacting on both policy developments and their implementations. While strategically the focus has been mainly on ensuring undergraduate student experience and employability, attention has now shifted onto its doctoral students through the application of the University’s ChANGE attributes for Graduate Employability (ILT, 2017).
Besides the institutional strategic goals, the need to give doctoral students the opportunity to gain valuable researcher skills also stems from the specific make-up of the doctoral programme in Education which the lead author is responsible for. Demographically, students in education tend to be teaching professionals undertaking their PhD part-time and as part of their professional development. Despite this advantage, evaluation of a previous project, designed to enable students and staff to learn how to be successful at conferences and from which this project follows, highlighted the need to address some research specific and generic transferability skill gaps (Vitae, 2011), such as management and leadership (Devecchi, 2015a). Additionally, the evaluation of the 7th PhD led Annual Conference (Zhao and Padayattil, 2016) recommended the following:
- To formalise the researcher employability skills gained by participating and organising a conference,
- To develop further advanced academic skills expected of researchers to include digital literacy and competencies.
The project is innovative in ensuring the key success criteria of:
- Feasibility – to test and monitor the efficiency, effectiveness and fairness of both outputs and processes
- Engagement – to include PhD students as co-developers, users and evaluators of learning material and learning activities
- Accessibility –to establish an inclusive community by developing online learning material accessible to all PhD students whatever their status and wherever they are located
- Sustainability –to create resources and schemes of work to ensure the sustainability of the discipline-based development provision
- Scalability – to develop resources and ways of working which build knowledge to be used to further develop a more complete discipline-based development provision
- Transferability –to enable students to gain valuable employability and learning skills which can be transferable across a range of jobs within and beyond academia
The aims are:
- To upskill PhD students working as researcher on the project in the area of project management and leadership, and online delivery
- To extend and enhance the Student Experience beyond our existing Discipline-Based Development (DBD) provision by developing online pedagogical practices meeting the learning outcomes at Level 8;
- To contribute to the development and testing of 21st century employability skills frameworks.
References British Educational Research Association (2008) The 2008 BERA Charter for Research Staff. Macclesfield: BERA Blackmore, M. and Burquel, N. (2012) Erasmus Mundus Quality Assessment 2012. Handbook of Excellence – Doctoral Programmes. http://emqa.eu/Downloads/Handbook%20of%20Excellence%202012%20-%20Doctoral%20-%20Final.pdf Cook-Sather, A. (2002). Authorizing students’ perspectives: Toward trust, dialogue, and change in education. Educational Researcher, 31(4), 3 Cook-Sather, A., & Luz, A. (2015). Greater engagement in and responsibility for learning: What happens when students cross the threshold of student–faculty partnership. Higher Education Research & Development, 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2014.911263 Economic and Social Research Council (2015) ESRC Postgraduate Training and Development Guidelines Second Edition 2015. London: ESRC European Commission. (2011). Supporting growth and jobs an agenda for the modernisation of Europe's higher education systems. http://ec.europa.eu/education/library/policy/modernisation_en.pdf European Commission. (2013). Report to the European commission on improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union Devecchi, C. (2015a) Open spaces, open minds: Universities as drivers of socially responsible learning. Paper presented at ‘The Urban University: Universities as place makers and agents of civic success in medium sized town and cities. Northampton, 2-3 July, 2015 Devecchi, C. (2016) Student Voice in HE: Students’ identity in the changing role of universities. Voices in HE: Students Participation and Institutional Cooperation for Quality Improvement and Innovation in Higher Education, University of Padova, 23 February 2016 Fedeli, M. (2017) Student-Faculty Partnership: The European Framework and the Experience of the Italian Project Employability & Competences, Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education: 20, http://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss20/2 Higher Education Funding for England (2017) Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). http://www.hefce.ac.uk/lt/tef/panel/, accessed 19 January 2017 Institute of Learning and Teaching (2017) ChANGE Framework of Graduate Attributes. Northampton: ILT University of Northampton. https://www.northampton.ac.uk/ilt/current-projects/change/ Patton, M. Q. (1996) Utilization-focused Evaluation. 3rd Ed. London: Sage Quality Assurance Agency (2012) UK Quality Code for Higher Education - Chapter B11: Research degrees. London: QAA Research Council UK (2016) Statement of Expectations for Postgraduate Training. London: RCUK Stern, N. (2016) Building on Success and Learning from Experience. An Independent Review of the Research Excellence Framework. London: BIS. Available from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/541338/ind-16-9-ref-stern-review.pdf Accessed, 19 January 2017 VITAE (2011) The Concordat to Support Career Development of Researchers. London: VITAE Zhao, Y. and Padayattil, J. (2016) Evaluation report of the 7th Annual Research Student Conference 2016. Northampton: School of Education, University of Northampton
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