Annex 12

The personal and professional development policy for research students

1.    Introduction

1.1.  This policy sets out the University approach for the personal and professional development of research students. It should be read in conjunction with the Regulations and Codes for Research Degree Programmes, which specifies the University requirements in relation to all research students, including on the development of research and other skills.

2.    Definition of personal and professional development

2.1.  Personal and professional development for research students relates to the acquisition and application of skills and competencies required for researchers to realise their potential and to be successful. The approach of the University of Bristol builds on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework, which is a national reference point in the planning, promotion and support of personal and professional development for researchers in higher education.

2.2.  The external context for personal and professional development includes the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchersthe QAA Quality Code and the Roberts’ Review SET for Success. In addition, the Research Council Training Grant Guide specifies that appropriate researcher development training is in place.

2.3.  All training and other activities that contribute to the personal and professional development of research students are covered by this policy. This relates to the University’s Personal and Professional Development Programme and the training provided by faculties and schools, as well as to external training opportunities. Research students may also develop their personal and professional capabilities as an integral part of their studies, such as giving presentations, working in a team, and through other activities.

3.    Principles

3.1.  The University is committed to providing personal and professional development opportunities for research students to complement and build on the research and other skills gained through pursuing their research.

3.2.  Research students are encouraged to take advantage of the range of opportunities offered to them so that they develop identified strengths and competencies in a timely manner as they progress through their research project and prepare for the next steps of their career. 

3.3.  All research students have access to a range of training and developmental activities to become innovative and highly employable researchers. There are a range of opportunities, encompassing the University’s Personal and Professional Development Programme and the more discipline-specific training provided through schools and faculties. In addition, research students have access to shared training via GW4, an alliance between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, plus there may be other external training opportunities. It is recognised that other activities, as well as formal training, may also contribute to a research student’s personal and professional development.

4.    Identifying and recording personal and professional development

4.1.  It is recognised that research students come from a wide range of backgrounds and have a variety of prior experience. Research students therefore require tailored training and development opportunities based on an analysis of their needs, as set out in Section 7 of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes.

4.2.  Supervisors and their students should discuss personal and professional development in their regular meetings. Students may require more guidance and support towards the start of their degree, with the expectation that the student will progressively take ownership of their own personal and professional development. Students are encouraged to seek advice and guidance from other sources in tandem with the supervisory relationship.

4.3.  Personal and professional development is an essential part of creating successful researchers. It is important to acknowledge and discuss the personal and professional development of a research student as part of their annual progress review (see Section 6.2 of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes). Reflections on training completed and other relevant activities undertaken, as well as planning for the future, should form part of the conversation during the annual progress review, forming a holistic evaluation of research progress and of personal and professional development.

4.4.  Research students may wish to keep a portfolio of their skills and experience in relation to their personal and professional development to assist them in reflecting on their progress and to build up a full picture over the course of their studies.