As many of you will know, our new University Strategy will be firmly focused on establishing Bath as an international leader in graduate education, and on increasing our research power. Our Doctoral students will play a vital part in our achieving those objectives. A good start to the journey is thus to consider whether we are best providing for our doctoral students: whether the structures and processes we have in place right now are as good as they can be.
In considering this question, with the University Executive and in discussions with others, I have come to recognise that we may be better off with an over-arching structure for doctoral provision: a Doctoral College. This would provide a framework within which we can more readily ensure that the academic and administrative processes supporting our doctoral students are as uniformly good as they should be, but would also be a community where students could share their experiences of research and of doctoral study, interact with doctoral students from other disciplines, and learn to think like independent researchers embedded in a broad research environment. Our doctoral students are a vital part of our community and they all deserve to benefit from an outstanding cultural experience, and from top-grade professional and academic support.
It is obvious that this change will be critical if we are to be known for the excellence of our graduate student provision. However, it is also obvious to me that this is closely linked to the ambition to grow our research power. Research students play a vital role: they ask the right questions, think about things deeply, drill deeply into problems to get them resolved, and are creatively engaged with the research process. I believe that it is absolutely essential to get the creation of the Doctoral College right.
I am therefore delighted to be able to tell you that we have appointed a project manager to this project. Val Skinner has been appointed from the 1st April. You may already know Val through her current work in Internal Audit or one of her previous roles at the University. If not, I can assure you that she has wide-ranging and detailed experience of many of the University processes and structures, including those related to research.
We can now start to identify and assess our options. With Val’s help I will be exploring what is already working well and where we can improve. A significant part of that will be gathering the views of those who are involved, as staff of the University and as current students. I’m looking forward to a better understanding of what we do. I am confident that by working together, we will be able to improve our doctoral provision.
I encourage you to please stay engaged with this process by thinking about and talking about how to improve our doctoral provision, and by staying in touch through this blog and other communication channels.