If you've been following Val's blog then you will know that both of us have had a lot of conversations across the University about the potential for a Doctoral College! Those conversations are still underway, and we have a lot more ground to cover, but we are reaching some conclusions along the way about how we might improve our doctoral provision.
One is that the ability to address the doctoral student experience at the institutional level is going to be key to the success of the Doctoral College. That said, there is a need for action in this regard right now, especially as we prepare for a new cohort of doctoral students who will joining the University starting in October. To resolve this dilemma, we have to start to take a stronger co-ordinating role at the Institutional level in advance of the formation of the College. This role will consist of the provision of institution-level activities, including a University handbook for research students, a PGR-specific landing page for new research students and a series of cross-institutional events. We will also be looking at activities taking place at Faculty and Department level to see if they could be better co-ordinated to (1) avoid duplication of effort and information, (2) ensure that there is a minimum of conflict in events timetabling and (3) enable good ideas to be shared and built upon.
A second conclusion is that there is scope to improve the way in which we develop our doctoral provision in relation to the market. In particular we need to improve our knowledge of the global marketplace for doctoral studies and develop mechanisms to identify where and how we might address opportunities for innovative provision. This marketing activity does not necessarily have to be done within the Doctoral College, but it certainly has to address the College issues. It would be natural for this type of marketing to be closely allied to our International activities, as there would surely be significant overlap in interests.
A third thought is around leadership of the Doctoral College. We've known from the start that gaining a strong voice for doctoral students at the University will require an engaged academic lead. As such, we need to spend time now to understand what this role might look like, because it's becoming apparent that appointment of a Lead will be a critical step in the formation of the College. In one sense, defining the College will help to define the role, but on the other hand, someone taking up such a role may have strong views on how the College should be developed. What is already clear is that College will have to simultaneously face inwards and outwards, upwards and down. It's going to be a lot of fun.