Advice for starting your doctoral study in Bath
Hi everyone, my name is Chao Fang, a third-year doctoral student in Centre for Death and Society (CDAS) in Department of Social and Policy Sciences (SPS). My doctoral research is looking at bereavement in China, the UK and Japan as a means of seeing socio-cultural impacts on individuals’ distressing life events. Apart from engaging in the academic activities, I am also a member of the Doctoral Welcome Team in the Doctoral College as well as the Doctoral Peer Mentoring Scheme Coordinator in Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Here, I want to share some of my experiences of how to work on documents and procedures at the very beginning of a doctoral study. As a mid-term starter who started in the week before the miserable Easter week in 2015, honestly, I was a bit anxious and lost as I was my first time in this country. Coming from another higher education system, I found it was quite a different experience of starting a course in a UK university. In addition to the educational difference, since doctoral students have more flexibility of managing our own time compared with other students, I found it was quite hard to manage my own time. Therefore, I felt unsure about where to start in the initial stage of my study. Fortunately, the programme administrator, my supervisors, the department Director of Studies (DoS) were very helpful and supportive to give me advice, the following is some tips that I found useful in the first months of my doctoral student:
- Have a conversation with your programme administrator. Your programme administrator is a key contact before and right after your arrival at Bath. My administrator provided me a list of regulations and forms that are essential to know in the first months, and also explained me about when and how to complete these forms at different stages of the doctoral study. Here is the link to all the progressing forms for research (doctoral) students in University of Bath http://www.bath.ac.uk/student-records/pgresources/docs.html (see the last section on the page). More specifically, the PGR (Post-Graduate Research) 1, often referred as the “Candidature Form”, is due to the end of your first month for the most full-time doctoral students. Here is a quote on how to complete this form from the webpage above:
Application for Candidature for Higher Degree by Research PGR1 - Students will be notified via their SAMIS intray 3 weeks before submission of the Application for Candidature is due. Students who do not receive this notification should contact the Doctoral College. Guidance about how to use the e-form is available HERE.
Apart from the Candidature Form, you will also receive the PGR progressing forms every six months, please refer to the webpage above to find more information.
- Have regular meetings with your supervisor(s) to update your progress and ask for advice. From my perspective, doing a doctoral study is not only an individual task, but also a co-work with my supervisors. It is useful and important to make sure you get constructive support from your supervisors. For those who are still in the process of deciding or refining their research topics, it is essential to share your ideas with your supervisors regularly, who can help you refine the ideas. Please be aware that everyone has different working and studying style, so please make sure to make a meeting schedule that your supervisor(s) and you both agree.
- Familiarise yourself with the Confirmation (Transfer) procedures. My biggest fear was the Confirmation (some departments may call it transfer), which is an examination remarking the end of the first year (first 18 months for part-time students) of the doctoral study. For what I know so far about the Confirmation, it is a key assessment that will permit to continue your doctoral level study. Here are the things that you will be confirmed by the Progression Board of Examiners:
- been the subject of a satisfactory progress report by their supervisor
- completed sufficient skills training
- submitted a satisfactory report
- passed an oral examination
(Excerpt from the document Ph.D. transfer/confirmation form PGR3)
Please contact your administrators in the Doctoral College for more specific details about what must be included in the confirmation/transfer.
- Attend the Doctoral Skills courses. Your first year is a key year to build up your academic and professional skills for your ongoing research, especially, for preparing your Confirmation. The good news is that the Doctoral College is kindly offering a variety of courses for our doctoral students to enhance our skills not only for the current studies but also for a future career. The link is http://www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/rdu/courses/pgskills/diary/index.html. The courses vary from how to do the literature review to how to manage your time, from data management to teaching skills. I recommend that you take whatever you think is useful for you, especially in your first years, in order to strengthen your skills.
This is all I wish you could hear from me about how to start a doctoral study at the beginning. If you have confronted with any issues and questions, please remember to actively contact with your administrator, supervisor(s) and any staff relevant to your concerns. Please also note that as I am a campus-based full-time student in a Ph.D. course, my studying experiences might be of some differences from studying in a different course, such as part-time, long-distance learning and professional doctors. Therefore, if you have anything unsure, please feel free to check with your administrator, Director of Studies (DoS) in your department or your supervisor(s).