Transcript: Open Day April 2022
Professor Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla >> Good afternoon everyone, I’m going to start this session now. We're still waiting for some participants but I think we have so much to cover that it's better to start on time. My name is Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla, I am the Head of the School for Cross-faculty Studies where we have the Division of Global Sustainable Development and I’ll just be introducing today this Virtual Open Day about our postgraduate programmes in Global Sustainable Development. Before we start, I'd like just to remind you of a couple things about the session. So first of all, the session is being recorded and it will be made available for other Virtual Open Day attendees to view post event. If you were to require captioning this is available upon request. You're welcome to switch on your webcam and audio to ask a question, we'll have a bit of time for Q&A at the end so please feel free to do so, but be aware that if you do so this will be part of the recording. You will also see that there are two different chats, so any comments that you post in the Room Chat throughout the session will appear to all attendees in the session, so please avoid sharing any personal information. Any comments posted in the Q&A chat will only appear to us (to the speaker and the moderator). So please keep the chat respectful and on topic and of course enjoy the session!
I'm going to start presenting you to our team. We have quite a couple of colleagues here with me today. First of all you will see Dr Mandy Sadan, she's an Associate Professor in Global Sustainable Development but also Director of our Graduate Taught Programmes. We would normally have been joined by Dr Nick Bernards, also Associate Professor in GSD and Deputy Director of Graduate Studies, but unfortunately Nick won't be able to join us today. We also have Heather Robson our Postgraduate Programmes’ Manager, who'll be able to answer many of the practical questions that you might have about our degrees. And then we have our lovely students: we have Todd who's one of our postgraduate taught (PGT) students and Grace and Sophie who are two of our PhD students, all of them in GSD of course.
On the right [of the slide] you will see how this session is organised. I’m going to start showing you the video about our PGT programme and then we will move to Mandy who'll take over the session and will start the discussion about ‘what is Global Sustainable Development?’ She'll then explain further what our MASc programme is, and she will cover the MPhil and PhD too today exceptionally, and then say a little bit more about the professional development support that we have within our School. And then, our students will give you some information about the community, the Warwick community, the GSD community, and then as I said there will be a bit of time for you to ask questions in the Q&A session. I'm going to start the video now and then after that Mandy will continue with the slides.
Professor Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla >> When we are looking at addressing complex problems in the world, I always remember this quote from Ban Ki-moon who said: “… we need to stop working in silos and we need to make sure that if we want to make a difference we approach things in a different way.” So the way we work in GSD is that we have members of staff who are coming from very different disciplines and we all constantly work with people from the private sector, from local governments, from NGOs, for example.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> People often ask us why we’ve chosen the MASc (Master of Arts and Science) as the award and it is quite unusual – we’re only one of two institutions in the UK at the moment that offers it. We’ve got to remember that the global challenges framework says that we need to think about how we can encourage interdisciplinarity, so the MASc – by bringing together the Arts, the Humanities, the Social Sciences and the Natural Sciences is really embodying the fact that we are trying to connect all of those fields together.
We’ve got a really unique approach to teaching and learning on this course. We want our students to focus on real-world problems and thinking about how they can help to solve those problems and that involves very practical thinking, very pragmatic approaches. We also insist on a very strong critical and philosophically self-reflective approach to learning as well and we encourage that kind of approach so that our students will emerge as real thought leaders in the context of sustainable development.
A really important part of our programme as well is the rather unique capstone projects that students can undertake which will be in Term 3 and over the summer. We’ve got three routes: The first route is a more traditional academic output where you write an extended academic dissertation. We also have another option where people can do a practice-led output. They might focus not just on an extended piece of writing but also on delivering that as a policy report or something that has a real-word application in a workplace. The third option that we have is a workplace project. This will be supported by our Employability and Placement Manager but it could also take place in an employer that you already know or perhaps you’re already working with them. It’s a time to reflect on an element of your practice or an element of policy within the organisation that you’re working with and hopefully that would be a very good opportunity for people to use the programme in a very focused way to help their career development.
Bodrun Nahar >> My role is to provide employability support to our postgraduate students, supporting them to develop their professional skills throughout their study programme. The support that I will be providing is one-to-one advice and guidance on any matters related to employability. I will also be delivering employability skills sessions to support their professional development. Along with that, the students will get access to employers that I will be building connections with.
Students from the GSD degree programme can actually go into a number of different careers. This can be anything from advocacy work, so international relations, for example. It could be in governance so policy shaping, to in the education sector and that could be at different levels, so secondary right through to university level. They can also go into research, so perhaps working for think tanks or even in academia. There are a number of different career paths open to GSD students – it really does depend on what their interest is. I’m here to support them in helping them to identify that.
Professor Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla >> In GSD, I think we can say we are a community of change makers, and this applies to both our staff and our students. Our staff are involved with research projects which really intend to make a difference to current issues and the big, global challenges that the world is facing today, but our students are also very much similar to us. So we attract students who are passionate about making the world a better place and about protecting our environment and about reducing inequalities.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Well I hope that you found the short video interesting and my role now is really first of all to say thank you to all of you for joining us this afternoon, but to just really talk through initially what this thing is, ‘Global Sustainable Development’, because if you're thinking about coming to join us to do graduate studies whether as a Master's student or as a PhD researcher, why would you want to situate yourself within a department that's focused on Global Sustainable Development? What does this term mean? And I just wonder if I could actually start off by asking those of you who joined us: what do you understand by this term? If any of you would like to put in the Room Chat what you think Global Sustainable Development means, what it is, I’d really welcome that and we can start talking from there. I’ll just give you a couple of minutes if you want to just add something in the chat - any thoughts on this?
Great, okay, thank you very much so ‘seeking to address the 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. Yes, at a very basic level that is what Global Sustainable Development is about, in part. I mean let's think maybe a little bit more broadly about where this term emerged from because one of the things we need to bear in mind is that the idea of sustainable development is emerging all the time, it's changing constantly. It really started to become very much a part of the global discourse from the 1980s onwards, and I’m sure some of you will have heard of the Brundtland Report in 1987, and that set the benchmark for what Global Sustainable Development is. It was laying out in a very clear way that what we need to be conscious of is not just what's going on in the present, but also how in looking forward to the future we protect the future as well, we don't destroy the resources that we have so that the future becomes unliveable for people after us.
So sustainable development obviously has that embedded within it, but the way that we approach it has definitely changed. Initially it was very much focused on a western-driven idea of development and progress and materialism and levelling up in economic terms, but when you get to the early 2000s there was a recognition that maybe there needed to be an expansion of that idea. You then had the Millennium Development Goals being developed and there are seven of those, but those didn't include much related to culture and they didn't include much related to the interactions of human beings and human society with the environment either. So the SDGs were established in 2015 and there is 17 of them and they wanted to try and push this discussion around what sustainable development means even further. There was a recognition that we have to think about human-environment interactions and we have to think about the role of culture, but more importantly we have to rethink the orientation of this as well so that it's not just something that's driven by the industrialised economies, but actually it has to be truly global to think about development in all parts of the world and how we all impact upon each other. This is a really good and important starting point for thinking about what your studies might look like if you join us in GSD.
We are very much interested in the local and the global, we see everything as being interconnected. So many of our staff and our students are really engaged and committed to looking at our local environment - our campus, Coventry, the West Midlands - and thinking ‘what does sustainable development mean in this environment?’, rather than just projecting outwards to places and communities and peoples and cultures that we might be very disconnected from. That's not what we're about at all - we try to see ourselves as all very much part of an integrated whole. So we try to address the global and local and regional and national interactions to think about how we can all build a better future because these are really complicated issues and complicated solutions will have to be found to address them.
That's our starting point really for thinking about Global Sustainable Development and it's very different to some of the other strictly development programmes that you might have encountered which tend to be situated within a particular discipline. Often you find that development programmes are situated in Economics or maybe Politics and International Relations, or they might be in Geography. We see this problem as something that's really cross-cutting across disciplines if we want to find solutions that are sustainable but also really nuanced and embedded in local realities. So this is again a really important part of how we approach things which might be a little bit different to what you see in other centres.
How are we different then? Well, we are challenging the status quo. We're saying that we shouldn't just be focusing upon single disciplines as a solution to all of the problems we face. Of course Economics, for example, is really important, but can you solve the problems that we face just through Economics alone? People are also social actors and cultural actors. We need to understand how people are operating in many different spheres of their life. We also have a very critical relationship with the dominant discourse of sustainable development as well. We don't just say ‘okay our goal is to drive forward top-down approaches’, we're not just focused on large international organisations. As I said, we're very much interested in the local interactions with these vitally important global issues as well, and also critiquing some of the top-down models of development that are sometimes still predominant.
We have a very unique transdisciplinary approach as well. By transdisciplinary, we mean that we want to work within academic contexts but we also want to take our academic learning beyond academic silos. We want to engage with people who are really important local actors and national actors, but who are not embedded in universities: with NGOs, with CSOs, with the cultural sector. How can the work that we do support what they do, and how can we learn from them? This is really what transdisciplinarity is about. All of these objectives that we have are helped by the fact that we're situated not within a single discipline but within the School for Cross-faculty Studies, so we try to reach out across disciplines and promote this very rich interdisciplinary engagement. We are very much a community of change makers as Stéphanie said in her introduction and all of us are very committed to trying to make transformative and tangible change, leading to a better world for all of us.
Let me just talk now a little bit about the MASc degree in particular. Why is it an ‘MASc’? As we explained in the video, what we're trying to do is bring together the Arts, the Sciences, the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences in a conversation with each other. So just calling it an MA and just calling it an MSc isn't really going to cover that. It's a one-year full-time postgraduate taught (PGT) programme and we have a very engaged and dynamic set of people who are supporting the programme overall. As Stéphanie said, usually we work with Dr Nick Bernards who's the Deputy Director of the Graduate Studies (Taught) programme, and he and I have oversight of the academic side of this. We have a really strong team of people behind us as well who work to make all aspects of it work as well as we can. So, Heather who you can see here [on the slide], is our Postgraduate Programmes’ Manager who has a lot of oversight and experience around the technical aspects of your programme and making sure that things run smoothly. We also pay attention to your well-being and your academic interests and broader concerns wherever we can and Dr Xiaodong Lin is the personal tutor for PGT students. If you have questions related to academic issues more broadly then you have somebody who's detached from your everyday studies that you can talk to. Then we also have Lily, our Postgraduate Coordinator, who does a huge amount of work just supporting the technical sides of the programme as well and trying to make sure those run smoothly. We also have Bodrun (who you saw in the video) who supports the work placement programme as well. You can see that we have a lot of people working on the programme who can support it and that also helps to make sure that it runs smoothly.
The programme is really for a very wide variety of people, so you might be wondering ‘is my background or my credentials okay to be joining a programme like this?’ We have students who come to us with prior experience of GSD, as Todd will talk about later when we have his input as a student who came through the undergraduate programme and then now is on the graduate programme. We also have students who come to this entirely new. The main thing is that they're very committed, they're very interested in the subject, and they want to do something tangible to make a difference. We also try to encourage students who have work and life experience related to GSD that's important and valuable, however, it is a very challenging academic programme so we do want to make sure that your life experience is also matched by a strong evidence of an academic background as well, so that when you come in you'll be able to participate fully and get the most from it.
Just a brief word again about the nature of the programme and the teaching and learning and assessment. We do focus a lot on research-led teaching. We have people coming in and discussing case studies who are engaged in active research projects and we try to frame a lot of our understanding of the issues we discuss through empirical examples and then from those we pull out some of the big issues and discuss them. The research-led teaching is very important to us. However, we also see you as researchers and so we want to see how you use your learning to develop your own research agenda and that's something that we take all the way through undergraduate level, all the way through the graduate programme as well - it's really important for us that we see our students also as researchers. It's very problem-based and response-focused learning, so again we would like you to think about real-world problems so that it's authentic and applied and this we feel is the best way to actually think about how we can produce solutions to the problems that we're all facing. For this reason as well, we try to make our assessments authentic and innovative so you get some long-form writing, extended essays, but we do try to ask you to engage in different forms of assessment too. There's quite a lot of reflective work, there are presentations, there are portfolios of responses, even drafting out documentary films and pitching those. There's a wide variety of different assessment types which again is very useful for thinking about transferable skills. What we're trying to do is to provide you with opportunities to show how you're developing your subject expertise and also developing skills that you can take forward either into an academic context or into a work context.
How is the course structured? We don't have a semester structure, but we have a term structure. There are three terms and in the first term there are three core modules and you can see them on the left of this slide here. Leading Transformation in the Anthropocene is about developing your own leadership, ethos, and vision and how you think about the role that you play in creating solutions to problems. Creating Knowledge for Change: Transdisciplinary Approaches and Global Challenges and Transdisciplinary Responses are both about thinking about the methods and approach and knowledge construction, how do we learn about things, how do we think we know about them? Because only if we understand how we think we understand something can we really work out what the solutions might be. Both of those core modules really work together (although they have slightly different approaches) to try and take you forward in terms of your own methodological understanding and just thinking about what you know and how you know it in itself. So those three modules are core which means that you have to take all three of them.
Then when you get into Term Two, there's a little bit more optionality. We concentrate again on supporting the methodological framework of your knowledge as much as we can and you can choose two or even three of our methods-based optional core modules. There's one on Qualitative Approaches to Sustainable Development, one on Quantitative Approaches to Sustainable Development, and then one on Sustainable Development Policy. We see this as really being a methods-driven course because how can you actually put forward policy if you don't understand what policy is, how policy makers work, and how they frame their understanding? That’s a very distinctive area of knowledge that you need to actually grapple with and understand. It's not just a case of throwing out policy documents and expecting people to pick them up and run with them, it's much more complicated. You can select from those modules to strengthen and deepen your methodological approach to your studies. Then we have a range of optional modules that you can select from within GSD and also beyond our School as well if need be. We're going to be running modules on ‘Pandemics’ and there are ‘Sustainable Cities’, there's a whole range of modules that we're introducing at the moment.
Then in Term Three we have our capstone projects and this is a really important part of your course and we have divided them into three main options. We really feel that the Research Project (which many of you may understand as being the dissertation) is a really important capstone to have available to all students. But we are going to think about how from next year onwards we're not going to just restrict it to having a long form 10,000 word dissertation - you might be able to develop a research project in which you have other forms of output as well, thinking about more creative dissertation outputs or research project outputs. This is a model that we've used at undergraduate level that we're bringing through and scaling up and stepping up for our graduate programme. But then we also have two other kinds of opportunities too. The Practice-based Project is really centred around consultancy opportunities, so if you want to develop skills in working within a work context, or an observer of a work environment, or a specific context where advice needs to be given. This can be a very good opportunity to do something that's academic and critical, but also applied. We also have a Workplace Project and this is really open to students who feel that they have an opportunity to get some work experience, they want to frame it academically by writing a report about it and reflecting in particular on the experience for their own academic development. If you have contacts with a workplace or if you feel confident enough to reach out and to set up a Workplace Project and you will obviously have support from our Employability and Placement Manager - we enable you to turn that experience into a capstone as well which is quite distinctive.
I think that's kind of a broad overview of what the MASc programme is about. You can see we try to ensure that it's very broadly-based interdisciplinarity at its core, we’re focusing constantly on real-world issues, problem-based approaches, real-world solutions, and how we can get deep, broad knowledge but also apply it to the issues that are really important. I just want to play a short video, if we may, from one of my colleagues Dr Alastair Smith who's the convener of the core module in Term One called ‘Leading Transformation in the Anthropocene’. Alastair has just put together a very brief overview in which he talks about this module, but he also gives more insight into the programme.
Dr Alastair Smith >> My name is Dr Alastair Smith, I’m the module convener for the ‘Leading Transformation in the Anthropocene’ module and I think it's fair to say that this module is very much focused on us as individuals. We start from the premise that we're all in the shared community because we all feel something that drives us to want to make some kind of positive change in the world, to make the world a better place. However, it's very likely that our lived experience up until now hasn’t provided the sort of space, the time, and the stimulus to really think about this in depth, so the module is designed to engage with this situation. We will start off with some broad scene setting, so discussion about the nature of the Anthropocene and what the likely implications of this are for those people aspiring to be intellectual leaders more than anything, but also then as a result, practical leaders in the sense of driving change.
From there, we move to engage with a bit of formal philosophy so obviously there's a lot of thought over a long period of time as to what is it that constitutes a meaningful human life and existence? What is progress at its very essence? This will be very personal to all of us, depending on our existing experiences and knowledge understanding beliefs, values, etc. So it's all about finding the philosophy that fits with your existing positions.
From here we move to think about the intellectual history and the practical history of efforts to make the world a better place and the development agenda. We examine both the sort of positives that have fallen out of this but also the problematic aspects, the webs and dynamics of power, and maybe some of the difficulties that come with existing concepts and discourses around this. We then move through thinking about our individual personal identities, how the way that we present ourselves and the people that we are might play into the opportunities but also the limitations on our scope to behave as intellectual leaders and change makers.
Towards the end of the module we then start to think about the practical realisation of all these ideas that we have. So thinking about the classic roles of states and markets to bring about change, but also from a progressive point of view, examining alternative methods. Thinking about the value of the role of organisations like Extinction Rebellion, for example, who have a very certain take on the world and have a largely unconventional way of bringing things about (at least unconventional to the majority of us). As a final extension of that, we then think about how we might rethink the nature of human-socio-economic systems in a more holistic sense to bring about positive futures.
Assessment wise, learners produce a personal methodology - so ‘method’ being the things that you are doing and want to do in life to create this progressive change and the ‘ology’ part being embedded in a deep profound intellectual reflection on the philosophical and conceptual underpinnings of your actions and future intentions. This is designed to go beyond being an assessment of your learning and to provide a concrete reference point for you to constantly come back to check in on, to sort of evaluate your actions and your progress. Are you still on trajectory? Is it still coherent with your underlying philosophy and understanding of what progress is? If not, is it the intellectual underpinnings that you want to change or is it the more practical extensions of those?
To return to where I started, this module is very much designed to focus on you, or should I say us, and our internal thoughts and development of ourselves as intellectual leaders able to provide a an island of ideational but then also practical change for the benefit of our world.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> So you've heard something from Alastair there about his vision for the module that he's put together and what we'd like to do now is turn to one of our students who can perhaps talk in a more personal and empirical way about what the experience of studying on the course has been like. I’d like to introduce Todd to you now and could we pass over to you to give us some of your insights about what it's like to study on the MASc course?
Todd Olive, current MASc student >> Yeah absolutely, hello everyone. My name is Todd, I'm a graduate of the undergraduate programme in GSD as well as currently being on the MASc postgraduate taught programme. I’ve been with GSD for a while, been around the block a few times at the University. I thought I’d speak on two specific things and I’ll keep an eye on the Room Chat if anyone has any specific questions afterwards.
Firstly, I really want to emphasise the interdisciplinarity of the way that we do things in GSD, not only in terms of the modules themselves which you've heard about from Mandy and Alastair already (so I won't go into that), but speaking specifically to my cohort that's doing the first year of the MASc this year, just to give you a bit of an idea of the huge variety of ways in which we all approach sustainability challenges, how we think about sustainability. In terms of academic backgrounds, we’ve got a huge variety: there's Economics and Business, Environmental Sciences, Geography, History, Sociology, Politics and so spanning a really wide range all the way from the hard sciences end of the spectrum to the more kind of artsy humanities and social sciences. In terms of professional backgrounds, we've got backgrounds and experience in fashion, in finance and central banks, property and construction, energy… there's a really huge variety in the way that we all think, approach problems, and conceptualise solutions just within the dozen or so of us on the first-year cohort. As a student in that environment, it is a really transformative experience, it really opens you up to other ways of thinking, which I find is a hugely valuable tool when thinking about sustainability.
Beyond that and talking about my holistic experience of the course, for me it's not only about learning about sustainability, about how to research and explore it, how we understand it, how we develop those understandings, it's about personal, professional, and intellectual transformation. It’s about understanding how to think, to act, to lead, in our own kind of holistic normative understandings of what sustainability actually is while also being conscious of our own kind of positionalities, biases, interests and the wider context that we're all living in the Anthropocene in a world that's dominated by human-centric thinking and the consequences of that. It’s a fantastic course, other than specific details which I won't necessarily go into, that's my experience. It’s nothing but positive.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you so much Todd and we'll come back to you later and you can give us some more insight into what it's like being a student in more general terms as well and please do put in the chat, in the Room Chat any questions at all that you have for Todd, Grace or Sophie who you're going to hear from in a minute, because they really have some very good insight and experience which may help you to reflect on whether the courses that we're describing are good for you as well.
Okay, so we'll come back to address questions about the MASc later on when we pull the questions that you may have together, but now I’d like to just turn to discuss the MPhil/PhD in GSD. Now this is a really important new programme for us (as is the MASc obviously). A PhD programme is an opportunity for individuals who really want to do something substantive, that is transformative, over an extended period of time and often realising a very personal set of visions and aspirations for both learning but also the impact of that learning as well. We’re really delighted that we’ve got Sophie and Grace here with us today who'll be able to talk to you in more detail about the programme and their experience.
As with most PhD programmes in the UK, it's a four years full-time programme or up to four years or seven years part-time. It’s a programme that is for potential research leaders who aspire to really transcend disciplinary boundaries, and I think again this is something that's really important to embrace if you're thinking about coming to GSD, and to think through very carefully if you're thinking about doing a PhD in GSD as well, because you might have come from a single discipline background, you might have a lot of experience in Economics or perhaps in History or even perhaps in Cultural Studies, but there's something that has made you think ‘okay I want to apply my knowledge and my learning so that I can have an impact that's related to sustainable development and I need an environment to help me do that’. But it's very important that you recognise that a single disciplinary background will need to be expanded and you need to be open to that. Listening to other people, learning from other people, because we really want you to think about how lots of disciplines interact with each other and you might have to develop your own skills and understanding to actually realise the ambitious research project that you have in mind.
If you're thinking that you’re just coming into GSD and replicating a single discipline approach is going to be adequate at PhD level, then perhaps reflect a little bit more on maybe some of the adjustments you need to make to move beyond that single discipline, to work within the kind of environment that we're trying to create which we believe very strongly is vital if we actually want to develop research that is transformative. We can't just work within our single disciplines, we have to be open and engaged, we have to be inquisitive and have inquiring minds about how people learn across a range of different subject areas and how can those things be integrated. We really want to have effect and impact on very complex challenges and so this as I said earlier on is really something that can't be driven just by learning around a single discipline itself.
To facilitate that, we also recognise that the supervision you need is likely to be complex in many respects, that we might have to bring in people with experience from a variety of different areas. There might not be a single supervisor who has all of the knowledge and skills and experience that you might need. So we do tend to emphasise bespoke forms of co-supervision within GSD and that is from within GSD itself but also from the other partner department in our School, which is Liberal Arts, and we also have the Institute for Global Sustainable Development and so we're able to draw on expertise from there. We also look to partner departments around the University so that we can ensure that you have that critical engagement at the right level in the particular focus that you want to bring to your research topic. We also encourage mentoring and engagement with external organisations as well so again this is very much part of our transdisciplinary approach to GSD.
This also impacts on the kind of training that you have as well. If any of you who are thinking about doing a PhD have been looking at other courses, then you're probably aware that there's always a research methods course that is usually undertaken in the first year and we also have to emphasise research methods within your training of the first year. But it's a slightly different approach that we have because we're not trying to train you within a single discipline. So for example, my PhD was in History so it's quite straightforward for me to go into a research methods class that was focused on the discipline of History. We’re not offering just a single disciplinary approach: we recognise that you will have your own project, it will have its own orientations, and that you will need more of a bespoke training environment. We do try to encourage our PhD researchers to access training around the University as well that's appropriate for them, while we try to provide training around the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach in making that work. We do try to encourage you to take postgraduate modules in other departments where that is helpful to support your learning and then you bring it back into your programme. It’s very much focused on a personal development programme and also professional development skills. We try to look at each project individually and think ‘what does this need?’ as much as we can.
You can see the breadth and the scope of the different projects that have come into the department just in the first year [on the slide]. We've got some examples here… We've got a project looking at sustainable diets and child health which looks at policy and how this impacts health inequalities; another student is looking at life experience of Chinese millennials in the UK; measuring the impacts of altering supply chains of critical raw materials; the role of culture in sustainable urbanisation; and women's empowerment and eco-tourism in Malawi. You can see there's a huge range of different approaches and subject areas, but they all have a shared vision about how you can take your learning and apply it to a very important contemporary challenge that needs more than just a single discipline to resolve it. And how can you train yourself up to both learn how to learn and then also learn how to apply your learning so that it creates change.
We're trying to build up a very strong research culture within GSD as well, which you will also contribute to. We have various public lectures that take place and you can see some examples of them here on this slide. We've recently had a public lecture looking at global multiple migrations and class-based mobility capital of elite Chinese gay men. We’ve also got a number of research networks and you can see some of the contributions that have been made by the Oral History Network, for example. So there’s lots of networks and research seminars that you can contribute to and you can also suggest and you can participate and be part of creating that research environment as well. We try not to be incredibly hierarchical about this but to try and make everybody feel that their contribution to how we grow and how our research culture evolves is important from everybody.
We’ve also got a number of teaching opportunities that are growing as our teaching programme also grows, so we're trying to enable more opportunities for our graduate researchers to contribute to some of our undergraduate modules and this is going to expand in coming years as well. So we've got a range of different teaching and research opportunities that are very active within our own department, but of course then you have the whole of the University of Warwick as well which you can draw upon, with a very active Doctoral College and there's many seminars and conferences so you can take that wider environment and bring it back into your learning in GSD which is a very unique environment within the institution.
We also have a number of scholarships which Heather may talk about further later on, but one of the things we are most proud of is the fact that we've been awarded a very important series of scholarships from the Leverhulme Trust, which is the Leverhulme TRANSFORM Doctoral Scholarships Programme. These provide fully-funded four-year studentships for students who want to undertake a PhD in GSD and again the purpose is to work on transdisciplinary projects that address a real-world problem and a sustainability challenge. The entry for that has closed but it will be recurring. So if you're interested in participating in this then applications usually open in January and it's a two-part application process. Again, it just shows that we have a very rich research culture that is emerging within GSD and that we're really flagging the importance of doctoral research within our department and that we have these very prestigious scholarships which act as a badge of the quality of what we're doing as well. For the Leverhulme Programme we have three main research areas, thematic research areas, so if you feel that you have a research idea which might fit into one of these thematic areas then you could think about how you might apply to the programme with a project that fitted in. One is Climate Resilience and Socio-environmental Justice; Sustainable Urbanisation, Health and Well-being; and then the third is Sustainable Economies and the Food-water-energy Nexus. They are very broad in scope and hopefully you would find one that would be resonant for you. However, we also encourage individual projects in the sense that they're things that you personally would like to do but they don't necessarily fit into the research areas. We're quite open to those kinds of applications too. Please do keep an eye on our website and you'll get more information about Leverhulme when the next round comes up.
I think what I would like to do now is really to hand over to Grace and to Sophie who can tell you about their experience of studying for a PhD within GSD and their experience will say far more than I can do. Grace could I perhaps hand over to you and you can tell us about how this year has been going?
Grace, current PhD student >> Yes, thank you Mandy. Hi everyone, as you heard before my name is Grace, I'm a first-year PhD student. I will just say a little bit about my experience being a PhD student in the GSD Department. The first thing I’m going to talk about is the cross-disciplinary nature of the programme, which I have personally benefited so much from. My background is tourism, but then I wanted to do transdisciplinary research in my PhD. At first I had problems trying to identify a good school/department which could help me to achieve my goal in terms of the transdisciplinary nature of research that I’m interested in…
Dr Mandy Sadan >> I think Grace is frozen, oh I think we might have lost Grace for a couple of minutes. Sophie could we perhaps pass over to you and we'll try and bring Grace back in, in a minute?
Sophie, current PhD student >> Yes of course, so hi everyone my name is Sophie and I’m a first year PhD student and my research project was the one that Mandy showed on ‘critical raw materials and electric vehicle batteries’. What drew me to Warwick initially was… I come from a Maths and Engineering background and I really didn't want to do a PhD that just focused on the engineering side of electric vehicles. I really wanted to kind of get that cross-disciplinary nature, especially with something like electric cars - there's so many wider sustainability impacts that I felt like engineering was not ignoring but it wasn't giving me the space to explore them. So that's what initially attracted me to this programme and just to echo things that Mandy was saying: I’ve got supervisors from the Sciences, from the Social Sciences, and I’m also working with the British Geological Survey. There's so much opportunity for collaboration and even though each PhD student is doing something completely different, we still find opportunities to collaborate and support each other which is something that I really value and it's quite nice to have everyone doing something slightly different. I just feel like you learn so much. Something else I want to talk about is the teaching side. I've been really fortunate enough this year to start teaching. We’ve got so many opportunities to teach, I've been teaching first-year students quantitative methods, which is based on my background in Maths but you don't just get thrown in to teach, there's so much support available from not just the department but the School as a whole. I'll pass over to Grace, but only positive things on this course so far.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you so much Sophie, and Grace are you able to join us? How's your connection?
Grace >> I apologise everyone, I don't know why my network is playing up, I hope you can hear me now, okay? So I was talking about the transdisciplinary nature of the programme which is really attractive when it comes to PhD. I also like the way the programme is designed in a way that in the first term we are expected to do a module which we benefit from in terms of the content, but I also value the networking part which is also very important for us as PhD students whereby we are able to network with…
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Poor Grace, I think she's having real connectivity problems. Grace, can you hear us? Okay you’re back.
Grace >> Sorry. So in my case for example, I was able to do some audit modules in the last term which were connected to the research that I’m doing. In terms of research culture, I think Mandy you talked about research culture earlier, I also like that the department is open enough. For example as PhD students we are organising a symposium which we’re expected to have in July which is also I should say it's beneficial to us and I also like the flexibility from the department which gives us a chance especially as students also to explore in terms of research and scholarship. I think for now that's what I can say, thank you.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you so much to the both of you, we'll come back to ask you some more questions in a minute about some of the wider experiences you've had during this year as well because obviously you're all working hard, but you need to also have other activities going on as well and there'll be other things that are really important in your life - that is also important when people are deciding about where they want to come for their graduate studies as well. So thank you for the time being, I'll come back to you shortly.
Okay so just very briefly then, I just wanted to mention again the professional development support that we offer and this is provided by my colleague Bodrun Nahar and she's our Employability and Placement Manager. Bodrun is incredibly busy because she looks after all of the undergraduate programme as well as the graduate students. I think really at graduate level she sees her role as supportive, so she is there to guide people and to give you some really good advice and input into issues that are important in terms of how you translate your experience into transferable skills or pursuing the agenda that you have relating to moving into work, or how you build a life that takes advantage of your academic growth but you can apply it also in a workplace and experience that kind of learning and integrate everything as somebody who's really interested again in making change. So Bodrun has really extensive links with employers across many different sectors and she's there to provide one-to-one personalised support. In particular she helps out on the MASc capstone Workplace Project which I mentioned previously and her role there is really to try and find workplace placements where she can. Although, really if you have a very specific or bespoke interest then you know she will be there to support you as you seek that out as well because of the various limitations that there might be and in terms of matching employers with students and your particular goals. So she's really there to guide you and give you advice in that along those lines and how to do it. Bodrun is a really important asset within our department - it's very rare for departments to have an individual like Bodrun in place who can provide you with that kind of support.
So let's not just talk generally then about the community that we have in GSD. We're really proud of the way that the staff and the student body integrate with each other, and we are very respectful of each other. This last year with the growth of our graduate programmes has actually helped to consolidate that. We’re trying not to create a hierarchy, but rather a flatter structure where we see connections between learning at every stage. We hope that undergraduate students have aspirations to join our graduate programmes. We really value when our graduate students and particularly our PhD researchers participate in the learning that our undergraduates are undertaking as well. This is the kind of community and environment that we want to generate which is very mutually respectful and mutually reinforcing. Our students are incredibly active overall and what I’d like to do now is really to pass back to Todd, Grace, and Sophie. If we perhaps start with Todd for you to talk about your experience of the community within GSD and how this past year has gone? So perhaps Todd if I could pass over to you?
Todd >> Sure of course, so the word's been used a lot already but ‘community’ is absolutely correct. There’s a hugely ‘collegiate’ maybe is a word that I’d use, it's a real… we're a real kind of GSD family-type vibe. Speaking to the Masters cohort, there's a lot of informal support. We do a lot of stuff outside seminars and lectures and things together beyond the specific formal activities - societies and stuff that you see on the screen here. To just pick up on a few of them, up in the top left is the GSD SSLC (SSLC stands for the Student Staff Liaison Committee). It’s not unique to GSD, but it's kind of convened, organised by the Students Union in cooperation with the department. That’s a mechanism for feedback between students and staff, so it's all about improving the course, making sure that everything in GSD is the best that it can be. You see there [on the slide] just cut off in the bottom left, the logo of the GSD Society, who put on academic speaker events often in collaboration with other societies that have sustainability themes at the University. Warwick SEED (Social Economic and Environmental Development), Enactus (who are about sustainable enterprise), then there is Globus (which is a student-run journal for sustainability commentary, exploring topics, discussions, they've recently launched a podcast). We’ve got Warwick Cup on there as well which was a campaign by GSD students University-wide which led to the University introducing a pilot scheme for returnable, reusable cups, so reducing the use of disposable cups on campus. Obviously that was suspended for Covid but I understand there are plans to bring it back. GSD students were pivotal in campaigning for the University to adopt a declaration of a Climate Emergency and a Net Zero carbon target. There's lots and lots of things that GSD students do together both in a formal and an informal capacity. We are a community of change makers which I think Stéphanie said right at the start in the introductory video - this is absolutely the word to use in relation to the department. I don't know if Sophie or Grace have any thoughts to add?
Sophie >> Yes, I can go next. So like I was saying before I feel like even though we're kind of a newly established post-grad department, we are really starting to develop this research culture and just in terms of collaboration there is so many opportunities. I echo everything Todd says. I’d just also like to mention some wider-Warwick things as well. I think there's this assumption that as a post-grad you can't get as involved with the wider-Warwick societies or sports clubs or anything like that but that is not the case. I'm personally involved with quite a few sports clubs and societies, some within GSD some without. Warwick is really well known for having tons of societies, tons of opportunities to get involved, so really like whatever you're interested in there is a society for you. Even if you know maybe you love GSD as a degree but you want to do something else on the side you can still do that. But yeah that's all I would add.
Grace >> Yes I think much has been said already by Sophie, that there are opportunities and also especially specifically for the PhD students there are also some more opportunities through the Library, through the Wolfson Research Exchange whereby I can say that I've also personally benefited from some of those opportunities. So I think Sophie and Todd have already mentioned that there are a wide range of opportunities in terms of community.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you so much to all of you, thank you Todd and Grace and Sophie. I just want to pass over now really to ask Heather, who is our Programme's Manager, if you could perhaps give some of the practical advice and information that our attendees today might need if they're thinking about applying?
Heather Robson >> Yes sure, thank you Mandy. So just to say that for both of our programmes we charge standard Warwick fees, we don't charge a premium rate. We want our courses to be as accessible as they can be to everyone. If you are a Warwick alumnus we give you a 10% discount on your tuition fees and that's for both UK and Overseas tuition fees. We also have some MASc Bursaries on offer, the closing date is coming up quite soon. We've got four bursaries and two are for Home students, two are for Overseas students. These bursaries aren't based on need, they're based on fit to the programme, potential academic excellence, and are awarded on a competitive basis. The form is on our website, it's quite a straightforward form to fill out and there's the option of winning one of those awards to help with the cost of your postgraduate MASc.
With regard to PhD applicants, the best place to look for funding opportunities is the Doctoral College website - they have a listing of all of the scholarships available for PhD funding. As Mandy mentioned earlier, the Leverhulme TRANSFORM Doctoral Scholarships are our main… what most of our PhD students this year are funded by, but we have four others that have funding from various other sources. If you're a Home student, quite a lot of our MASc students help pay for their studies with a postgraduate student loan, so that's also an option in terms of the funding side of things.
Again, with our applications, we use the standard Warwick system which is quite… should be quite user-friendly. For our MASc we ask for an additional statement and there's some guidance on our website saying what we'd like you to include in that statement. It just focuses you and gives us more insight into you, into your fit with the programme, what your aspirations are and whether we can meet those (sort of a two-way process if you like). We also ask for references so it's one reference for the Masters programme and two references for the PhD programme.
In terms of the closing date for applications, it's generally the end of July (especially if you're international - you just need that time to get any visa requirements sorted without it being a very last minute rush to get that all arranged). And really, just if you need any help, if there are any queries, a lot of things are answered on our website. There's a Q&A section which addresses some of the main questions that people might have. But if there's something very specific to you do please get in touch with us, we'll do our best to help you. So hopefully you might be interested to take this further and come and join us next year or the year after! Any questions next?
Dr Mandy Sadan >> That’s right, I think we've just got a couple of contact details there [on the slide] so if you do want to pick up on any of the points that Heather just raised then do get in touch. Thank you Heather so much. Yes and really we just… thank you for your patience and I know there's a lot of information to take in but if you have any questions please do ask away and we'll do our best to answer them for you now, and in particular if you have any questions for Todd, Sophie, or Grace then don't be shy about asking them.
‘What is the next event?’ We do occasionally have or we have had webinars that people can join us for if you have additional questions, those have come up occasionally. So for example if you leave this session and you suddenly think oh I wish I'd asked this or that or the other, then those webinars are an opportunity to come and just listen to what other people are asking as well. I'm not quite sure when the next one is going to take place or what those are going to look like, there isn't… sorry Heather?
Heather >> I’m just going to say that and we also have the opportunity of meeting one-to-one with us. It's usually with myself and one of the academic leaders of the programme. If you have very specific questions, you want to discuss things, we book in 15 to 20 minute one-to-ones. If you want to come to campus as well if you're able to do that, do come to campus and meet us face-to-face if that is an option for you. We're very much hoping to start this up again now that things are opening up a bit more. Let’s have a Teams meeting if you've got a special interest or there’s something that you really want to discuss with us. We're very open to booking that in for you.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Yes thank you Heather, I think really just if you have any questions (I know you asked a specific question about specific events) but you know if you do have queries or questions or anything that you just want clarification around, don't worry about contacting us. Just send us an email - you've got the email address here [on the slide] and we'll try and get back to you as quickly as possible. If there are any other questions, do please pop them in the chat.
I was going to ask Sophie and Grace while people are thinking, how is yours and then Todd also for you, how has your experience of coming into study at PhD level matched your expectations? Because sometimes it's… I think especially when you're going into a PhD it can be quite difficult to imagine what it's going to be like and how has it actually been for you.
Sophie >> Sure, I can go first. I think I don't really know what I was expecting but it's definitely a lot more flexible than I first thought. I think coming from Masters where you have set modules and set deadlines and assignments it's sort of, it's quite scary at first to think you have you know an annual review at the end of Year One and then you submit a thesis in four years. But it just means that your day-to-day is so much more flexible, you can choose the modules and really tailor modules for you. Warwick has a really good programme with the Doctoral College that kind of supports you through like very PhD-specific things such as how to write a literature review, how to write your upgrade documents, but also general kind of like time management skills. You can then pick and choose from what they offer, you can pick and choose from GSD, but you can also you know you have all of the potential modules at Warwick available to you. So definitely a lot more flexible than I was expecting. I’ll hand over to Grace.
Grace >> Thank you, so I think on flexibility I also share the same insights with Sophie. I really didn't know that it was going to be this flexible. For example, I expected that maybe in terms of doing things like ‘you have to do this’, ‘you have to do that’ all the time, but then I’ve noted that there's that kind of culture whereby we also have the freedom to choose what we're supposed to do, but then there's also a lot of guidance in terms of how you go about doing it. So I also like the relationship between the staff and the PhD students. It isn't like more of a student-teacher relationship, but kind of a colleague. Then we also have the freedom to lead and then do some things from our side which I really like. It also helps us to be open-minded and then be able to initiate things. So I like that which I didn't expect, I also liked because at first I thought that maybe you have to do a lot of things yourself but then I also like the support that is there in GSD as well as in the whole University whereby we have a lot of opportunities whereby we can learn some skills, we can develop ourselves in terms of being good researchers, so I really like the support that is there at Warwick and GSD to be specific.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you so much Grace and thank you Sophie, that's really interesting to hear your insights and it's good to hear that this issue of flexibility and kind of individualised approaches is coming through. Todd if you don't mind, we'll just go to the questions in there in the box so we can answer those specifically and then perhaps I’ll come back to you if that's okay?
‘Is it possible to see samples of previous bursary applicants?’ No I'm afraid we wouldn't provide those, has that been addressed already in the chat? Yes so we don't provide that I’m afraid and I think that's pretty standard if you apply for any bursary or scholarship, you wouldn't usually be provided with a sample from the institution. So we're no different to anybody else there. But I think yes as Heather's put here, the questions are quite straightforward - they're not there to trick you, so really just answer them in the most honest and open and reflective way you can and that's really all you need to do. We're not trying to trap anybody or catch you out.
‘Is there the difference between the Practice-based and Workplace capstone projects?’ Okay so with the Practice-based one, really think of this as a consultancy-type project. It doesn't necessarily involve you going into a workplace to work full-time everyday and with a set number of hours and you have to work. What it involves more is it can be connecting up with a partner. Now that partner could be part of Warwick University itself, for example, we've got various initiatives taking place around the University relating to eco-parks and sustainable transport. So it could be actually writing up a project, a consultancy-type project, where you advise about how the sustainability dimensions of that could be improved. Todd I believe that you're thinking of doing the Practice-based one so I bet you might want to give some insight into what you're thinking of doing? And just briefly, the Workplace Project is actually a regular workplace setting where you go in and you do a job and the actual placement itself is where you do a full-time working week within the organisation and that's actually the core of the capstone. For both of them you have to write up a reflective piece of work, so it isn't just about doing the work and then not considering its impact on you. Even with the Workplace one, you have to write up a document where you reflect on the experience of that Workplace Project for your learning in GSD. I hope that clarifies the difference, but Todd would you mind just perhaps explaining a little bit more about what you're thinking of doing?
Todd >> Yes I can do that. So as Mandy says I’m going to be doing a Practice-based project when we go back for Term Three in a couple of weeks. For my project I’m partnering up with the Institute for Economic Development who kind of have a workstream going on at the moment about the future of rural England in terms of how do we provide services, how do we achieve carbon neutrality, how do we make rural areas resilient in kind of a socio-economic sense from global impacts on cities, because in a lot of cases here in the UK and England in particular, the fate, the prosperity of rural areas, is very much tied to cities in a city region type arrangement where there's really strong relationships between the urban and the rural. So my project is going to be working with them, working with their contacts, to put together a position paper, summary paper, on where the discussion around these issues currently sits and sort of the options, the potentialities, the futures that we may be going down as a scoping research project for them if you like. So that's my project.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you Todd, it sounds absolutely fascinating and different again, just picking up on the question, different to a Workplace Project in that I’m assuming you're not going in and working nine to five, five days a week, you structure it in a much more autonomous way where you will give feedback to the organisation and have developed a conversation with them. So I hope that clarifies the question that you had in mind. Are there any other questions? If while you're thinking, if there are oh… all right so just while you're thinking if there are any more questions, Todd could I just ask you what I asked Sophie and Grace, but thinking about coming into the Masters programme? And how do you see the difference between undergraduate and Masters study? Has it matched your expectations or has anything been surprising relating to that?
Todd >> So in many ways out of all the people on the course I'm probably the worst person to ask this question, having grown up in the GSD ecosystem if you like. But I think probably the biggest step up, certainly that I've heard some of my peers talking about, is the (and you've heard Sophie and Grace talk about this already) but it's the flexibility. It's a step up from undergraduate where you're learning about something, about a topic, you're learning I don't know… what the the physical science drivers of climate change are. Suddenly you're translating that into a Masters situation where there's a much stronger emphasis on you as a researcher. So we do a lot of stuff on kind of research design, on ethics, on quantitative methods, on qualitative methods, and all of the modules that we do on specific topics, challenges. There's a really strong element of particularly when it comes to capstone assessments for each of the modules themselves, it's a question of go out and explore a specific issue yourself and say something novel about it. So it's less so your classic undergraduate ‘here's a question answer it’, or ‘take these articles and do a literature review’, that kind of stuff, it's stepping into the shoes of being a researcher really and I think that's the biggest step up. I’ve maybe made it sound a little bit like you’re just thrown in the deep end and left to learn to swim on your own - that's absolutely not the case. GSD are very, very good because it's kind of what we do day in day out at supporting and encouraging and the tutors in that respect are absolutely fantastic, not only for designing assessments that give you the freedom while also being supportive, but in terms of providing that that specific one-to-one support as well.
Dr Mandy Sadan >> Thank you Todd. Do we have any more questions? If we don't have any more questions, then we may close down the session but we're very happy to stay here until all of your questions have been answered. Is there anything finally that any of my colleagues would like to mention, anything that we've overlooked? Okay well I think because there's no more questions coming in, we can finish the session for today. But I will just repeat that please just feel free to contact us if on reflection you feel that there's something that you need further clarification on or that there's a specific issue that you're not sure about. Send us an email and we can reply by email or we can have meetings on Teams or if you're coming to campus we can also meet on campus as well. It's a very important decision when you're choosing your graduate programme, whether that's at Masters level or at PhD level, so it's something you need to reflect on very carefully and so we're very happy to answer all your questions. Thank you for the very positive feedback there in the chat as well. So okay well I hope that you enjoy the rest of your day wherever you are, whether it's morning, afternoon, or evening and thank you very much indeed for giving us your time and for joining us today. A huge thanks to Sophie, Todd, and Grace who I have to tell you they are in the middle of a lot of work at the moment and they've also got very busy family lives and other things that they need to do and we really appreciate that you've taken the time out to join us and tell people about what we're trying to do in GSD and about your own experiences and research too. So thank you everybody and a huge thanks to Heather and also to Jess who's in the background (who you can't see who's helped put everything together) and yes we very much hope that we'll be able to meet many of you in the future and thank you again for joining us. Okay, goodbye.