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Professional Development - Frequently Asked Questions

For any specific queries about what may be included into the Professional Development Framework or where activities are best placed, please do not hesitate to contact us via PGRdevelopment@warwick.ac.uk

We are also happy to add responses to any direct queries into this FAQs page.

Why has the Professional Development Framework been created and what is it?
How does this benefit me as a researcher?
What is expected of me as a Doctoral student?
What are the six themes?
What is expected of me as a non-Doctoral student (e.g. MA/MSc by Research)?

Is it mandatory?
Are there any exemptions for students?
What is being monitored?
What activities count towards the minimum requirements?
How does the PGCTSS (Postgraduate Certificate in Transferable Skills in Sciences) fit into the Framework?
What about activities that support my academic research but could also be classed as transferable skills?
What is the Development Needs Analysis and what does it include?
If this is each year, when does that year start?
How many hours in a day?
If I do a three day training course on personal effectiveness, can this be my three days for transferable skills?
Can I do more opportunities than is expected in the Framework?
What about Language Classes?
How do I know which opportunities are best for me?
What role does my supervisor/s have?
Can I include all activities?
What about if I have to travel outside of Warwick?
What if I am a PhD by Publication or PhD by Published works?
Why can’t I do this via Tabula or another system?
Can I book onto any opportunity?
How do I log opportunities that aren’t bookable via the platform?
What about online only courses?
What happens if I don’t have the total number required at the end of each year/at the end of my research?
Where is the digital platform?
How do my credits/hours get added up?
If the course is full, can I be put on a waiting list? What notice period can I expect?
What are the different attendance modes for events/courses?


Why has the Professional Development Framework been created and what is it? 

The PGR Professional Development Framework is a policy approved by Senate based on six key themes, and its structure is intended to introduce coherence across the institution, while recognising disciplinary differences. All postgraduate research students should have fair and comparable access to professional development opportunities that will allow them to:

  • identify and develop specific skills;
  • acquire the knowledge and expertise to achieve standards of excellence in their research;
  • be competitive in their professional life as they move into future employment or study.

The Warwick Framework has been developed in line with the Research Councils UK (RCUK) expectation that all postgraduate research students will have a minimum of ten days of professional development and skills activity, and that the provision of transferable skills should form a fundamental part of doctoral training.

How does this benefit me as a researcher?
By taking steps to identify and develop specific skills, you will acquire the knowledge and expertise to achieve standards of excellence in your research and in your professional life as you move from your postgraduate programme into future employment or study.


The Framework enables you to:
1. take control and be responsible for your own professional development;
2. review your current skills and identify any areas that you may wish to develop for your research and personally;
3. record development activity in one place and be able to easily identify and book onto/or self-certify activities;
4. recognise all the skills you are already acquiring as part of your research programme.


What is expected of me as a Doctoral student?

PGR students are expected to undertake 60 hours (36 hours for part-time) of skills development annually. In your department or for students on a doctoral training programme, completion of all 60 of these hours may be a strict requirement for upgrade to full PhD status and progression in subsequent annual reviews. The hours are seperated into three framework areas: Research Focussed = 30 hours or (18 hours); Transferable Skills = 18 hours or (12 hours ); and Conferencing/Networking = 12 hours or (6 hours). Please see your department or doctoral training programme for specific details of requirements.

Skills development isn’t just about bookable training and other activities at Warwick and further afield can be included e.g.:

  • Training courses;Volunteering (e.g. Staff Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) member);
  • Attending and/or presenting at a conference;
  • Teaching in your specific discipline.

This flexible approach to meeting the 60 (36) hour requirement enables you to demonstrate your professional development journey largely through their normal PhD related activities.

In addition to the 60 (36) hours, PGR students are expected to complete a 300 word reflective report each year reviewing their professional development to date. This may form part of the upgrade/annual progress review or be reviewed in a supervisory meeting. Please see your department or doctoral training programme for specific details.


What are the six themes?
Under the three framework areas are six themes which help determine areas where the skills you are looking for may best fit. These are:

  1. Broadening Your Academic Skills - this theme develops skills that may be directly applied to your individual research projects e.g. digital tools for researchers;
  2. Research Ethics and Governance - this theme also shows you how to effectively navigate academic infrastrucutre to gain the information and data essential to your doctoral studies e.g. research integrity:
  3. Impact and Public Engagement - this theme helps you articulate the social, economic or cultural value of your research to a range of backgrounds e.g. getting published;
  4. Developing Your Academic Profile - this theme encourages you to consider how to engage with a range of academic audiences and how this can affect your research e.g. the confident networker
  5. Personal Effectiveness - this theme creates a safe space, outside your department/CDT, where you can reflect on your strengths and achievements e.g interpersonal skills;
  6. Career Development - this theme equips you for the requirements/realities of academic careers as well as for developing research careers outside academic e.g. essential leadership skills.

What is expected of me as a non-Doctoral student (e.g. MA/MSc by Research)?
As a PGR student you are welcome and able to engage with the professional development opportunities and activities available, and are encouraged to do so as a means of identifying and supporting your skills. It is not mandatory for non-Doctoral students but adopts a best practice methodology for recording and reflecting on your personal and professional development.


Is it mandatory?
There is a strong expectation of engagement with Professional Development Training, especially if you are a Research Council funded student. However there is no consequence to your PhD from Warwick if you don't complete the ten days (or pro-rata for part time PGRs) each year. It is a supporting framework so you can engage with your professional development and skills fairly and equitably.

If you are Research Council funded student we advise checking with your funding body in the first instance.


Are there any exemptions for students?
The University doesn’t have a policy for students to exempt themselves from the Framework, however the framework has been created to support you in your development and has a flexible approach. It shouldn’t be seen as compelling you to attend a series of courses or workshops that you feel do not add value to your research or skills base and therefore your development needs analysis, and communication with your supervisor/s, will allow you to make decisions as to relevant and beneficial activities and opportunities. There may be instances, for example if you already have extensive professional experience, where you may find the Framework useful in the support of recording and reflecting upon past experiences or reviewing additional opportunities.


What is being recorded?
As part of the Framework you have two elements that support your professional development:

1) Your 60 (36) hours of professional development activities (per year);

2) Your annual narrative report of at least 300 words, included in your departmentally noted proceduers.

With the support of Warwick SkillsForge, you will be able to record your activities and have a ‘transcript’ of all the activities that you have booked/uploaded for your framework areas: Research Focussed / Transferable Skills and Conferencing/Networking.
For the 300 word annual report you can use Warwick SkillsForge to record, and create the narrative around your activities.


What activities count towards the minimum requirements? 
We are aware there are opportunities that could fit into one/two or three of the framework areas, or that you may not be sure where to list them. In the first instance, and as this is framework is adaptable, you and your supervisor/s may have a clear idea or wish to discuss further where you think your activity fits best. Alternatively you are more than welcome to email: PGRdevelopment@warwick.ac.uk and we will be able to advise.
All activities should contribute to your academic, personal or professional development under one or more of the six themes within the framework but this requirement is flexible; your choice of activities should be informed by your individual development priorities.

Please be advised that you are also expected to successfully complete any activities you undertake: this means not only attending but also engaging fully and interactively with the events and activities and reflecting on what you have learned.


How does the PGCTSS (Postgraduate Certificate in Transferable Skills in Sciences) fit into the Framework?

It is expected that if you are successfuly completing the PGCTSS transferable skills training and Doctoral Skills Programmes then you will meet, if not exceed, the minimum framework requirement.

If you are registered on the PGCTSS and are successfully completing bookable transferable skills modules, then these will count as part of the minimum requirement of 18 (12) hours transferable skills training of the framework.

If you are completing the Doctoral Skills Programme then these will count within the 30 (18) hours research focussed skills and 12 (6) hours networking/conferencing of the framework.
This does not mean to say that you cannot book onto other training that you would like to/or are advised to do but notes what you are already completing and including it wihin the framework.

Please also see your departmental practices for how the PGCTSS fits with the framework requirement.


What about activities that support my academic research but could also be classed as transferable skills?
We would expect the relevance of the activity, and where it should be placed, to be self-certified by you but may also be open to discussion with your supervisor/s.


What is the Development Needs Analysis and what does it include?
The Development Needs Analysis or DNA is a tool that you can use to self-certify your skill levels in: confidence, priority, and refine your search for training. You can choose to do as many as you wish. As you can also print the DNA, you may find it useful when having skills discussions especially with your supervisor/s.
The DNA is built around the six themes and related skills - there is hover over tool-tip text for each skill but we also have a comprehensive list via: DNA Hover Text  


If this is each year, when does that year start?
We are aware that students commence on research studies throughout the academic year and have developed the platform to recognise your enrolment (start) month rather than the start of the academic year. Changes to dates will happen once you first use SkillsForge (training booking or self-recorded activity. The framework requirements will take into account if you are a full-time fully enrolled researcher or part-time fully enrolled researcher.


How many hours in a day?
The day currently equates to six hours.
Should you undertake an activity which takes up (for example) three hours in one day, this would not equate to one day of development but three hours out of the 18 (12). The new digtial tool, Warwick SkillsForge, will allocate a credit weighting (from the framework) for bookable training and these will already be included.


If I do a three day event, can this be my three days for transferable skills?
To ensure that you are developing and broadening your range of skills, no single event you self-record can normally count for more than 12 hours (two days) of transferable skills, regardless of its actual length. This does not apply to bookable training where more than one skill is identified.
The only exceptions are activities which can be proven to be rich learning experiences that develop skills across several framework themes. Unpaid practical experience can count for no more than 1.5 days in total.


Can I do more opportunities than is expected in the framework?
Yes, you are more than welcome to undertake more activities that you feel will benefit your professional development, however we would advise that you consider your time and the workload of your PhD. You may wish to discuss this with your supervisor/s who will be supporting you in your PhD progress.


What about Language Classes?
1) That support my academic discipline? 2) That are outside on my academic discipline but useful for my research?

Language Classes can be included within the requirements of the framework but it will depend on the scope as to why you are undertaking them as to where they are best placed. If the classes are a) part of an academic course requirement b) used to be able to support research e.g. you need to take a modern language to be able to read texts etc) then we would class this within the five days academic related.

If it is for personal development or to be able to disseminate research e.g. networking/communicating then it may best fit within the broader skills (the three days). This isn’t an exact rule and, as the Framework should be flexible, we would advise that the decision should be between you and your supervisor/s as to where it is best placed.


How do I know which opportunities are best for me?
There are a number of ways you can find out which opportunities may be best for you, or that may help you develop or broaden your skills. You can either:

1) Review opportunities by theme/skills or framework area (this is available in Warwick SkillsForge);

2) Complete a Development Needs Analysis (DNA) – available in Warwick SkillsForge and will allow you the ability to reflect upon your current skills across the six themes and identify any needs;

3) Discuss your professional development with your supervisor/s or the Skills and Careers Service to identify any needs.


What role does my supervisor/s have?
Your relationship with your supervisor/s is key and will underpin the progression of your academic excellence as well as encouraging you to develop your skills. It is expected that as well as supporting your research, your supervisor/s will discuss with you your future plans and signpost any opportunities that may be beneficial.

Supervisor’s will be expected to review annually your Development Needs Analysis (DNA) and Reflective Report, and have the ability to view the activities you undertake (although there may be some exceptions), and for this to inform the annual meeting where you discuss your professional development.


Can I include all activities?
It may be that you decide you would like to undertake an activity or course which doesn’t come under one of the six themes, although these are very varied, and one that is for your own personal satisfaction. If this doesn’t fit directly into the framework requirement, and this is where we would expect the relevance of the activity be open to discussion with your supervisor/s, these activities can still be undertaken and recorded but may not necessarily be included within the 18 (12) hours. Where the number of professional development activities may have a detrimental impact on the successful completion of your PhD in the required timeframe, we would expect your supervisor/s to discuss this with you.


What about if I have to travel outside of Warwick?
As with many opportunities there will be times when you may have to travel a little further afield, for example you may be able to secure funding to present at a conference nationally or internationally. Whilst we would encourage you to take full advantage of professional development activities open to you outside of Warwick, and the time you spend at an event or activity can be included in some form within the framework, we are unfortunately unable to add your travel time.


What if I am a PhD by Publication or PhD by Published works?
Throughout your registration at the University you may find it useful to reflect on your own development and skills, and whilst there is no formal expectation for you to undertake the framework requirement of skills activities, should you wish to engage and record any activity or opportunity as part of your continued research then there is assistance and availability to do so.


Why can’t I do this via Tabula or another system?
When looking to support the institutional policy for Professional Development, we reviewed a number of existing systems for booking activities and unfortunately none were currently fit for purpose nor able to include this within their planned developments. We worked closely when considering technical support and decided on a HE dedicated system already in place that is now Warwick SkillsForge.

Whilst we appreciate that this is another platform within Warwick’s IT structure, it will be a significant improvement to the existing systems in place for you to identify, book, record and reflect upon your professional development. Warwick’s ITS team are supportive of the implementation of Warwick SkillsForge and are also reviewing how this can link to our existing systems.


Can I book onto any opportunity?
There may be some opportunities that are specifically designed for doctoral students (e.g. within doctoral training centres) or students in a particular year (final for writing up), but we will advertise courses available on the home Warwick SkillsForge page. When you log in you will able to see the course available for you to book but should you have any queries then please contact us via: PGRdevelopment@warwick.ac.uk.


How do I log opportunities that aren’t bookable via the platform?
Any activities not bookable via Warwick SkillsForge can be agreed in advance with your supervisor/s or Director of Graduate Studies (or equivalent), but the system and policy have been built to allow you to self-certify at this level of graduate study. For Warwick based courses or external activities that come under this remit, you will still be able to ‘add a new Development Activity’ within Warwick SkillsForge.


What about online only courses?
There are a number of courses available for you to choose which are online or distance learning only. As the framework is designed to ensure an active and engaged learning process, and activities that support and broaden your skills allow you to reflect on what you have learnt, we would expect that online modules or courses that have some form of reflective tool, e.g. a questionnaire to assess your learning/understanding, would be able to be included within the framework requirements.


What happens if I don’t have the total number required at the end of each year/at the end of my research?
The framework has been put in place to be flexible and supportive of your professional development whilst at Warwick. It will not impact on whether you can graduate, and is a tool to ensure you successfully complete your postgraduate research whilst giving you a full range of skills for your future endeavours. If you are not able to complete the total number of framework days each year then we would expect you to discuss this with your supervisor/s with a view that support can be put in place giving you the best possible outcome within the life cycle of your programme.


Where is the digital platform ?
You can access it via the Warwick SkillsForge web page. User guides are also available online: Researchers / Staff.


How do my credits/hours get added up?
Courses that you book onto within Warwick SkillsForge will automatically have a credit weighting and on successful completion of the training, these will be totalled as part of your Completed Activity Log.
Activities that you include yourself will also have credits allocated based on the number of hours you enter and again we would expect this to form part of your discussions with your supervisor/s on professional development.

The key to the Framework credits is as below:

Key


If the course is full, can I be put on a waiting list?
If the Training Provider has included a waiting list as part of the course set up, then yes, if full you could be placed on a waiting list. Currently the waiting lists are on a first come first served basis.

What are the different attendance modes for events/courses?
If you have booked onto an event there are four modes of attendance that you may recieve:
1. A = Attended and you are allocated the full hours/credits;
2. Pa = Part-attended. This is where you are in attendance but may need to leave early e.g. due to illness etc. Part-attended defaults to 0 credits but the facilitator may feel that you have been able to upskill in that time, and give a number of credits up to the maximum;
3. E = Excused. Where you booked onto the course but where unable to cancel and notified the facilitator in advance. Excused is 0 credits;
4. NS = No-Show. Where you booked, did not attend and did not cancel. No-show's have a direct effect not only on the event, but also for those who are on a waiting list. We would be grateful if you could please cancel a booking (where possible) before the event. No-show is 0 credits;

NB. If you arrive at a course overly late or do not actively engage then you may be alllocated Pa status. This is at the facilitators discretion.

We therefore advise when booking onto events that you consider what is best for you in terms of committing your time and when you can attend (where possible) the full event, and also what is best for your own professional development.