Doctoral College Service Delivery Statement

Following the implementation of the new structure for the Doctoral College, the imperative to have a specific strategic and operational lead with responsibility for postgraduate research students (PGRs) and early career researchers (ECRs) has not changed. These are areas that have previously received little specific attention at a University level and the Doctoral College provides a professional service unit that brings is dedicated to and brings together the elements of provision for PGRs and ECRs that would otherwise be devolved across the other Directorates.

The strategic objectives that underpin the creation of the Doctoral College are summarised as:

  1. To create a sector-leading experience for all PGRs and ECRs
  2. To grow postgraduate research in a sustainable manner aligned to the university's strategic objectives for research
  3. To increase the number of externally-funded studentships through the university's participation in doctoral training partnerships and engagement with other major stakeholders.

This Service Delivery Statement now focusses on the detail of the Doctoral College service delivery model that will support these priorities working in partnership with Academic Colleges and other areas of Professional Services. The document show how the Doctoral College is structured specifically to address the ambitions for improving the PGR and ECR experience and ensuring effective service delivery to students and staff; growing high quality PGR numbers; and strengthening the University’s capacity to secure and deliver externally funded doctoral training programmes. 

The service delivery model identifies clear links to other areas of professional services, most notably Research Services, to ensure that the priorities for PGRs and ECRs are appropriately reflected in these areas.

Please note: For the Doctoral College, “ECR” is defined as Research-only staff on grades E and F. There are some clinical researchers in the Medical School on grade G contracts who also fall under the Doctoral College remit.

Many functions facing ECRs are outside the remit of the Doctoral College and are managed through the usual staff channels. The main role of the Doctoral College in relation to ECRs is around representation and voice, and training and development opportunities.

Achievement of PGR target numbers through the recruitment of high quality students from home and international markets is a key priority for the University. Accountability for performance in this area sits with the Assistant Director (Doctoral College) with responsibility for planning and delivery being within the remit of the PGR Recruitment Manager.

The Doctoral College and CaMs have co-created an annual recruitment marketing plan with clear roles and responsibilities. This covers the following areas of activity:

  • Annual studentship and recruitment campaigns
  • Organisation of and attendance at external and internal PGR recruitment events
  • Communications with and support for current Exeter and INTO students to strengthen the progression pipeline
  • Improvements to the applicant experience
  • Creation of resources to support recruitment in market
  • Conversion activity
  • Development of the web presence to promote the University as a postgraduate research destination

The PGR Recruitment Manager has responsibility for:

  • planning and delivering PGR student recruitment activity that will support the delivery of the institutional strategy and agreed student number targets.
  • monitoring application cycle data and identifying trends or areas of risk
  • working directly with Research and Doctoral College Business Partners and Heads of Communications and Marketing to agree local action plans.
  • identifying opportunities to optimise recruitment of high quality students to doctoral training entities

Support at Academic College level for processing applications and offer making will be provided by administrators working within the PGR Support teams and by the Doctoral Partnerships team where this is relevant. Individuals will have specialist knowledge of their Academic College while being able to work flexibly within and across clusters to manage peaks in workload.

Each Academic College, through their College and Discipline DoPGRs as appropriate, will be asked to agree:

  • the criteria for applications to be passed from Admissions to the appropriate Academic College contact
  • the workflow for applications to reduce handoff points and duplication
  • the rules and timelines against which applications are chased and issued escalated during the offer making process

Research and Doctoral College Business Partners, working with their HoCaMs and Research and Doctoral College Business Partners, should:

  • work with the PGR Recruitment Manager and others to agree stretching but realistic recruitment numbers for PRG that consider the student experience alongside other metrics
  • support the identification of supervisory opportunities within disciplines that have low application numbers and PGRs per FTE
  • ensure that all appropriate academic staff are engaging with the proactive promotion of supervision opportunities for prospective students through, for example, staff profiles
  • identify research stories of interest to the key markets identified for their disciplines and ensure that these are promoted on their web pages.
  • identify academics who are travelling for recruitment of research purposes so they can be provided with resources and appropriate briefings

Senior staff – for full details of the team the DC website

Support for PGR students and the academic staff who work with them will be provided by dedicated PGR Support teams with clearly identified contact points for each Academic College.

In order to provide resilience, share best practice and realise efficiencies in our processes and practices, Academic Colleges will be brought together in two clusters; one facing the three predominantly HASS Colleges (SSIS, Humanities and UEBS) and the other, the three predominantly STEMM Colleges (CLES, CEMPS and UEMS). Although some Academic Colleges have both HASS and STEMM facing disciplines it is not practical to organise PGR Support along discipline lines and there are benefits to clustering Colleges while acknowledging these anomalies.

Staff within each cluster will be co-located in campus-based buildings open to students and staff. Due to pressure on space within academic buildings, these will not necessarily be spaces ‘owned’ by the consistent Academic Colleges but will be located as centrally as possible to facilitate ease of access.

The PGR Support teams will work closely with other parts of the Doctoral College team to ensure that relevant expertise is brought to bear in the delivery of a first class experience. Where appropriate they will also liaise with the Research and Doctoral College Business Partners to address College specific issues or as a route to consult with and inform Academic College management. But, for students and academic staff, and in line with previous service delivery, the PGR Support teams will be the main point of access for the following activities:

PGR Manager

  • Studentship planning
  • Escalation of complex cases of any of the below

PGR Support Officers

  • Induction
  • Annual Monitoring Review
  • Studentship queries
  • Academic complaints and appeals
  • Student cases – with Student Cases in serious cases

PGR Administrators

  • Upgrades
  • Tier 4 Monitoring
  • Fees and finance processes

Changes to course, modes of study and registration status.

PGR Admin – Quality Development Team

  • External examiners fees and payment processing
  • Resubmissions
  • Awards
  • Graduation

The EPSRC CDT Administrative teams will be the first point of contact for CDT students and staff

The CEDAR Administrative team will be the first point of contact for the Psychology Professional Doctorates

Students and supervisors are expected to:

  • understand their responsibilities in line with the Teaching Quality Assurance Manual and local Handbook
  • engage with administrative processes in a timely and constructive manner
  • provide accurate information where this has an impact on student progress or administrative records.

DoPGRs are expected to:

  • understand the range of administrative processes across their College
  • work closely with the PGR Support Managers to identify areas of administrative processes that need improvement and support the development and implementation of solutions that improve the service

Senior staff – for full details of the team the DC website

The Doctoral Partnerships team supports the whole life cycle from bidding through programme management to project closure for externally funded doctoral training programmes that deliver cohorts of students over multiple intakes into the University.

The Doctoral Partnerships team, in collaboration with Research Services, will facilitate the collation of funding intelligence from research councils and other funding bodies relating to postgraduate research (PGR) studentship opportunities for Doctoral Training Entities. They will provide targeted and generic intelligence, advice and guidance on these sources of funding. The team will also provide institutional content for letters of support, strategy and priority statements etc. as part of the bid development, together with advice and bid content on doctoral training.

Working with RS and IIB, Doctoral Partnerships Managers will develop the project plan for bid submission and agree roles, responsibilities and timelines. They will also provide co-ordination to ensure delivery of the project plan. They will also provide advice as appropriate for CASE and iCASE calls.

The team will work with colleagues in other areas of professional services, including Global Partnerships and Academic Partnerships to support activity around other national and international partnerships involving multiple students and cohorts and to successfully secure and implement these programmes. Where international partnerships involve single studentships or single intakes, the quality assurance work will be undertaken by Academic Policy and Standards with advice from the Quality Development team where appropriate.

The team provides:

  • expertise around PGR recruitment and training in line with the priorities of the funder and the University
  • expertise and support for the implementation of cohort programmes (CDTs, DTPs etc) including recruitment processes, governance and operational arrangements.
  • support for the delivery of cohort programmes sitting on operational and management groups as appropriate and as agreed with the lead College and/or funder strategy group.
  • expertise and advice, as detailed above, for one-off awards to be managed by an individual academic.

The team will provide coordination, support and expertise for all relevant reporting requirements including mid-term reviews and project closure reporting.

Senior staff – for full details of the team see the DC website

Our ambition is to provide high quality training and development opportunities that meet the academic and careers needs of PGRs and ECRs and create a vibrant research culture. This responsibility covers PGRs and ECRs across all four campuses as well as provision for distance learners and part time students

The Head of Researcher Development and Research Culture will:

  • engage with academic colleagues to better understand what is needed in both generic and discipline specific development and when and how to best deliver this within the available resources.
  • ensure the views of PGRs and ECRs are central to the programme development
  • to identify and lead the development of opportunities for research training across Academic Colleges.
  • build links with the Exeter Academic, Learning and Development, IIB and Research Services teams to ensure a joined up approach to developing researchers at Exeter.
  • lead the delivery of an action planning around the PRES, CROS and PIRLS surveys

Researcher Development Managers will:

  • lead, develop and manage a high quality programme of events across all campuses.
  • be the first point of contact for academic colleagues
  • ensure effective communication with PGRs and ECRs to promote and evaluate provision

Researcher Development Careers Coach will:

  • lead, develop and manage a high quality programme of careers development events across all campuses
  • provide information and advice on career progression within academia and beyond
  • provide signposting to the wider employability service for resources and opportunities for PGRs

DoPGRs are expected to:

  • contribute proactively to the development of researcher development provision by engaging in reviews and facilitating discussions at Academic College and discipline levels.
  • support the development of approaches to delivering discipline specific training in order to increase capacity through the involvement of academic staff in session design, creation and delivery.

Supervisors and PIs are expected to:

  • have a good understanding of the researcher development provision within their College and the central programme
  • proactively engage with the Training Needs Analysis process for PGRs and PDR process for ECRs to identify appropriate training and development opportunities
  • support PDRs and ECRs in accessing training as part of the regular workload expectations

PGRs and ECRs are expected to:

  • take responsibility for addressing the areas identified as needing development in their Training Needs Analysis or PDR by exploring the University's training opportunities and resources
  • engage proactively in their own career development and to share their skills and knowledge with their peers where appropriate
  • actively contribute to the research culture of the discipline, College and University through engagement in activities beyond their research activities

Senior staff – for full details of the team see the DC website

The Assistant Director (Doctoral College) has the responsibility to ensure that the service strategy, policies and annual operating plans are created to reflect and respond to the priorities of the Academic Colleges. The Assistant Director, working with the Research and Doctoral College Business partners and the Head of Research and Impact (Policy and Planning), will:

  • lead the PRG process for the Doctoral College to ensure the translation of Academic College and student priorities into a robust annual PS Delivery Plan.
  • provide input into PGR numbers for College five year plans at ensure that these are challenging but realistic in the context of the available supply and demand data evidence and appropriate in relation to a high quality student experience and sector benchmarks.

The Research and Doctoral College Business Partners will play a key role in supporting Academic College level strategy, policy and planning. They will:

  • provide Doctoral College strategy advice with supporting analysis for the designated Academic College, working closely with the Associate Deans Research (or equivalents) and Directors of College Operations, ensuring alignment between University and College strategies.
  • provide Doctoral College planning expertise, advice and supporting analysis for the designated Academic College, supporting University planning processes, including undertaking the preparation of all aspects of the business plans relating to the Academic College strategy for Research and Income Generation (including PGR fee income), in consultation with the Associate Deans Research (or equivalents) and Directors of College Operations, and working with colleges in other professional services.
  • ensure that Academic College requirements are clearly identified to inform Doctoral College services, including for research and development management services, training, system, analysis and data needs.

In addition, the cluster PGR Managers and identified PGR Support Officer for each Academic College will work with the appropriate Directors of Postgraduate Research to:

  • support the creation and delivery of the Academic College level ASER action plan escalating issues to the Assistant Director and relevant Business Partner where appropriate
  • undertake data gathering and reporting as appropriate
  • contribute to the setting of 5 year plans and student number targets
  • lead action planning and follow up on outcomes resulting from AMR

The Quality Development team have responsibility for ensuring that our codes of practice and policies are fit for purpose, are compliant with the QAA and our own TQA manual and are understood by academics and PGRs. Working closely with the PGR Support teams through working groups, rapid improvement events, policy and practice reviews, the team will identify and prioritise areas where efficiencies can be realised and risks reduced through bringing greater coherence and consistency across disciplines and Colleges. The team will be the link to the Teaching Quality Assurance and Enhancement Team and will ensure effective working relationships with the Academic Policy and Standards and Student Cases teams as appropriate.

The Quality Development Manager is the first point of contact for:

  • The development, review and improvement of the University’s policies, procedures and working practices which underpin the PGR lifecycle administration and governance
  • Advice on issues relating to:
    • Quality assurance
    • the implementation of codes of practice
    • student record data
    • Annual Student Experience Review processes
    • records of study and administrative processes
    • Staff training in relation to the delivery of Quality Development Teamwork
    • The development of the MyPGR system

In addition, the cluster PGR Managers and identified PGR Support Officer for each Academic College will work with the appropriate Directors of Postgraduate Research to:

  • support the creation and delivery of the Academic College level ASER action plan escalating issues to the Assistant Director and relevant Business Partner where appropriate

DoPGRs will be asked to contribute proactively in the review and development of policies and codes of practice to ensure that they are fit for purpose in the Academic College context.

Supervisors are expected to be familiar with the TQA manual and understand the institutional expectations around supervision, progression and examinations and to seek advice and guidance as appropriate.

Senior staff – for full details of the team see the DC website