CQ: Another suitcase, another hall”

Chair Quarterly, Written by Prof Mick Fuller, UKCGE Chair 

CQ: Another suitcase, another hall”

Welcome back everyone, I trust everyone, like me, had a nice summer break and enjoyed the lovely UK summer weather. With the new academic year about to begin our Universities are all gearing up for receptions and inductions and setting about welcoming another cohort of students who are about to arrive. I write this having just returned from the annual Vitae conference in Manchester which I arrived at having first attended the Research day at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick as an invited speaker so my first week back was an immediate rush around and the next 3 weeks look very similar – plus ca change”.

As ever the postgraduate scene” is still one of intense debate and there is a lot going on. I’m sure all Universities are presently finalising their applications to HEFCE for the Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme pilot initiative which has just a week to go before the deadline. We all look forward to a raft of innovative projects that will help provide both HEFCE and the sector with a wide range of ideas and opportunities for students to undertake masters qualifications.The timeframe for application preparation has sure been challenging for those of us trying to take a break after an incredibly busy academic year but it is understandable that HEFCE want HEI’s to implement the pilots asap and not lose another academic year in provarication.

The announcement by VITAE that they will be moving to a Members organisation from 2014 onwards and that they will levy a subscription on members from 2015 is the reality of their dwindling funding from RCUK and HEFCE. I suppose it is rather inevitable that this point would be reached and marks the end of more than 10 years of investment in researcher development by the funding agencies. Vitae are seeking comment and feedback on their proposed membership proposals and at £1,500 to £4,000 a year per HEI it will give some cause for a pause for reflection. I’m left wishfully thinking if RCUK and HEFCE will be recycling the researcher development monies into HEI’s or into more studentships? Irrespective of this idle musing, I would encourage individuals and institutions to feed into the consultation process and to help Vitae to shape their future.

Many of us are also keenly awaiting Research Council outcomes on research student applications from AHRC, EPSRC and NERC and are probably reflecting on an intense year of applications last year and hoping for success. It is gratifying to hear from RCUK that the various research councils are harmonising more and more on doctoral training and at least on the common terminology used to describe postgraduate training applications. The documents published by RCUK during August are very helpful indeed and we look forward to the promised combined Guidance Booklet on studentship conditions.

As many of you will have registered, I have been appointed to the EUA-CDE and I look forward to my inaugural steering group meeting in early October. It will be an interesting time to be more intimately involved in Europe with several working groups reporting on doctoral student issues in the near future and the launch of Horizon 2020. I intend to keep followers of UKCGE informed on issues and events as early as I can.

Many of you will have also heard about the Quality in Postgraduate Research conference in Adelaide in April 2014 and may be conteplating an Antipodes adventure next year – it is such a shame that it clashes with the International conference on professional doctorates (ICPD-2014). As soon as I found out about the clash I contacted the organisers and pointed it out but it was already too late to move either conference. I hope that many of you will still be able to commit to ICPD-2014 in Cardiff in April 2014.

UKCGE has a great programme of meetings and events planned for this academic year and I hope that you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities to engage with one or more. I particularly encourage you to put the annual conference in your diaries which we are planning to hold in Dublin this year. With a theme of doctoral structures and doctoral programmes we aim to provide a hotbed of comparisons of structures for the provision of doctoral training with plenty of opportunity for you to hear about the pros and cons of structured programmes from across the UK, Ireland and continental Europe. Structured doctoral training is certainly the flavour of the moment” with funders everywhere and there are definitely lessons to be learnt and challenges of sustainability, make sure you are at the forefront of understanding and comparison by booking early on the conference.

Finally I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a great new academic year and to remind us all that fires of passion for research are well alight in the hearts of our research students and we need to continue to fan those flames and help them fashion a controlled burn”.

Very best wishes

Mick Fuller

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