Most comprehensive survey ever of postgraduate researchers shows high levels of satisfaction

Results from the Higher Education Academy’s Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) 2013 show that postgraduate researchers in the UK can expect a high quality experience, with 82% of students satisfied overall. 

Most comprehensive survey ever of postgraduate researchers shows high levels of satisfaction

The survey has been redeveloped for 2013, giving a much greater focus to researcher development. This is in response to the needs of the sector and in line with the priorities in the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which has been introduced into the sector since PRES was first developed in 2007.

A record 122 institutions took part in the survey this year, and a record 48,401 students, compared to 31,102 in 2011, representing a shift from 32% to 42% of the postgraduate researcher population.

Topline findings reveal:

Supervision: 84% of students agreed, on average, with positive statements about their experience of supervision, making this one of the most positive scales in the survey. However, agreement fell to 73% for the new item 1d, My supervisor/​s help me to identify my training and development needs as a researcher’.

Research culture: Average agreement was 64%, although almost three-quarters (73%) agreed their department provides a good seminar programme. Only 58% agreed they had opportunities to become involved in the wider research community, beyond their department. Although mode of study’ effects were small overall, 53% of part-time students agreed they had frequent opportunities to discuss their research with other research students, compared with 67% of full-time students.

Responsibilities: Average agreement was 78%, with 86% to 89% of students claiming a good understanding of their and their supervisors’ responsibilities. However, only 60% of respondents agreed that their institution values and responds to feedback from research students.

Research skills: This was the highest scoring scale, with average agreement of 85%. There were only very small differences between the research skills experience of those whose training was provided through a doctoral training centre and those whose was not.

Professional development: Average agreement was 76%, with four-fifths of students taking ownership of their own professional development during their programme.

Teaching: Just over half of students (52%) had taught or demonstrated at their institution during their research degree programme, rising to 61% in STEM subject areas. Of those who had experienced teaching or demonstrating, 62% had received formal training and 57% agreed they had received appropriate support and guidance for teaching.

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive, HEA, comments:

The increasing numbers of institutions taking part shows just how much this survey is needed and how much institutions are interested in finding out more about the postgraduate experience. PRES is unique and provides the most comprehensive picture of the postgraduate research experience available — and the new questions on researcher development have further enhanced the survey.’

Results from the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey