University of Edinburgh Hosts Sold-Out Annual Conference

On July 3rd and 4th 2023, we welcomed 120 delegates to our Annual Conference: Ensuring Quality and Delivering Growth in Postgraduate Education. The event – hosted by UKCGE, Trustee Dr Gale Macleod and the University of Edinburgh – considered how the rapid growth in the postgraduate sector should be managed while still maintaining quality. 

The Conference kicked off with a welcome and introduction from Professor Colm Harmon, Vice-Principal Students at the University of Edinburgh, who addressed the delegates over Zoom. Next, we heard from a panel of postgraduate researchers: Karen Gordon (University of Glasgow), Ian Normile (University of Edinburgh) and Maureen O’Callaghan about their experiences as doctoral candidates. 

After these keynotes, delegates chose from a variety of parallel sessions including presentations and debates on themes such as Developing Good Practice in Establishing and Delivering Collaborative Doctoral Awards. 

In the evening, delegates gathered for dinner at Café Andaluz, where Trustee Dr Karen Clegg announced a major partnership between UKCGE and a consortium of universities (led by the University of York) which has ambitions to transform and professionalise research supervision practice across the UK. 

Day 2 began with a keynote presentation on UKCGE’s Associate Research Supervisor Recognition Programme, followed by a suite of workshops including the popular Coffee, Cake and Crystal Maze – How to Create a Sense of Belonging in Postgraduate Community. Another keynote followed (Supporting Scotland’s Postgraduate Researchers) and after lunch delegates again chose between a range of small-group discussions, interspersed with larger presentations. 

Closing remarks

The UKCGE Executive Committee provided reflections on the Conference at a closing plenary: Ensuring Quality and Delivering Growth in Postgraduate Education.

Several chose to highlight the postgraduate panel (pictured above) in their summing-up. Dr Janet Carton remarked: I loved the use of the word pilgrimage’ for a PhD, I think that succinctly explains exactly what’s involved.”

Dr Owen Gower said: We’ve heard from [the postgraduates] that the doctoral journey is a unique one, but we also know that if you can find shared experiences in your community, that supports health and wellbeing.”

Dr Gill Houston also mentioned that the candidate panel as something that has become a feature of UKCGE Conferences, adding: universities used to be quite set in their ways, but now there’s been an enormous shift to thinking about the needs of the candidates”.

Community was another strong theme that emerged from the conference overall. Professor Janet De Wilde reflected on how universities in the UK and internationally are now complex, global institutions: I think we don’t step back and acknowledge that enough – the complexities of the organisations that we’re expecting PGRs to navigate. I think that is why we spend a lot of time talking about community building.”

Dr Gale Macleod echoed these sentiments by asking: Do we have a myth that PGR students are expert and maybe we need to think about how to introduce people into different types of academic communities?”

Finally, Rachel Van Krimpen identified two topics which she had particularly enjoyed, namely: equality, diversity and inclusion, and creativity. It’s been a real delight to feel a sense of creative energy running through everything,” she remarked, and it’s been fantastic to see people sharing all of their new ideas.”