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University Graduate College: Enhancing the experience of Postgraduate Researchers

Case Studies

Phil Roberts

Final year PhD student
School of English, Communication and Philosophy

I completed both my undergraduate and masters degrees at Northumbria University (in Newcastle!), but did not feel that it would be the best place to for me to do a PhD. Northumbria did not have the right research expertise to match where I wanted to go with my PhD research so I decided to enrol on the critical theory programme at Cardiff instead. Cardiff was right for me because the research being undertaken in critical theory, politics and philosophy very closely matched my own interests. I was also very impressed by the friendly and enthusiastic correspondence from the person who was eventually to become my supervisor. Rather than applying directly to the university, I spent some months in contact with my supervisor prior to starting the course, working to refine my initial research ideas into a solid research proposal. Such preparation, and the continued contact with the school throughout the application process, helped me to make the transition from Master student in the North East of England to PhD candidate in the south of Wales with far less difficulty than might be expected.

Having come from a university seemingly focused on undergraduate study (and with postgraduate study leading to a sense of isolation), I was very happy with the communal nature of research at Cardiff. I am in regular contact with my peers (both socially and as part of collaborative projects), and a variety of seminars and workshops provide a valuable opportunity to keep in touch with research at the School and to present my own work in front of others.

As well as conducting my own research I have been encouraged to develop and improve other aspects of my academic portfolio. Over the course of my studies I have organised two successful academic conferences with the support from the University Graduate College, edited a special edition of a major international journal, and have published a number of articles, all of which will help to improve my experience and career prospects when I finish my PhD research.

In addition, I am working as a seminar tutor for a class of first year undergraduates, where I provide support for a series of cultural criticism lectures, teaching key topics and helping them to produce their first university level essays. I find such work to be a valuable source of experience and an important supplement to my research, and would recommend it to anyone. Teaching is daunting at first but you quickly become very comfortable in the role – and helping students to develop from a position that I was in only a few years ago is extremely satisfying.