Graduate School of Biological Sciences Quality Assurance Model for Postgraduate Research Programmes November 2012

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1 Graduate School of Biological Sciences Quality Assurance Model for Postgraduate Research Programmes November ACADEMIC MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE The Graduate School is responsible for ensuring that quality is maintained across the research degree programmes which operate out of the School of Biological Sciences 6 Research Institutes, and in collaboration with 3 Associate Institutes (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Rural University College, the James Hutton Institute). The Graduate School is also the lead partner for the BBSRC funded East of Scotland Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (EASTBIO). Graduate School of Biological Sciences EASTBIO DTP: Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews Darwin-Swann-Rutherford- Waddington Building Complex, King s Buildings Ashworth Laboratories, King s Buildings Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Little France Cell Structural & Molecular Molecular Plant Sciences Evolutionary Immunology & Infection Research Stem Cell Research CMVM Registered students Building complex Research Institute/Programme Associated Institute Collaborative links Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Scottish Rural University College James Hutton Institute The Graduate School has oversight of the following research degree programmes: PhD in Biological Sciences (Cell ) PhD in Biological Sciences (Evolutionary ) PhD in Biological Sciences (Immunology & Infection Research) PhD in Biological Sciences (Molecular Plant Sciences) PhD in Biological Sciences (Stem Cell Research) PhD in Biological Sciences (Structural & Molecular ) The Graduate School has very small numbers of students on the following programmes: MPhil in Biological Sciences (Cell, Animal and Population ) MPhil in Biological Sciences (Cell and Molecular ) MPhil in Biological Sciences (Stem Cell Research) MSc by Research in Biological Sciences (Cell, Animal and Population ) Page 1 of 5

2 MSc by Research in Biological Sciences (Cell and Molecular ) MSc by Research in Biological Sciences (Stem Cell Research) 1.1 ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES The Director of the Graduate School is responsible for leadership of the Graduate School, representation of the School at College level committees and resolution of complaints/appeals/serious progression problems in the Graduate School. Every year the Director of the Graduate School submits data on applications and admissions, as well as an annual review and plan, to the School Executive Committee for discussion. The Institute Postgraduate Advisors (there is a minimum of one advisor per Institute) are responsible for overseeing student recruitment in their Institute, acting as an additional assessor at each key monitoring stage where needed, intervening where there are any problems in student progression and ensuring that the policies and processes set out by the Graduate School Committee are communicated to academic staff in their Institute. Where pastoral or academic problems cannot be resolved at institute level, the Director of the Graduate School will be called upon. Each student has a Thesis Committee which consists of a minimum of three members: principal supervisor, second supervisor and independent senior academic. This committee is responsible for monitoring the progress of the student at each milestone and making recommendations in the case of any delay or problem. The principal supervisor has the main responsibility for ensuring their student s good progress, if need be applying for interruption or extension of studies. 1.2 COMMITTEES / BOARDS The Graduate School Committee meets on a regular basis throughout the academic year. This committee consists of the Director of the Graduate School, the Institute Postgraduate Advisors, and the School s Postgraduate and Research Staff Officer. The committee s remit is to take an overall view of programmes within the Graduate School, developing policy on funding, training and academic standards. The Graduate School Staff Student Liaison Committee meets 2 times a year and consists of a minimum of 8 PhD student representatives (1 per Institute and 1 RBGE, 1 SRUC rep), the Director of the Graduate School and the Postgraduate & Research Staff Officer. The minutes of both meetings are published on the Graduate School Wiki ADMINISTRATION The Graduate School Administrative Team consists of 4 part/full-time administrative staff, one per building complex and one for the Graduate School as a whole, and the Postgraduate and Research Staff Officer. The Postgraduate Administrators are responsible for distributing information to prospective, new and on programme students, collecting feedback forms from each key monitoring stage and collating College Annual reports. The Postgraduate and Research Staff Officer is responsible for keeping the Graduate School Handbook and online materials for students on training and monitoring up to date, and coordinating the training programme for research students and research staff. Page 2 of 5

3 2. STUDENT SUPPORT Induction for new students starts with pre-arrival information sent by ; informing students where to report to, how to matriculate and of initial welcome and induction events in their Institutes, the Graduate School and University. All students are met by the Postgraduate Administrator for their Institute upon arrival to have their attendance confirmed and to be given the Graduate School pack for new students, and any Institute specific information including Health & Safety regulations. All new students are invited to local Institute welcome and induction events, the Graduate School introductory workshop Managing Your PhD (run with the Institute for Academic Development (IAD)) and the University s induction for new postgraduates; those who start later in the academic year are encouraged to attend IAD s regular Getting Started with Your PhD course. Every student is provided with the same checklist as their principal supervisor, so they know what to expect of their first supervisor-student meeting. EASTBIO and Wellcome Trust 1+3 programme students have additional induction events. Supervision of research students is provided mainly by the principal supervisor, but with the support of the thesis committee described above in section 1.1. Students have time alone with the rest of their committee at the first-year review, so they have a formal opportunity to raise any concerns about their supervision at that stage. The Institute Advisor and Graduate School aim to resolve any breakdowns in the supervisor-student relationship as quickly as possible, where necessary (and where staffing allows) allowing students to change supervisor. The thesis committee is the first point of call for students in need of academic or pastoral support; and students also have recourse to their Postgraduate Administrator, their Institute Postgraduate Advisor, the Postgraduate & Research Staff Officer, the Director of Graduate School and University support services such as the Advice Place and Student Counselling Service. All these contacts are kept up-to-date on the Graduate School wiki, and are described at the Managing Your PhD workshop. Where students are based away from Edinburgh temporarily on fieldwork or at an industrial placement, supervisors must maintain regular contact with them, and monitoring milestone reviews are completed by Skype if it is not possible for the committee to meet in person. All students compile a training record as part of the documentation submitted with their 10-month report. The Graduate School holds a file for each student which includes all paperwork from each monitoring milestone and annual report. Information on student support, training and reporting and monitoring is published on the Graduate School Wiki 3. REPORTING AND MONITORING The Graduate School s recruitment policy is to recruit the best students. Supervisors advertise potential projects but are also willing to discuss alternative projects suggested by applicants. UK applications are shortlisted by small committees, to be considered for Research Council and School funded studentships. Panel interviews for these studentships are held in February each year, with later rounds if needed. The Graduate School Committee ranks EU and overseas applications for scholarship funded places; candidates for these scholarships have already been interviewed by an Institute level panel. Applicants who are self-funding or have won an external scholarship are also interviewed by a minimal panel of the potential supervisor and the Institute Postgraduate Advisor or their delegate. Page 3 of 5

4 Monitoring Milestones are recorded by the Postgraduate Administrators and are set out below: Time into PhD Milestone Record 10 weeks 10 week report 10 week report and thesis committee details (School) 10 months 10-month report and 10-month report, training record and feedback (School) interview 1 year Annual Annual (School/College) 2 years Poster Session and Annual 3 years Seminar Talk, Thesis Plan and Annual 4 years + Annual End of studies Viva/Examina tion Poster Feedback (School) and Annual (School/College) Seminar Feedback and Thesis Plan (School) and Annual (School/College) Annual (School/College) Examiners reports (College/School) For MSc by Research/MPhil students we recommend monitoring points (report/presentation/thesis plan) at 3-6-9/ months respectively, with examination by viva for MPhil degrees, and examiners written reports on MSc theses. Monitoring of admissions and submissions is done by the Postgraduate & Research Staff Officer, who also has overall responsibility for compiling the date required for the annual PGR QA reports, PPR and Research Council monitoring. Reasonable adjustments are made wherever possible, in discussion with the Disability Office, for students with special needs, wherever the student will be based throughout their studies. Where necessary, students are encouraged to request interruptions of study or to part-time study through their supervisor. These requests are passed for approval to the Director of the Graduate School and then to the College Office. Attendance monitoring in compliance with UK Border Agency requirements is achieved through annual attendance confirmation by the Postgraduate Administrators and monthly meetings with supervisors; administrators and supervisors report any non-attendance to the Postgraduate & Research Staff Officer. 4. EXTERNAL AUDIT 4.1 EXTERNAL EXAMINERS At the viva, each student has Internal and External Examiners. Examiners are appointed by the principal supervisor, in consultation with the student. Inexperienced examiners are provided with a non-examining chair who can provide advice before and during the viva. The reports from the viva Page 4 of 5

5 are returned to College and then to the School. The Postgraduate and Research Staff Officer keeps these on file and checks the examiners comments to see if any issues of concern have been raised as well as sending copies of reports on to the supervisor. The Institute of Cell hosts a 1+3 model PhD programme funded by the Wellcome Trust, and this has its own external examiner for the MSc stage of the programme. The external examiner in this case continues to monitor the students annually until submission and makes recommendations for the enhancement of the programme where necessary. The Wellcome Trust administrator informs the Graduate School of any recommendations. 4.2 EXTERNAL ACCREDITATION Not applicable. However, our students are funded from a wide variety of sources (including BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC, MRC, the EU, Wellcome Trust and other charities/governments) and we are responsible for ensuring we meet the eligibility and academic requirements of these various funders. 4.3 COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMMES The Graduate School is the lead department for the BBSRC funded East of Scotland Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (EASTBIO), which oversees studentship allocations and manages a training programme for students registered across multiple departments at the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews, with degrees awarded by the institution of the first supervisor. The EASTBIO DTP has an academic management group which meets a minimum of 3 times a year, external advisors who attend one meeting annually, and provides an annual report to the BBSRC each year with a follow up site visit. As well as this formal collaborative partnership, the interdisciplinary nature of much of the research in the School means that many students are co-supervised by supervisors in other departments, other Universities, our Associated Institutes and in industry. In these cases the student and first supervisor must follow our monitoring requirements. Each student, even where based at Associated Institutes, is registered within one of the 6 Research Institute and therefore has a clear link to the processes within that Institute, and the oversight of the Institute Postgraduate Advisor. 5. DEVELOPMENT/ENHANCEMENT The main focus of the Graduate School Committee is to continually improve our postgraduate research provision. The Director of the Graduate School also sits on the School Executive Committee and College Research Training Committee. The Staff-Student Liaison Committee informs Graduate School improvements closely, as do PRES surveys. All new supervisors must have either had prior principal supervisor experience elsewhere or undertake a period of second supervisor experience before they can become a principal supervisor. They must also attend the College of Science and Engineering s Supervisor Briefing, and must attend an update every 5 years. All students are encouraged to take part in IAD s broad range of development courses as well as a core set of recommended Biological Sciences training. Within the School they are also able to get involved in BioDocSoc, the research staff and student society, which organises monthly career development focused events, and the Graduate School offers small funds to support student led initiatives such as retreats and journal clubs. Page 5 of 5

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