Sydney increases support for PhD students

13 June 2012

PhD students at the University of Sydney will receive comprehensive training to help them better prepare for their future employment and to support them in necessary skill development during their candidature.

Beginning next year all new PhD candidates will be required to undertake courses to ensure they are competent in a range of skills by the time they graduate.

"Our aim is to help students produce not only high quality theses, but for them to be high quality researchers who can be effective thinkers and communicators outside their particular disciplines," said Professor Marie Carroll, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs).

The University of Sydney's initiative follows the recent publication of the Australian Government's research workforce strategy - Research Skills for an Innovative Future and advice from groups such as the Business Higher Education Round Table (BHERT).

"One of the most sobering pieces of feedback from BHERT was that employers do not regard Australian PhD graduates as being suitable for managerial positions," said Professor Carroll. "They may have expertise in a particular field, but often have very little experience outside that field."

"We are determined that our PhD graduates should have the best possible opportunities to be globally competitive, and have specifically designed this comprehensive program to enable them to properly meet the challenges they will face," Professor Carroll said.

PhD candidates will have the opportunity for career development during their studies. This will involve networking with peers and industry partners, as well as training in issues to do with commercialisation, intellectual property as well as professional conduct and development.

One of the main aims of the Sydney program is that all PhD candidates will be able to demonstrate competency in a range of areas including oral and written communication to both specialist and non expert audiences. As well as developing interdisciplinary perspectives, other key areas of training will cover research integrity, professional responsibility, project management and the sharing of knowledge. It will also cover aspects of professional conduct specific to each discipline such as the ethical use of surveys, animal experimentation and field work.

From 2013 all new PhD candidates will be required to work with their supervisors to identify any gaps they have in the agreed set of competencies and to undertake specific training courses in these areas. Annual assessments will monitor a candidate's progress.

"Future employers, whether in industry, the commercial world or in academia will be confident that someone with a University of Sydney PhD will be a well-rounded, aware and work-ready graduate," said Professor Carroll.

"We are keen to provide a research training experience of world-class quality and to ensure our researchers are supported and fulfilled in their careers."

The University of Sydney PhD training program will commence in the 2013 academic year and a pilot program will run in the second semester of 2012 in the Division of Engineering and IT and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to help identify the particular training needs required.

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