Tagged / PhDs

SciTech postgraduate conference and poster presentation

Yesterday the postgraduate researchers in the Faculty of Science and Technology (SciTech) held their annual showcase of their research projects. For the applied sciences students this took the form of 15 minutes presentations and the design, engineering and computing students presented posters.

Former PhD student Kathryn Ross opened the presentations in the Lawrence Lecture Theatre and likened the process of studying for a doctorate to taking part in a 100 mile walk. Kathryn was an inspiration to her peers, showing how hard work and persistence can get results. Her own PhD project investigating the effects of sea-level rise on the avocet population in Poole Harbour yielded new and interesting findings about the birds’ diet.

The subsequent presentations were outstanding, covering a wide variety of topics including how parasites impact eco-systems, volunteer engagement, the process of ageing fish and the spread of the domestic chicken through Europe.

The posters were equally impressive, featuring rescue robots, intelligent call routing and lie detector technology among others.

The work of the Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) postgraduate researchers was strongly represented, including a remarkable project looking at adapted home environments for people living with dementia.

It was wonderful to see the amazing research being carried out by BU’s postgraduate community, with the support of their dedicated supervisors. I have no doubt many of them will make valuable contributions to their field in the future.

And to any postgraduate researchers reading this… If you would like to share your research more widely via the BU website or other channels, please do email me. I’d love to help you with that. Additionally, if you are interested in taking part in any public engagement activity, we have some great opportunities including a tent at Camp Bestival. If you like to find out more please email our Public Engagement Manager Barry Squires.

Planes, trains and automobiles: Some reflections for PhD students and early career researchers

I have recently come to the end of a spate of travelling. I imagine this is true for most colleagues as the conference season tends to occur over the holidays, though I’ve made use of a suitcase much more this summer than in previous years. I share some notes below in case they are of use to PhD students and fellow early career researchers, first in relation to conferences and second in relation to research visits.


This summer I have presented on three occasions:

1)      Chaired and presented a paper within a symposium at the British Society of Gerontology, held in Keele.

2)      Chaired and presented a paper within an invited symposium at the World Congress on Active Ageing, held in Glasgow.

3)      Delivered an invited plenary address at the International Conference on Falls and Postural Stability, held in Leeds.

The benefits of attending and presenting at academic conferences are no doubt widely shared. Though, I’ve been presenting at conferences every year since 2006 and note some reflections:

  • Symposia: For the last couple of years I have organised and chaired symposiums rather than presented individual papers. There are several benefits for doing this over individual papers: it encourages you to network and explore overlapping research interests with colleagues long before the conference; can provide an excuse to get some colleagues together over lunch before / after the symposium to discuss potential collaborations; and at the conference a symposium can draw attention to your particular field of research more conspicuously and so can more easily bring others interested in your area into one room at one time.
  • International conferences: I would encourage colleagues to attend international conferences where possible (and I appreciate it’s easier when they’re held in the UK / Europe). It is only at these events that you find that the particular theory or method you’ve been using in your research is peculiar to the UK, and that other countries use their peculiar theory / method, etc. Meeting colleagues from other countries leads you to discover other theories and methods that may help with your work, or that the approach you’ve been taking may help with others’ work.
  • Unexpected benefits: There will always be some conferences that are more useful than others, but I am always pleasantly reminded of the fact that conferences bring unanticipated benefits. It is the chance encounters – when you sit next to someone waiting for the next session, sit next to someone at lunch, etc., – whereby you discover you are sat next to an international expert you’ve yet to meet or someone with very similar research interests who is a potential collaborator. When I flew home from Glasgow I happened to sit next to an academic who researches safety at work from a human factors approach, and we discovered a great deal of overlap between his research and mine on the prevention of falls in older people.

So, I would encourage attending and presenting at conferences, especially among early career researchers. Where possible, I would also encourage chairing symposia, attending international conferences, and being sociable and meeting and talking with all kinds of people as much as possible as you never know who you’ll meet and how they can help with your work.

Research visits

This summer I have made three visits to research departments:

1)      Delivered an invited presentation to the Health Psychology Research Group of Newcastle University.

2)      Visited colleagues at the OPENspace Research Centre, University of Edinburgh.

3)      Delivered an invited presentation to the Applied Psychology: Life-Management Research Group of the University of Zurich.

The benefits of presenting at research departments are similar to presenting at conferences. Though, as this is a newer experience for me I note some reflections:

  • Face-to-face meetings: While it is true that travelling does take you away from your desk and those tasks that you need to get done by certain deadlines, it is worth the effort. Meeting someone in person creates an opportunity to discuss a whole range of topics and find out information on things that just would not be discussed by email or when you’re on the phone and cannot read the others’ non-verbal communication. It also gives you the opportunity to really assess whether or not you can work with someone: it is not only a colleague’s CV that determines whether you can work together well or not, but whether they like to work in a similar style to you. It is sometimes the latter that takes greater importance when choosing between potential collaborators on grant proposals.
  • A different presentation: Rather than delivering a paper at a conference, at a research department you can give a different kind of presentation. You can discuss some work you are about / intend to do, or throw out problems to discuss with the audience, etc. These kinds of presentations may be more useful in establishing projects for collaboration than simply discussing work you have already completed / published.
  • Dedicated time to discuss an idea: My visit to Edinburgh was useful from this point of view as although I did not give a presentation, I spent about five hours with two professors discussing an idea for a future research project. The time was very useful in moving our discussion on a wider general research problem down to a narrow research question for a project. Likewise, via BUDI (www.bournemouth.ac.uk/dementia-institute), Prof Anthea Innes and I hosted colleagues from around Europe recently to spend an intensive couple of days to work up a grant proposal. These face-to-face meetings are very useful for rapidly moving ideas into concrete plans.

So, I would encourage visiting other university departments and to accept invitations to present to research groups. Such opportunities can provide valuable time and space to develop research ideas and progress collaborations. They can also be quite fun: for my last evening in Zurich I managed to invite myself to a Turkish restaurant with a Turkish group to watch the Turkish football team play Manchester United at old Trafford. It proved to be a different venue for discussing research (which we managed to do) than an office and it was an entertaining football match too!

Samuel Nyman

Psychology Research Centre

Design, Engineering & Computing

Deafness Research UK – PhD Studenship Scheme

Deafness Research UK currently administer over 40 grants, including awards for two and three-year projects, research fellowships, postgraduate studentships, equipment and travel.

Postgraduate Studentships

Deafness Research UK award PhD studentships by annual competitive round. Applications are now open for the 2013 round, with a closing date of Friday 12 October. Download the PhD Studentship application form and download the PhD Studentship guidance notes.

Please view their terms and conditions.

For further information on their grant programme please email research@deafnessresearch.org.uk or telephone 020 7164 2290

 The RKE Operations team can help you with your application.

Gamify your PhD

A new way to communicate cutting-edge research

The ‘Gamify Your PhD’ competition is an exciting new project that puts the researcher in the role of games designer.

The Wellcome Trust is looking for researchers in biomedical sciences or medical humanities to send them game ideas based on their PhD work. They’re also inviting game development teams to join them for a couple of days of game-hacking to transform the best ideas into playable video games.

The best game that comes out of the hack session will receive further backing to polish it for release.

For more information, visit the Wellcome Trust web site.

Action on Hearing Loss – PhD Studentships

Action on Hearing Loss PhD studentship scheme aims to encourage the best students to become involved in hearing, deafness and tinnitus research in the UK.

The projects should bring tangible benefits closer for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have tinnitus.

Summary of grant

  • Deadline: Monday 17 September 2012. This grant round is for PhD Studentships starting in Autumn 2013. 
  • Duration: Three years
  • Eligibility: Students and supervisors must be based at a recognised UK university or research institute

Application procedure

Guidelines and application form – applications must be submitted by the proposed supervisor:

Selection procedure

All proposals are sent to two/three external referees, usually within the UK, who are asked to judge the scientific merit of the project as well as the suitability of the project for a PhD student. These reviews and the original proposals are then rated by our PhD review panel. The top-rated proposals are then funded – they expect to award at least four new PhD studentships per year.

Applicants are notified of the outcome as soon as possible. AHL aim to decide on the successful projects before Christmas each year to allow successful applicants plenty of time to recruit a suitable student.

Action on Hearing Loss PhD review panel

  • Dr Andrew Faulkner, University College London
  • Prof Matthew Holley, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Adrian Rees, University of Newcastle
  • Prof Karen Steel, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

For more information contact:

Biomedical research - beakers.Action on Hearing Loss,
19-23 Featherstone Street,

Telephone: +44(0)20 7296 8013

Email: research@hearingloss.org.uk

 The RKE Operations team can help you with your application.

Alzheimer’s Society calls for Project Grants and PhD Studentship Grants

Project Grants: Next deadline: 29 June 2012

The objective of Alzheimer’s Society Project Grants is to provide funding for significant research projects in the areas of cause, cure, care or prevention of dementia.

Up to £225,000 funding per application may be requested, for periods up to 3 years.

PhD studentship Grants: Deadline: 27 July 2012

The objective of Alzheimer’s Society Project Grants is to provide funding for new PhD studentships in the areas of cause, cure, care or prevention of dementia.

Applications should be made by the prospective supervisor. Up to £80,000 may be requested consisting of a fixed student stipend and a budget for student fees, materials and consumables.

Project grants and PhD grants are open calls, for investigator led proposals across cause, cure, care and prevention of dementia. They wish to highlight that welcome applications for high quality complex interventions in social and psychological care since these are currently underrepresented in their portfolio. Applicants are also advised to look at the document ‘Challenges facing primary carers for people with dementia: Opportunities for research‘, which was prepared in consultation with Research Newwork volunteers.

Alzheimer’s Society now accepts applications for all types of research grants via an online grant application platform. Potential applicants should follow the link to the grants platform and register online to set up an account. Registered applicants will then be able to view and apply to grant rounds that are currently accepting applications. Applications will open approximately three months before the closing date.

The online platform can be accessed at https://grants.alzheimers.org.uk/

Any queries should be directed to grantenquiries@alzheimers.org.uk

All applications submitted to Alzheimer’s Society will be peer reviewed and funding decisions will be made within six months. If you hold a grant from Alzheimer’s Society, then this will eventually be managed through the online platform. If you are interested in partnering with Alzheimer’s Society on a research project, but are not seeking funding from the Society, then please look at the partnership working page.

The RKE Operations team can help you with your application.

PhD Studentship Competition 2012 – 2nd Call for Matched Funded Studentships

Following the successful allocation of 28 PhD Studentships (fully and matched funded) under the 1st call, we are delighted to announce a 2nd call of the competition in which there are 13 matched funded studentships available for candidates starting in October 2012 as outlined below:

  • Matched-funding (50% equivalent to £21k over three years) may come from:
    • Industry/business partners,
    • Government and non-government organizations,
    • Academic Schools,
    • NHS,
    • Research Councils, or
    • Other external bodies. 
  • In seeking match-funding and developing the associated projects applicants are encouraged to avoid a local or regional focus.
  • Priority may be given to applications that involve supervisors from two or more Schools and/or those from early career researchers.
  • All proposals should match clearly to one of the eight BU Research Challenges:
    • Creative & Digital Economies
    • Culture & Society
    • Entrepreneurship & Economic Growth
    • Environmental Change & Biodiversity
    • Green Economy & Sustainability
    • Health, Wellbeing & Aging
    • Leisure & Recreation
    • Technology & Design.
  • Applicants are encouraged to discuss potential applications to this funding strand with their Deputy Dean Research or equivalent within their School.

As with the 1st call, the PhD Studentships will be awarded to Supervisory Teams on the basis of a competitive process across the whole of BU led by Professor Matthew Bennett (PVC Research, Enterprise & Internationalization) and managed by the Graduate School.  

Applications will be assessed and awards made by a cross University Panel consisting of the academic members of UET and independent professoriate. In selecting proposals for funding, emphasis will be placed on the excellence of the research and quality of proposal in the first instance.  Strategic fit with the REF and Societal Impact will also be assessed. The panel will individually score each proposal and meet formally to select the successful projects.  

Only the best projects will be funded and proceed to advert. Full details and criteria are set out in the BU PhD Studentship Competition 2012 – Policy.  Staff are asked to check the eligibility criteria carefully before applying and note the revised time line below.

15 March 2012 Launch 2nd call for internal competition to fund projects
5pm 12 April 2012 Deadline for submission of proposals to the Graduate School
(week 3) April 2012 Panel meeting to review proposals
(week 3) April 2012 Supervisors to be informed of the panel decision
(week 4) April 2012 Launch external competition to find candidates
31 May 2012 Deadline for submission of applications
(week 1&2) June 2012 Interview short listed applicants
(week 3) June 2012 Approval of nominated candidates
(week 3&4) June 2012 Offer letters to nominated candidates
01 October 2012 Studentships Start
30 September 2015 Studentships End

Proposals should be submitted on the PhD Studentship Project Proposal 2012 (Matched Funding) to the Graduate School (graduateschool@bournemouth.ac.uk) no later than 5pm on Thursday 12th April 2012.

All proposals must be completed fully, include all appropriate signatures and be accompanied by a supporting document from the matched funder (letter, email, etc).

Good luck!

BU’s Twin Track Approach to Funding over 100 Doctoral Opportunities

BU is committed as part of Strategic Plan BU2018 to investing in the postgraduate researcher community, increasing student numbers and to create a vibrant and stimulating postgraduate research environment within our key areas of outstanding, or emerging, research strength. During February and March 2012, BU will advertise 100 doctoral opportunities.  This will be guaranteed annually thereafter as part of BU2018. These postgraduate research students will contribute to world-class research in recognized areas of academic excellence and societal impact. BU has a twin track approach to funding doctoral students, the two elements are outlined below :

Fully-funded and Match-funded BU Studentships supported via central investment from RAE QR Funds.  In 2012, we have 44 BU Studentships to allocate and the internal competition for Studentship Projects is currently in process. 

  • Full details can be found here
  • Deadline for internal completion is 29 February 2012, funded projects will be advertised from 1 April 2012 with a closing date for applications of 31 May 2012.
  • Existing and established principles apply to these full time studentships including fee waivers, student bursary (including match-funded student bursary) and bench fees. 
  • Candidates apply to approved/funded projects, with an emphasis on attracting outstanding research talent.  UET and Graduate School approval of all candidates remains in place to secure BU’s investment

Vice-Chancellor Doctoral (Fee Waive) Scholarships provide outstanding students wishing to study with a particular supervisor or research team the opportunity of applying directly and developing a project with the supervisory team. 

  • Full details will be posted here on 1 March 2012.
  • The scheme will open on 1 March 2012 and will roll until 30 June 2012.
  • These Scholarships provide a fee waiver only and will be allocated by School’s to outstanding applicants on the basis of merit. 
  • Projects are developed and approved post-award, and within 3 months of the award, or the offer of a Scholarship will be withdrawn. 
  • They are eligible for full-time study (and exceptionally part-time) by both UK/EU and overseas students, and those with industry/business/government sponsorship are particularly encouraged to apply. 
  • Allocations will be approved by the relevant School Dean, Graduate School and UET to secure BU’s investment. Schools are not required to accept candidates on this scheme if they choose.

Full details of both schemes are available on the BU Research Blog.  If you have any queries, please contact Professor Tiantian Zhang or Dr Fiona Knight  in The Graduate School (graduateschool@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Getting Out There

When I finished my PhD here at BU in 2006, all I had to show for it was…a PhD. There is nothing wrong with that, but my research career only really began when I had completed my doctoral studies; I presented my first international conference paper the following year, and my first journal article finally appeared a year after that.

Now I’m a supervisor of PhD students, and most are already submitting their work to conferences and writing journal articles. This provides a corollary to my own advice and support, and in many ways it also holds me to account. In June, the Times Higher Education reported that:

 “For those hoping to progress to a more stable academic career, the figures make for depressing reading. The NSF estimates that only 26 per cent of recent PhD recipients in the US will secure a tenure-track position. UK postdocs appear to have even more reason for pessimism” (Jump, 2011).

This is rather a bleak assessment, but even so, it is clear that a PhD is no longer the ‘entry level’ route into a research career it once was. At BU, we want our PGRs to be competitive, so it is imperative that our PGRs have a clutch of conference papers, a publication-or-two and a bit of teaching experience behind them on exiting their doctoral research.

This workload must of course be carefully managed, but there is nothing to stop full-time BU PGRs undertaking our P/G Cert in Education Practice. As for publications, there are now hundreds of open access journals online, and even some of the most prestigious ones have themed issues and room for smaller ‘research reports’ on work in progress. All supervisors need to be aware of these places and not leave it for their students to find them.

BU has a postgraduate conference each year, which is an excellent nursery for presenting at national and international conferences later. Most subject areas now have established conferences; the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association has both a national conference and a dedicated postgraduate one – which BU hosted this year. Just last week I met an eminent broadcasting history scholar who praised a BU PGR she had seen at a recent symposium in Winchester. This can only reflect well on us and validates the students’ work.

So if our PhD students finished with…just a PhD, then to an extent we have failed them. Part of being a good PhD supervisor is not just to help bring the project to completion, but to also nurture the beginnings of a research career; the dialogue with ‘outside’ scholarship needs to get going as soon as possible.


Richard Berger – Associate Prof & Head of Postgraduate Research, The Media School.

BU Studentship Competition 2011

We are delighted to announce that up to 20 match-funded studentships are available for October 2011, or January 2012 starts.  These will be allocated to project teams on the basis of a competitive process across the whole of BU led by Professor Matthew Bennett (PVC Research, Enterprise & Internationalisation) and the Graduate School.  Only the best projects will be funded and proceed to advert as set out in the criteria below.  Preference will be given to those projects demonstrating match-funding, however exceptionally innovative or timely projects on a non-applied theme will be considered for full funding.  Applications should be submitted to Fiona Knight (Graduate School Manager) no later than the 13 June 2011.  Staff are asked to check the eligibility criteria carefully before applying.  Good luck!

Studentship Competition: Details & Criteria

  • Preference will be given to matched funded projects
  • Matched-funding (50%; £21k over three years) may come from: industry/business partners, government and non-government organisations, Academic Schools, NHS, Research Councils or other external bodies.  In seeking match-funding and developing the associated projects applicants are encouraged to avoid a local or regional focus.
  • Exceptionally 100% funding may be granted for highly original, timely and non-applied or “blue-sky” research projects especially where they are strategic importance to a research group/centre.
  • All projects should be linked to a REF Unit of Assessment and map on to its strategic goals.  They must be endorsed by the applicants Line Manager and Head of Academic Group or Deputy Dean (Research & Enterprise).
  • All projects should be innovative, novel and applicants are encouraged to appeal to the imagination of the assessment panel.
  • The first supervisor should take responsibility for the applications and ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria set out below.
  • Studentships are offered on a stipend basis for 36 months only, with fees waived for the same period.  Fees will be charged after 36 months.  Schools (or match funder) are responsible for providing each studentship with a guaranteed grant of between £3k and £5k over 36 months for use by the student to support fieldwork, consumables and conference travel. 
  • Normal studentship terms and conditions will apply.
  • Applications will be assessed and awards made by a panel chaired by: Vice Chancellor – Professor John Vinney and consisting of: Deputy Vice Chancellor – Professor Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Pro-Vice Chancellor – Professor Matthew Bennett, and three Senior Grade 2 Professors.  None of the panel members are eligible to apply for support.
  • Feedback on all applications will be provided to encourage proposal development.
  • Once awarded all Studentships will be advertised and subject to a recruitment process managed by the Graduate School.  Note that these funds cannot be used to support BU staff to complete doctoral programmes.


Eligibility Criteria

  • The first supervisor should be the person completing the application and must be a permanent member of academic BU staff.
  • The first supervisor should be an experienced supervisor defined as having successfully supervised an entire cycle of a research degree or successfully completed the full PG CERT Research Degree Supervision.
  • The first supervisor should be research active, and be in consideration for the REF submission.
  • The applicant should be supervising no more than 6 PGR students including this project.
  • All proposals should have a balanced supervisory team.


Indicative Timetable

It is envisaged that projects will start in October 2011 or January 2012, as such

  • It is envisaged that projects will commence either in October 2011 or January 2012.
  • The call for proposals will go live on the 16 May 2011 via the BU Research Blog.
  • In late May 2011, a generic “teaser” advertisement campaign (e.g., banner in THES or Guardian) will run announcing forthcoming studentships at BU encouraging potential applicants to watch the website.
  • The call for proposals will close 11.30 AM on the 13 June 2011.  Submission to the Graduate School Manager who will circulate to the judging panel for consideration.  The panel will score each proposal and meet formally to select the successful projects.  
  • Successful applicants will be informed on the 27 June 2011.  Unsuccessful applicants will be provided with formative feedback in the following two weeks. 
  • Full marketing campaign to be launched on the 27 June and projects advertised externally.
  • Closing date for all student applications will be 31 July 2011 using the standard application form and submitted to the Graduate School.  The Graduate School will manage the recruitment process.
  • Interview days for all October project starts will take place in August.  If an October start is proposed the first supervisor must ensure their availability during August to conduct the interviews.  All interview panels will be consist of a member of the selection panel, first supervisor and a Professor from the host School and will be arranged and managed by the Graduate School.  UEG approval of candidates is required and formal offer letters will be issued by the Graduate School.
  • Interview days for all January project starts will take place in September.  All interview panels will be consist of a member of the selection panel, first supervisor and a Professor from the host School and will be arranged and managed by the Graduate School.  UEG approval of candidates is required and formal offer letters will be issued by the Graduate School.
  • Project Start Date 1; 3 October 2011
  • Project Start Date 2; 9 January 2012


Proposal forms can be downloaded from here or email the Graduate School Manager.

The Graduate School story part I…

Professor John Fletcher founded BU’s Graduate School in 2002. Here he reflects on what life was like before the Graduate School and where we have come to so far…

This blog is a reflection of the BU Graduate School story so far as the first incarnation of the Graduate School makes way for a new vision. When I was asked to set up the Graduate School in November 2002 as 0.2FTE of my time, it was in the wake of two RAEs where BU had been criticised for its lack of institutional support of its PGRs and a stream of complaints from our postgraduate researchers via the Student Union.  The first step was to examine the processes and systems in place across both campuses which quickly revealed that the seven Schools had seven different sets of processes and systems and, even more challenging, it transpired that we had somewhere between 80 and 147 PhD students but nobody quite knew how many.  When looking at the qualification rates at that time BU was only managing to get 11% of its PGRs through within 4 years and some researchers had been registered for more than 13 years!  Eight years on the Graduate School has implemented a Code of Practice and a set of processes that are now common across BU’s six Schools, overseen the introduction of new and innovative doctoral programmes and help improve our qualification rates. The systems that the Graduate School has put in place were deemed to be so effective that members of the panel that came to BU for the institutional audit contacted the VC to ask if they could adopt the BU model for their own institution.  BU was also one of the first handful of universities to introduce a credit bearing training programme for its supervisors, something that is now becoming commonplace across the sector. 

The support provided by the Graduate School to our PGR students has reduced the isolation and the complaints received from PGRs but there is still a long way to go to ensure that we have the correct systems in place to create a best practice research environment.  The introduction of myBUILD as an online research student log and compliance system met with considerable resistance but was innovative at that time and BU was one of the first institutes across the HEI sector to introduce an online log.  The lack of resources has meant that it was not possible to continue to develop the platform as the numbers of researchers increased but even though myBUILD has probably long gone past its “best before” date, it is vastly superior to the varied and somewhat unusual mixture of record keeping that was found in the individual Schools. There is an urgent need to redevelop the online system to make it more intuitive and better integrated with the other platforms across BU.

BU now has well over 300 PhD students and the qualification rates, particularly those of our part-time researchers, is vastly superior to that of 2002.  The Graduate School introduced the Annual PGR Conference which has been enormously successful and was an integral part of the Special Audit of PGR programmes, a working member of the EUA’s programme on improving the quality of doctoral programmes across Europe and was the hub for BU’s application to ESRC and AHRC for doctoral support bids (the former falling foul of the spending cuts but the latter achieving success). It is hoped that Graduate School will move from strength to strength as the importance of the postgraduate segment of our student body becomes more significant as we move forward in the 21st century.

Researchers of the next generation

Prof Holger Schutkowski, Deputy Dean in the School of Applied Sciences, joined BU in January. Here he provides his thoughts on training the next generation of researchers.

In a week’s time I will have the great pleasure to open the School of Applied Sciences’ Postgraduate Research Conference. I was delighted that I was asked to give a keynote, not only because it is a nice way of making myself known to students, since I only arrived at BU in January, but also to share some thoughts about the way we do research. Whilst universities require some original research in the final year undergraduate dissertation, and to a much greater extent in Master’s programmes, it is at PhD level where we expect the clear evidence of intellectual independence, of playful recombination of knowledge, which will allow candidates to go beyond current established borders of thought, and to push scientific progress, something that is always happening at the fringes.

Are we able to give advice? Should we? How can we make this happen? The latest deliberations about the future of current PhD systems and their ever-increasing production of graduates is beginning to raise serious concerns and to elicit calls for reforms, quite drastically, indeed (http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110420/full/472261a.html). Interestingly enough, they emphasise co-operation between institutions (consortia) and cross-disciplinary work.

While the former is already part of the RCUK agenda and is likely to shape the future of PhD funding and recruitment in the UK over the next years, the latter maybe can do with further encouragement. Certainly, one way is to encourage our PhD students to decidedly undertake an interdisciplinary project, which essentially means to embrace the boldness of crossing borders, to work across disciplines and to become acquainted with, adopt and modify interpretive frameworks of other, related or cognate subject areas. Often claimed, rarely done, though; unfortunately a recurring problem and certainly not confined to the fledgling researcher.  Another approach is to ensure the research is firmly embedded into a wider and meaningful context, so that these connections across disciplinary borders can be made and the outcomes of the research become accessible and meaningful to the related or cognate subject areas we are trying to include in the first place.

As it happens, this is what I am going to talk about in my presentation, with case studies that necessitate contextualised analysis to demonstrate how we can bring past societies to life through the study of their skeletal remains. But to come back to the state of PhD systems: cross-disciplinary thinking and context awareness is what we want to instil in the researchers of the next generation. But this also requires the intellectual capacity and preparedness for doing so. The students we graduate need to be skilled and prepared for an increasingly competitive job market.

Prof Holger Schutkowski

Deputy Dean

School of Applied Sciences