Supporting postgraduate research students with one-of-a-kind resource

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The University of South Wales (USW) Graduate School has created a unique resource for postgraduate research students across the UK, providing everything they need to prepare for their viva exams.

The web page, How to Prepare for the Viva Examination, contains a series of videos and resources for PGR students across the sector, and was developed as part of a collaborative project with University Alliance, Coventry University, the University of Huddersfield and Sheffield Hallam University. These resources are freely available to PGRs across all Higher Education Institutions in the UK.

Funded by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) as part of their Collaborative Enhancement Partnership Projects, the project uses the experience of a network of PGR students, supervisors, academics and researcher development experts developed by the University Alliance coordinated Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA) programme.

The resources aim to enhance students’ learning experience by showcasing real-life experiences and possible viva questions; helping them to shape and develop their preparations, anticipate potential questions and test out possible answers, to help eliminate some of their fears and concerns and give them the best possible chance of success.

Adam Jones, PhD Engineering, KESS student“This will be a huge support to me”

Former soldier Adam Jones is a final year PhD student from Gelli, Rhondda. He is conducting his KESS-funded Electrical Engineering PhD in partnership with Tata Steel.

Adam said: “I will be conducting my Viva for my PhD research within the next year, and the resources could not have come at a better time.

"The resources are informative, and include videos that explain the whole process from appointing the examination team to the viva itself.

“As a postgraduate research student rep, I speak to a lot of research students across the University, and the viva is something that we all dread! A lot of the existing advice on how to prepare has been subjective, dependent on learning experience and the subject area.

"I feel a lot more confident having access to these resources, which have been neatly packaged into a webpage. They will be a huge support to me, and others.”

Llinos Spargo, USW Graduate School Co-ordinator, is leading on the project. She said: “I’ve worked at USW for more than 20 years, and during that time I’ve met so many wonderful postgraduate research students. I love watching them grow from the nervous student at induction to the confident, independent professional researcher you see at Graduation. I really do love my job!  

“This project is all about supporting students through one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives; bringing together real-life experiences of the academic staff who work as PGR supervisors and examiners, other researcher developers but also the PGR students themselves.

“It’s been a busy, enjoyable and yes, at times, stressful seven months but I have loved working with the project team, the QAA team and most importantly the contributors. I’m pleased and proud that we’ve got to this point.”

Professor Martin Steggall, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at USW, added: “This is an excellent resource, with voices from students, examiners and supervisors that provide insightful observations about the viva and how to approach, prepare and defend the work. The tips are practical and all students will draw something positive from watching these short videos.”

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