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The University of Southampton
Doctoral College

Positive reaction to PGR Wellbeing Project at national conference

Published: 17 June 2016
ARMA conference

Findings and future plans of the PGR Wellbeing Project were well received by a number of UK universities last Tuesday, at the ARMA (Association of Research Managers and Administrators) annual conference.

The conference aims to promote excellence in research management and administration and is attended by hundreds of delegates. Held this year in Birmingham, the conference ran over two days and was based around seven distinct themes, including Postgraduate Research.

Within this category, Dr Emma Waight, of Enabling Services, and Aline Giordano, Doctoral College Manager, delivered their insightful presentation on the PGR Wellbeing Project, titled ‘Enhancing pastoral care at the doctoral level.’

First time shared outside of the University

This is the first time the project has been shared outside of the University and as hoped, the conference provided an opportunity to share principle results and also generate conversation with colleagues across the sector.

Both Emma and Aline were pleased with the response to the session.

Aline said:

“We had a broad range of attendees, from institutions such as LSE, Coventry, Aston, QMUL and Glasgow universities. They were engaged, and on listening to the results of the project, it seemed colleagues in the room felt the situation was similar in their institution.

Attendees liked that we discussed some of our actual solutions and recommendations which have come out of the project, rather than simply focusing on issues concerning PGR wellbeing.”

The project began in January this year and is run in partnership by the Doctoral College and Enabling Services, and supported by Union Southampton. The project was developed to gain an understanding of pastoral needs of the Southampton PGR community.

'PGRs need to be confident that we understand their needs'

Aline added:

“The whole point of our research was to gather robust data and information for the University, to see what we can do and how we can support students more effectively. In Phase 1, we completed a literature review and surveyed students to find out about their needs.

We wanted to take this research to a wider audience as it seems the issues of PGR wellbeing and mental health are endemic. I find, and this was supported by attendees of the session, that in the last four to five years, the issue of PGR stress levels, is an issue that seems to be raised in conversation at most PGR-related events. Somebody always seems to know somebody who is struggling.

As a sector, we need to understand PGRs own specific needs and problems. We need to recognise that these are often different needs to the rest of the University student community.

Ultimately, PGRs need to be confident that we understand their needs and can then work with them to improve their experience.”

The PGR Wellbeing Project is now in Phase 2, which focuses on implementing new and enhanced resources for the Southampton PGR community.

For more information on the PGR Wellbeing Project, please contact Aline Giordano at

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