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The University of Southampton
Doctoral College

PGR Wellbeing Project

Led by the Doctoral College and Enabling Services, and funded by the University’s Education Enhancement Fund, the PGR wellbeing project began in January 2016.

The project aimed to investigate the issues contributing to PGR (dis)stress along with current access to, and experiences of, pastoral support particularly in relation to mental health.


Across the Higher Education sector, it has been widely discussed that the number of doctoral researchers reporting mental health issues is on the increase. The pressures of PhD study in itself can have a significant impact on students’ emotional capacity, with some of the most commonly recognised factors including:

  • Feeling of isolation
  • Academic pressures
  • Teaching overload
  • Financial stress
  • Need to balance paid work and studies


The PGR Wellbeing Project has been split into two distinct phases:

Phase 1 consisted of a comprehensive literature review, followed by six focus groups (35 students), supported by Union Southampton, and an online survey (completed by 559 students).

Using the information gained, the Doctoral College and Enabling Services then worked to produce recommendations for future PGR support services.

Phase 2 - We are currently in Phase 2 (May 2016 - ongoing) of the project and are working to implement these recommendations to enhance the University's support services for the PGR community.

Enabling pastoral care at a doctoral level

As part of the Festival of Doctoral Research, Dr Emma Waight (Project Officer) and Aline Giordano (Doctoral College Manager) delivered a presentation which highlighted both the key findings and recommendations from the PGR Wellbeing Project.

You can listen back to the session at any time here or alternatively, you can view the presentation slides below.

Project documents

For further information on the project, please see the following resources:

Executive SummaryProject recommendationsPresentation (as shown above)

Positive reaction to project at national conference

ARMA conference

In June 2016, the PGR Wellbeing Project was shared outside of the University for the first time. 

Presented as part of the annual ARMA conference, which took place in Birmingham amd ran over two days.  Aline Giordano and Dr Emma Waight delivered their presentation, discussing both the project findings and future recommendations.

As hoped, the presentation provided an opportunity to share principle results and also generate conversation with colleagues across the sector.

Find out more about the PGR Wellbeing Project at the ARMA conference.

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.

Further support

The Enabling Services website has advice on managing anxiety, stress and other mental health problems as well as links to useful external resources.

They also run wellbeing workshops and courses throughout the year. If you have an existing mental health condition or experience difficulties during your studies, you should contact Enabling Services as soon as possible to find out how they can support you -

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