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The University of Southampton
Enabling ServicesPart of Student Services

Supporting Postgraduate Students

Enabling Services supports all Postgraduate Taught (PGT) and Postgraduate Research (PGR) students. It doesn't matter whether you are full time, part time or primarily a distance learner. We offer advice and support for students with disabilities, long-term health conditions (including mental health conditions and autism spectrum disorders), and Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. 

Enabling Services supports Postgraduate Students
Enabling Services supports Postgraduate Students

Most people will experience stress or anxiety at some point whilst studying for a research degree. Indeed, one of the reasons many people embark on a PhD is to set themselves a challenge. Unfortunately, this means postgraduate students can be very self-critical because they set themselves high standards and don't want to let themselves or others around them down.

Should you experience difficulties as a postgraduate student, the resources here aim to provide an overview of the kinds of support available to you both inside and outside of the University. To find out more about our own services you can get in touch with us in a few ways, including our daily Drop-In, email, telephone or Live Chat.

We encourage you to tell your supervisor and/or Graduate School if you have a diagnosed mental health condition, disability, or specific learning difficulty so they have the opportunity to discuss the support available at the University and how to access this. 

 

PGR Conversational Group - Starting January 2019

In 2016 the Doctoral College, in partnership with Enabling Services, conducted a research project on postgraduate wellbeing and mental health. Funded by the University's Education Enhancement Fund we wanted to investigate the issues that contribute to PG stress, as well as identifying a list of actions to improve the ways we support PhD students at the University. Over 550 PGR students completed an online survey and from those results we were able to identify common feelings of distress and the factors that contribute.

These were the top ten feelings of distress identified in the suvery, in order of commonality:

• Stress
• Lack of energy or motivation
• Feeling down or unhappy
• Anxiety
• Feelings of depression
• Insomnia or trouble sleeping
• Feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness
• Irratability or anger
• Panic attacks
• Thoughts of self-harm or suidide

It's important to remember that many people experience these feelings at some point in their lives whatever their circumstances, but that there are a range of common factors that contribute to these feelings in the case of PGRs.

Below we have listed some hints & tips on managing common issues related to PGR mental health, workload and research degrees:

Meeting deadlines imposed by others

  • Learn to prioritise tasks and remember you can't always do everything. 
  • Use an app like the Pomodora Technique to manage your productivity. 
  • Professional development courses offered via the Doctoral College can help equip you with techniques for time and project management.  

Research progress/academic difficulties (e.g. struggling to understand a theory or lab experiements going wrong)

  • Remember that all projects experience setbacks. 
  • Ask for help from a peer, supervisor or another academic.  
  • Take some time out to consider how you learn best; are you a visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or tactile learner? Would you be better asking to sit in on lectures or seminars (or talking aloud to yourself!) rather than reading endless papers?
  • If you don't think you are receiving sufficient academic support or guidance you should speak to your supervisory team or head of your departmental Graduate School.

Sense of isolation or loneliness 

  • Be kind to yourself - take time out for a coffee break with friends or peers. 
  • If you work off-campus make an effort to come in for informal gatherings or research seminars, or connect with peers in other ways such as on Twitter with the #PGRSoton hashtag.

Pressure of viva/upgrade

  • If you are prone to anxiety, have a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) or are experiencing any other change in your mental health or wellbeing, talk to your supervisor about how this may affect your performance and what preparations could be made to support you. With your permission, Enabling Services can also liaise with your supervisor or faculty on your behalf in regards to any difficulties you may have. 
  • Ask your supervisory team for a mock viva. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques.

Financial concerns including research funding and living expenses

Relationship with your supervisor/s

  • The Doctoral College offer a course on 'Managing your supervisors'. 
  • Use PGR Tracker to keep a record of your supervisory meetings. If you don't have access to PGR Tracker, email your supervisors after every supervision meeting with a list of actions on both sides in order to manage expectations. 
  • Serious problems can be referred to the University's Mediation service. 
  • The Student's Union Advice Centre is an office independent from the university that can offer impartial or practical advice or support with difficult relationships.

Working/office environment at the University

  • Sitting at a desk all day isn't always healthy - take regular breaks. 
  • Consider where you work best, it may be in the cafe or library rather than at your desk. 
  • Ask your Graduate School Office for a desk-based ergonomic assessment and use a wrist and/or foot rest.

Family and caring commitments 

  • Postgraduate students are welcome to join the University's Parents' and Carers' Network.
  • Postgraduate students are entitled to maternity leave - speak to your Graduate School for more information. 
  • The Early Years Centre on the Highfield Campus provides high quality childcare from birth to five years of age for students, staff and local residents.

Personal relationships

  • Relate offer specialist counselling and advice on relationship and parenting issues. They have local centres in Southampton, Winchester and Hedge End as well as other locations across the UK.

Mental Health

If you have difficulties with low mood, anxiety or depression that last continuously for more than two weeks you may benefit from meeting with a member of the Enabling Services team. We can provide advice, self-help materials and resources, book you an appointment with our First Support team, refer you to other available internal or external support, or simply offer a listening ear. You can also click here for futher information about common mental heatlh problems, including anxiety, panic, stress, depression and eating disorders, as well as links to helpful self-help online resources.

We invite you to contact us by visiting our daily Drop-In, sending an email, giving us a call or using our Live Chat service to discuss support available to you. We also do encourage you share with your supervisor and/or Graduate School if you are experiencing mental health difficulties that persist. All information disclosed to Enabling Services is held confidentially within the University. If we have significant concerns for the safety of yourself or someone else, we may need to discuss these with external services, however we would endeavour to make you aware of this prior to the discussion where possible.

If you are experiencing throughts of self-harm or suicide, you should speak to someone immediately such as your GPthe Samaritans, 999 Emergency Services, or the University's out-of-hours services on +44 (0) 23 8059 2811.

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs)

Specialist support, including reasonable adjustments for vivas, additional exam recommendations and assistive technology software is available for postgraduate students with a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia. In order to access this support send your post-16 diagnostic assessment report to enable@soton.ac.uk to arrange a student support appointment and discuss your support recommendations.

If you received support from Enabling Services during your undergraduate study and you are now moving to postgraduate study, please contact Enabling Services to ensure your support recommendations are updated and adjusted accordingly.

A post-16 diagnostic report may give you access to Disabled Students Allowance and/or reasonable adjustments at university.

If you do not have a post-16 diagnostic assessment report and would like to be tested for a specific learning difficulty, please refer to our How to Access web page.

If you are looking for practical study advice and support, come along to Study Skills Support to meet 1:1 with a specialist practitioner, available:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday (term time) 14:00 - 16:00 and Wednesday (vacation period) 14:00 - 16:00 in the ATS room in Hartley library. No appointment necessary.

Disability Support

We recognise that postgraduate students with disabilities may have additional needs and benefit from assistance to get the most out of their PhD programme. We are experienced in supporting a wide range of disability and health conditions including physical disability, sensory and mobility impairments, Asperger's syndrome and Autism spectrum disorders, and other long-term health conditions such as epilepsy and chronic fatigue. Our support and advice is tailored to meet individual needs and may include mentoring, access to assistive technology, help with local accomomodation and support applying for the Disabled Students Allowance.

Other University Services

As a postgraduate student at the University of Southampton, you also have access to the following services:

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based actions developed by the New Economics Foundation from evidence gathered in the UK government's Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing. The Five Ways to Wellbeing are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. We've put together this resource suggesting steps to meet these five ways as a postgraduate student, improving your work productivity along the way.

We also run Mindful Fridays and plan to introduce workshops aimed specifically at posgraduate students in the near future. Check back to our events page for further information. If you are looking for support for specific learning difficulties, disabilites or mental health concerns, considering visiting the middle tab "Supporting You" to learn more about all the types of support available.

 

5 Ways to Wellbeing

5 Ways to Wellbeing

It's important to be proactive in looking after your wellbeing. The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based actions and ideas to do so.

Looking After Yourself

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