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The University of Southampton
Student Disability & WellbeingPart of Student Services

Supporting Postgraduate Students

The Student Wellbeing Team and the Student Disability and Inclusion Team 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, mental health conditions and Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs) such as dyslexia.

There is lots of support available to Postgraduate students
There is lots of support available to Postgraduate students

The Student Disability & Inclusion Team offers advice and support for students with disabilities, long-term health conditions, mental health conditions and Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs) such as dyslexia.

The Student Wellbeing Team are dedicated to supporting student wellbeing and enhancing the student experience. The team are available to support you 24/7, 365 days a year.

In 2016 the Doctoral College, in partnership with the Student Wellbeing Team, 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 survey, 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
• Irritability or anger
• Panic attacks
• Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

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 Pomodoro 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 experiments 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, the Student Disability & Inclusion Team 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

  • 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.

Other personal concerns

Life can sometimes send us some unexpected obstacles, we have created some information and signposting about some of the more common concerns that can arise.

Mental Health

If you find you are experiencing difficulties with your wellbeing then we have a range of self-help materials, as well as some online workshops that you may find useful. We also have information about looking after yourself when life events may be impacting on your studies, this includes information on topics such as bereavement, housing issues and how to use the five ways to wellbeing to improve your performance.  If you haven't found the information that you are looking for on our website, you can also contact us via phone or email or speak to a member of the team at a Wellbeing Chat to discuss the support that we can provide in more detail.

We also offer workshops aimed specifically at postgraduate students. Check back to our events page for further information.

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 the Student Wellbeing Team 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 thoughts 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 Differences (SpLDs)

Specialist support, including reasonable adjustments for vivas, additional exam recommendations and assistive technology software is available for postgraduate students with a specific learning difference (SpLD) such as dyslexia. In order to access this support send your evidence of a diagnosis to to arrange a student support appointment and discuss your support recommendations.

If you received support from the Student Disability and Inclusion Team during your undergraduate study and you are now moving to postgraduate study, please contact the Student Disability and Inclusion Team 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 would like to be tested for a specific learning difference, please refer to our How to Access web page.

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

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, Autism Spectrum Condition, 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 accommodation 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:

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