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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Researcher Development Cluster

Update: VITAE conference 2011

The Vitae Researcher Development International Conference was held in Manchester on the 5th-6th September 2011. This was attended by the newly appointed Director of Programmes for Researcher Development, Dr Deborah Craddock. In attending this event she reported that it was an excellent opportunity to meet colleagues with a strategic and practical role in developing researchers. The conference explored strategies and practice to enhance the professional development of doctoral researchers and research staff. It focussed on a number of key areas including UK government and Research Council strategies, priorities and delivery plans, including the HE White Paper; the Researcher Development Framework and international validation; the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers; the new UK Research Excellence Framework; and the European Commission’s flagship initiative ‘Innovation Union’.

Deborah highlighted a number of exciting new initiatives, research and projects that were announced at the VITAE conference this year. These included the launch of the UK aggregate reports on the outcomes from the 2011 Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and the first UK survey of the views of Principal Investigators and Research Leaders (PIRLS); major additions to the ‘What do researchers do?’ research series (‘Doctoral Career Paths’ and ‘Labour market information for researchers’); an update on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework implementation and international validation project; and the Higher Education Academy launched the 2011 results of the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES): 2011. Being new to the conference, Deborah found it a useful opportunity to network with colleagues from other Higher Education Institutions and representatives from the Vitae central team and Hubs, Research Councils UK and Research Staff Development Advisory Group (ReSDAG), amongst others. Already, she has arranged a meeting with the South East Vitae Hub Manager, Dr Ross English, to discuss how we can utilise effectively the resources they offer within the Faculty and the wider University. In addition, she will be visiting a number of colleagues she met at this conference from other higher education institutions in the UK, exploring new route PhDs, international PhDs and strategies to enhance the development of international inter-disciplinary research. The Vitae conference was an enjoyable and useful experience, prioritising the development of excellent researchers to facilitate economic growth. Deborah is looking forward to discussing new developments and working with colleagues in the Researcher Development cluster to advance the Researcher Development agenda within our Faculty.

Doctoral Milestones
Following consultation with colleagues, doctoral milestones have been introduced to enhance the mechanism to monitor and support students’ progress on the MPhil/ PhD and Doctorate in Clinical Practice programmes in the Faculty of Health Sciences. These milestones, approved by the Faculty’s Course Approval Committee, aim to facilitate postgraduate research (PGR) student completions, thus contributing to the Research Excellence Framework. They provide PGR students with more structure and support within the programmes and, as an indicator of a quality approach, may encourage prospective students to apply to the Faculty of Health Sciences, helping to grow the numbers of PGR students. They have also been welcomed by PGR supervisors as a helpful way to guide their students’ progress throughout their research journeys.

From October 2011, three new milestone tasks have been incorporated in our PGR programmes, including (a) the development of a research question/ hypothesis; (b) a literature review; and (c) a research proposal. These tasks are an intrinsic part of all doctoral programmes and details of these milestones, their timeline for completion, criteria and the process for determining whether each milestone has been achieved have been circulated electronically to all colleagues in our Faculty. In addition, two interactive staff development sessions have been held on the 12th and 26th September 2011, introducing these milestones to PGR supervisors and encouraging them to ask questions. This is an exciting development and its implementation will be monitored and reviewed by the PGR team and further changes will be made as necessary. If you have been unable to attend any of the staff development sessions and have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the PGR team- Professor Judith Lathlean (Email: or Dr Deborah Craddock (Email:

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