FASS PRES 2020 Action Plan Updates

Offering a positive, transformative experience for postgraduate researchers during their time at Surrey is one of our most important objectives.  While undertaking doctoral research can sometimes be a very challenging experience, it is also a deeply enriching one, and our aim is to ensure that you are well-supported throughout your research.  The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) is one of several ways in which we are able to listen to and respond to your views, and, accordingly, the PRES helps us to define yearly action plans to continue to strengthen and develop all aspects of the postgraduate researcher experience at Surrey. 

Every year, your Director of Postgraduate Research Director reviews the latest PRES data and prepares an action plan for the year ahead.  At this point midyear, PGRDs provide you with an update on these actions plans, identifying issues resolved, new developments made, and work that will be on-going into the future.  These Action Plan Updates help to give you a sense of the work that goes on behind the scene to ensure your excellent experience, and, as you will see, your responses to the PRES lead to clear, measurable changes to issues that you have identified. 

Dr Allan Kilner-Johnson
Associate Dean (Doctoral College) &
Senior Lecturer in English Literature  

Action Plan Updates


Short Term Actions:

1. Due to the pandemic, the Economics Network decided to provide an online full training programme for graduate teaching assistants. This is high quality programme tailored to economics teaching, and all PhD students were encouraged to attend some of the sessions.

2. Research culture obviously suffered from the pandemic, but many seminars were available in the School of Economics (weekly departmental seminars, field seminars, and about 20 academic job market recruitment seminars). Attendance at these events by PhD students has been good.

3. Mock interviews were organized for all PGRs going on the academic job-market. Students were encouraged to watch online an economics academic job-market advice session organized by the Royal Economic Society, for which we received very good feedback.

4. There has been no demand from students about this, but we might organize something in the coming months

Long term actions

1. In 2020-21 we had only 3 students starting our MRes but we are now on track to recruit a minimum of 5 students for 2021-22. We are currently trying to find more funding and recruit more

Institute of Education

  1. To create a doctoral community – and we now have a regular “Doctoral Researchers Lime” on Tuesdays at 11:00 am for 30 minutes where PGRs and myself get together to talk to have a chat and discuss workshops they have attended and give tips/hints
  2. To create more integration with the academics in SIoE – all PGRs are invited to our fortnightly research meetings where we discuss research papers, have writing retreats etc. And every 4-6 months we have a 3 minute thesis for the doctoral researchers.
  3. To create more methods training opportunities – forwarding online opportunities to the PGRs, making them aware of Linkedin Learning, and DTC network opportunities through East Anglia, running some in-house training.


Regular (monthly) PGR liaison meetings chaired by DPGR, with minutes circulated to GSA SMT for response and action have been instituted. Informal PGR work in progress symposiums will run regularly, beginning in February 2021. PGR have been offered substantial teaching opportunities on the BA Theatre programme thanks to initiatives led by DPGR and GSA D of L&T, and these will be integrated into planning at an earlier stage going forward. Work continues on integrating PGR into the developing research culture of the School, though progress is slower due to limited opportunities for proper interaction.


Short Term Actions 

  1. A series of seminars with internal and external speakers

Students have been invited to attend seminars organised by the Department of Politics such as presentations of research articles by members of staff. In addition, in collaboration with the Center for Britain and Europe we organised a Winter School and an online conference targeting our PhD students with presentations by members of staff and external guest speakers.  Furthermore, students are sent almost weekly invitations to participate and/or to attend conferences and presentations that are taking place online due to the pandemic. 

  • Workshops on soft skills in academia, such as presentations and communications skills tailored to the needs of our students.

The seminar took place last week 3 February 2021, and it was organised in collaboration with the Doctoral College (Rana Marrington and Emma Francies)

  • Workshops in collaboration with the Department of Law and Sociology on publications and grant applications among other.

Overall, a series of workshops have been organised in collaboration with the Department of Law and Sociology covering a range of topics from publications to grant applications and emotional inteligence. 

  • Mentoring scheme for all PhD students:

We have communicated to the students the mentoring scheme available. Some of them are already taking part.  

Long Term Actions 

  1. New PhD office space 

We have now moved to the new building and students have their own PhD Room and common space!

  • Research Methods training

Students have to attend two modules on research methods. In addition, we now put additional emphasis on training by advertising and encouraging them to attend Winter/Summer Schools in Methods: this semester our students were accepted at the ECPR Winter School and at a Winter School organised by the University of Oxford.

  • Engage our PhD students in graduate forums

This is one of most important targets for us. Thus far we have organised two events where we invited the presidents of the UACES and of the PSA- these are the two most important academic organisations. In addition, I have invited the Chair of the graduate of UACES for a one-hour meeting with our students covering issues related to networking and the job market.

School of Literature and Languages

Short Term Actions

1. Run PGR workshops for 2020-2021 as f2f and virtual events (November, Dec and Jan events run successfully; February March and May events to come)

2. Improve signposting to important information for PGRs including updating information on SurreyLearn

New SurreyLearn area set up English (Lit, CW and Film) and I will continue to update this periodically. Louise Wenman-James and John Attridge have created a new site https://sllpgrevents.wordpress.com/which will also facilitate easy access to key information re events.

3. Schedule virtual and f2f meet-and-greet session as incoming PGRD

Completed October 2020

4. Include technical, administrative and practical information in the teaching training events offered within SLL. 

Completed November 2020

Long Term Actions

  1. Ensure university management are fully aware of issues with PGR office space in AD building and follow up on any possibilities for improvement.

This issue will be picked up as and when we return to campus.

  • Work with the Doctoral College Mental Health First Aid training scheme and disseminate training opportunities as widely as possible across SLL.

My own MHFA training will start in February and I will continue to advertise this and other training opportunities to staff and students as they come up.

3. Continue to consolidate and improve research culture, particularly with hybrid and virtual events during current climate and timely reminders of upcoming sessions.

The CFP for ‘Crossing Boundaries: Surrey Literature and Languages PGR Conference’ has been circulated. This is planned as a virtual event taking place on 5th – 6th May 2021. Louise Wenman-James has written a CFP that take care to include all the disciplines across the school and we have made the decision to create cross-disciplinary panels to allow our PGRs to make new connections both personally and intellectually.  

School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

In spite of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted the SHTM PGR community’s wellbeing to varying degrees, some key initiatives from the AY20/21 action plan have been implemented and/or are currently being implemented as a response to the PRES feedback. For example, PGR inductions and induction materials are now timeous; SHTM PGRs continue to access research methods and related (online) training offered within the School, the Faculty and through the Doctoral College as well as external workshops organised by partners e.g. SeNSS. Importantly, experts from the Doctoral College are now invited to run SHTM tailored seminars as part of the School’s RDP programme and have expressed their willingness to tailor some of their RDP sessions for SHTM PGRs if the need arises. Furthermore, access to equipment for home working has been made possible enabling PGRS to continue working from home in the current challenging climate but they can still access the university if need be. Additionally, staff are providing more support to PGRs involved in GTA duties and very few issues have been observed so far this AY. Finally, all PGRs now belong to a research centre, and continue to be encouraged to apply for internal and external funding with support from their supervisors and other colleagues as well as present their work at different fora internally and externally irrespective of the stage of progress. These actions will all continued to be monitored in the course of the year.

Surrey Business School

Publicise SBS seminar and workshop programmes:

i) The School has provided PGR students with a comprehensive programme of online research seminars from across SBS departments. ii) SBS PGR students have been among those attending a series of SurreyIDEA workshops as part of the ESRC-funded Business Boost 2020 (BB2020) scheme.

Covid-19 impacts on PGR research/community:

The School has worked closely with the Doctoral College to provide support to students suffering disruption to research due to Covid-19 impacts. We are running a series of online coffee mornings enabling PGR students to meet with each other and colleagues from the School during the lockdown period.


We continue fostering a strong research culture through a number of PGR research activities, i.e. research methods seminars, work-in-progress seminars, PGR reading group, PGR Law Conference. We continue offering you support and a platform to cultivate solidarity and friendship, i.e. drop-in sessions, monthly PGR Coffee Afternoons and PGR Social Events, which were held via zoom. We have worked together with the Library to ensure the subscription of key new resources, e.g. the Max Planck Encyclopaedia of International Law. We have created a PGR website to keep you informed. Within the next few months, we will offer you a number of workshops to help you develop your future career, i.e. “Developing Soft Skills”, “Get Published’ and “Building a Profile for an Academic Job”.


In brief, the PRES action plan involved: i) raising supervisor awareness on PGR experience and RDP provision; ii) developing a methods reading group to enhance departmental training; iii) review of office space; iv) enhanced GTA support; v) developing an alumni network; and vi) continuing to address library/resources issues. For i) the in-person supervisor session was disrupted due to Covid, but email instructions including weblinks were distributed to all supervisors, along with an in-person reminder in the departmental research committee. ii) a semi-regular methods reading group has now been in place since September 2020. This has been supplemented by a sociology writing group (also open to PGR). Iii) A meeting with HoD and PGR reps to review office space is scheduled for 29th Jan – this may result in creation of common room or shared space with departmental researchers. Addressing iv) Dr Evergetti has organised training for our GTAs. With the move to online seminars for part of the year and no face-to-face teaching, all module convenors participate in seminar sessions for at least 3 weeks per course. Progress with v) has been slower than anticipated, but we will liaise with PGR reps in Semester 2 to start exploring this further. No current problems with library resourcing (vi) have been raised by PGR reps but we continue to monitor this. In addition to these specific actions, to further enhance PGR experience we have also scheduled fortnightly zoom drop-in’s and 3 virtual PGR workshops with a further 4 PGR workshops planned for semester 2 (3 in collaboration with Law and Politics). This includes sessions aimed specifically at careers. PGR representatives have also assisted with set up a buddy system for new PGRs and a student newsletter

Department of Music and Media

As always with DMM, there are issues of space: our two current long-term action plans involve seeking, on the one hand, provision of properly designed and appointed space for PGR working, and on the other, the creation of a single site for DMM, since the current geographical spread of the Department works against interaction between its three different disciplines. No progress can be reported on these, with attention squarely focussed on working around the restrictions created by COVID-19. We feel that we have managed COVID-19 issues well, with research groups communicating via Zoom, and presentations (including research days) taking place in the same way. The short-term action of creating more detailed guidelines for practice-based submissions is still in progress