What’s all the fuss about PRES?

Once a year you have an opportunity to share your experience of doing a research degree at Surrey through the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey, or ‘PRES’ for short.

PRES is an incredibly useful survey because it enables all of those who support you, including your supervisors and the Doctoral College team, to identify aspects of your doctoral experience at Surrey that you like, as well as hone in on areas that we need to improve. One of the great things about the PRES is that it enables you to compare how well Surrey supports our PGRs against other universities. Last year we came 7th in the UK for overall satisfaction.  But the most important thing about the outcome was not our final ranking, it is what we were able to do with the data.

Data crunching

The day after PRES closes, our Strategic Planning team take the raw data and produce summary dashboards at University, Faculty, and departmental level. These dashboards provide a helpful ‘at-a-glance’ overview of the results, drawing attention to high scoring areas and flagging areas that might need attention. We also receive a sector-level report, enabling us to benchmark the PGR experience at Surrey with other universities.

In parallel, the Doctoral College team carefully read through every comment made in the survey, categorise it by theme, and mark it as positive, neutral or negative. The categorised comments are then filtered by department and paired up with the dashboards.

Responding to PRES

The real value of PRES stems from the follow up actions and changes. We have learnt over the years that a one-size-fits-all approach to PRES is not very effective and so every department now gets a copy of its dashboard and comments to inform a local action plan. We publish those action plans and we update them to show you how well we are meeting our goals.

We are particularly pleased with last year’s PRES findings because they showed that areas that you had been least satisfied with had improved dramatically. For example, we targeted Research Culture and put concerted effort into improving it,  and in last year’s PRES we were delighted to find that we came first in the UK for Research Culture. In other words,  the action plans work.

Keeping the conversation going

Whilst PRES is an important driver of change, it only happens once a year. We think that it’s really important to keep a continuous dialogue going. We urge you to use the PGR rep system to raise topics for discussion – the good, the bad, and the ugly – at your Engagement Forum. This year our PGR reps have worked together to devise additional questions to input into the survey to ensure we are getting information about things that are most relevant to you. We very much see this as a partnership and hope that our collective efforts on PRES will make your Surrey experience second to none. It all starts with you completing the survey, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.

Therefore, I strongly encourage you to have a look at the action plans and all the recent updates to these plans (FHMS / FEPS / FASS), but most importantly follow the link and respond to the survey during March.

Your response really will make a difference.

Dr Kate Gleeson (Director of the Doctoral College) & Dr Shane Dowle (Doctoral College Manager)