Strategy, Governance and Policy

Strategy for Doctoral Education at UCL

The UCL Doctoral School provides UCL's key strategy for Doctoral Education. The strategy describes UCL's unique position and views on what constitutes a doctoral education at UCL, as well as the vision for progress in the future and the practical steps for the UCL community to work together to achieve these aims. It was developed in consultation with Faculties and research students through the Postgraduate Association of the Student Union.

read: Doctoral Education Strategy


The document also makes explicit how a strategy for doctoral education is influenced by and works with UCL's other central strategies, for example the Research Strategy, Global Engagement Strategy and Enterprise Strategy, all under the auspices of UCL 2034, the overarching institutional strategy for UCL.

Faculty Doctoral Strategies

Each Faculty at UCL also provides a strategy for its own doctoral cohort, addressing the realities of doctoral research in their disciplines and articulating the distinctiveness of the Faculty's doctoral training environment. An executive summary of each Faculty's Strategy can be found below, together with examples of good/best practice.

* Currently being prepared

The Annual Doctoral Planning Process

The Doctoral School is tasked with ensuring the alignment of individual Faculty Strategies for their doctoral cohorts with UCL 2034 and the institutional level Doctoral Strategy above. An annual Doctoral Planning Process has been instituted to manage this, and sees reports submitted by the Faculty Deans commenting on and providing evidence of how the Faculties' strategies align with the central strategies. The reports specifically ask Faculties to reflect on their current position and to detail their plans for future strategic direction, operations and enhancements. The reports include a basket of key performance indicators and assist in ensuring alignment to UCL's research strategy and maximising good practice in provision for doctoral students.

The Doctoral Planning Process is overseen by the Doctoral Training Strategy Committee which provides the Faculty with detailed feedback on their plans, and meets individually with each Faculty Graduate Tutor and Faculty Manager to discuss issues that arise and to assist them in their implementation of advances and enhancements for the future. The Doctoral Training Strategy Committee is chaired by the Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School and features senior academic staff membership from each of UCL's four Schools, senior staff from the Doctoral School and the Office of the Vice-Provost Research, and research student representation.

The Doctoral Training Strategy Committee's role is also to monitor reports from UCL DTP/CDTs, as well as hosting meetings of the Directors of these programmes to share best strategic and operational practice and encourage cross-disciplinary fertilisation of ideas and developments. The committee also monitors research student related service provision by key UCL Professional Services Departments (for example, UCL Arena Centre, ISD, HR, Careers, Student and Registry Services).

The Doctoral Training Strategy Committee also provides a forum for discussing the internal and external context in which UCL's doctoral provision sits to ensure that UCL is responsive to national and international developments. UCL's input via various national and international bodies (for example Vitae, LERU, House of Lords Select Committees) also ensures that UCL has direct input into leading thinking around doctoral education.

Governance of Doctoral Education at UCL

Within UCL there are a number of key institutional bodies that govern the quality of Doctoral Education under the auspices of UCL's Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School.

Doctoral School

The UCL Doctoral School is led by UCL's Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School, Professor David Bogle, and focuses on the development of institutional strategy (as above), evaluation of plans and delivery by other units, and liaison with external bodies including Research Councils and LERU. In order to ensure a linked approach to research students and research strategy, the Pro-Vice-Provost works closely with the Vice-Provost (Research). To ensure that the high quality of doctoral education at UCL is maintained and enhanced, and widely promoted both within the UK and internationally, the Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School also works closely with the Vice-Provost (Education and Student Affairs). The remit of the Doctoral School and its Pro-Vice-Provost covers all research degrees at UCL: PhD, MPhil, EngD, Professional Doctorates, MRes and MD(Res).

The full Role and Responsibilities of the Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School can be found in the Academic Manual.

Research Degrees Committee (RDC)

Research Degrees Committee, the UCL-level Committee directly concerned with all aspects of research degrees and their governance, is chaired by the Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School. RDC membership includes all Faculty Graduate Tutors, the UCLU Postgraduate Students' Officer, and other key UCL staff involved in doctoral education. RDC meets three times per year to consider business including reviewing matters that arise from Faculty Graduate Teaching Committees. Reporting to UCL Academic Committee, RDC formally oversees the regulations for research degrees in the Academic Manual.

Faculty Graduate Tutors and Key Faculty Committees

Each Faculty has a Faculty Graduate Tutor. The Faculty Graduate Tutor has overall responsibility for the general academic and pastoral oversight of graduate students in the Faculty and assists the Faculty Dean in all matters relating to quality management and enhancement. The Faculty Graduate Tutor serves as a key member of the Faculty Teaching Committee and reports on Faculty graduate matters to the Doctoral School. Faculty Graduate Tutors also approve applications from staff members to act as Supervisors ensuring that all Supervisors undertake UCL's mandatory Supervisor training. They also consider and approve nominations of examiners for all UCL research degree candidates registered in the Faculty on behalf of the Chair of Research Degrees Committee.

The full Roles and Responsibilities of FGTs can be found in the Academic Manual, and a contact list for current FGTs on the Essential Information page of the Doctoral School website.

Departmental Graduate Tutors and Key Dept Committees

Every Department/Division has a Departmental Graduate Tutor who is an experienced member of the academic staff of UCL and liaises closely with the Faculty Graduate Tutor concerning graduate matters. The DGT has general academic and pastoral oversight of their Department/Division's graduate students, specifically overseeing admission, induction, supervision, progression and examination and generally ensures that the Code of Practice for Graduate Research Degrees is implemented and its use monitored. Most Departments have a Departmental Graduate Committee; this body complements and assists the role of the Departmental Graduate Tutor and, on behalf of the Head of Department, reviews the quality of research supervision.

Each Department also has a Staff-Student Consultative Committee, which meets at least twice per year. The membership of the SSCC includes at least one member of staff responsible for research students, and at least one graduate research student representative (unless there is a separate committee for graduate students). UCL's institutional level Student Experience Committee (incorporating Joint Staff-Student Committee), reporting to UCL Academic Committee, receives minutes of the Departmental Staff-Student Consultative Committees and take action where necessary.

The full Roles and Responsibilities of DGTs can be found in the Academic Manual, and a contact list for current DGTs on the Essential Information page of the Doctoral School website.

UCLU (the Student Union)

Each year, Sabbatical Officers are elected by students to lead the Student Union. The key representative for the doctoral student community is the Postgraduate Students' Officer. As Convenor of the UCLU Postgraduate Association and the lead representative of postgraduate UCLU members, the Postgraduate Students' Officer coordinates the PGA's activities, and is responsible for coordinating representation and campaigns regarding the needs of postgraduate students at all levels, and for ensuring the provision of an environment which supports and provides for the particular social and academic needs of postgraduate students. The Postgraduate Students' Officer meets regularly with the Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School to discuss matters relating to doctoral education and doctoral students.

StARs (Student Academic Representatives) are elected to represent students' views to UCL. StARs sit on various committees at a programme, Faculty and University level, at which they act as the voice of students, ensuring that UCL takes into account the needs of students in its decision making processes.

Student and Registry Services

The Doctoral School and Research Degrees Committee work closely with colleagues in Student and Registry Services to devise and implement policy and processes for research degrees, in particular:

UCL Academic Services who amongst their institutional roles:

  • oversee UCL's academic governance framework, including maintenance of the Academic Manual (UCL's Academic Regulations, policies and procedures), the register of UCL's collaborative agreements, and the procedures for programme and module approval
  • support the implementation of UCL's Research Governance Framework, including the investigation of allegations of research misconduct
  • Have institutional oversight of external and internal quality management and enhancement policies and processes.

Research Degrees and Student Records Office which provides advice on regulations and processes to research students, staff and examiners.

Student Funding Office which administers the main award schemes for prospective and current UCL Students. They also provide support and guidance on money matters for current UCL students.

UCL Graduate Admissions Team who process all graduate and affiliate applications received by UCL, and provides support, advice and guidance to all departments on matters regarding graduate admissions. They also lead on policy, strategy development and implementation of matters relating to the admission of graduate students.

UCL Student Support and Wellbeing Services (SSW) which provides information, advice and welfare support for all registered students and incorporates UCL Student Disability Services and UCL Student Psychological Services.

Doctoral Education in the UK and beyond

Beyond UCL there are national and international bodies concerned with a variety of aspects of Doctoral Education, its standards and development.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education is the independent body entrusted with monitoring and advising on standards and quality in UK higher education. The QAA publishes the UK Quality Code, the reference point for all those involved in delivering higher education which leads to an award from or is validated by a UK higher education provider. It makes clear what institutions are required to do, what they can expect of each other, and what the general public can expect of all higher education providers. Chapter B11 of the Quality Code specifically concerns doctorates and research master's degrees: QAA 'UK Quality Code for Higher Education, Chapter B11, Research Degrees.

The QAA also issues a: Doctoral Degrees Characteristics Statement. The Statement describes the distinctive features of doctoral degrees in the UK. Linked to the Quality Code Chapter B11 above, the Characteristics Statements are also closely linked to The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies (the Qualifications Frameworks) and provide more detail about the distinctive features of qualifications at particular levels of the frameworks.

Research Councils UK (RCUK)

RCUK's mission is to optimise the ways that Research Councils work together to deliver their goals, to enhance the overall performance and impact of UK research, training and knowledge transfer and to be recognised by academia, business and government for excellence in research sponsorship. Together, the seven UK Research Councils have common objectives, which are to:

  • fund basic, strategic and applied research;
  • support postgraduate training (PhDs and masters students and fellows);
  • advance knowledge and technology and provide services and trained scientists and engineers to contribute to the economic competitiveness, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and quality of life;
  • support science in society activities.

League of European Research Universities (LERU)

The League of European Research Universities is an association of 21 leading research-intensive universities that share the values of high-quality teaching within an environment of internationally competitive research. LERU seeks to influence policy in Europe and to develop best practices through mutual exchange of experience, and regularly publishes a variety of papers and reports, including high-level policy statements, in-depth analyses and concrete recommendations for policymakers, universities, researchers and other stakeholders. The Pro-Vice-Provost of the UCL Doctoral School is the Chair of the LERU Doctoral Studies Steering Group, and is the main author on a number of key publications:

Vitae

Vitae is an international programme led and managed by CRAC, a not-for-profit registered UK charity dedicated to active career learning and development. Working in the UK since 1968, Vitae's aims are to enhance higher education provision to train and develop researchers; empower researchers to make an impact in their careers; evidence the impact of professional and career development support for researchers.

UCL is a member of the Vitae community making their web resources open to our researchers, students and staff alike.

Resources such as news, publications, policy intelligence, and events are available specifically aimed at research students, research supervisors, and early career research staff. Their website also hosts a number of key publications and related resources including the Researcher Development Framework and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. The also provide a useful portal to key information and players in the doctoral and post-doctoral research environment, for example:

  • Information and advice for research students at various points in their programme; information and best practice for supervisors and researcher development staff
  • a useful chronology of researcher development in the UK with links to key reviews and documents related to doctoral education.
  • Information on the European Research Area (ERA) and its key initiatives focused on researchers:
    • The European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers
    • HR Excellence in Research and the human resources strategy for researchers (HRS4R)
    • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions
    • Innovation Union (one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, several of whose action points relate directly to researchers training and careers)
    • EURAXESS (a range of information and support services to researchers who wish to study or work in Europe or stay connected to it)
    • European Research Council