Written by Alex Christiansen
Merry half-ways-to-holidays, everyone!
It’s finally time for an update! We have been generally quiet on here and on the blog for a while now, but a bunch of things have been going on in the background. We have quite a bit to go through, so without further ado
In talking to the representative team, as well as several individual DRs across the university, it has become clear that one of the most significant issues to the Loughborough DR community is the topic of Teaching Opportunities. Particularly, the people we hear from are frustrated by the lack of access to teaching opportunities and the fact that positions are rarely advertised but instead just given out to those that are close, either by supervisors or other staff. We believe that changes to the system should be made university-wide, to bring this important aspect of the DR experience to a higher standard across Loughborough. What is important, however, is what we all, as a community, believe and feel and experience, and to gauge that we have put together a DR Teaching Opportunities survey.
Please consider taking 5-10 mins out of your day to answer this survey and to share it with your peers. Believe me when I say that I know you are busy and that filling out a survey can be a bother. I really hope you will all be willing to take part in this one, however, as it may open up opportunities to you or to your peers which may otherwise be missed. We have tried to keep it short and to the point, while allowing you to add anything you feel we need to hear. The survey will be up from today (Dec. 13th) and runs for a month, until January 13th.
For those who are interested in the process, the survey will form the foundation of a paper which we will present to Research Committee and Senate in early February. This ensures not only that it will be heard by all school directors of doctoral programmes (DDPs), but also the VP for research and the VC. If the results highlight clear necessity, it will inform change, both short-term and long-term. To be clear, though, what the university requires before it welcomes change is clarity, particularly in statistical terms. To send a clear message, we need a loud voice.
DR Accommodation & Welcoming Internationality
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the difficulties of finding living space, whether you are a UK citizen or one of our many international researchers. In talking to both the representative team and to people across the campus, it is clear though that this is simply symptomatic of a larger problem, namely a lack of information and initial support, particularly for international DRs.
What we believe is warranted is more support at the initial stages of the Loughborough DR journey. We want communication to reflect the difficulties not only of moving to Loughborough, but to the UK more generally. Information about healthcare, welfare, accommodation, caring (both for elderly and for children) and right to work amongst other things. We want that information to be easily accessible and outlined clearly. We have raised this with the Doctoral College, and they have already taken steps to rectify the lack of information, based on work done prior to the pandemic. We should already start to see some of those changes from January.
We hope that this will help, but we are aware that this problem cannot be fixed by an email alone. To that end, we are eager to hear from all of you on this topic, particularly if you feel you were given too little information or had significant difficulties related to finding or keeping accommodation. We plan to have a roundtable discussion on the issue in January (more information to come before then, of course), but for now, please consider sending us an email here if you would like to discuss any experiences, positive or negative, related to this topic.
Please. Take. Leave.
Having now asked you to do extra work, I want to end this ‘festive’ blog post by doing the opposite and reminding you to please take leave. I personally do not care whether you fill out forms, (though reminder that your school might) I just really want you to take a week or two to relax. PhDs are never done until you’re done with it – you could work every single day of December and you still might not feel that much closer to the ‘finish line’ than you were before, especially not if you’re still R1 or R2 but I’m staring at you R3s as well. Instead, take some time to get outside of your PhD bubble – talk to friends and family, watch a movie with your kids or your parents, eat too much food and drink too much mulled wine. I dearly hope you get to do all this in person, rather than from behind a screen, but even then, this still applies. When you return to your PhD you will have a slightly fresher pair of eyes and a slight bit more perspective. Trust me on this one. If you are scared of losing your momentum or of forgetting things, then endeavour to read a paper a day, but limit worktime severely; don’t answer emails, don’t fill out surveys (do that right now, of course 😉) and don’t feel bad that you don’t do these things – you are on leave.
Finally, from all of us in DR representation, to all of you in the DR community: Happy Holidays ♪
As always, here is a picture of my deer to end the blog.