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Skills Development for Postgraduate Research Students

Doctoral candidates are expected to demonstrate excellence in their specific research area. They are also encouraged to develop a broad skill set of specific, generic, and transversal skills that position them to enter a variety of career tracks both in academia and beyond.

The Supervisor together with the wider University play a strategically important role in supporting the development of student’s broad skill portfolio. The supervisor's core responsibility is to guide and mentor the student as they undertake an advanced research project. They seek to drive excellence in research design, practice, and accomplishment.

The primary responsibilities of the University are to support the supervisor-student relationship and to provide the student with additional institutional support and services to assist in the development of transversal professional skills and a more comprehensive development profile.

Irish Universities Association (IUA) Doctoral Skills Statement

The IUA Doctoral Skills Statement, Third Edition (2021) outlines the desired learning outcomes and skill sets that doctoral graduates will have acquired during their doctoral study.It examines a number of areas including research skills, communication, entrepreneurship and innovation, digital literacy, and personal and professional development.

The statement defines the role of universities as developing a “solid training and supervisory framework, so as to support PhD candidates towards qualification in research excellence, but within a framework of career planning”.

The HEIs have a responsibility to equip their doctoral graduates with a range of transferable research skills, which may vary depending on the student’s experiential learning, disciplinary and professional development needs. The institution should provide guidelines, resources and tools to help doctoral students succeed in their research and prepare them for a successful career in their chosen field. The skills include:

  1. Research skills
  2. Ethics and social understanding skills
  3. Personal effectiveness transferable skills
  4. Team-working and leadership skills
  5. Communication skills
  6. Entrepreneurship and innovation skills

The Role of the Supervisor in Supporting Skills Development

The supervisor acts as an expert guide and professional mentor to the doctoral candidate as they develop their research project, advocating for adequate research space, equipment, consumables, etc. The Supervisor is also responsible for providing guidance and support to the doctoral students throughout their research journey, including:

  • Facilitating opportunities for the research student to attend personal development courses to develop a range of skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and communication.
  • Providing regular one-on-one meetings, group meetings, opportunity to present research findings in-house or at conferences either orally or through poster presentation.
  • Encouraging and facilitating attendance at national and/or international conferences to enhance communication and presentation skills, as well as to develop networks.
  • Directing the student towards the relevant resources that are available to access effective tools for holistic development, such as a personal development plan (PDP), drafted at the beginning of the doctoral studies and reviewed at annual intervals.

The Role of the Student in Developing their Skills Portfolio

Doctoral researchers undertake research under the guidance of their Supervisors and should be encouraged to participate in other activities, intended to support their personal and professional development as researchers where appropriate. These could be:

  • Undertaking a secondment to private sector partner or other partner for a set period of time.
  • Undertaking supplementary training in their university or another higher education institution.
  • Dissemination of research findings through conference and seminar poster presentations, publication of peer-reviewed articles, participation in education and public engagement outreach activities.
  • Teaching, demonstrating, tutoring.
  • Services to the university such as sitting on the safety committee, student committees, graduate committee, teaching committee, student societies responsible for organising seminars series, student gatherings and outreach activities.

Postgraduate Development Opportunities

Guidelines and Resources

If you have any questions please contact the Administrative Officer in Graduate Studies or check for answers on our FAQ page.