Students Staff
University of Essex

October 10, 2017

Welcoming our postgraduate research students

An image of Professor Martyna Śliwa

Professor Martyna Śliwa

It may sound like a cliché, but there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ student. The extent of diversity within the student population is perhaps nowhere else as pronounced as in the case of postgraduate research students. This, in turn, requires us to think about how best to support them and how to make the start of the year, and their new research degree, as enjoyable and ‘smooth’ for them as possible.

Our research students come from all over the world – from 91 countries, to be precise. From Algeria to Canada, to India, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal and Vietnam, to name just a few. Some are local to the UK, and some even to the University of Essex, having studied here before. To others, last week might have been their first ever week in this country and they will also be faced with needing to adapt to an unfamiliar education system. Some of our research students commence PGR study directly after their undergraduate degree, and are likely to be in their early 20s when they begin working towards their doctorate. Others might decide to take up a PGR degree mid-career or following a career break, with a view to improving their qualifications or perhaps completely changing the direction of their professional development. Yet others might choose to enrol on a research degree programme to fulfil their retirement dream. They all have their own hopes, ambitions, and plans for the future.

Our PGR students come to Essex to explore research questions across a great range of disciplines and from a variety of methodological perspectives. We educate PhD students and those who pursue professional doctorates. We have postgraduate research students who are fully funded through the University of Essex and other scholarships, those who are self-funded, and those who rely on funding from a combination of sources. Most of our research degree students are registered full-time, while some study on a part-time or distance-learning basis.

PGR students not only enrich the University’s research environment but also greatly contribute to its Education Strategy, with many of them working for the University as Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Laboratory Assistants. Throughout their research degree, they often become very closely integrated with their home Departments, and it is not uncommon for Essex PGR graduates to go on to undertake full-time employment at the University, be it in academic or professional services-related roles.

The multiple contributions that postgraduate research students make to our community – both through adding to the diversity of its culture and to its research and educational environment – have made me particularly excited about welcoming our new PGR cohort to Essex. The PGRE Team, along with colleagues from Student Engagement, Organisational Development, and each of the University’s Faculties and Departments organised a dedicated PGR Welcome Day for our news starters. This included a range of activities and sessions focussing on different aspects of PGR provision, from an introduction to postgraduate research study at Essex and the support, training and development opportunities available to all our PGR students, to conversations with individual supervisors.

We have registered 199 new PGR students, with more set to join the University in January and April. There are also 1081 research students returning to Essex to continue with their PGR study this academic year.  For first year postgraduate research students in particular, there will be a lot of new things to get to know in the coming weeks and months. A research degree has its own unique nature and rhythm, different from that of an undergraduate or postgraduate taught degree. What is certain is that all of our research students will work very hard, since there is a good reason why a research degree is referred to as ‘advanced study’! Equally, all the teams and individuals involved in PGR provision will work hard to support them in becoming successful in their degree and making the most of their PGR study.

Professor Martyna Śliwa is Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education and a Professor of Management and Organisation Studies.


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