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Factors affecting the well-being of PhD students at Imperial Elaine Walsh Graduate Schools.

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Presentation on theme: "Factors affecting the well-being of PhD students at Imperial Elaine Walsh Graduate Schools."— Presentation transcript:

1 Factors affecting the well-being of PhD students at Imperial Elaine Walsh Graduate Schools

2 22 Background Graduate Schools’ remit includes: “to disseminate best practice in postgraduate training and education”. PRES(2008, n=953) showed 90% of PGRs would recommend Imperial to others. We were looking for a deeper insight into the issues contributing to dissatisfaction.

3 Well-being The well-being of employees has been shown to impact upon the individual and overall performance of organisations. No one had looked at well-being specifically for a PhD population before. Consistent with efforts to improve the student experience.

4 4 Definition of construct “That part of a researcher’s overall well- being that is primarily influenced by their PhD position and which can be influenced by college-based interventions”

5 55 Development of the instrument Item Generation Phase –Focus Groups, many interviews with staff and students Student union endorsement –“The Graduate Schools really hit the nail on the head with their PhD Wellbeing Survey. I could identify nearly every question as something I had experienced, seen or heard about and it will be a tremendously useful project for improving the experience of postgraduate researchers.”

6 Well-Being Scores Based on mean score Data distribution normal (skewness within acceptable limits) Range 1 – 5: 1 = Did not experience/Not a problem at all 2 = A bit important and bothersome 3 = Moderately important and bothersome 4 = Very important and bothersome 5 = Extremely important and bothersome

7 77 Results and Statistical Analysis Questionnaire completed online May responses (close to 50%) 229 free text comments Impact Analysis Frequency x Importance = Impact Final results comprise 58 discrete items grouped within 7 domains

8 8 Well-being overall – 1.90 DomainDescriptionScore ResearchHow subjects perceive the experience of their research to impact their well-being 2.13 Home and Health How subjects perceive the work impacts their well-being in terms of affecting their private life, psychological and physical health status 2.07 SocialHow subjects perceive the social aspects of their role to impact their well-being 1.85 DevelopmentHow subjects perceive opportunities for training and career development impact well- being 1.85 UniversityHow subjects perceive the wider activity of the college to impact their well-being 1.82 SupervisorHow subjects perceive the behavior of their supervisor to impact their well-being 1.75 FacilitiesHow subjects perceive provision of college facilities to impact well-being 1.72

9 Research Domain (2.13) RankQuestion % very or extremely bothersome /important Mean 1 Feeling frustrated/demotivated by your results and apparent lack of progress? 31% Lacking confidence in your ability to conduct research to the necessary standard? 20% Feeling disappointed in your own abilities as an academic researcher? 17% Finding that your PhD experience is different to what you had envisaged initially? 17% Lacking enthusiasm about your research?13% Lacking motivation to complete your PhD in a timely manner? 10% Feeling 'trapped' in your area of specialisation?10%1.77

10 Research Domain “Transfer report is too early to have any decent results so depressing to try and make hard work so far look meaningful” “The transition from 'top of the class' to 'bad researcher' is a pretty tough cookie to swallow.”

11 Health and Home Domain (2.07) RankQuestion % very or extremely bothersome/ important Score 2 Experiencing high levels of stress because of your research? 26% Having a high workload that impacts on your private life? 21% Making unreasonably high demands of yourself in the name of research? 19% Experiencing a persistent low mood because of your research? 17% Feeling constantly tired and run-down because of your workload? 17% Being unable to balance your research with home demands? 14% Experiencing poor quality sleep because of your studies? 16% Finding it difficult to cover basic living expenses?15%2.01

12 Health and Home Domain “At the start Imperial should be teaching students how to cope with stress rather than let them get into the situation so many find themselves in”

13 Supervisor Domain (1.75) RankQuestion % very or extremely bothersome /important Mean Score 13 Having insufficient feedback during your PhD to check progress? 17% Feeling unsupported by your supervisor?14% Lacking practical guidance on designing and conducting your research? 10% Feeling undervalued by those senior to you in your department? 9% Not getting the recognition you deserve from your supervisor for your work? 9% Having a supervisor who is unfamiliar with your field? 7%1.55

14 14 Well-Being Overall – Top 10 Rank Question Domain %“4”or“5” Score 1 Feeling frustrated/demotivated by your results and apparent lack of progress? RES/31% Experiencing high levels of stress because of your research? HH/26% Being unclear about the next stage of your career after your PhD? DVP/20% Lacking confidence in your ability to conduct research to the necessary standard? RES/20% Being frustrated with the college's administration systems? UNI/22% Having a high workload that impacts on your private life? HH/21% Making unreasonably high demands of yourself in the name of research? HH/19% Experiencing a persistent low mood because of your research? HH/17% Feeling constantly tired and run-down because of your workload? HH/17% Feeling disappointed in your own abilities as an academic researcher? RES/17%2.16

15 15 Other Items Question Domain%“4”or “5” Being unclear about the required standard of work for your thesis? DVP15% Lacking training to develop your technical research skills? DVP9% Feeling uninvolved with the wider research environment outside your department? SOC 15% Feeling isolated from other research colleagues in your department? SOC16% Feeling unable to confide in colleagues about problems? SOC10%

16 What does this mean from an educational point of view? Research is inherently difficult. Student concerns included: –No direct relationship between work done and results achieved –Making unfavourable comparisons with peers –Not feeling good enough – “imposter syndrome” –Institutional culture “work must be perfect!” –Concerns about fairness Loss of effectiveness due to unnecessary worries?

17 What can we do as supervisors? Remember what it is like to be a novice researcher Offer appropriate support Encourage open communication of difficulties Help student to distinguish between lack of progress and lack of ability Aim to build confidence of PhD students

18 Within the research group.. Encourage formation of good working and social relationships Review the norms of working hours / taking holidays, breaks, etc Be proactive about spotting and managing stress Clarify expectations about standards of work Share key knowledge e.g. about admin procedures

19 Within the university Make students aware of resources such as Careers Service, Counselling Service, Graduate Schools, Student Advisor, Student Union, Clubs and Societies, Chaplaincy, etc. “Even PhDs are not heads on sticks”…

20 Significant differences - gender Dom Code Female (574) Male (628)DomainSig? (p <.05) RES Y HH Y SOC N DVP Y UNI N SUP Y FAC Y

21 Significant differences – stage of study Dom Code Pre- transfer (513) Post- transfer (499) Writing-up (142) Other (48) Domai n Score Sig? p<.05 RES Y HH Y SOC Y DVP Y UNI N SUP Y FAC Y

22 Significant differences – fee status Dom CodeEU (326) Outside EU (279) UK (597) Domain Score Sig.? (p<.05) RES N HH N SOC Y DVP Y UNI Y SUP N FAC N

23 Significant differences - campus Dom Code H’smith (177) Silwood (51) S. Ken (798) St Mary's (84) Other (92) Domain Score Sig.? (p <.05) RES N HH N SOC N DVP N UNI N SUP N FAC Y

24 Largest Responding Departments Count% Life Sciences11710 Medicine958 Physics807 Investigative Science797 Chemistry766 Civil Engineering655 NHLI615 Mechanical Engineering565 Electrical Engineering565 Total percentage58%

25 Departments (collapsed from 25 to 5)

26 Significant differences - department Dom Code Engineering (395) Life Sciences (117) Medicine (440) Physical Sciences (195) Other (99) Sig.? p<.05 RES N DVP Y SOC Y UNI Y SUP N HH N FAC Y

27 Positive experience % agree

28 Positive experience % agree

29 Key Drivers of a PhD Positive Experience 25% 14% 9% 7% 51% PhD Experience Relative importance of each Driver Total impact of all drivers. 25% Supervisor Research Social Development University Health & Home Facilities Dominance analysis of comparing importance of predictors in multiple regression

30 For copies of summary documents for students and supervisors… Please go to my pwp –And download from the main page. Thank you for your attention


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