New mental wellbeing project to prepare students for a ‘healthy’ PhD

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A collaborative project to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students is set to start at the University.

The initiative, which is being led by the Institute of Integrative Biology, will focus on equipping potential and new PhD students with tailored support to help manage their transition into research life, with its different expectations and working practices.

Aims include helping students make an informed decision about pursuing a PhD, ensuring that they are fully aware of the support structures in place, and establishing positive student/supervisor relationships from the outset.

The project has received £150,000 as part of a £1.5 million national HEFCE programme (now superseded by Research England and the Office for Students) to improve support for the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate research students.

Working in partnership with Liverpool Doctoral College, Student Administration and Support and the Leadership, Organisational, Staff and Academic Development Academy, an induction, training and development framework will be developed and piloted over the next two years.

The Institute of Integrative Biology achieved an Athena SWAN Gold award last year – the first departmental Gold award for the University, and one of ten departmental awards nationally – for its work promoting gender equality.

Kate Jones, Head of Operations at the Institute said: “One of the key themes of our Athena Swan Gold Action plan is health and wellbeing, and securing external funding to drive the development of tools and resources to support this agenda is fantastic.

“It’s well known that undertaking a PhD can be incredibly stressful and by addressing the transition into a PhD we hope that this will enable better crisis management, reduce stressors and increase resilience.

“We really look forward to working with our PGR community and colleagues to pilot a range of outputs which we can then share across all Schools and Institutes and more widely across the sector.”

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “Postgraduate research students form a critical link in the supply chain for the UK’s research base and knowledge-intensive economy. The research environment and the PGR student experience can have their own challenges, and we want to understand better the factors that impact on the wellbeing of researchers.

“This is an important topic in which both Research England and the Office for Students have an interest, and we look forward to working together to ensure that this scheme delivers long-term value, helping to ensure future research students realise their potential.”

The project is currently recruiting for a Project Manager (job ref: 009208 – closing date Tuesday, 8 May). For more information please visit the University’s recruitment pages. 

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