Chapter 6 - PGR Liaison Forums - Code of Good Practice

[Partner Institutions: All partner institutions delivering programmes validated by the University of Exeter are required to observe this code of good practice]

  1. Introduction
    1. Whilst study as a graduate research student can be a very individual activity, and as such it is important that there are confidential opportunities to provide feedback (such as through the Annual Monitoring process), as a community students also play an important role in affecting improvements to the quality of the student experience.
    2. PGR liaison forums are a mechanism designed to facilitate that process of creative engagement with the student experience, ensuring that issues and suggestions may be considered by the graduate research student community and staff.
    3. PGR liaison forums are the equivalent of the student-staff liaison committees run for students on taught programmes, although the structure of PGR liaison forums is designed to reflect the needs of graduate research students.
    4. The Board of the Faculty of Graduate Research considers that at this level of study, students should feel able to take ownership of this engagement and accordingly whilst this Code lays out broad parameters for the operation of liaison forums, students are encouraged to establish these groups in the ways which best meet their needs, and to feel free to revise them.
  2. Principles
    1. All PGR students should have a forum at College, discipline, programme or research group level, which is open to all PGR students, that includes staff representation, and for which records of the discussion are kept. If there is a PGR liaison forum at both College level and at discipline, programme or research group level, each of the disciplinary etc forums in the College should be represented on this College forum.
    2. Each forum will appoint a Chair (Graduate Research Student Representative) who will represent those students who cannot attend and will represent the group within the discipline and College (see 6.2).
      1. The Students’ Guild will invite every Graduate Research Student Representative registered for a course on the University’s Exeter campuses to a university-wide PGR Executive meeting at least once per quarter, where they will have the opportunity to raise issues with members of the senior management team in the Doctoral College.
      2. The Students' Union (SU) will invite every Graduate Research Student Representative registered for a course on the University’s Cornwall campuses to a university-wide PGR Executive meeting at least once per quarter, where they will have the opportunity to raise issues with members of the senior management team in the Doctoral College.
  3. Aims and objectives of a PGRLF
    1. To enable graduate research students and staff jointly to participate in improving the quality of graduate research student provision.
    2. To facilitate communication between graduate research students and staff within a discipline, research group, or doctoral training partnership.
    3. To identify and address areas of concern to graduate research students and staff.
    4. To assist graduate research student contributions at all levels of decision-making concerning unreserved business within the discipline and College.
    5. To disseminate examples of good practice.
    6. To provide documentary evidence of the participation of graduate research students in the quality assurance and development of the graduate research programmes delivered by the discipline and College.
    7. To assist in the inclusion of all new and existing graduate research students into academic networks, and the development of those networks.
    8. To facilitate communication with regard to action taken against feedback received from graduate research students.
  4. College process
    1. Each College shall have as many PGRLFs as the students within that College’s individual disciplines and research groups consider necessary and appropriate to properly represent their interests, taking account of the range of and diversity of the graduate research provision within the College. Since there are PGRLFs at discipline level, the College needs to ensure that there are clear and effective reporting mechanisms into the wider College processes.
    2. The action plan of PGRLF meetings should be a standing item on the agenda of the College’s senior committee responsible for graduate research students.
    3. An appointed Graduate Research Student Representative (see 5.3) will be invited to attend the senior committee responsible for graduate research students within the discipline and College for the discussion of relevant PGRLF action plan. Disciplines and Colleges should ensure that any calendar of committee meetings facilitates timely discussion of issues raised by PGRLFs where possible.
    4. Any appointed Graduate Research Student Representative of the PGRLF should be invited to submit an annual report to the discipline and College senior committee responsible for graduate research provision.
    5. The Doctoral College will inform the Students’ Guild or the Students' Union (SU) of the number, coverage (i.e. which groups of students are represented by which PGRLF) and constitution of the PGRLFs.
  5. PGRLF membership
    1. Membership of a PGRLF should be open to the entire graduate research student cohort within a discipline/College. Only where the sheer number of graduate research students renders such open membership impossible to administer should a ballot be conducted to elect members of the PGRLF from among the entire cohort.
    2. Any election held under 5.1 should be held in terms two or three to ensure continuity of representation over the summer, although election of representatives from stage one of graduate research programmes will not be possible until term one of the next academic year.
    3. Each PGRLF should have at least one named Graduate Research Student Representative (appointed under 7.3) to act as a liaison between the discipline, the College, and the Students’ Guild or the Students' Union (SU). They will attend any further discipline, College, Guild or Students' Union (SU) meetings that require graduate research student representation. The Students' Guild and the Students' Union (SU) must inform the Doctoral College of the name of this student(s).
    4. Disciplines/Colleges will nominate a member of staff responsible for each PGRLF.
    5. Staff membership of the PGRLF should not normally exceed six representatives and should not be in the majority.
  6. PGRLF meetings
    1. A PGRLF should meet a minimum of three times a year. This can be outside usual academic term time where required, subject to staff and graduate research student availability.
    2. Where possible, PGRLFs should take full advantage of online meeting technology available to ensure that all reps and cohorts within its remit can be included and represented in meetings, such as for distance learning programmes and degree apprenticeships.
    3. A Graduate Research Student Representative (appointed under 7.3) should be appointed as Chair for each meeting of the PGRLF.
    4. The Chair and staff from the College are responsible for ensuring that the views of all students are represented (e.g. part-time students, international students, and those based off-campus) and should therefore invite feedback from those students who may not be able to attend the meeting in advance of that meeting.
    5. The discipline/College should be responsible for servicing the PGRLF. This should include providing secretarial support should it be necessary (the action plans could be prepared by a student secretary), and managing the dissemination of action plans to appropriate discipline/College meetings, the Students’ Guild and the Students' Union (SU).
    6. An Action Plan for the PGR LF must be kept and used to record outputs from all meetings and conversations, such as agreed actions and details of discussions where context or a record of this having taken place is necessary.
    7. All administrative costs should be borne by the College.
    8. Notice of the next meeting and agenda should be emailed to students at least one week before the date of a meeting and/or posted on a relevant online forum such as a SharePoint site.
    9. Meetings of the PGRLF need not have a fixed agenda, although they should receive the results of the PRES survey for consideration when this is available, and maintain a critical engagement with the College/University over actions taken in response to these results. In addition, they may wish to discuss the following:

      - Report on discussion of PGRLF business at the discipline’s/College’s senior committee responsible for PGR provision;
      - Supervision and PGR Pastoral Tutor arrangements;
      - Research resources (including Library and IT);
      - Researcher Development including training, development, and careers support;
      - Research Culture including seminar series, events and equality, diversity and inclusivity.
    10. Each update to the Action Plan following a PGRLF meeting, as approved by the Chair(s), should be posted on a relevant online forum such as a SharePoint site normally within one month of that meeting by the secretary responsible for the PGRLF.
    11. Any member, student or staff, of the College may attend a meeting of a PGRLF as an observer.
    12. The Students' Guild / Students' Union (SU) will attend one PGRLF in each College every academic term.
    13. Each update to an Action Plan following an PGRLF meeting should be forwarded to the Students’ Guild/ the Student’ Union.
  7. Students' Guild and Students' Union (SU)
    1. The Students’ Guild will offer support to all Graduate Research Student Representatives based on the Streatham and St Luke’s campuses. The Students' Union (SU) will offer support to all Graduate Research Student Representatives based on a Cornwall campus.
    2. The Students' Guild and the Students' Union (SU) will each submit a termly report to the Doctoral College Management Group, summarising issues raised in consultation with the Graduate Research Student Representatives at their respective PGR Executives.
    3. The Students' Guild and Students' Union (SU) will be responsible for facilitating the appointment of Graduate Research Student Representatives.
      1. Representative posts under the jurisdiction of the Students' Guild will be filled by students who have applied to be representatives. Graduate Research Student Representatives will be selected by the outgoing representatives at the discipline level. The Students' Guild will play an advisory role in the selection.
      2. Graduate Research Student Representative posts based in Cornwall under the jurisdiction of the Students' Union (SU) will be selected by graduate research students at the discipline level by common agreement amongst themselves.
    4. The appointed Graduate Research Student Representative is entitled to receive assistance, training and support from the Students’ Guild or the Students' Union (SU) to inform and support their role.  The Student Guild/ Students' Union (SU) and the College team supporting PGRLFs should make the appointed Graduate Research Student Representative aware of the person to contact to receive this training.
    5. The appointed Graduate Research Student Representative will be invited to represent their discipline at the PGR Executive meetings run by the Students’ Guild and the Students' Union (SU).
    6. The appointed Graduate Research Student Representative will be responsible for promoting the role of the PGRLF and any elections held under 5.1.
    7. The appointed Graduate Research Student Representative will work with the College to organise any ballot under 5.1.
    8. The responsibility for managing the role description of the appointed Graduate Research Student Representative will commence with the Students' Guild and the Students' Union (SU). Disciplines may require different structures dependent on the nature of their individual graduate research methodologies, and minor changes to accommodate these can be communicated to the Students’ Guild via the Vice-President Education or Vice-President for Postgraduate Researchers, or to the Students' Union (SU) via the Students' Union (SU) Exeter President. Any significant change to the description should be discussed at the Students’ Guild and/or Students' Union (SU) PGR Executive meetings.
  8. Partner institutions
    1. The University shall ensure that for all partnership arrangements the students on the programmes in question shall have an opportunity to provide feedback, and to otherwise improve the quality of graduate research student provision.

Last updated July 2021

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