The UK’s first university-accredited Postgraduate Certificate course directed specifically at supporting supervisors of postgraduate research students (the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Degree Supervision) has seen its first participants graduate this week. The course, offered by Edge Hill College of Higher Education and accredited by Lancaster University, allows staff at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to explore and reflect on the process of research degree supervisions and thus introduce improvements to their own practice.

Professor Alistair McCulloch, Head of Research at Edge Hill and joint course leader, said today: ‘With the increasing emphasis on the quality of research degrees within the sector, this course will help supervisors to develop their thinking about the process of supervision and encourage them to share good practice and also seek advice on problems they may have encountered within a structured framework.’

He continued: ‘While students on taught programmes have a variety of lecturers and tutors upon whom they rely, in many cases research students are dependent primarily on a single individual who may not have had significant supervisory experience. It is important that the levels of support and training offered for higher education teaching are now extended to supervising postgraduate degrees.’

Professor McCulloch concluded by saying that: ‘This course offers one model, albeit the first involving a full academic programme at Masters level, for studying the research degree process and improving supervisor practice. It thus joins the recently established BBSRC Training and Accreditation Programme for Postgraduate Supervisors (TAPPS), and the Leeds Metropolitan University Advanced Professional Diploma.’

Professor Pat Cryer, convenor of the Society for Research in Higher Education’ Postgraduate Studies Network and External Examiner for both this course and also the BBSRC TAPPS programme, called the PG Certificate ‘groundbreaking’, saying that to the best of their knowledge “no other academic award, dedicated solely to research degree supervision, exists within the UK”.

Originally offered only to staff from within Edge Hill, the course is now open to staff from other HEIs and is designed so that participation involves five full days of workshops together with online support.