Compass Programme for International Research Students

The international COMPASS programme is a series of workshops and events for international research postgraduates studying in Scotland.

compassThe programme aims to provide:

  • The opportunity to socialise, network and learn about Scotland
  • Transferable skills training
  • Professional and career information and advice

We have several workshops and an event taking place this semester.

COMPASS Induction Event – Thursday 6th October 2016

COMPASS Academic Communication Skills – Wednesday 12th October 2016

COMPASS Visit to the Scottish Parliament – Thursday 17th November 2016

For more detailed information on the workshops please click here


Prepare for Doctoral Success – A New Online Course

banner-prepare-for-doctoral-successPrepare for Doctoral Success is a 4-week, interactive course for all doctoral researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Starting a doctorate is a very exciting time, but it can also be difficult to know where to start. This course aims to help you settle in by sharing essential information, tips and advice and giving you an opportunity to interact with other students at the same stage. The course is structured as follows:

Week 1: Getting to know you – this is to introduce you to the course and other participants

Week 2: Starting out – the essential information and expectations

Week 3: The first year- milestones, planning and skills development

Week 4: Working with your supervisor – hints and tips, expectations and supervisor styles

The course is hosted in Learn and you can find out more and book a place here

Maximising your influence at meetings and conferences

Do you attend conferences and meetings and need help to maximise your influence, develop your contacts and network effectively?? We run two workshops which can help you develop these skills:

Developing your Personal Presence and Contacts (10/11/2014)

This 2-hour participative session will help develop your self-awareness and enhance your skills in developing professional contacts. The session will include:-

  • Presenting yourself positivelyimagesCAVNHXRR
  • Understanding the impact of your non-verbal behaviour
  • Realising that first impressions DO matter
  • Adapting to different situations

For more information see:

Maximising your Influence at Meetings (10/12/2014)

This is a highly participative 2-hour session to explore how you can become more effective and influential at meetings, thus developing a key everyday work skill.

The session includes:-

  • Defining effective meetings
  • Active listening
  • Encouraging good participation
  • Identifying and practising the important verbal behaviours of meetings
  • Dealing with difficult behaviour

For more information see:

Present a PhD in 3 Minutes – Could you do it?

How many times have you been asked by a well-meaning friend or relative, ‘What is your PhD about?’ and felt startled and frustrated by the realisation that you cannot explain it simply? Their eyes start to glaze over and you know that you are just tying yourself in knots…….

Well, in 2008, the University of Queensland in Australia came up with an innovative way to help address just this problem. They launched the Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®) which challenges PhD students to present their research in just three minutes, with one slide, to a non-specialist audience. The competition proved an instant success and has now been held in multiple institutions across the globe. 

This year, for the first time, the University of Edinburgh has also launched a 3MT competition and after a round of highly successful (and enjoyable!) School and College level heats, nine finalists will now battle it out in the University Final on the 24th July. Along with a great prize, the winner will also represent the University internationally, at the Universitas 21 3MT Grand Final in October.

All the finalists have done brilliantly to get this far in the competition and what a great opportunity to communicate the research they do to a wider audience. Please do come along to support them if you can. Free tickets are now available for the University Final but they are likely to go fast so hurry and reserve your place!

If this is all making you want to rise to the challenge, why don’t you start thinking about preparing for the competition next year? The IAD runs a number of workshops on presentation and communication skills for PhD researchers throughout the academic year. Have a browse through our A-Z list of courses to get an idea of what is likely to be on offer for 2013/14.Image

New Faces at the Institute for Academic Development (IAD)

LeavesThere have been a few staff changes within the IAD Doctoral Programme we thought you would like to know about,

Fiona McCabe left post in December and Louise McKay was appointed to her post in February.

I’d like to introduce myself as the new Doctoral Training Manager for the IAD. I join the IAD from the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at the Western General Hospital, where I worked for 5 years as a Programme Administrator, setting up courses and seminars relating to clinical research. Previous to that I have worked for NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council. I look forward to working with the IAD and welcome any suggestions you have in order to provide the best possible Doctoral Training Programme.

Dr Fiona Philippi was appointed to the post of Deputy Head of Researcher Development in February.

Hi, I have recently joined the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) in the role of Deputy Head of Researcher Development. My role is quite wide-ranging and focuses on enhancing and developing support and resources for researchers at all stages. I am a strong believer in recognising that a PhD encompasses a great deal more than writing a thesis (although of course this is a big part!). PhD researchers have much to offer in terms of transferable skills both in academic posts and in a whole range of other sectors. Often though, the challenge is being able to communicate this effectively!

One of the most useful training courses I did during my PhD was on presentation skills. At the beginning it felt like the facilitator was being quite ruthless – we sat and watched our own videoed presentations with a group of complete strangers from other disciplines and then discussed the strengths and weaknesses. However, it actually proved to be extremely useful and some of the tips and lessons learned I have carried with me to this day and used in a wide variety of settings.

Support for PhD researchers has developed considerably over the past few years and initiatives such as the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) are very useful tools to help researchers take control of their own progress and career path. It is all too easy to get caught up in getting through your PhD, but taking advantage of the training and skills development resources on offer can give you a different perspective and should prove helpful in the long run!

Welcome along/back!

For those if you who are new to the PhD blog, I use this space to give hints and tips for successful completion of the PhD as well as giving updates on topics related to PhD life, for example, check out the post about getting started with the Researcher Development Framework.

For those if you who are familiar with the blog, thanks for continuing to follow, its great to have you along!

This academic year sees another packed programme of events and workshops here at the Institute for Academic Development. For more details go to the website. There are new workshops dates coming online throughout the year so keep an eye out for the regular newsletter which should reach you through your Graduate School.

We are also delighted to welcome Edinburgh Beltane as part of the IAD and look forward to finding out what is in store for them this year. Again, information will be included in the regular Newsletter.


(Doctoral Training Manager at IAD)

Thinking about careers

In my experience, when it comes to careers, PhD students tend to fall into 3 camps: those who definately want to be an academic, those who definately want to do something else, and those who haven’t got a clue. So the real question is if you’re in category 2 or 3, how do you decide what to do?

Well, firstly, it might be useful to do a skills audit to help you to identify what skills you have and how to put these down in your CV. The IAD website has some guidance and a template to help you get started with this: Skills Audit

Secondly, seek help from the Careers Service, particularly if you fall into camp number 2 and you know what that ‘something else’ is. For University of Edinburgh students, and alumni within 2 years of graduation, you can find more information at the Careers Service website. 

Thirdly, no matter what camp you fall into, consider attending a Reviewing Your Career workshop. There is a variety of information and courses available on the Doctoral section of the IAD website.

And remember, there are people all around you with interesting career stories so make time to ask people how they got to where they are now.

Next post: Procrastination and getting un-stuck…coming soon!

Fiona (Doctoral Training Manager, IAD)

Tips for Effective Networking

The term networking can conjure all sorts of images for people, but the truth of it is that networks provide you with colleagues to discuss your research ideas, potential collaborators, peer support to get you through the tough times, and contacts to help you find future jobs. So you might as well make the most of the potential contacts around you. Here are our top tips:

  1. Have your contact information available to give people – consider having business cards ready.
  2. Be aware of your body language – if you are, like me, someone who doesn’t find networking very easy, this can sometimes mean that your body language will give you away, even without you being aware of it. So if you are at an event, make an effort to stand up tall, smile and make eye contact.
  3. Have a plan – if you are attending a conference, try to get hold of a delegates list before the event so that you know who you want to make contact with while you are there.
  4. Have a question ready to get conversation flowing.
  5. Split up – force yourself to leave the comfort of your friends group and make new contacts.
  6. Go for it…if you are at an event or conference, thats what you are there for.
  7. Have a strategy ready for how to leave a conversation.
  8. Keep a note of interesting people or ideas to follow up on afterwards.
  9. Networking can happen anytime (not just at events) so be sociable.
  10. Don’t leave an event too early.

For more information and suggestions on where to get started, look at the Networks and Forums pages on the IAD website.

Next post: Thinking about careers…coming soon!

Fiona (Doctoral Training Manager, IAD)

Working with your Supervisor

Your relationship with your supervisor can be one of the most important sources of support during your PhD, so it is important to make sure that the relationship is worksing well for you, and for them.

Here are some things to think about:

  1. Know how you like to work – so that you can let them know (e.g. I work best in the mornings so could we try to arrange our meetings for before lunch?)
  2. Have a plan. Your supervisor is probably a very busy person so make the most of their time by being prepared for your meetings with them.
  3. Keep a log of your meetings so that you have a record of what was discussed and what you (and they) agreed to.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something – better to ask now that look silly later.
  5. Only give your supervisor work which if ready…they don’t have time to read multiple drafts.

Next post: Effective Networking

Fiona (Doctoral Training Manager)