Doctoral School

Results of the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey 2015

The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) results were released at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference on the 8th September 2015. This survey is run nationally every two years to measure the experience of postgraduate research students.

The Sussex results saw overall satisfaction improving from 77% in 2013 to 81% in 2015. Thank you again to all those who completed the survey and helped raise the response rate to 40.8% of our doctoral researchers (up from 34.4% in 2013). The strong research culture at Sussex was praised and there were a number of welcome signs of progress compared to the results of PRES 2013. The survey, together with feedback from postgraduate research student representatives and analysis of annual reviews will provide valuable information for change at Sussex.

We are committed to postgraduate research and some improvements have already been implemented since the close of the survey. For example:

1. The survey highlighted the need to improve our communications about progress and assessment processes, with better guidance on the rights and responsibilities of supervisors and supervisees.  We have developed the Research Student Administration Office webpages and updated Handbooks for postgraduate research students, supervisors and Directors of Doctoral Studies (

2. The survey highlighted concerns about support for postgraduate research students who are or wish to teach. Only 66% indicated that they have received formal training (down from 84% in PRES 2013).  To improve access to training the University has appointed a Teaching Fellow in Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education.  If you are interested in this area, please look out for ‘Tales for new Teachers’ from 12-13.30 on Wednesday 18th November 2015, which is described later in this newsletter.

3. In terms of Training and Professional Development plans, only 69% of respondents indicated that their supervisor(s) had discussed training and development plan with them; only 45% indicated that they had agreed a personal training or development plan with the supervisor(s).  Since the survey, the Doctoral Studies Committee has agreed that a Training Needs Analysis should be completed annually, with a question on training to be discussed with postgraduate research students during the annual review process.

As mentioned earlier, this will be an ongoing piece of work throughout this academic year.  We are continuing to gather more information (recently running a joint Researcher Engagement project with the Students’ Union) and each School is developing its own proposals in response to the survey (which will be discussed on the 12th November 2015). Further updates will appear in Doctoral Connections and on the Researcher Community website:

Thank you again for taking part,

Paul Roberts

Assistant Director, Doctoral School  

Doctoral School