UQ announces new direction for research degrees

Published: 13 September 2011

The University of Queensland has announced a new direction for research degrees, consolidating its reputation as an international leader in research training.

The introduction of the new training program, the first of its kind in Australia, will provide pathways for PhD students to establish global connections, commercial acumen and adaptability.

Developed in response to the changing needs of the research workforce, the new UQ Career Advantage PhD program has been designed to accelerate career development, encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue and enhance employability of PhD graduates.

Dean of the UQ Graduate School Professor Zlatko Skrbis said that enhancing the research degree experience at UQ was driven by a need to reflect the diverse pathways that students follow after completing their PhD.

“We have noticed an increasing number of our graduates choosing careers in industry, government or research and development roles in addition to traditional roles within academia,” Professor Skrbis said.

“As such, there was a strong demand to augment the research degree training model to reflect these diverse career paths and the University’s responsibility, to ensure these students graduate with a professional skill set that complements their research training.”

“The new UQ Career Advantage PhD program not only enhances our students’ contribution to the University’s research outcomes, but will also exploit UQ’s reputation and strengths specifically in higher education teaching, research commercialisation, international collaboration and industry engagement.

“It is unique in the Australian market and will greatly enhance the research training experience.”

Professor Skrbis said the program demonstrated UQ’s investment in its research students and its commitment to excellence in research training and supervision.

“Our goal was to use existing research and international experience, to develop a new kind of training program that would foster our students’ intellectual curiosity and passion for research, but also provide real career development opportunities,” he said.

“We have undertaken significant consultation with industry contacts in order to ensure the program clearly reflects the needs of the workforce and provides our graduates with a competitive advantage.”

Industry contact Mr Chris Pollard, Recruitment Senior Consultant from Ernst & Young, Queensland, commented on the benefits for PhD students participating in the program.

“UQ’s Career Advantage PhD program will enhance a PhD student’s ability to demonstrate the breadth of their experiences and skill set and how these can be applied to a commercial setting. This will be compelling to prospective employers,” Mr Pollard said.

UQ’s international partners have also provided assistance with the development of the program to ensure that graduates are prepared for global careers. Professor Ernst Rank, Dean of Graduate School and Director of International School of Science and Engineering, Technische Universität München (TUM) in Munich, commented on the strengths of the program.

“With the Career Advantage PhD Program, UQ is not only creating an initiative that provides great support for PhD students’ future careers, but also sets an international benchmark for graduate education at world class universities,” Professor Rank said.

“TUM is especially interested in the ‘Global Collaborations’ package which aligns perfectly with a similar program at our own institution.

“I am sure that the UQ Career Advantage Program, together with TUM initiatives, will form a wonderful foundation for extended collaboration and graduate student exchange between our two universities.”

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Debbie Terry, announced that the introduction of this program marks a move to a more innovative approach to PhD training and supports the Australia Government’s Research Workforce Strategy.

“UQ is proud to be at the forefront of research innovation with the delivery of this unique PhD program.

“The UQ Career Advantage PhD program is focused on bolstering the diversified career paths of PhD graduates and augmenting their employability via a range of academic and professional development training activities.

“We are looking forward to supporting the direction outlined in the recent Research Workforce Strategy in developing this next generation of research leaders that will contribute to Australia’s global knowledge economy.”

UQ PhD candidates will choose from one of three career pathways approximately 12 months into their research project.

Each career pathway delivers a three day workshop, plus a cluster of other academic and applied training activities that are selected by the student throughout their degree.

These training activities have been designed in consultation with academics and research experts both within Australia and across the globe, key industry partners, and research students and graduates.

The program will not replace a student’s core research training, but rather provide a means of offering candidates with additional experience and knowledge that is synonymous with opportunity and choice at UQ. Students are able to participate in the program free of charge.

When graduating, students will receive formal recognition that attests to the enhanced nature of their research training and experience.

Sherri Hsu, from the School of Chemical Engineering, who has been heavily involved in collaborating with industry during her PhD, commented on the significant impact the new program will have in formally equipping students with additional skills.

“I definitely see that the students who take part in the UQ Career Advantage program will have the opportunity to add value to their degree.

“Quite often during our PhD we become specialised in what we do, so it is important that we broaden our professional skills. After graduating, I think that it will be these additional skills that will make candidate more desirable when they step out into the employment market.

“UQ’s new program will definitely assist students in improving their employability,” Ms Hsu said.

Media: Dr Jessica Gallagher (07 3346 0508, 0435 961 173, j.gallagher@uq.edu.au)

About the UQ Graduate School

More than 4,000 students undertaking a research degree at UQ are supported by the Graduate School which focuses on enriching the quality of academic life, providing high standards of supervision, and assisting RHD students throughout their degree.

The Graduate School coordinates year-long Skills Training programs, Graduate Student Week events, an annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition, and research commercialisation training.

UQ has supported more than 13,000 students to complete their research degree.

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