GRAD School – What’s in it for me?

Have you ever considered attending a GRAD School?  If not, then you should, and here’s why:

I tutored on the Manchester GRAD School last year and attended the excellent Vitae GRAD School tutor training a few weeks ago in Leeds – I’m totally sold on the benefits of attending a GRAD School and I thought i’d share some information about them here:

What is a GRAD School?

GRAD Schools come in many different forms.  To quote Vitae, the organisation supporting the development of researchers in the UK, GRAD Schools are designed to encourage PGRs to develop transferable or ‘soft’ skills through experiential learning.  Amongst other things, those attending GRAD School can expect to develop their personal effectiveness, identify ways of communicating more effectively and develop the ability to make rational decisions:

‘Our vision is to create an inspirational, challenging and experiential learning environment in which all participants will learn something new about themselves and take away skills, tools or information which will motivate them to complete their studies, further realise their potential, and enable them to make more informed choices about their future careers.’  (Source: Vitae Website,

What type of GRAD School?

GRAD Schools come in different shapes and sizes – Vitae run several National GRAD Schools every year which usually take place in lovely locations, such as Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District.  This is a chance for you to escape the confines of your University for a few days to reflect on where you are now and where you are headed with your research.  In addition to the National GRAD Schools, several Universities have their own local GRAD Schools which are also really useful.  These local GRAD Schools usually focus on a particular theme.  Applications are usually  invited from PGRs from several institutions across that region.  Manchester also has an Enterprise GRAD School which will be running in July (details forthcoming).

What happens at GRAD School?

GRAD Schools usually have 60-80 participants, divided into groups or teams of roughly 6-8 students.  Each team is assigned a tutor who will have practical experience of GRAD Schools and of the demands of the PhD process.  Tutors are trained facilitators and have strong practical experience of team building in the workplace.   Tutors are recruited from a range of organisations, including research and academia and public, private and not-for-profit sectors.  This network of people is an important opportunity for you to share your experiences with other researchers and to get honest insights into a range of career pathways and approaches.

The teams then work in a range of situations.  These could include working in a simulated business or academic environment, practical team exercises or sessions about your personal motivations and career.   GRAD Schools are designed to be experiential in process (the learning by doing approach) and encourage participants to think critically about their skills.

So, what’s really in it for me?

The benefits are endless – but

  • You get to meet PGRs from across disciplines, cultures and institutions.
  • Network with a range of experienced professionals from across different sectors.
  • Take some time out of your research to think about your personal and professional development.

Want to learn more?

Please visit the Vitae GRAD School pages to look at student testimonials and for more information about registration.

The Manchester GRAD School

The annual Manchester GRAD School, entitled “Developing the Effective Research Communicator” is now open for applications.  It takes place from 5th to 7th May 2010 at Staff House (University North Campus).  Students from every Faculty are invited to apply.


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