A report for the HEA I worked on while at Bath Spa University (alongside Michele Whiting, Tim Middleton, and Tracy Brain) has now been published by the Higher Education Academy (HEA). This report draws on the findings of a small HEA funded project that examined the ambitions and professional development needs of creative writing doctoral researchers at Bath Spa University through a series of online surveys and video dialogues with both doctoral researchers and their supervisors. The aim of the research was to identify challenges to personal and professional development and to provide a series of recommendations for this distinctive practice-led field.
Although only a small project (and as such small data set), the outcomes of the project suggest that the drive for skills to be at the heart of the doctoral process, as bodies such as the European League for Research Universities have recommended, in a way misses the mark (LERU 2010). On the one hand, it fails to address the personal motivations of those undertaking a PhD, particularly in the arts and humanities, many of whom remain self-funded. On the other hand, it fails to value the knowledge and expertise generated during the PhD process and the importance of introducing research to sectors in which research is not undertaken or not yet understood.
To engage doctoral researchers with professional development, doctoral programmes need to locate skills-based training within research cultures, areas of research expertise, and in these new and emerging ecologies and economies of knowledge. By providing a doctoral programme that offers a range of opportunities for applied, collaborative, interdisciplinary, immersive and reflective learning, doctoral researchers will have the opportunity to explore both their research interests and their professional skills through a range of different lenses and with a range of sectors. This has the effect of increasing not only their employability, but of employers gaining understanding of the value and nature of higher education research.
The report is available here: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resource/its-not-just-about-writing