Modelling Good Practice in Research Training for Design Postgraduate Students

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The experience of postgraduate research students has been evaluated and analysed in numerous surveys by the Australian government and by universities over the last eight years. This is spearheaded by the government’s expectation of the university sector’s responsibility in matching competitive federal funding of postgraduate fees with appropriate training to meet employer/industry needs. The exercise requires universities to address pertinent issues regarding the postgraduate research experience, in particular, research resources, supervision quality, ‘research culture’ and research training. This paper is a longitudinal study of a continuing scheme which addresses key aspects contributing to research training and a ‘research culture’ for the burgeoning Masters by research and PhD programmes in the School of Design Studies during 2002-2006. Responses from a university-wide exit survey of postgraduate research students in 2002 identified supervision, research skills and research culture as important factors contributing to positive experience. The survey results are significant for design studies where postgraduate research and experience in supervision are relatively new compared to engineering, science and social sciences. The scheme focuses on a series of seminars and workshops to address research training and research culture for a group of postgraduate students with diverse backgrounds and experience including Honours graduates and professionals who graduated from the university more than five years ago; practice-led and/or thesis-based research; local/international students; and fulltime/part-time modes. Results from student evaluations of the scheme demonstrate that responses to postgraduate research experiences have been satisfactory even though participation in the programme is optional. However, the scheme has resulted in an increasing level of student successes in grant applications for conference travel, acceptances of conference abstracts and papers, and confidence in thesis writing. The paper concludes by suggesting research training as one of the key contributors to a positive postgraduate experience and ‘research culture’ complemented by appropriate supervision.
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Chan, Leong
Parker, Wendy
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