As a postgraduate researcher at BU, the Doctoral College Researcher Development Programme (RDP) can support you in developing the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes needed to complete your research degree and for your longer-term career ambitions.

For current postgraduate researchers all workshops, webinars and masterclasses are free to attend and full details are available on your dedicated Researcher Development Programme Brightspace unit. If you do not have access to this unit, please email the postgraduate researcher development, culture and community team at [email protected] and we can help. 

About the Researcher Development Programme

The Doctoral College Researcher Development Programme (RPD) has over 50 different interactive sessions and a wide range of online modules and e-learning on offer. It is complementary to your postgraduate research degree and provides you the flexibility to develop your academic, professional and personal skills as and when required. It supports you in gaining the skills needed to complete your research degree whilst also building on your transferable skills for employability, whether in academia or further afield.

The RDP mirrors the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which enables an individually tailored developmental journey. You may wish to use the Training Needs Analysis template to guide and record your development.

The Doctoral College continually expands your provisions and is committed to providing a high-quality programme, which is suitable and accessible for all our postgraduate researchers.

How the Researcher Development Programme works

Sessions are tailored towards postgraduate researchers and delivered by the Doctoral College, academic staff, professional services staff and external facilitators all highly knowledgeable in their fields and in postgraduate research. As you progress through your postgraduate research degree you will discover different areas of the RDP will become important. There is no maximum number of sessions you can attend however it is expected, in line with the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, that you complete 10 days professional development pro-rata per year. Booking is required for all sessions. 

By mapping the RDP against the RDF you will be able to set aspirational goals, identify opportunities for further professional development, develop an action plan and articulate and evidence the transferability of your skills for your CV, in job applications and during interview in a language employers inside and outside of academia will recognise and respect.


It is a guiding principle of the QAA that PGRs are offered personal and professional development to complement their research. The Researcher Development Programme is a key element of the Doctoral College’s provision for PGRs at BU, and we are duly proud of the range and diversity of the support we offer. 

The Doctoral College’s Researcher Development Programme is central to enabling PGRs at BU to reach their full academic and professional potential. The flexible provision facilitates customisation to meet the individual needs of PGRs, in their development as a researcher, in consideration of the wider context of their research area, and in preparation for their careers in or out of academia.

Dr Fiona Knight and Dr Julia Taylor (Heads of Doctoral College)

The Researcher Development Programme (RDP) at BU is quite simply one of the most marvellous and comprehensive resources I have seen available to postgraduate students at any of the institutions I have worked or with which I am familiar. The Training Needs Analysis (TNA) tool encourages PGRs to work with their supervisors to identify which elements of the RDP would be most beneficial so as to plan, promote and support the unique career, professional and personal journey of each of our PGRs and aid them in realising their potential.

Professor Mike Silk (Deputy Dean Research & Professional Practice, BU Business School)

Being able to engage with the RDP has allowed me to structure my weeks by choosing sessions that are relevant to my area of study and introduced me to areas and skills of research that I would never have known about! There is so much to take in and so many different speakers to learn from and engage with, it really made me think about my research in new and interesting ways. Being surrounded by others and feeling part of the community has also been important, especially in a time where working from home has become the norm.

James Platt (FT MRes student, BU Business School) 

 The Researcher Development Programme is an excellent way for PGR students to meet their individual learning needs. It offers a 'pick and mix' style of seminars, workshops, masterclasses and short programmes that students can dip in and out of as they progress through their doctoral journey. the range of topics available are not just to enhance their research knowledge but also give them the transferable skills to place them in a good position for future employment. 

Professor Sue Way (Acting Head of Doctoral School, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences)

The Researcher Development Programme has allowed me to explore my knowledge and understanding.  I left school at 16 and went straight into a paid role so this is my first time exploring education since then and all I am bringing is professional practice and lived experience.  The Programme has allowed me to put knowledge behind my practice, think about theories to make sure I get the information I need and details of how to present it.  The workshops on philosophy also gave me the opportunity to understand the why and I keep going back to the notes to reacquaint myself with the knowledge.

Sam Everard (PT MRes student, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences) 

I engage in researcher development because I find it beneficial for me. It equips me with the necessary knowledge and skills to progress effectively with my PhD research. In addition, I get the opportunity to strengthen my technical capacity in research and build competency skills for my future profession. I am pleased with the Doctoral College support through the researcher development programme. Also, they were quick to design online and virtual courses during Covid 19 challenges, it was possible to continue learning and engaging with other PGRs. As a result, I developed a strong PGR network that also provided peer support and guidance.

Mavis Neo Bengtsson (FT PhD student, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences) 

I have benefited from engaging in the RDP programme engagement in several ways.  Notably, I have strengthened my knowledge base and learnt some vital skills to help me with my studies, resulting in increased confidence to proceed. In this year where all the sessions have been online due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, I have got to know some peers through attending the webinars and can now identify session facilitators with specific knowledge or areas of expertise who could answer questions. I have also developed my identity as a PGR student through my attendance.

Tanya Andrewes (PT PhD student, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences)

In general the whole programme has been designed very considerate and comprehensive. I can tell it tries to cover as many necessary aspects as it can, from how to prepare key milestones to how to maintain our own wellbeing. I felt a bit more confident to carry on my study after attending some of them, e.g., the imposter syndrome offers the opportunity to ask professors directly in a kind of casual and relax environment. I appreciate that a lot.

Yunfei Li (FT PhD student, Faculty of Media and Communication)

I saw [engaging with the researcher development programme] as a great opportunity to build more confidence in my research; there were certain areas I was struggling with regarding my doctorate such as project/time management and how to have meaningful impact. The courses on the programme are varied, whilst some of them did not pertain to my project, the ones that did were incredibly useful and genuinely helped me progress further with my research – without some of the courses my research would lack impact and direction; I would be less organised and lack a clear direction.

Jack Brett (FT EngD student, Faculty of Media and Communication)

Professional and personal development is an important part of the research degree journey and has the benefit of developing valuable academic and transferable skills to enhance your employability. The Researcher Development Programme offers a range of opportunities for development, so make the most of it!

Professor Tiantian Zhang (Deputy Dean Research & Professional Practice, Faculty of Science & Technology)

My primary reason for engaging in researcher development was to sharpen the sword of my academic skills. This has refreshed my knowledge surrounding academic skills and has given me a greater sense of confidence in my ability to produce academic work at a high standard. The researcher development programme helped to refresh my key skills required for academic work as I was out of study for over a year. I was able to choose programmes that are related are relevant to my own research. I now feel more confident that I can use certain tools such as NVivo in my own work.

Jack Olley (FT PhD student, Faculty of Science and Technology)

 [My primary reason for engaging with researcher development is] I wish to gain a clearer understanding of practically how to carry out research so that I am able to deliver my research and also more broadly so that I have an understanding of the research landscape. [I have benefitted from] learning about different kinds of qualitative research and how these can be applied. The level of provision has been brilliant thank you.

Kevin Davidson (FT MRes student, Faculty of Science & Technology)

Staying in touch

There are lots of ways you can find out about upcoming sessions and wider researcher development opportunities including the monthly update for researcher development e-newsletter, the BU Research Blog (under PGR) and Faculty blogs (FHSS, BUBS, FMC, FST), and Brightspace announcements. If you do have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with the postgraduate researcher development, culture and community team at [email protected].