Structured PhD Programme at UCD


The Importance of Planning

Comprehensive planning in the early months of the doctorate sets the stage for successful and timely completion. Decisions made during this time have far-reaching implications. In fact, numerous studies of doctorate completion (and non-completion) have traced the eventual outcomes of research projects to decisions made (or not made) in the first few months! It is worth bearing in mind that, while planning is important, it is difficult to predict the exact direction of a doctorate in the very early stages. Significant changes to your plan may be required as your research progresses.

Agree a general timeline with your supervisor that relates to the length of your doctorate. Set specific milestones against which to measure your progress such as:

  • deepen understanding of the ‘problem’ or the issues around the research;
  • agree the process of data collection/ research accumulation;
  • complete ‘solution’ or framing of the argument, and review recent literature; and,
  • written thesis, ready for viva.

Essential researcher-supervisor decisions

This relationship is critical. It is up to you to discover the specifics of what your supervisor expects from you.

Have you agreed the following?

  • The frequency and timing of supervision meetings.
  • Preferred level of supervision - very hands-on or hands-off.
  • Resource needs - what is essential, what is available, what can reasonably be expected.
  • Research ethics.
  • Intellectual property arrangements.
  • Your time commitments.

Use the Research and Professional Development Planning Form (Fillable PDF)    

The RPDP is a core feature of your PhD. It is a structured and supported process undertaken by anindividual research student, to reflect upon their research progress, learning, performance, and/or achievement; and to plan for their personal, educational and career development.

In particular RPDP is a process where a student:

  • defines high level objectives and milestones to be achieved through their research project;
  • identifies their current skills development needs through a process of self assessment;
  • agrees a skills development plan to address their priority requirements;
  • reviews their research and skills development progress in a structured manner with their supervisor;
  • plans their detailed activities to their next review; and,
  • documents their progress, in implementing their research plan and their professional development plan, highlighting issues identified and decisions made.

What is the purpose of RPDP?

  • To support the student in managing their research project, monitoring progress and agreeing any changes in the direction of their work.
  • To enable students to assess their current skills in the context of their research project and to identify any development needs.
  • To document the outcome of any relevant meetings that take place between the student and their supervisor.
  • To chart and evidence the academic, discipline and professional skills development of the student.
  • To provide a record of skills development activities (e.g. courses attended, presentations given, publications, other).
  • To support the assessment of progress of the student.
  • To provide a formal document related to the stage 1 transfer process.
  • To provide a framework for stage 1 and stage 2 completion/transition.
  • To provide a mechanism for progress reporting in consultation between student and supervisor and the Graduate School.
  • To reflect dialogue between student and supervisor over academic (subject specific), generic and transferable skills.

Research and Academic Skills

Training in research skills and techniques is the key element in the development of a research student, and that PhD students are expected to make a substantial, original contribution to knowledge in their area, normally leading to published work. The development of wider employment-related skills should not detract from that core objective.

Research and academic skills include:

  • original, independent thinking;
  • developing concepts and ideas;
  • research methodologies and techniques;
  • critical analysis and evaluation of research;
  • principles and processes of research.

Key Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are non-job specific skills which can be used in different occupations. They may be developed through previous degree programmes, work, volunteering, or by life experience. By communicating transferable skills effectively, students can enhance marketability and become open to a larger sector of the job market.

Transferable skills include:

  • team working
  • communications skills
  • project management
  • personal effectiveness 
  • career management

Click here for further information.

Research Objectives

Towards the end of this stage you should be much clearer on your research proposal. Consider how far you have got with the following: 

  • surveying the literature to give you a professional grasp of the background theory to your subject;
  • developing a deeper understanding of the problem or the issues around the research;
  • beginning to spell out precisely what you are researching and why (if this was not already clear at the outset).

Stage Transfer Assessment 

Under the UCD General Regulations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, students registered to a structured PhD programme are to be assessed formally at the end of their Stage 1 doctoral studies. This assessment process will determine whether the student should progress to Stage 2 of their doctoral studies.

The Stage 1 Transfer for an individual PhD candidate will require an Assessment Panel that will assess the progress of the student at the end of Stage 1 and will make a recommendation regarding the student’s progression.

The STA should take place 12 months from the date of registration for full time registered students and no later than 18 months after registration.

Here is the policy document for the Stage Transfer Assessment.

The Graduate School and You

In UCD, the Graduate School is an element of the structure of each College. The five Graduate Schools and their Boards work with the constituent Schools of each College and with the Research Institutes to coordinate institutional provision and practices, ensure alignment and compliance with external requirements, identify and share good practice, facilitate and support graduate programme design and implementation. They also provide governance and oversight of graduate activity including the enhancement of research student experience.

Please contact us directly should you have any queries.