Induction week experience

Having just participated in the post-graduate Induction Week, I would like to share a few comments on this overwhelmingly positive experience.

First of all, as an in-context student, I realised the importance of face to face contacts with my supervisors and the rest of the academic community, or other tutors, administrators and fellow PhD students. I have known my supervisors – Richard and Julian – for a year now, having completed a couple of DL courses with them last autumn and spring, but DL, web-based, email-supported and Skype-enhanced connections could never fully replace the psychological, emotional and intellectual comfort of meeting them in person.  

During last academic year, I also became familiar with other significant people in the School of Education through email, but, again, meeting them in the concrete environments of their offices and daily activities created an additional connection, vital for all concerned parties.

Another major practical advantage of taking part in the meetings and lectures during that initial PG Welcome Week was an opportunity to work out how the PG support and training systems function, what’s on offer and when,  and who takes care of what – not just within the School of Education, but within the broader parameters of the Faculty of Humanities.

Establishing contacts and ways of maintaining regular communication lines with fellow doctoral students, whether  full- or part-time, residential or in-context, was also an important benefit of being at The University during those first few days.  I only wish that the in-context “pioneers” – Achilleas, Magdalena and Paul – could have been there at the same time as well. Their cyber-support and encouragement were a great prelude to the real-life experience, though.   

Sharing experiences with other –  former, current and/or prospective – PhD students is always extremely reassuring as well as interesting, but during the Welcome Week, it also became quite clear to me that it is almost impossible to compare them adequately and accurately: I discovered that there is no universal formula for the PhD journey as each doctoral student moves along an individual route, often through the uncharted waters (or, in my case, unmapped and unexplored desert sands…) of idiosyncratic research needs and requirements.  My supervisors discussed those with me at length and although I am now only at the very beginning of my work, I feel that meeting them was absolutely crucial in establishing the foundations for a sustainable (and possibly quite idiosyncratic!) modus operandi that could work for me/them/us on a long-term basis.  

At the end of the week, I felt I had been listened to and offered a tailor-made approach to my research needs and interests. I also felt I could not have moved forward without the experience of the introductory consultations and encounters. Ultimately, I came away from Manchester with a clear plan of action for the next few months and a firm resolve to strengthen those fledgling academic connections through further trips and meetings. 

On a slightly different note perhaps, here is another observation – I was truly impressed by the sheer vibrancy of The University of Manchester, teeming with thousands of students and hundreds of nationalities, and overflowing with creativity, energy and freedom to express individual passions and interests. It all seemed to spill over into the city, embracing it, engaging with the world. Yes, fair enough, Oxford Road was a little messy and noisy, but I didn’t mind it. Why am I going on about it? Because I am familiar with a somewhat different, clean and quiet, glamorous and expensively built educational institution located outside the main city, where guards only allow authorised people in, where most people look alike, where tidiness and tranquility hover close to sterility… Of course, that, too, has its advantages, but the overall impression of Manchester was that of life as opposed to inertia.  



  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    That’s a perceptive comment about differing expectations, Magda. In fact, I think it is a broader phenomenon, and it is not something specific to students’ preparedness to be pro-active. I can think of several examples of comments I hear in culturally diverse communities, which strike me as odd and which may be attributed to differing perceptions about the nature of academia. Off the top of my head, some mismatches in expectations I have become aware of relate to issues such as the degree of criticality required, what constitutes originality and attitudes towards malpractice. I am undecided, though, as to whether these points of friction can or indeed should be addressed on an institutional level, or whether the expectation of student initiative is to be extended to the identification and resolution of such problems as well.

  • I’ve come across this article:

    It’s interesting to read as a PT PG student anywhere in the world, even though its focus is American.


  • Magda Rostron

    Some additional remarks:

    I thought that the Welcome Week was an effective and efficient way of introducing new post-graduate research students to the University’s academic and social facilities. However, with all the information and guidelines reasonably clearly laid out in various lectures and presentations, a certain degree of student-generated effort was also required – or, in other words, a more pro-active approach to one’s studies and their organisation was expected. Now, several students arriving from other countries and educational cultures may not have realised that and seemed a bit lost, waiting for supervisors and others to come forward and seek them out rather than the other way round.

    I first realised this slight mismatch of expectations when another PG student mentioned it almost in passing, noting how students’ attitudes differed in this respect depending on their background and quoting comments such as, “I’m not sure who my supervisor is. No-one has contacted me about it. What should I do?”.

    I wonder how it might be addressed on an institutional level, or whether it even presents a significant issue. Maybe not.


  • Magda Rostron

    Discourse modifications or adjustments are part of most institutions and their transformations (admittedly, some are more eager than others), but as long as the said institution still delivers the goods it promises to deliver, albeit in a modified lingo, then I can live with it, too. As for the welcome week (I heard the phrase a few times, but mostly everyone was still referring to induction), it was what it promised to be. As a newcomer, I didn’t mind either phrase, although induction stuck with me more strongly than the new welcome.

    I also like DRC experience as opposed to pilot study (more suited for the panel?) – I think that that final assignment does cover one’s DRC experience, so it seems an apt name.


  • Richard Fay

    I guess the move to Welcome Week was also to move away from Fresher’s Week with all its connotations of freshmen and women and their partying, initiations etc. So many students registering each year do not belong to the kind of group which the term Freshers seems to suggest … and someone senior decided terms needed to better reflect, to fully include the range of students registering etc, and this decision is then passed down the system to us! 🙂 I can live with it ….

  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    Considering the amount of time, effort and indeed money needed for making such discourse ‘adjustments’, one is tempted to ask what were the associated benefits. I find the change from Pilot Study to DRC experience easy to understand, but I am afraid that the motivation behind ‘Welcome Week’ continues to baffle me.

  • Richard Fay

    Changing discourses (induction to welcome; module to course unit; etc) takes a loooong time. We are trying – because of the emerging discourse of ethics approval – to move in the in the Developing Researcher Competence course unit from ‘Pilot Study’ to ‘DRC experience’ but the former term is just so embedded in our documentation and thinking that this may take some time!

  • Don’t be disappointed if they don’t. My home phone number in Warsaw starts from 666 – have had it for over a decade and am still waiting (for interesting things to happen… 😉

    I’m planning to be in Manchester 14-18.11, so I’m afraid I’ll miss you next time, too :(.

    My tailor-made approach is still being tailored, but should be emerging soon.

    “Induction” was still being used!


  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    Great to know that Induction Welcome Week worked so well for you, Magda. Sorry I missed you though. My next visit to Manchester is from 27 October – 2 November. Am I correct in thinking that you’re in Manchester in early November as well?

    Till then, do tell us more about this ‘tailor-made approach to [your] research needs and interests


    {Apparently this is comment #666. I am expecting interesting things to happen}