Welcome!You have made it through the application process and are now part of our team. To help you find your way around, there is some information about what you can expect from us, and what we do expect from you as a postgraduate research student. Much of what you really need to know about how this place (i.e. this department and this University) works you can find online. This page gives you the essential pointers to getting started, but you may also find some helpful tips on the page for new members of the department.
- Your rights and responsibilities
- Organise your primary sources of information
- Get to know your colleagues
- Understand the review process
- Your support network
- Your points of contact
- How to do (survive) a PhD
Your rights and responsibilitiesFirst, you must read the rules and regulations for postgraduate research students. You should have received these in form of a booklet by the University per mail. These rules and regulations are important because they tell you explicitely which rights you have, and what support you are entitled to. They also explain how the University monitors standards, what the department must monitor in terms of your progress, what steps we can and have to take if your progress is unsatisfactory, and again, what your rights are in all of this.
Second, you must check if you have been assigned a supervisor (this would normally happen even before you arrive) and a reviewer (this should happen within a couple of weeks into your PhD). This information is in the PhD review system, which we use to administrate your progress reviews. You also have at least one named PhD tutor.
Organise your primary sources of information: EmailA good starting point for any kind of question is to look at the online version of the departmental handbook. There are some dedicated pages for staff and PhD studens including information for new members of staff and PhD students. Be aware that the departmental websites can time travel (see the year on top of each web page).
As a matter of urgency you must check and set up your email accounts. As a PhD student in the CS department, you should have already received a login and a password for within the department. There is also an email adress attached to this and all CS internal email will be automatically sent to this email account. You also have a University (UoB) username and passwort with an associated email account. You will receive all information related to your degree and other important University related information on this account. You MUST make sure that you are aware of messages coming in BOTH accounts. Hence we strongly recommend that you forward one account to the other (which one you use and which one you forward is up to you). In order to forward your CS account you need to use a .forward file in your home directory. The page that explains how to forward your UoB account is here. A website that explains how to set up Thunderbird to read your emails is here. At some point you might also be interested in the departmental Wiki, for which you need a web password.
Get to know your colleaguesThird, find out who the other PhD students are. There are socials organised every 3 months, the so-called PhD lunches which give you an opportunity to meet up. Every Friday, a group of people go for a drink to a nearby pub (the Scotsman) and you are welcome to join in. During term time there are departmental seminars on Thursdays at 4pm with coffee and tea before the seminar. Have a look at the student union website (there is a union for postgraduate students) and sign up for some courses, and/or join one of their societies to make some friends also outside of the department.
Understand the review processFourth, familiarise yourself with the review procedure. In a nutshell you will be reviewed every 6 months. The purpose of the review is to find out if you are making enough progress to finish your degree within the normal duration. For the review you must prepare a report that outlines your activities and progress. You MUST have this report ready before the review date and distribute it to your supervisor and reviewer who MUST read it before the review meeting. During the review meeting, you give a presentation in which you summarise your achievements and explain your problems. Supervisor and reviewer are supposed to give you constructive feedback. The PhD review system is then used to record this review (the report is uploaded, feedback by supervisor and reviewer is also recorded). You have then the chance to give confidential feedback about the quality of supervision. This feedback will only be seen by the PhD tutors.
Your support networkThe whole business of doing a PhD can look like a daunting task. Fact is, it is demanding, and you must make sure that you have support and know where and when to get it. Your first contact person for all academic matters is your main supervisor. Consequently, if you think or feel that your relationship with this person is not good enough you must address this as soon as possible. If talking to your main supervisor does not help you must bring this to the attention to your PhD tutor. The PhD tutor will help you to clarify your situation and will support you in finding a way forward. For other problems (academic or personal) you can also seek support from your PhD tutor. In addition to support from your PhD tutor you can also use other University services (e.g. student union welfare services, student counselling service ...). If you have the impression that you are treated unfairly then you are advised to follow the student complaints procedure.
Your points of contactThere are a number of people you should have contact details of. Obviously this includes your supervisor and the head of your research group. Other people you should know or at least have heard of are:
- Your PhD representative and representative in the departmental research committee: Osian Haines
- Your PhD tutor is: Elisabeth Oswald
- Your PhD administrator: Ruth Weir (from October 2010).
How to do (survive) a PhD
- Presentation on doing a PhD which was given as part of previous induction programmes.
- The PhD experience by Mihir Bellare.
- Another opinion/guide to a succesful PhD by John Langford.
- Tim Kovac's guide for recognising conferences which are crap.
- PhD comics: the authoritative guide to a PhD.
- Tim Kovacs' opinions/guide for a PhD.