University of Oxford - Humanities Division

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is training relevant for graduate students?

The nature of the DPhil/PhD is changing to reflect the career destinations of researchers nationwide. Many graduate students in the Humanities at Oxford may remain in academia, but the research project in itself offers only partial preparation for an academic career.

The aim of professional development and training is to provide graduate students with the means to become more effective in research, to build up a range of activities and practices that contribute to personal and academic development and to enable graduates to make informed career choices.

It is important to remember that the qualities and competencies required to be a successful academic are highly transferable to other careers, but you will need to reframe and translate your experience for potential non-academic employers.  

All potential employers will seek evidence of appropriate skills, knowledge and experience and so it is important to keep track of that evidence so that you can present it in a CV or at interview.


What counts as training and professional development?

Any course, programme or information session run by the Careers Service, the Computing Service, the Library Service, in faculties, in a college or elsewhere, that is designed to equip the graduate with useful information, or to develop any kind of skill or competency. Some examples are WISER courses run by the University's Computing and Library Services, workshops in academic publishing (see Events), mentored training to teach and consultation with a careers advisor.

However, much of a graduate's professional development cannot be taught through a training course. Attending conferences, participating in or organising seminars or outreach and public engagement activities or sitting on a college committee, voluntary work, or playing for a sports team are all activities that generate evidence of skills.

Will training help with a doctoral research project?

The definition of training for graduate students encompasses research and personal development/career management. Training in research skills, learning a language, taking a course in online research or in using electronic bibliographic tools will have a direct impact on the quality of doctoral research, as will training in study skills and information management.

Other training graduates may undertake, such as publishing, teaching or career planning may not directly impact on the research project, but provide the experience of integrating the research project with a range of other academic activities. Some of the skills developed in teaching for example, such as planning and structuring a course of teaching, the verbal communication of complicated ideas, or even basic time-management, may have a positive impact on the doctoral research project and in the long term will contribute to academic success.

What is the recommended amount of time to spend in training and professional development?

There is no upper limit to the amount of training graduates may undertake. Activities outside the immediate research project may in the first instance have a positive impact on the research and allow graduates valuable time away from the project. However, graduates are strongly advised not to take on extra-curricular activities to the extent that research suffers, and to plan training accordingly.

How does a graduate student identify training needs?

Training and professional development should be tailored to the individual graduate and be appropriate for the path of the individual doctorate. As such, self-assessment with the input of a supervisor, mentor or peer is a useful way of assessing training needs.Setting objectives with specific deadlines is one way in which training needs can be identified. Another is to list the competencies required in the career of choice and assess oneself against them to see where the gaps are and consider how they can be filled.

The Humanities Training Officer ( is available to advise further on any training-related matter.

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