Just over two months ago, I wrote a blog about the summer school I attended to receive the Certificate in Generic & Transferable Research skills as part of my PhD. I had completed the residential week just before writing the first blog. This involved workshops for the six modules I had opted to take, as well as a few extra talks in intellectual property, research funding, grant writing and entrepreneurship. At the time of writing the first blog I thought I had most of the summer school work done by attending the residential week, however, the assignments turned out to be the bulk of the work.
Since writing the initial summer school blog, I have completed all of these assignments. We had six modules (3 credits each), each module had assignments to follow in order to complete the module. The modules are pass/fail and no grades are given. If you fail a module you must repeat it the following year. The 12 weeks following the residential week were split into three 4-week blocks, each block allowed time to complete assignments for two full modules. These assignments had a nice amount of variety including group project presentations, short essays, creating opinion posts on a forum and responding to others’ posts, completing online courses, filling in a research ethics application and writing a brief literature review. I found the assignments relevant to the course and genuinely really useful for us early-career researchers.
At the beginning of the residential week it was stated that two days a week should be devoted to completing the assignments. I have been lucky enough that I have not had a very busy summer in terms of my own project, and I have mainly been focusing on the summer school assignments. I am also fortunate enough that my supervisor realized the level of commitment needed for the summer school and let me prioritize these assignments. I found myself spending at least half of each week completing assignments. I know that others have really struggled to meet deadlines and have been juggling their own research work as well as the assignments.
I would advise new PhD students to sign up for summer school in their first summer if possible. If you are thinking of taking the summer school, be prepared to give 3 days a week to complete the assignments. As well as being prepared for this yourself, make sure your supervisor realizes that, by permitting you to attend the summer school, this will be your priority for the summer (12 weeks out of 4 years is not that much when you think about it). I definitely recommend all PhD students to at least attend the residential week as there was an enormous amount of valuable information provided. The UL summer school is obviously run with the intentions of creating better researchers by preparing them early on in their careers, rather than just making up 18 credits in order to graduate.