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Posted on 19 Apr '24

The Pros and Cons of Doctoral Training Partnership PhDs

Some of the UK Research Councils offer the opportunity to do a PhD as part of a Doctoral Training Partnership. These PhDs offer a unique opportunity to undertake training alongside your research. Izzy talks us through her experience of being on a DTP, the good, the not so good, and the things to watch out for!

The pros of doing a DTP PhD

There were lots of positives of doing a DTP but it’s worth thinking about whether what is on offer is right for you.

Time to settle in

The training year is a great chance to find your feet before starting your actual PhD research. It eases the transition from your previous degree into the PhD way of working. This is especially useful if you’ve been out of university for a while, as it gives you time to familiarise yourself with university life and the academic way of working.

Some DTP programmes offer a full induction week with courses and team building activities. Even if you’re sceptical about ‘organised fun’, this can be a great way to break the ice and get to know other students across the DTP.

Make new friends

Even if a full induction week isn’t on offer, students on a DTP programme usually start their course together. For better or worse, there will be other students going through the same training process and PhD experience who will be able to understand what you are going through. Having friends who really get what the experience is like can help you balance research and life.

Be part of a research community

The variety of research covered by a DTP also means that you might have friends or connections outside your field who can give you new ideas or a different perspective. This is really useful when you’re stuck and need a fresh take on how to approach your work.

The training year

The full year of training is a chance to learn skills that are useful for your upcoming research and might not have been covered in your previous degree or work experience. You have time to dedicate to learning a new skill, which you might not have if you started your project straight away. This is really useful if you want to change subject area or have been out of university for a while and want to transition back into that way of working.

Professional Internship for PhD students (PIPs)

The PIPs is a really exciting opportunity to gain work experience in a field that is different to your PhD, and continue to receive your monthly stipend. You can think creatively about what to do and might even be able to ask your DTP for funds to go further afield or even abroad. There is usually a small requirement at the end of your placement, which might take the form of a report submitted to the funding body.

Extra training and experiences

After your training year, your DTP might continue to offer training and workshops to support your professional development. Some even offer an entire week away for team building! (Although, if the thought of more organised fun makes you shudder, this probably isn’t a selling point.)

A larger DTP might hold a symposium or conference for students to present academic posters and deliver talks. The skills involved in communicating your work are valuable whether you want to stay in academia or not. At the very least, these days away from your project are a good way of catching up with your friends across the DTP.

Support

Being part of a DTP means that you have dedicated course directors and support staff to reach out to, who are not your PhD supervisor. This can be really helpful if you have questions outside of your specific project, need additional support or just some advice to point you in the right direction.

As a cohort of PhD students, you can also work together to advocate for what you need. Your DTP might have student representatives who can take your views on board and share them with the course directors.

The cons of doing a DTP PhD

Does the training year offer what you need?

The training years are designed by your course directors to meet the needs of your PhD. However, this is to meet the general needs of an entire cohort, so it’s worth considering whether what is on offer will meet your specific needs.

Although it’s worth remembering that exposure to general research skills (like programming) can be useful even if you don’t see a directly applicable use for it right now. Perspectives on what other researchers use in their work can be useful if you want to collaborate or going forward in your career.

Can you manage the travel in your training year?

If you are not located at the ‘home’ university of the DTP, you might find yourself having to commute to your training or even temporarily live near that university. As you complete your rotations you might have to move or commute again. Usually one rotation is at your home university and you can choose the location of your PIPs, so this is a short-term consideration (but worth thinking about).

How is the training year assessed?

After several years of exams at school and university, you might be wondering whether you have to do more assessments. Some DTPs have more formal assessment methods including exams and coursework, which you submit as you complete the different rotations. There might be a requirement to pass this in order for you to progress onto the PhD research. There may also be attendance requirements or reports due over your research years in order to assess you. It’s worth being clear on how you’ll be assessed before you start.

Do you have to wait to start your PhD project?

Some students want to dive straight into their PhD research, so having to wait a year can be frustrating. Usually, it is not possible to start your research alongside the training year as you’ll have other commitments. It’s worth finding out whether one of your DTP rotations is in the group you want to do your PhD in, as this is a good chance to start that work and have a trial run.

This means you will have three full years dedicated to research and, although it’s possible to achieve a great PhD in this time, it’s worth considering how long you want to study for your PhD and whether you would want four years of dedicated research time.

Find a Doctoral Training Partnership

Browse DTP projects listed here on FindAPhD.


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Last Updated: 19 April 2024