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Researcher Development

Researcher Development

What’s stressing you out?

Finances can be a great concern for postgraduate research students. Whether it’s because you are self-funded and so have to balance part-time work alongside your research, because your funding is time-limited, because you are the main bread-winner in your family, or because you have other costs that are draining your bank account, worrying about money can not only be a big distraction, but a serious cause of anxiety. Interestingly, recent research from Times Higher Education, suggests that UK students are more likely to worry over finances than those in other European countries.

Wonder blogger, Pat Thompson, believes that ‘we don’t talk about money and the PhD nearly often enough’, and suggests some issues to think about when considering starting a PhD.

No matter what point of your studies you are at, you can always check out the University’s page on PhD funding, which includes sections on postgraduate doctoral loans and alternative funding.

If you are struggling, you may also be eligible for the hardship and retention fund.

And don’t forget that Exeter Guild Advice Service is here for postgraduates, too, and may be able to offer more support.

If you are worried about your visa situation, the best port of call is the International Student Support page. It can also really help to chat to people in the same boat, to manage your anxieties, so don’t be afraid to reach out to other international students and ask them how they are feeling. On a similar note, if you are reading this and you aren’t an international student, do reach out to your international friends and make sure they feel welcome and supported.

The relationship with your supervisor(s) is so important to your experience of postgraduate research. The Doctoral College has lots of resources to help you manage this relationship, including regular workshops (as part of the Researcher Development Essentials), and this e-learning course on Working effectively with your supervisors.

If you are worried about your upgrade, the first place to start is probably talking to your supervisor or pastoral tutor, who will be able to explain the process to you. If your stress is caused by not fully understanding the process, you might find it helpful to go back to the Postgraduate Research Handbook, which explains the purpose and timing of the upgrade and the submission requirements.

If you are nervous about giving a paper, you could have a look at this course on Presentation Skills. If you are worried about your academic writing, you could check out this course on Writing your thesis.

If you are worried about your viva, there are plenty of resources available on the ‘Preparing for your viva’ page.

If you are feeling stressed about what you are going to do after you have finished your research, check out the Career Planning Guide for PGRs course. Actually, check it out even if you’re not feeling stressed about that: it’s always worth thinking about.

If you’re caught in a cycle of never feeling good enough, you might like to skip to the later section in this course on self-care and compassion and/or the section on Imposter Syndrome.

The Wellbeing Service at the University of Exeter runs workshops and webinars on topics like ‘Managing Perfectionism’ and ‘How to tame your mind bully using mindfulness and other strategies’.

You may also want to explore the courses offered by SilverCloud, available for free to students at the University of Exeter, which teaches you to challenge destructive thoughts.

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