£18.5 million award success for the Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences

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The Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences (WGSSS) is one of 15 new doctoral training partnerships announced by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) following a successful bid for funding.

The investment in doctoral training partnerships (DTPs) demonstrate ESRC’s commitment to its revised vision for doctoral training, that reflects the findings of the Review of PhD in the Social Sciences in 2021. They will provide a breadth of professional development training opportunities to enhance the capabilities of doctoral candidates and further develop a world-class, highly skilled workforce for the UK.

WGSSS is a watershed for the social sciences in Wales. Building on the success of the ESRC Wales DTP, we are strengthened by new university members, a powerful group of strategic partners, and a deep commitment from stakeholders. WGSSS will nurture social science researchers from all backgrounds, delivering outstanding training and practical preparation for a wide range of careers, within impact to communities in Wales and around the world.

Professor John Harrington, WGSSS Director

WGSSS is a collaboration between Cardiff University, and Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, the University of South Wales, the University of Gloucestershire, and Swansea University. The University of Wales, Trinity St David is an associate member and contributes to shared training and researcher development.   

A total of £40 million investment in postgraduate social science research and training, WGSSS will deliver up to 360 studentships across 5 annual cohorts from 2024. It will create an integrated cross-Wales community of researchers through a common Training Platform supported by ESRC, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and partner universities.

Working closely with the Learned Society of Wales, it will deliver support for social sciences students and supervisors on career development, wellbeing, and inclusion. WGSSS is supported by an £18.5 million award from ESRC, which is matched by contributions from partner universities and by £1.5 million-plus investment from strategic partners including Welsh Government, Office for National Statistics, Natural Resources Wales, Welsh Council for Voluntary Action, Cardiff Capital Region City Deal and the Office of the Commissioner for the Well-Being of Future Generations.

This is fantastic news and a ringing endorsement of the collective strength of the universities in the partnership. Together we have a strong track record of delivering social science research with environmental, economic, and societal impact to our communities and more widely across the UK and beyond.

As one of the biggest and most significant investments in postgraduate social science research and training, this partnership will ensure that we continue to develop social scientists who are equipped to deliver impactful research for future generations, providing solutions to constantly evolving complex societal challenges. Importantly, it will offer a boost for postgraduates’ career development, support their wellbeing as well as leading to greater inclusion.

I’d like to thank Professor Harrington and his team across the partnership who worked so hard on this successful bid and look forward to  following the progress of the partnership over the coming years.

Professor Wendy Larner, Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

The University of South Wales (USW) is proud to be part of the Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences (WGSSS). USW has a long and distinguished history of impactful research in social sciences/policy, evidenced by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 outcomes that placed our submission as 1st in Wales for impact. We pride ourselves on not only the strength of our research but also the opportunities and experiences made available to our students, which is reflected in USW being voted the top university in the UK in the recent postgraduate research experience survey. Being part of the WGSSS, will further enhance the research and training opportunities open to social sciences students and we look forward to working in collaboration and partnership with colleagues across Wales and beyond

Professor Martin Steggall, Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation, University of South Wales.

Our vision for postgraduate training is that it will develop globally competitive social science researchers who can operate in interdisciplinary, collaborative, and challenge-led environments across a range of sectors and who have a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.  This redesigned and expanded doctoral training opportunity will enhance the experience for PhD students and boost the UK’s capability.

Stian Westlake, ESRC Executive Chair

Rated as ‘outstanding’ the WGSSS bid was praised by ESRC for its visionary approach to equality, diversity and inclusion, and plans for internships and career development.

Information on how to apply for studentships via the WGSSS Competition for entry in 2024/2025 is available on the Studentships page.

Small Grants Report – Katharine Kavanagh

Katharine Kavanagh is in the final year of her PhD in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University. She is funded through the DTP’s Linguistics pathway, and researches how the different ways that UK circus audiences value their experience are represented through public texts. In this blog she describes how she successfully applied for a WGSSS Small Grant and offers four top tips to future applicants.

After a year of maternity leave, and a summer of working from home, I eagerly entered my School’s café at the start of the 2022 academic year for a PGR meet’n’greet to catch up with old colleagues and meet new ones. I’m a Linguistics student, but our school also houses departments of English Literature, Creative Writing, and Philosophy. Before too long I found myself chatting with a Philosophy student just entering his second year. Thom Hamer’s study area is metamodernism, a relatively recent movement in cultural understanding, but one that I have encountered before in my own studies of circus culture. He mentioned having run a symposium last year funded by his DTP (the AHRC SWWDTP), and the cogs in my brain started clicking…

In May 2023, we proudly produced The Metamodern Circus – the world’s first symposium dedicated to the intersections of circus practice and metamodern theory. The path to get there was long and at times stressful, but we were facilitated in our journey with funding from Thom’s DTP, the Cardiff University Doctoral Academy, and the ESRC Wales DTP (now rebranded as the Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences, or WGSSS).

In this blog I want to sing the praises of the WGSSS Small Project Grants funding stream, and share my experiences of applying for and managing the funds, in the hope that it will help other students to benefit from the scheme.

The fund is open to applicants twice a year, and can provide up to £1000 to successful candidates to support one of three project types as described on the WGSSS website: Cohort building, Interdisciplinarity or Collaborative.

The total budget of our symposium day was a far higher sum than can be accommodated by the Small Grants scheme, but this was largely covered by the AHRC funds Thom was able to access. In addition to the symposium day itself, however, it was important to us to properly prepare attendees in advance of the event, and then to share the findings with a wider audience of stakeholders afterwards. To do this, we wanted to distribute an introductory zine that could lay down some basics of metamodernism and circus studies to those who were unfamiliar with either or both fields, and then to produce a documentation booklet after the event that could be sent to higher education circus schools so that our knowledge could be disseminated to practitioners who were unable to attend in person. 

My first big tip for readers planning an ambitious event: Combine budget pots! Figure out which bits of your project meet the brief for different funding streams, and separate out the costs accordingly into tailored applications. When we completed our WGSSS application we listed all the costs to run the full project and advised that we had also sourced some of the funds from elsewhere. At the time of application we’d had verbal confirmation from one of the other sources and were awaiting a decision on the other, so additional funds do not have to be fully confirmed in order to achieve a successful outcome for a Small Grant.

My second big tip: Make careful spreadsheets of where the money is allocated and actually spent. Even in a smaller scale project than ours, some planned expenditure will go up, and some will (hopefully!) go down. If you are accessing different funding pots, you need to know where there is room for manoeuvre between them and where there isn’t. For example, do certain expenses have to be paid by an earlier deadline than others, as in our case? One of the great benefits to us of the WGSSS scheme was that there was no requirement to complete the activity before the financial year end. Funds do however need to be used within a 12 months period and the finish date of the project should take this into account.  The WGSSS office can be contacted for advice if any difficulties with anticipated timescales arise.   Beyond ensuring the success of this project, the experience of budget management gained from our Small Grant has helped build skills and confidence that will support future work opportunities after graduation.

My third tip: Be prepared for your ideas to shift in line with the requirements of your funding options. Many of our best ideas came to us by seeing what constraints we had to conform to in order to secure the funding. Although it takes more work to reimagine a project based on external considerations, I think this creative adaptation helped strengthen our funding applications to ensure we were meeting all the requirements, and also helped strengthen our final offering because of the additional work that had to go into the planning. For example, we had to ensure that we were offering an activity that could benefit all ESRC funded PGRs across the DTP, and so we devised a workshop to introduce principles of collaborative writing and publication processes that would draw students from many disciplines to our niche day on circus and metamodernism. This meant we had perspectives from schools of Optometry, Engineering and Law, for example, which enriched our discussions and learning on the day. We also had to make the day available online, which taught us valuable skills in producing hybrid events. In fact, the very process of writing and honing our applications made a massive improvement to our understanding of the project and how it could be of maximum benefit to our own interests and to those of our participants and audiences. We also became experts at articulating ideas in writing that had previously only existed in spoken exchanges between us.

The application for the WGSSS funding was the simplest of the three that we wrote. The link to the form is available through the Small Grants webpage, and clarifies at the bottom where the completed form must be emailed. The first section of the form asks for standard personal details relating to your PhD programme and which funding stream you’re applying for. The second part asks for a 500-word description of the proposed activities, including timescales, how the activities will be organised and by whom, and how these will benefit you (and other students) and enhance your PhD project. The last part gives a budget table to fill out with estimates of the various costs anticipated. There isn’t room within this blog to include our final application, but if anyone would like to see a copy then get in touch and I will happily share via email.

My last tip for the application is that it requires your PhD Supervisor’s signature, so you need to factor time to discuss your idea with them into your planning, as well as to allow reasonable time before the deadline to receive their signature back on the completed form. (An e-signature is fine). At the time of writing this, the next deadline for the Small Grants funding is 15th December 2023, so if you have had ideas percolating in your brain but weren’t sure how to make them happen, then perhaps a WGSSS Small Grant could be your solution! Payments for successful project expenses are initially arranged through your own school’s finance department. The DTP will reimburse costs incurred at the end of the project once a final report and breakdown of expenditure has been submitted. Learning how to navigate University financial procedures was an unexpected and revelatory learning outcome of the project!

If you’re interested in further details of how our event ran, or would like to see a digital copy of the zine and publication that were produced, please visit TheCircusDiaries.com, an online platform that partnered with us for the event in celebration of their 10th anniversary.

And, finally, good luck to all future applicants!

Internships with the Welsh Government

Deadline: Friday 15 March 2024

WGSSS is pleased to offer 3 internship opportunities with the Welsh Government, working on specific projects covering a wide range of topics as detailed in the below project descriptions.

The internships are open to any ESRC WGSSS funded student (except those within 3 months of the start or end of their studentship). It is anticipated that the internships will be commencing in Spring/Summer 2024, for a period of 3 months (full-time or the part-time equivalent). Successful applicants will get an extension to their PhD equivalent to the duration of the internship.

These internships will offer opportunities to create impact by contributing to the work of government, the chance to build relationships outside of academia, as well as the ability to develop research skills in a policy environment.

Full project descriptions are available in the below linked documents:

Internship Descriptions

Research on the implementation and early impacts of the CAMHS In-Reach to Schools programme 
Duration:3 months 
Project: The focus of the project is to explore the implementation and early impacts of the Children and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) In-Reach service. The successful applicant will work closely with Welsh Government officials and stakeholders, in particular, staff in Public Health Wales (PHW).  
Department: The internship will be based within the Welsh Government’s Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS). 

Evidence synthesis and research to inform education policy thinking
(2 placements available)
Duration: 3 months
Project: The focus of the project is to work on evidence to help inform the development of policy interventions.
Department: The internship will be based within the Welsh Government’s Knowledge and Analytical Services (KAS). 

Please submit your completed application form to enquiries@walesdtp.ac.uk by 4pm on the day of the deadline.

National Museum Wales Internship

Deadline: Monday 3 July 2023

The Wales DTP is pleased to offer an internship opportunity with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, working on a project to develop a “Heritage Craft Skills Action Plan”. There is currently no comprehensive policy for heritage craft skills being retained or re-established at Amgueddfa Cymru. There is a risk of skills soon being lost due to staff retirement, and a need to develop an innovative offering to ensure that these valuable skills are passed on.

This is an opportunity for a social sciences PhD researcher with experience in conducting literature reviews, interviews and/or workshops and a professional or personal interest in the heritage sector.

In this research project, a student will have the opportunity to apply their skillset to:

  1. analyse leading sector initiatives
  2. work in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru staff and craftspersons to develop and better understand the current training provision to develop policy and a “Heritage Craft Skills Action Plan”.

Internally, this Action Plan will build on existing policies, practice and succession plans to enhance the work of Amgueddfa Cymru, and create a difference, across a variety of Welsh heritage crafts.  Externally, this work will be disseminated through networks such as the Heritage Crafts Association and inform heritage practice within Wales, the UK and Europe.
The internship is open to any ESRC Wales DTP funded student (except those within 3 months of the start or end of their studentship).  It is anticipated that the internship will commence no later than 1st October 2023 for a period of 3 months full-time or the part-time equivalent.

A full project description is provided in the document

Please submit your completed application form to enquiries@walesdtp.ac.uk by 4pm on the day of the deadline.

National Museum Wales Internship

Poster with images of food and text: "GWYL FWYD AMGUEDDFA CYMRU FOOD FESTIVAL"

Deadline: Monday 12 June 2023

The Wales DTP is pleased to offer an internship opportunity with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, working on a project to enhance the sustainability of the annual St Fagans National Museum of History food festival, and other events.

The internship is open to any ESRC Wales DTP funded student (except those within 3 months of the start or end of their studentship).  It is anticipated that the internship will commence on Monday 3 July 2023 for a period of 3 months full-time or the part-time equivalent.

The internship will develop skills reviewing policy and best practice to make recommendations for future Amgueddfa Cymru events and develop an understanding of how to apply research skills in a practical setting.

A full project description is provided in the document Developing the sustainability performance of the Amgueddfa Cymru 2023 Food Festival.

Please submit your completed application form to enquiries@walesdtp.ac.uk by 4pm on the day of the deadline.

Internships with the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) 

Deadline: Friday 7 July 2023

The WCPP Internship Scheme provides opportunities for ESRC Wales DTP funded students to spend three months in the Centre to apply and develop their research skills and techniques to real-world issues with high topicality. These internships provide an opportunity to gain practical experience of undertaking research in an organisation that works at the interface of research and policymaking.

There are two types of internships available:

  1. An internship which supports WCPP work with Welsh Government and/or public services.
  2. An internship which examines the role of evidence in policymaking.

Alternatively, students may propose a topic of their own choice, applying their PhD interests and expertise to a policy area within which WCPP has conducted work.

The anticipated internship start date is September 2023.

Further details are available in the attached document, including contact details for the supervisor of each internship.

Please note these internships are open to any ESRC Wales DTP funded student except those within 3 months of the start or end of their studentship.  Successful applicants will receive a fully funded 3 month extension to their PhD. If you are interested, you should first discuss the opportunity with your supervisor.

Please submit your letter of application along with your CV to enquiries@walesdtp.ac.uk by noon on the day of the deadline.

Global Language Based Area Studies Conference 2022

The Global Language Based Area Studies Conference 2022 was held on 6-7 June in Cardiff. Hosted by the School of Modern Languages, with support from the Department of Politics and International Relations, the event brought together doctoral students from the Wales DTP, South Coast DTP and Midlands Graduate School.  The conference included academics with internationally recognised expertise on different research methodologies across a vast interdisciplinary field including African, European, Eurasian, Indian Ocean, North American, Russian and Chinese studies.

As well as showcasing area studies, the event provided a space for doctoral researchers to network with one another, to develop lasting connections and build the area studies cohort as a whole.  Participants presented content- and methods-led papers, offered peer review, received constructive feedback, and heard from postdoctoral students.  A research surgery and methods café enabled discussion on the methodological and other challenges faced by researchers.

Methods Blog – New Editor Introduction

Top of a typewriter that says "writer's blog..."

Hello! I’m Catrin, and I’ll be taking over as Methods blog Editor.

I’m a first year PhD student at Cardiff in the School of Social Sciences. I’m a museum and heritage geek with an academic background in Social Anthropology. My research looks at how heritage buildings can contribute to active citizenship in Wales.

As per the Welsh stereotype, I’m a choral singer in my spare time. I also enjoy writing poetry, and I’ve written poetry based on research data to communicate findings to participants.  I have worked as a tour guide and art gallery workshop facilitator, so while I might love creative methods, I’m looking forward to learning more about your research, which may be very different from mine. 

I have some interesting ideas that I’d love to try out for the blog, and please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or ideas of your own. Dwi hefyd yn siarad Gymraeg ( I also speak Welsh). Diolch!

Link to ESRC DTP profile: https://walesdtp.ac.uk/profile/greaves-catrin/

Link to Twitter: https://twitter.com/catrin_mari91/status/1529380393450864640

Link to LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/catrin-greaves-401265240/

Katharine Young’s Report, Live on Welsh Government Website

Katharine Young recently completed an internship with the Welsh Government, during which she produced a report ‘Welsh-medium education through late immersion: mapping the provision in Wales‘ (click the blue title to see the report) that is now available on the Government’s website.

Katharine’s summary of the report:

“Late immersion education is a provision that allows latecomers to access Welsh medium education at stages later than the Foundation Phase. Such provision has existed in Wales for a number of decades, and in a number of different ways (through designated centres, language units, and within schools). The Welsh Government’s aim in its Cymraeg 2050 strategy is to reach a million speakers by the middle of the century. Late immersion provision is a key part of achieving this aim, as it increases the number of entry points to the Welsh-medium and bilingual sector throughout a learner’s education career.

The aim of this report was to form a picture of the late immersion education provision that exists in some local education authorities, and to understand some of the challenges and opportunities that arise as provision is planned and implemented.”

How to follow Katharine’s research:

If you would like to read more of Katharine’s work you can see her ESRC DTP Wales Profile by clicking here, and you can follow Katharine on Twitter using: @KatharineSYoung

FIVE TIPS TO MAKE YOUR PHD INTERNSHIP APPLICATION A SUCCESS

Welcome to the first of three blog posts which are informally split into: “all the things I wish I knew before I applied for my PhD internship”. These short memo’s are intended for those of you who may have never heard about doing an internship during your PhD, to those who may have even started applying!

Structure of the series:

  1. Tips to make your internship application a success!
  2. How a PhD internship could benefit you!
  3. Concluding thoughts: i.e. = “would I recommend doing an internship during your PhD?” 

Hi, I’m Jodie; a third year PhD researcher (eeek!) in the School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) at Cardiff University. My thesis is investigating the impact and harm(s) of online anti-LGBTI+ hate speech.

My internship was a 3-month ESRC Wales DTP funded post at The Welsh Government (January – April 2021), and my project was titled: ‘Using the Understanding Society Study to explore societal changes during the COVID-19 pandemic’.

Now, you may have noticed that this project does not appear to be related to my PhD topic – and you would be exactly right – it didn’t. This may be more common than you think and sets up my first tip to think about how to ensure your application is a success…  

  1. Think about what YOUR motivations are for applying

Your motivations are going to be personal – I get that, but when you apply for an internship, you are going to have to convince others that these are relevant reasons to pause your PhD. The most important are likely be your supervisors, as they need to ‘sign-off’ your leave when your application is successful!

Therefore, I would highly recommend talking through the opportunity with them.

When I first heard about my project from a lecturer, I had recently transitioned into the second year of my PhD. At the time, I was finding it a challenge to study isolated in the midst of the pandemic and I found discussing the reasons why I wanted to pause my PhD project really beneficial. My supervisors really helped me to articulate my motivations (so important for my application form), as well as raising some really crucial things I had not even thought of!

For example, are you just about to start up your methods write up, after months of data collection – is this really the time you should be thinking about pausing your PhD? Is the internship related to your topic? What do you think you would gain from putting your PhD on hold?

What I’m trying to ultimately get at here is… what value do you expect the internship to add?

For me, the value was not related directly to my PhD topic… but more that I would gain valuable experience in social research in another sector; I was keen to learn how research was conducted in an industry setting rather than an academic one. I also wanted to develop my communication skills outside of academia; learning policy appropriate language and report writing skills. Lastly, given my love for data, I was eager to advance my analytical skills and acquire appropriate presentation skills for a business setting.

Point being – assess the benefits of pausing a significant amount of time out your PhD. 

  • Allow sufficient time for the application process 

It is not quick!

To give you an idea I have noted some key points in my application process:

Also – side note – in most cases, you cannot apply for an internship in the first 3-months of your programme or the last 3-months. If you are keen to do an internship, make sure you have thought about the right time to apply and checked any guidance you may have to adhere to!

  1. Plan, draft and re-draft your application form!

These were my go-to steps during my application process:

  1. Prepare for your interview

After the usual discussions of the placement, your skills/experience etc., there is a section for you to ask questions! This is your opportunity to ask as many relevant questions as you can, so that you can try and find out whether the prospective placement is the right choice for you.

My top questions were whether I would be able to connect with other staff outside of my ‘team’ in the Welsh Government; what the expected outcomes of my project were; what my working day would look like (flexi-time may be good if you often utilise the flexibility the PhD offers), and most importantly I asked how working online would work. As I was unable to enter the Welsh Government building due to the pandemic, I discussed with them how I would be supported, whether they would provide me with training/equipment.  

  • Research the internship host!

Research never ends! I used the Welsh Government website, social media platforms and asked other students about their internship experiences (the good and bad), to gather information about what my internship may entail and the ethos of the workplace – LinkedIn was really helpful for me actually! Anything you can learn before you start will be beneficial!

I hope this post has started making you think whether a PhD internship is the best fit for you and how to ensure your application is a success!

For now, keep an eye out for the next post which will cover ‘Why a PhD internship will benefit you!’

Jodie

If you would like to contact me to ask anything about my internship experience or even to chat about PhD life/research – you can find my contacts below.

Email – lukerjr@cardiff.ac.uk

Academic Twitter – @jodie­_luker

Academic Instagram – @phd_hate_harms