student.union@newcastle.ac.uk

PG Students' Hub

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This Hub is intended to be your one-stop-shop for the important information postgraduates need. From events, the latest news as well as support resources, your Postgraduate Officer is on hand to keep postgraduates updated and supported.

      "The postgraduate community at Newcastle is filled with passionate researchers, students keen to expand their horizons and gain specialised knowledge, with a diverse range of interests, skills and experiences. With so many individual projects happening in research degrees and the challenge of juggling multiple modules on taught programmes, it can be easy to never come up for air as a postgrad. This PG Students Hub is intended to be your one-stop-shop for the important information postgraduates need. We have events organised by me open to all postgraduates, direct links to welfare and academic support, and the latest updates on everything you need to know. There are even some top tips to share some of what I learned during my MA Sociology degree!  

I know that studying during the COVID-19 pandemic is tough – I wrote my entire dissertation during it, whilst working part-time and trying to adjust to the ever-changing world, so I get it – so hopefully these resources and support can make it feel less overwhelming. I am here to represent postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students in University meetings, sharing your views and standing up for your rights. Always just an email away if anybody wants to raise any questions, queries or just have a chat! You can contact me anytime via email at pg.union@ncl.ac.uk"

 

Charlotte Boulton
Postgraduate Officer 2020-21
pg.union@ncl.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

Life as a postgraduate student can be tough, balancing study and research alongside work, socialising and looking after yourself. There are lots available from NUSU, the University and external resources to give you the support you need to take care of your mental health whilst studying. 

  • The Postgraduate Assistance Programme is available for postgraduate students to access a 24/7 phone helpline, online resources relating to mental health, stress, finances and more, as well as telephone counselling appointments. Sign in with the username Newcastle and password University to access the online services, or call 0800 030 5182.  

  • The Student Advice Centre is for all students, including postgraduates, offering specialist advice in academic, financial, housing, personal and employment issues. This includes academic issues relating to PhD supervision, so make use of the advice available by booking an online appointment. 

  • The University Wellbeing Services are available too. You can access counselling appointments, specialist mental health resources and support services, amongst other resources. All students can enquire about counselling, with up to 6 sessions available at no cost. If you’re unsure about contacting Wellbeing, there are lots of online independent resources to access to help as an alternative to seeking professional help. 

  • Silvercloud is a suite of online CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) programmes, which can be tailored to a student’s specific needs. Sessions relating to stress, depression, anxiety and positive body image are available to all students at no cost. 

  • The postgraduate Workshops platform links to workshops from the Student Wellbeing Service, including specific workshops tailored for PGRs resilience and mental health. These are available to sign up to at no cost and are a great resource to make use of. 

  • Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity, which offers a variety of resources aimed at students’ mental wellbeing. They also run Student Space, created to offer targeted mental health support during the coronavirus pandemic. Student Space offers online resources relating to mental health and wellbeing, finances, studying during coronavirus, friendships and social life, and grief and loss. 

  • Blurt, a social enterprise dedicated to helping those affected by depression offers some great resources for general mental health difficulties. It has a particularly good webpage about taking care of yourself at university, with tips on managing feeling overwhelmed by your degree, self-care for busy people and coping with change. 

Education looks a little different at the postgraduate level. For Master’s students, your course is often an intense one year period of assessments and an extensive dissertation or final project. For PhD students, you’re working intensively over a number of years on your thesis, often alongside modules for the PG Cert or taking on teaching responsibilities too. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to find useful resources, especially if you’re still getting to know the university. Here’s a master list of where to find educational resources.

 

PGRs 

  • The Doctoral College website is the University’s hub for postgraduate research degree students. You can find information for prospective and current students, seek support and opportunities for personal development and employability. There are faculty-specific webpages too, to ensure you’re finding the most relevant information for your discipline. 

  • The Current Research Students webpage is the best place for PGRs to find important documentation, personal development and employability resources, student support and faculty information. You can also Get Help and Advice from the University on the most appropriate contacts for admin and academic support, to make sure your messages get to the right place. 

  • For postgraduate students who teach (usually PhD candidates), the Policy on Postgraduates Who Teach may be a useful document to be aware of. The Postgraduate Officer will be undertaking a personal review of this policy and the rights of student teaching staff this academic year. 

  • For postgraduate taught students, there isn’t an equivalent to the Doctoral College, as most PGT programmes utilise similar resources to undergraduate taught programmes. For specific PGT queries, students should look for their academic school’s webpages, their degree programme handbook or contact their school office. 

 

Library 

  • It’s never too late to develop your writing skills, as the Writing Development Centre is available for students at all stages. They offer advice and guidance on each stage of the academic writing process, from analysing the question to final editing strategies. They offer one-to-one tutorials, workshops and writing groups, helping with academic skills as well as writing.  

  • The Academic Skills Kit has a variety of information and support available for developing academic skills and signposting to support services. They have pages on dissertations and research projectstime management and transitioning to university for all stages. 

 

Additional support 

  • If you are a postgraduate taught student struggling to cope with assignments and keeping up with university deadlines, you can submit a Personal Extenuating Circumstances form (commonly referred to as a PEC form). These allow you to request mitigations like extensions to deadlines, deferral of assignments to a later date, repeat a module or for consideration at the Board of Examiners, so staff are aware of your circumstances.  

  • For postgraduate research students struggling to meet deadlines or stay on track with research, you can submit a Change of Circumstances form. There are different options to alter the circumstances of your study and can include needing to suspend your studies for a temporary period, changing from full-time to part-time study, or undertaking fieldwork away from the campus. 

  • PhD and MPhil students can request a tuition fee-free extension to their period of minimum candidature to allow them more time to complete primary research if this has been disrupted by COVID-19. They can also request a tuition fee-free extension to their thesis submission date, for an initial period of up to 3 months which can then be extended if necessary. These requests are made through ePortfolio and students are encouraged to discuss these options with their supervisors. The COVID-19 Impact Scholarship is also an option for students who would like to apply for up to 12 weeks of additional funding beyond the period of minimum candidature. 

 

If you are experiencing any issues with your education, you can raise them with Course and School Reps who can share this with relevant staff. You can also contact Charlotte (Postgraduate Officer) or Sian (Education Officer) to raise your concerns with them. They meet often with key university staff and sit on University Education Committee where they represent the student voice, so can pass on your concerns. 

We don’t just want to survive our degrees, we want to thrive in them and feel like we’re doing good, stimulating work in an environment where our mental health is supported. Hopefully, the resources on this page help give everyone the tools they need to help them through their studies; but, if you’re wanting more of a personal touch, here are a few tips from Charlotte (Postgraduate Officer) on how to make the most of your time as a postgraduate at Newcastle. 

 

Make use of all the support available. 

Even the most confident and prepared postgrads need some support from time to time, so make sure you know where to get the help you need as early as possible. It is a big jump from undergrad to postgrad, or from a master’s to a PhD programme – it will take you time to adjust so it’s really useful to know exactly where to seek support. Refer back to information from the Newcastle Beginnings inductions and use the resources on this PG Hub! Your school will have specific resources and contacts too, so keep these handy in a notebook or online document so you can get what you need as soon as possible. 

Don’t be a stranger. 

I know how easy it can be to get wrapped up in your research or assignments or just trying to make it through seminar reading each week. You do have to dedicate a lot of time to your studies as a postgraduate student, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it in isolation. This year finding friends to lean on is so important, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved with societies, clubs and course socials. All postgraduates are welcome to join the Postgraduate Research Community Society to make friends and connect with people in similar situations. Don’t spend all your free time studying or stressing about not studying, take time out to enjoy the student experience that Newcastle has to offer. 

Make the most of Newcastle! 

Many postgraduates are only here for a year so make the most of what the city has to offer. The SU runs Discover Newcastle, which offers student discounts and deals with partners across the city so you can try out somewhere new at a low cost. Even though these are weird times and varying lockdown restrictions, there is still plenty to do around Newcastle that will get you out and about and making your time here as enjoyable as it can be. Take your days off seriously and spend them relaxing however you want to. If you want to spend your free time getting to know Newcastle, you won’t run out of things to do. When restrictions are tightened, there’s still loads of green space to clear your head in – Jesmond Dene, Exhibition Park, Heaton Park, Town Moor, just to name a few!  

Set a schedule – and stick to it. 

When I started my master’s, I struggled to step away from work. I’d “just quickly do this” and end up studying until 10 or 11 pm – much later than was actually productive for me, and I just felt like I never got a real break. Setting myself a schedule really helped, especially setting a cut-off time to finish doing work, and dedicating the time outside of that to other commitments or just me-time. You might work best in the morning, afternoon or the dead of night; it doesn’t really matter when you work if it is healthy and productive for you. I don’t think schedules need to be strict if that doesn’t work for you but having set hours to do work in will help you get things done in that limited time, rather than stretching out the time but not working any more intensely. It may help you to treat studying as a full-time job in terms of the hours a week dedicated to it – maybe a 9 am- 5 pm schedule will work best to replicate this, or you might need to split your working time into smaller chunks to keep focused or allow for time for other responsibilities. 

Be honest about how you’re coping. 

It’s very easy to work, work, work until you reach burnout or breaking point. It doesn’t have to be this way – try to stay in touch with how you’re feeling and think about your own triggers and telltale signs that you’re struggling. When you can feel your mental health or physical health worsening, take steps that you know work to help you feel better. Self-care is self-preservation and you cannot pour from an empty jug – basically, you have to look after your wellbeing to be able to be productive or help others. Make use of the mental health resources that can suggest ways to take time out, and seek professional help if you think it’s useful. Even just telling a friend can help, and you’ll often find your stress can be helped just by sharing your frustrations with someone – chances are, you aren’t alone in how you’re feeling and you can help each other. Remember, sharing your worries with a friend is useful but it shouldn’t be a substitute for help from counselling services if this is what will benefit you more. 

Get involved! 

Postgraduate degrees are difficult and time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved with activities and events around the university and NUSU. Societies don’t require much time and energy commitment to attend events, and they can help you find friends outside of your research groups too! The Give It A Go events programme and our volunteering opportunities through Go Volunteer are open to everyone, offering great opportunities to try something new and get yourself out of studying mode. If you want to make a change within NUSU and the University, why not come along to Student Council. Anyone can get involved, with voting places available each month. We have The Courier, NSR and NUTV too – student media is also fun, engaging and would welcome some new voices! What I’m trying to say is that university is about more than your degree; even your thesis, which is, of course, important and a reflection of your passion and expertise. But we should all be taking time to explore other interests where we can and give ourselves some headspace. Get involved – one very low effort way to get involved is to come along to some of the postgraduate events I organise, where you can just get chatting to postgrads from across the university and build those connections that help us feel part of something beyond our degree. 

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