In 2018, the Office of Graduate Research is introducing a new training program for HDR students.The Research and Employabity Skills Training (REST) Program is a compulsory, structured training program for all new HDR students, based on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). The aims of REST are to:
- Provide a structured and comprehensive skills training program for all HDR students which includes research and transferrable skills employers seek;
- Ensure all HDR students, regardless of their physical location, are able to access the program through online course delivery and monitoring;
- Enable students to identify their training needs and plan and control their research and professional development journey;
- Ensure that upon completion, students are able to articulate and demonstrate the skills they have developed throughout their candidature through documented evidence.
Skills development for research students is highlighted in the key findings of the Review of Australia’s Training System (the ACOLA Review). HDR graduates are often perceived to be overly specialised and unable to adapt to non-academic settings. It is thus important for research skills training to include research and discipline knowledge necessary to complete the degree as well as transferrable skills that graduates can apply to their workplace across the whole spectrum of society.
Flinders University recognises that HDR students come from a range of backgrounds, have a diverse range of existing skills and experience they bring into their learning, and will go out into a diverse range of workplaces. They also complete their studies under different circumstances – one third of our HDR students are part-time, and another third are external. Yet, under the 2025 Agenda, we are required to ‘embed research and critical thinking as core skills for every Flinders graduate’. A one-size-fits-all approach to skills training is therefore not suitable, and training must be flexible to meet the diverse needs of the students.
An effective way of delivering transferrable skills flexibly is to tailor the training according to the students’ needs through the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). The RDF is a professional development framework for planning, promoting and supporting the personal, professional and career development of researchers in higher education. It articulates the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of successful researchers and encourages them to realise their potential. Through this framework, the students can identify where their needs lie, what training is available to them, and in turn have control of their skills training throughout their candidature. This also allow the students, as the users, to map which skills they have gained through the framework, where they need improvement and how they can apply the skills in a range of settings.