In 2018, the Office of Graduate Research is introducing a new training program for HDR students.The Research and Employability Skills Training (REST) Program is a compulsory, structured training program for all 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, document and control their 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.
REST is a skills training program that consolidates all research and transferrable skills training across the university into one program under the RDF. It is an individualised program, where students choose what training is most relevant to them and at what stage of their candidature. The program uses a competence based approach, asking students to reflect on their skills development rather than meeting certain criteria (such as a set amount of points or hours under a domain). REST recognises all training activities, including experiential activities, taking into consideration the skills the students already posses through prior training or work experience.
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 Flinders 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 allows 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.