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Poster: An investigation into the progression of OU STEM students from taught courses to postgraduate research

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posted on 2024-01-17, 09:48 authored by Alice Fraser-McDonald, Sally Jordan, David Sharp

In the conventional HE sector, there is often an established pathway for the progression of undergraduate and taught postgraduate students to postgraduate research within the same institution. However, the proportion of OU PhD students who have previously completed a taught qualification with the OU is low. In the School of Engineering and Innovation, of 54 PhD students, only 20% had previously gained OU taught qualifications (Athena Swan Silver submission, 2020).

This project will investigate the current progression of OU STEM students from taught courses to postgraduate research (including any variation across the STEM Faculty and/or by mode of study1) and the reasons for pursuing or not pursuing this pathway.

The first project phase will focus on assessing the current progression of students from OU undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses to PhD research, both full-time and part-time. The second project phase will then investigate reasons for students pursuing or not pursuing the pathway to postgraduate research and the effectiveness of the current pipeline. This will involve surveying and interviewing OU taught students who have recently graduated and interviewing OU PhD students who previously studied with the University. Chairs of final year undergraduate project modules and postgraduate qualification leads across STEM will be interviewed to assess how OU courses currently support students in developing skills to progress to postgraduate research and how students on taught courses are currently made aware of PhD research opportunities.

The project findings will be used to determine whether a follow-on project designed to recommend changes to current practice and to explore them via small-scale pilot tests would be appropriate. In summary, anticipated project outcomes include:

  1. evaluation of the current situation in relation to the progression of OU STEM students from taught courses to postgraduate research,
  2. enhanced understanding of the reasons for low progression from OU taught qualifications to OU PhD research,
  3. an indication of whether a follow-on project to propose and test recommended improvements to current practices would be appropriate.

1face to face/distance learning; part-time/full-time.





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Central

Institutional priority category

  • Students Learning Experiences


  • Progression
  • Student Experience
  • Curriculum Pathways

Subject discipline

  • Engineering
  • Science

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