University of Leeds

Organisational Development and Professional Learning

New PhD Students


Developing personal and professional skills is an important part of the postgraduate research degree. A PhD is no longer purely about conducting research and publishing the findings in a thesis– though these activities remain the key focus. A PhD in the UK now also places importance on developing you and your skills – as a researcher and an individual – to become more effective in your research, and to enhance your future employability whether this is in or outside academia.

See the pages for Research Students to see an overview of some of the workshops available to you

It can be helpful to divide skills into two categories – “research-specific” and “transferable” skills, although in reality the distinction between these two categories is blurred.

Research-specific skills – are usually very specific to your research project area, such as subject knowledge, research methodology, experimental techniques and Health and Safety.  Developing your research-specific skills is the responsibility of your research group / supervisor and you may also be asked to attend relevant taught courses such as Masters modules.

Transferable or generic skills –  help you to perform your research effectively and efficiently, and also contribute to your future employability e.g. writing and presentation skills, project management skills, IT skills.  Transferable skills are just as important as research-specific skills, and there has been significant investment by the UK Research Councils (RCUK) to provide suitable development opportunities for PhD students within the University of Leeds.

You should aim for around 30 days of transferable skills development over the course of your PhD (this does not necessarily mean by attending training courses – development happens in many ways).

For more information about national transferable skills for PhD students see the RCUK Researcher Development Framework.

Starting Your Research Degree Workshops

Starting Your Research Degree is a workshop for September/ October PhD starters in the Faculty of Arts, PVAC, ESSL and LUBS. You will be sent details about the date and time of your allocated session before you register.  The workshop will help you plan what you need to do during the first few months of the PhD.  If you arrive later in the year, you should contact your PG Administrator/Secretary who will book you onto a centrally run course. It is highly recommended to attend the Starting your Research Degree course.  See Starting Your Research Degree Course Description for further information.

Focused skills training provision for the faculties of LUBS, ESSL, Arts, Humanities & Cultures 

The LEAP Researcher Skills Training and Development Team provides transferable skills training and development for researchers (PhD students and research staff) in the Faculties of LUBS, ESSL, Arts, Humanities and Cultures.  Tutors include members of the Researcher Development Team, Faculty staff, SDDU, ISS, Library and Careers Centre, as well as external trainers where appropriate. The Programme for PhD students is continually evolving and covers a wide range of topics.  We have arranged courses into broader headings, including:

  • Research Management and Personal Effectiveness Skills
  • Professionalisation
  • Communications Skills
  • Impact and Enterprise
  • IT Productivity Tools
  • Career Management Skills

For further information about what’s available download our Course Guide from the menu, or check our online calendar and booking pages.

The Team also manages this website providing up-to-date information and links to useful resources for PhD students and their supervisors. You will also receive a regular electronic newsletter with news about training and development opportunities and resources in the Hub and beyond.

Centrally-provided training courses

The Library, Information Technology Service (IT), SDDU and Careers Centre contribute to the Researcher Skills Training Programme described above.  They also run their own University wide programmes which include free courses for PhD students – these courses are advertised on our calendar on this website.  

Assessing and recording your training and development needs 

1.       Analyse your training and development needs
Use the Training and Development Needs Analysis Tool in the GRAD system to help you consider your training needs within the context of your research degree `and your future career. The Training and Development Needs Analysis is based on the national Researcher Development Framework (RDF).

You can download a printable version of the Training and Development Needs Analysis Tool from: 

2.    Identify training and development opportunities to support your needs
You should consider the range of training and development opportunities open to you. The LEAP Skills Hub website is a ‘one-stop’ link to all the training and development opportunities. You can use our calendar and booking feature to book courses.

3.    Planning, recording and reflecting on your training and development
Planning: It is a requirement of the University that every research student discusses their training and development needs with their supervisor and agrees a training plan within one month of starting their research degree. You should record your training plan in the GRAD system.

Recording and Reflecting: Most of the training you take at the University will be entered into GRAD automatically but you will need to record some training yourself, especially any training provided outside the University. 

The University provides a Personal Development Plan to help you to reflect on your development during your research degree. You will be directed to your Faculty’s PDP during induction or you can download a copy from: 


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