Academic retreat puts PGRs on course for success

Post-Graduate Researchers at the University of Aberdeen Law School got the chance to consider their next career steps as they took part in a no-holds-barred three-day academic retreat.

Reinforcing the School’s commitment to equipping PGRs with the knowledge to become outstanding legal experts while also helping them gain skills to enter a highly competitive academic job market, the event sought to assist attendees in making informed choices by providing guidance and encouraging the exchange of perspectives with fellow students and faculty members alike.

Attended by over a dozen participants, the retreat took place at The Burn, near Edzell, in September. It focused on the theme of ‘The Path to Academia’ and included a series of presentations, discussions and debates, as well as a number of outdoor activities in the surrounding Angus countryside.

The group heard from Dr Chike Emedosi who helped them unravel the varied terminology that UK universities use in job advertisements for academic posts; while Dr Nevena Jevremovic and Dr Tomilola Akanle Eni-ibukun guided participants on how to write a tailored academic CV.

Dr Eliza Bechtold, Dr Robert Taylor and Dr Ene Okwori spoke about selecting and integrating different skill sets into academic portfolios; before Head of School Greg Gordon spoke about the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and its influence on the hiring decisions of UK universities, also emphasising the variety of academic career paths open to new entrants.

President of the Law Research Society and retreat attendee Liliyana Kalinova said: “The goal was to ensure that we are ready to start our careers while making conscious choices regarding our selected paths and activities throughout. Whether we were on the bus, at the dining table or playing games, the talks and exchanges of perspectives never stopped.

“We learned that there are different lecturing contracts, some with a greater emphasis on research, others on teaching, while many young academics tend to go for a mixture of both. Common to applicants’ requirements across different universities, is that teaching experience, a strong research track record and administrative skills are crucial to securing a position.

“Faculty members also talked about alternative careers post-PhD, as well as explaining the hardships of moving between fields so that we are cautious about our choices.”

Originally planned for 2020 and postponed because of the pandemic, the School and the Law Research Society are planning to make this a recurrent event.

Peter Cserne, PGR Officer at the Law school, said: “The Retreat was a great success with PGR students from all cohorts having formal and informal discussions and interactive sessions with junior and senior academics on how to enter and succeed in legal academia.

“The event also testifies to the dedication and engagement of the Law Research Society who organised and convened the event at the beautiful countryside location.”