Doctoral Office Space Survey... what you've told us

Thanks to everyone who took part in the recent Doctoral Office Space Survey, run by The SU with the Doctoral College. The issue has been of concern to both The SU and the Doctoral College, and we are working collaboratively to achieve improvements.

Through The SU’s Doctoral Academic Council and PG Forum, we’ve heard how important working space and IT resources are to doctoral students, and that there can be real impacts on doctoral research and wellbeing from a lack of or inadequate office space or computing.

348 doctoral students responded to the survey, giving a detailed picture of what resources are like for researchers across departments, which was awesome!

What did you tell us?

  • Most doctoral students share an office with others
  • It’s not clear whether there is a desk space allocation policy in some departments
  • There are concerns over hot-desking arrangements (e.g. access to software, lack of storage, clarity of when desks are free), with 70% stating that hot-desking is not suitable for their needs
  • Some had concerns over the accessibility of their offices for themselves and others
  • Some are expected to provide their own computer for working
  • Many of you don’t find your office suitable for quiet focused work
  • Some of you can’t access the software you need or the process takes too long to set up

There’s an incredible depth of information in the responses, with doctoral students raising other issues including poor quality lighting to lack of information on secure IT storage, with some having to purchase additional hard drive storage.

The findings and what you can do now

  • Space for private calls for research-related private calls  Doctoral students are able to book small group rooms on level 4 in the Graduate Commons in 10 West. You’re welcome to make these calls there.
  • No workstation assessment– there’s now a doctoral health and safety guide which contains information about workstation assessments and what to do if something isn’t quite right.
  • Accessibility– department coordinators are often responsible for offices but if they’re not should be able to help find the right contact. You can also get in touch with Alisha Lobo, the SU’s Community Officer who works to improve accessibility across campus, and the University’s Disability Services. The SU student group Enable also represents disabled students on issues including accessibility.
  • Lighting, ventilation and adequate storage facilities in their offices  – If you have any concerns about any aspects, then Department Coordinators should be able to help in most cases.

  • Offices were not suitable for quiet focused work – did you know that the Doctoral College runs regular Writing Wednesday sessions and learning spaces are available on or off campus?  The Graduate Commons in 10W also includes a number of offices, including 10W 4.48 which is dedicated to quiet working.

As always, if there are any ongoing issues that still need resolving then do make sure you raise these with your Academic Representatives who will take these issues to be discussed at university meetings.  You can also contact me (Jiani Zhou, the SU Postgraduate Officer) or Oli Schofield, the Doctoral Engagement Manager from the Doctoral College.

Actions being taken

Comments have highlighted more complex issues that both the SU and Doctoral College will be working with departments to resolve, such as lack of accessibility and concern that fumes from labs could be transferred to offices.

  • The SU and Doctoral College are forming a working group on doctoral office and IT resources to cover the issues you’ve raised and work to resolve them
  • We are producing a doctoral office and IT resources action plan and we’ll be keeping you posted on our progress
  • We’ll be involving Academic Reps and the Postgraduate Association to work for solutions in departments and at university-level

Once again, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to complete the survey. Your responses are really important and valuable for us to drive change within the University.

Thank you again!

Jiani Zhou

SU Postgraduate Officer