Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

An evaluation of the postgraduate research experience in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin (#19)

Sylvia Huntley-Moore 1
  1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Background: In mid 2013, the University Council of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) decided that postgraduate research students should be invited to provide feedback on their educational experience through an online survey.  Responsibility for implementing this proposal on a pilot basis was devolved to the Schools.  The School of Nursing and Midwifery embraced the directive as an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of its supports for research students and to contribute to postgraduate research policy development. 

The Initiative:  Since 2002 the  School  has  developed a multi-faceted approach to research student support (Begley et al 2014). This approach has been highly successful in encouraging the School’s academic staff to upgrade to doctoral level as well as in attracting a range of health professionals from practice and graduates from other academic disciplines including  sociology, psychology and the natural sciences .

Evaluation: The  Postgraduate Research Experience Survey developed by the UK Higher Education Academy  (and consisting of 31 questions grouped under seven themes: supervision; skills development; infrastructure; intellectual climate; goals and standards; thesis examination; professional development and career) was deemed comprehensive enough to capture feedback on key facets of support (Park, 2009).  In 2014, having received ethical approval, the survey was sent via email to all current and recently completed research students registered in the School of Nursing and Midwifery (total population 61). 32 responses were received and analysed to produce descriptive statistics. In addition, an analysis of school strategic plans from 2002 onwards was undertaken to ascertain postgraduate research completion rates and other relevant metrics.  

Evidence of Effectiveness:  Increasing numbers of postgraduate research students from 10 in 2002 to 56 in 2014 with most completing in minimum time coupled with positive survey feedback from current students and recent graduates on their research experience provide strong evidence of the continued success of the supports provided by the School of Nurisng and Midwifery, TCD.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 Subtheme: Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities

With the shift of Irish nurse and midwifery education from hospitals to universities in the first decade of this century, the emergence of Nursing and Midwifery as academic disciplines in Irish higher education is very recent. Attracting research students is vital to the success of Nursing and Midwifery as academic disciplines and to  the continued development of their allied health professions.The pressure to increase research student numbers as part of  research capacity building, particularly for those schools situated within research intensive universities like Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is great. This is coupled with  calls from the professional body for graduate nurses and midwives to lead research in practice. Assessing, evidencing and evaluating the quality of the supports provided for postgraduate research students in nursing and midwifery should therefore be a key element in ensuring that their learning experiences contribute to the development of  graduate capabilities appropriate to careers in academia or practice.

  1. Begley C, McCarron M, Huntley-Moore S, Condell S, Higgins A. , Successful research capacity building in academic nursing and midwifery in Ireland: an exemplar. , Nurse Education Today , 34, (5), 2014, p754-760
  2. Park,C. (2009) The Research Student Experience Lessons from PRES,Higher Education Academy: York.