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Your place in your Union: supporting PGRs through the SU

23 October 2018
Jake Smith, VP Postgraduate

Guest post by Jake Smith, Vice President Postgraduate Students

It’s fair to say the experience of studying as a postgraduate researcher is very different to that of most other students. Gone are the days of exams, 2,000 word essays and having a couple of lectures a day with the 150 other students on your course.

Being a PGR is often an enriching experience as you engage with research communities at the very forefront of their fields, but the specialised nature of PGR study throws up its own challenges. Luckily, there’s a lot of support on offer for PGRs around the University, and first of all I’d like to tell you about the organisation I’m from, the Students’ Union.

The Students’ Union is a democratic, independent organisation, separate from Cardiff University, with every student being a member. Our independence allows us to challenge current practice when a PGR like you raises an issue.

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My role as Vice President Postgraduate Students is to work to improve the experience of all postgraduates, taught and research, at Cardiff University. I’m elected by postgraduates in the annual Students’ Union main elections to represent you on senior University committees, work on postgrad issues and ensure the services, events and opportunities offered by the SU are meeting the needs of postgrads.

This work often requires a special focus on the PGR student experience. I’m in my second term in this job, and in my manifesto I’m committed to working on improving the support and conditions of PGRs paid to tutor or demonstrate in the University, reviewing PGR office space and supervision and building a vibrant postgraduate social community.

As a PGR you can access all of the SU’s services. If you’d like to develop yours skills in anything from public speaking to commercial awareness, our Skills Development Service offers many courses and qualifications. Our Volunteering service links with charities across Cardiff and our Jobshop offers employment in everywhere from bars to research centres. You can join any of our 200 societies and 60 sports clubs, where you can get to know people who share your interests.

Our recent postgraduate quiz night

We’re also committed to helping create a vibrant PGR community, and since September have already held 10 socials and 3 day trips just for postgrads. Our confidential Student Advice team often support PGRs with supervision and progress monitoring and offer daily drop-in appointments.

Many of the other great opportunities for Cardiff PGRs are of course offered by the Doctoral Academy, from useful research skills training to relaxing yoga classes. The SU really values its partnership with the Doctoral Academy and, by sitting on it’s Steering Group, I’m able to hear about, and input into, the exciting plans it has for the future. We’ve also worked together in the past to try and improve the PGR student experience, such as when the Doctoral Academy Director and I co-chaired a University-wide group looking into PGR teaching and office space earlier this year.

We’re always keen to hear about how we can better support PGRs, so we’d love to hear your ideas. The Students’ Union is your Union too, so if there is ever any issue you need support with please email me on

The SU website contains everything you need to know about our services and events. Finally, I work on the third floor of the Students’ Union on Park Place so if you’re walking by you’re always welcome to pop in for a chat!