The SWDTP’s First Summer School at Bailbrook House


On a quiet Wednesday morning in Bath, the first SWDTP summer school began. Students travelled from across the South West to Bailbrook House in Bath for a three day immersive experience in collaboration, employability and wellbeing that aimed to provide insights and techniques to use now and in the future. We had 44 students in total, including 14 PGRs not funded by the SWDTP, with every stage of the PhD journey represented from MRes to writing up.

The aim of the event was to guide students through the three themes while also having the opportunity for networking and quiet moments for reflection.

Mind the Gap wellbeing session

Close the wellbeing knowing-doing gap with solution focused reflection with Abi Boughton-Thomas, Wellbeing Coach

  • Abi Boughton-Thomas helped students theorise wellbeing and encouraged attendees to discuss with others how it impacts yourself as a researcher.
  • Abi used a compassion-based approach to explain why we need self-compassion and how this changes under stress. One question that regularly came up was: Is our perfectionism being directed in the wrong way? How do we find a happy medium between attention to detail and *obsessive* attention to detail?
  • At the end of the session, students were asked to identify key learnings from the session and stick to the board. There were many common points, showing how the PhD journey is universal despite feeling isolating.

Top tips from a former SWDTP student

We also heard from Nasrul Ismail, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Bristol and former SWDTP student talking about his tips for making the most out of your PhD and beyond. His top tips included:

  • When considering how to forge your own path, the best places to focus on are collaboration and your own branding
  • Resilience takes practice so it’s important to remember that just like Formula1, you need pit stops – and not just when you’re burnt out! Finding a work life balance that works for you will stop you from being consumed by your research – try and find a hobby outside of your PhD. Most importantly, ask for help when you need it – sometimes it can be the best thing for you.
  • When it comes to publishing during your PhD, focus on quality over quantity
  • Nasrul also gave some insight into his viva: Because he had published work on some of his chapters during his PhD, his viva questions were much more focused and easier to manage

What our students said

The SWDTP summer school was a brilliant networking opportunity, that also helped me develop my skills and identity as a researcher

Hannah cowdell

This summer school made me realise how wonderful and supportive the SWDTP community is

Ella Barclay

This was a fantastic summer school at a great venue and has given me plenty to think about when working with other disciplines and managing my wellbeing

Josh Tenn

I found a great community of doctoral researchers from whom I learnt so much in a supportive environment. The summer school promoted these fantastic experiences through creative methodologies in a great location.

Silvia Espinal Meza