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"The training in presentation skills has been really useful and I feel much more confident talking in front of people" - Josh

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I applied for a PhD as, towards the end of my degree, I became passionate about my Master's research project. I was drawn to XM2 because of its cohort-based approach and the training it provides in preparation for a career that may be outside of academia. I particularly enjoy having the opportunity to regularly interact with senior academic staff and always find this insightful.

Harry Penketh, Cohort 2016

Soft skills and employability training

The topics below are an indicative list of subject areas you can expect to cover based on current teaching. Please note that this is subject to change from year to year.

In the bi-monthly Beyond-a-PhD series, visiting speakers from a variety of industrial and academic research environments will give insights into the myriad of career pathways open to a doctoral graduate in science and engineering.

The speakers outline their careers, what challenges they faced along the way, and how they tackled these challenges. How did their PhD training benefit their subsequent roles, what did they had to learn on the job, and was there something they wished they had done differently or known before?

The talks are open to all PGRs and postdocs in the College. The series' aim is to demonstrate the broad range of options that lie beyond the PhD and to provide networking opportunities with potential role models to learn from their experiences.

Previous speakers include:

  • Dr Heather Lewtas (Development Engineer at UK Atomic Energy Authority
  • Dr Alessandra Sala (Head of the Bell-Labs Analytics Research at Bell Laboratories)
  • Professor Richard Craster (Director of the CNRS-Imperial "Abraham de Moivre" Unité Mixte Internationale in Mathematics
  • Dr Liz O'Driscoll (Head of Innovation at Exeter City Futures)
  • Dr Chris Maynard (High Performance Computing Software Specialist at Met Office)
  • Dr Richard Watts (Chief Investment Officer for BMO Global Asset Management)
  • Dr Nina Meinzer (Associate Editor at Nature Communications)
  • Dr Kevin Welford (Head of Defence Consultancy at Jacobs Defence and Security)
  • Dr Rob Kelly (Teacher at Okehampton College)
  • Dr Peter de Maagt (Head of Antenna and Sub-Millimetre Waves Section at European Space Agency)




You will receive 10 hours of tutoring from the University of Exeter's specialised CBC unit covering topics such as perfectionism, academic procrastination, over-commitment and disorganisation.

You will engage in 20 hours of creativity events, beginning with an afternoon during induction week. This is run by Dennis Sherwood of Silver Bullet Machine, and the center-piece of the discussion is Arthur Koestler's insight that creativity is not a 'bolt from the blue'; rather, it is a process of forming different, and hopefully new, patterns from pre-existing elements. Not only does this de-mystify creativity, but it further implies that, in a deep sense, nothing is new: all apparently new things are formed by bringing together pre-existing things. The creativity events aim to help you develop patterns of work that will enable you to solve your own problems and to come up with new ideas. 

We set up a variety of events for our PGRs to engage with industry partners and gain further business understanding on a regular basis:

  • They receive training in intellectual property, commercial awareness and entrepreneurship;
  • interact on a 6-monthly basis with the industrial Oversight Board members,
  • and conduct on-site group visits to industrial collaborators throughout the study programme. These visits provide an opportunity to gain insight to research and career pathways at potential employers.
  • PGRs are encouraged to engage with the University's think try do student start up scheme and entrepreneurship events as hosted by the Exeter Sciene Park.
  • In addition, we host annual careers events with research and HR representatives from industial partners. These events provide a platform for companies to introduce their research and recruitment processes through talks and networking sessions, and offer an opportunity to CDT PGRs and other interested early career researchers (PGRs and Postdocs) to learn about potential roles and to create direct links with the company representatives.

To help you prepare for the next step in your career, this two-day course will give you an insight into the assessment criteria used by selection panels and make sure that you are ready to give your best in interview situations.

The leadership training, run by Fistral Training and Consultancy Ltd takes place in the third year of the programme, and is designed to help you recognise different management styles and explore ideas in effective leadership.

The LTHE programme introduces the underlying principles and practical methods of effective learning and assessment in higher education, and forms the minimum requirement to teach undergraduates. Students may also undertake Stage 2 later on in the PhD programme.

This two-day course, run by Fistral Training and Consultancy Ltd, provides a comprehensive introduction to the process of managing projects and the tools to assist in planning and tracking progress.

Part of our training programme is learning how to engage the wider public with science and research. This can be achieved through participation at science fairs, in external outreach schemes such as CoachBright or the Brilliant Club,  or through social media. We successfully piloted our Metabuddies scheme in 2016/17, collaborating with local schools to share knowledge and introduce research challenges.

The Researcher Development Programme (RDP) is run by the university to provide PhD students, and other early career researchers, with personal and professional development opportunities to enhance your research and employability, in academia or beyond.

The RDP activities are tailored to the needs of postgraduate researchers with courses offered in research management, communications skills, networking and team building, the impact agenda, and personal effectiveness.

In the first year, courses on presentation skills and on efficient reading and developing a literature review are mandatory. In subsequent years, you must undertake a further 50 hours of RDP courses of your choice and are strongly recommended to consider taking sessions in Career Planning, Research Integrity, Communicating your Research, Confidence and Resilience, Networking, Internationalisation and Research Impact.