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Doctoral College

Skills Point System FAQs

Who is the system for?

It is compulsory for all new PhD students and those who have been registered on their PhD course since September 2011 to take part in the Skills Point System.

What are the advantages of using the Skills Points System?

There are several advantages, both for researchers and for Queen Mary. For PhD students one of the main advantages is that you will have a complete record of all the training and development activities you have taken part in during your PhD, which will be useful for CVs and job applications. The record will also show that your PhD has helped you develop skills in all four domains of the Researcher Development Framework (RDF), which again will be of interest to employers, whether in or outside academia. During your PhD your record will also be a useful way of determining in which areas you may still need to develop your skills.

For the Queen Mary this system gives us useful data about the training our research students are receiving, which may need to be reported to the Research Councils or other funding bodies. It also enables us to ensure that PhD students in different disciplines have access to similar levels of appropriate training, and it tells us where there are gaps in Queen Mary's provision for research students which need to be filled.

What training and activities are recorded?

Almost anything that you do that helps develop your research or transferable skills will be recorded and given points. This includes training courses and workshops (whether run by your school/institute, Researcher Development or an external organisation), taking part in school/institute activities such as research student days or inductions, attending conferences, giving presentations, attending research seminars, teaching etc. Up-to-date lists of the activities that are included so far can be found by following the links here. This may be added to during the year.

There are some activities that will not be given points. This is normally because it is either felt that they are not usually appropriate for PhD students (eg an Professional Development workshop about Planning for Retirement), or that they are such an integral part of the PhD process that they should not form part of the points system (eg supervisory meetings, mandatory Health and Safety training).

How do activities get recorded on the database?

PhD Researcher Development courses and Doctoral College events that are booked through the Queen Mary booking system are added to your record automatically. Some Educational Development and E-Learning workshops booked through the same system are also added automatically. A full list of courses that are added automatically is available here.

All other activities have to be added manually. You can find comprehensive guidelines on how to claim activities in the document “How to use the SPS”, which is available here or under the Help tab on the Skills Points System.

How many points are activities worth?

Many activities, including workshops and courses, are given 1 point per hour. Some, such as giving a presentation or getting an article published, are given a pre-determined number of points. Up-to-date lists of the activities that are included so far can be found by following the links here. This may be added to during the year.

Is there a set number of points I need to get?

You are required to get 210 points in total by the time you submit your thesis. Your school/institute may also ask you to have reached a certain total by other monitoring stages of the PhD process.

The final 210 points should be spread over the four domain of the RDF with a minimum of 60 points in Domain A (Knowledge & intellectual abilities), 20 in Domain B (Personal effectiveness), 15 in Domain C (Research governance & organisation) and 30 in Domain D (Engagement, influence and impact). The remaining 85 points can be from whichever domain(s) you wish.

Who decides how many points an activity is worth?

The points allocations were decided on by a committee that included representatives from each Faculty on the committee, along with the Researcher Development Adviser for PGRs and the head of the Careers Service. Schools and Institutes were also able to input into the decision process.

When you claim a new activity that isn’t already on the database (Class 3 activity), the Researcher Development Adviser for PGRs (Dr Fryni Panayidou) will look at the points estimate and the reasons for the claim, and do one of the following:

  • Approve the claim, in which case it will go onto your record.
  • Mark the activity as “Non-applicable” if isn’t included in the points scheme.
  • Alter the number of points/points distribution and then approve the claim.
  • Contact you to ask for further information.
  • Refer the claim to the Doctoral College Management Group who oversee the points scheme, so that they can make a judgement.


When will my points be added to my record?

  • Courses that are booked through the QMUL booking system are added to your record automatically within 2 weeks of attendance.
  • Class 1 and Class 2 activities are added to your record as soon as you claim them.
  • Class 3 activities, are initially logged onto the system as pending claims. These will be looked at on a regular basis, and the Doctoral College Management Group meets once a month, so you can expect any pending claims to be processed within a month. 


Why are the points I can gain for certain activities capped?

One of the underlying aims of this scheme is to ensure that research students graduate with a wide variety of skills that will be useful to them in an academic or non-academic environment. Therefore for certain activities that PhD students might undertake on a regular basis (e.g. attending seminars, teaching) we have put a limit on the number of points that can be gained in order to encourage researchers to do a wide range of training and development activities.

What is the Researcher Development Framework?

The Researcher Development Framework articulates the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of successful researchers and encourages them to aspire to excellence through achieving higher levels of development. It has been developed by Vitae in consultation with academic and non-academic employers.

Can I access the database from anywhere?

Yes, it is a web-based application which can be accessed from anywhere using your central college username and password.

Who do I contact if I have a problem?

For any problems, queries about your training record or the way your points have been calculated, please contact the Researcher Development team at or the Researcher Development Adviser for PGRs, Dr Fryni Panayidou.

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