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York’s first PhD Unconference

PhD students organise York’s first Unconference, due to take place this Summer Term.

The Unconference will take place at the Berrick Saul Building on Friday 7 June
At the Unconference, students will have the opportunity to discuss their research experiences, share tips on how to avoid procrastination and find opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. The Unconference is free to attend and lunch will be provided, as well as coffee and cakes throughout the day.

Participants from all disciplines are invited to arrive at the Unconference with ideas on the theme of Research, tips and advice, problems, pitches for potential research projects, a ‘three-minute thesis’, or anything else they would like to discuss.

The Unconference organising committee comprises doctoral students from different disciplines, and it is hoped that, in bringing together students from all 31 departments at the University, participants will be encouraged to engage with others from different subject areas.

Rebecca Woods from the Department of Language and Linguistic Science, one of the organisers of the Unconference, says, “As PhD students, it is easy to become so immersed in your work that you become isolated from others and often a bit lonely. It can also be hard to know whether the difficulties you face during research are universal, or just your own problems. We are lucky at York to get a lot of support from different organisations within the University, but there's still a gap for peer-led support within the PhD network.”

We want to share our experiences with other PhDs from across all the departments at York, as well as sharing best practice and fostering a more cohesive PhD community

Rebecca Woods

A successful try-out Unconference was recently held with seven volunteers. Topics discussed included dealing with procrastination, the supervisor-supervisee relationship, challenges at different stages of a PhD, pros and cons of working purely within academia and working with outside agencies.

Woods continues: “From talking to other PhD students, we find that we're actually rarely alone in the problems that we face, so we want to share our experiences with other PhDs from across all the departments at York, as well as sharing best practice and fostering a more cohesive PhD community.”

What is an Unconference?

Unconferences are participant-driven meetings and are unlike conventional conferences in that they are informal and relaxed. Unconferences usually have open discussions rather than a single speaker at the front of the room. The student participants of York’s Unconference will set the agenda for the day. Unconferences allow attendees to create their own sessions and focus on topics which interest them.

Postgraduate life at York

The Unconference is just one of a number of events contributing to the lively postgraduate community at York. The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) also organises regular events for postgraduate students, and events running this term include a trip to Whitby, an open mic night, a pub night and a film night. The GSA has also organised several events for postgraduates during the summer holidays, including a country bike ride, and holds regular drop-in sessions to answer queries and give advice.

Rebecca Woods says: “We hope that the students who take part will gain confidence and support, reinvigorate their excitement in their own research, and have a great time!”

The Unconference will take place on Friday 7 June at 9.30am at the Berrick Saul building on Heslington West (see map below). For more information, follow @PGUnconference on Twitter, visit the Facebook page for the event, or email, one of the organisers. To register your interest, visit the Unconference website.

Further information