"I had no idea the university offered"…: The support needs of postgraduate taught students

Amudha Poobalan, John Barrow, Jennifer Cleland* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Medical schools have a duty to support students to ensure they fulfil their potential. Relatively little is known about the generic, or therapeutic, support needs of postgraduate taught (PGT) students. This is an important gap to address given the literature suggests that "one size does not fit all". Thus, our aim was to explore and understand PGT support needs.
This was a qualitative research study using semi-structured focus groups, conducted in one UK university. We recruited medical and science undergraduates as well as PGT participants to get a sense of what was unique to the PGT student experience. Questions were drawn from the literature and local evaluation data. Discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim for inductive data coding and analysis.
Six focus groups were conducted with 38 participants. Two main themes each with two sub-themes were identified: Communication (Practicalities; Fulfilled but not tailored) related to the transition into PGT, and Time and Contacts, related to managing the course.
PGT students need to address non-academic, often practical, factors in a timely way to navigate university successfully. Knowing who to ask and informal supports are important. Poor and/or difficult-to-access institutional supports may leave PGT students vulnerable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number121
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Our thanks to all the students who took part in this study, and to Dr Karen Foster, former lead for Admissions and Student Support, MBChB Aberdeen, for her enthusiasm and support at the project planning stage.
External Funding
Our thanks to the University of Aberdeen Learning and Teaching Enhancement Programme (LTEP) for funding this work.


  • Postgraduate taught education (PGT)
  • institutional support
  • student needs


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