About this Site


The Centre for Excellence in Preparing for Academic Practice was set up in 2005, with Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) resources, under the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) programme. The Centre had a remit to assist postdoctoral researchers (postdocs), contract research staff (CRS), and postgraduate research students (PGRS), who intend to develop academic careers. The CETL aimed both to provide practical support for these audiences, and to conduct scholarly research into the development of Academic Practice. Its existence can be taken as an indicator of the University’s support for those of its members who intend to follow academic career paths.

The most tangible output of the Centre’s activities thus far is the establishment teaching schemes for postdocs, CRS, and PGRS, which has led to the previously rather ad hoc system of Departmental approaches being replaced by a centrally-funded, research-informed and externally accredited programme. The Centre has also funding two mentoring pilot schemes, through which current CRS and PGRS are linked to Oxford alumni now working at other Universities. Another pilot scheme, which allowed women PGRS to take part in the Springboard personal development programme, started in 2007, and has now been solidified into an ongoing commitment on behalf of the Learning Institute.

Just as importantly, the Centre has attempting to develop an overall theoretical conception of what Academic Practice is – what it means, and how it is changing. The construction of a theoretical framework of this kind is essential in making sense of skills training programmes, so that some direction is given as to how skills acquisition can build towards the establishment of academic identities. It is understood that work and research come first for CRS and PGRS, but we hope to find ways to communicate with them on this theoretical level, which is critical to the maintenance of academic career trajectories.

In the long term, the Centre’s goal is to introduce a significant degree of cultural change into the ways in which the University collectively understands and approaches the issue of preparing for Academic Practice. The intention is to continue to build support for CRS and PGRS at Oxford, and to ensure that potential academics who come to the University to study or to work will find that they are entering an environment that is demonstrably supportive of their career ambitions.

However, the Centre was only funded until 2010, and finished its work in September of that year. It is intended that the Centre’s activities and ethos should carried on within the University of Oxford via other means, which will involve principally the integration of other funding streams with CETL objectives. We hope that this “legacy” website will also be of use to people outside Oxford who are embarking upon academic careers.