So You’re Winding Up – What About The Students?

So, your research program is winding up. That means you’re in the last two years of the funded period. You’ve got a plan for the research. You’ve got a plan for the IP. You’ve got a plan for the commercial activities. But what about the students and ECRs. What’s the plan for them? How will you transition them and how will you liaise with them about and through the transition? Especially for those students whose PhD will continue beyond the life of the centre or institute?

What to do

The first thing is to let the students and their supervisors know that the program is winding up. Indeed chances are they already know, and the longer you wait to formally let the know the worse they will feel about their role in the program, their value to you, and how you think of that.

Of course that could mean you are talking to them before you have a PhD, and ECR transition plan that’s okay. Let them know there is a transition out – program-wide. That there are research, IP, commercialisation and other specific transition plans, and that a research training transition plan is being developed.

It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that if you don’t have these plans in place:

  1. Don’t say you do
  2. Develop them!

So, onto the PhD and ECR transition plan. Firstly, you’ll need to confirm that all supervisors and key partners are notionally committed to the project beyond the program end date. For most academic supervisors this will be a given. But for industry supervisors they might not be fully aware. Although an iron clad guarantee will unrealistic, a general understanding of their desired and possible ongoing commitment is essential. Any academic or industry partners – financial or otherwise – should also be approached for their willingness to continue to support the student.

End of an era?

Don’t forget to

hand-off your students!

With key parties confirmed, you’ll now need to confirm funding. If the program offers a top-up, the finances and mechanism for accessing them will need to be put in place. That could mean some kind of ‘trust’ arrangement. Or it could mean an advanced payment. Whatever arrangements you make, confirm them in writing and notify the relevant financial controllers at the relevant organisations.

If the program offers any additional training determine if it will be offered beyond the life of the program. And if so, how that will be achieved.

You should also confirm conferences, presentations or other engagement opportunities for students beyond the program. Determine if and how they will be offered.

Finally, review your program to see if you have missed anything. If there’s anything offered or promised to enrolees that you cannot account for.

Now, it all needs to be written up. There are two (maybe three or more) documents needed. The first is the master plan. How all things are handled across all students. The second is a summary per student. The third and subsequent will be summaries for supervisors, partners etc. Lastly – take action. In the first instance that will be to send the information to students, and relevant stakeholders. Subsequently it might be to do regular audits to confirm universities, partners and other important components of the transition plan are still as anticipated.

Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He knows the challenges of implementing an awesome PhD program as well as what it takes to complete a PhD. He is passionate about the #pracademic applications of PhD training, not just the academic outcomes. He is driven by the challenge of making a PhD to in-depth knowledge and what an MBA is to Business.

To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email ( or subscribe to the newsletter. He’s on LinkedIn (Dr Richard Huysmans), Twitter (@richardhuysmans), Instagram (@drrichardhuysmans), and Facebook (Beyond Your PhD with Dr Richard Huysmans).