Online group coaching for PGRs

 know that doing a postgraduate research degree can be challenging at the best of times and at the moment it can be even harder than usual.  Lots of you are struggling with managing uncertainty about your projects, adjusting goals, building good habits, managing the inner critic or procrastination, and coping with uncertainty about the future. 

The Graduate School offers an online group coaching programme for PGRs to help you manage these challenges. The coaching sessions are run by the PhD Life Coach, Dr Vikki Wright and sessions take place at 10:00 on Tuesdays and 14:00 on Thursdays every week (excluding the main vacation periods). 

A coach is not an expert in your academic field, but an expert in helping you to develop these transferable skills and the ability to coach yourself through these challenging tasks. A coach is also not a counsellor – it is not to deal with deep wellbeing issues but instead to help you develop effective working approaches and coping strategies (if you need help with wellbeing issues please visit our postgraduate support section instead). In the sessions, you will be taught a “self-coaching model” which provides the framework for the online coaching and which you can use in your own time.  A trained coach will then offer you the opportunity to be coached one-to-one while the other students watch.  

It will run in live “panel” mode on Zoom, so the coach and the coachee do not see the other participants but the audience can contribute to the session via the Chat and Q&A functions.  In this way, the volunteer gets a highly personalised and valuable coaching experience and the viewers get the opportunity to hear how the coachee reflects on and resolves the issues that they are facing.  

Given the often shared experiences of PGR students, we expect considerable learning to emerge from such observation. Sessions should be treated as confidential and should address general issues (as listed above) rather than specific wellbeing issues or problems with supervisors.

Anyone can volunteer to be coached on the day. The individual coaching part would last about 15 minutes. No one will be forced to be coached; even as an observer, you will learn lots just by learning about the self-coaching model and watching others getting coached. So, even if you don’t want to be coached yourself, please come along. 

Upcoming sessions

Tuesday sessions will focus on a different topic each week and Thursday sessions are for any topic at all. See full topic listings below.

Tuesday 20 February – “I don’t stick to my plans”

Thursday 22 February – open coaching (any topic)

Tuesday 27 February – “I struggle to get going”

Thursday 29 February – open coaching (any topic)

Tuesday 5 March – “I compare myself to others”

Thursday 7 March – open coaching (any topic)

Tuesday 12 March – “I procrastinate writing”

Thursday 14 March – open coaching (any topic)

Tuesday 19 March – “I worry I’m not good enough”

Thursday 21 March – open coaching (any topic)

Tuesday 26 March – “I’m too slow at writing”

Thursday 28 March – open coaching (any topic)

Thursday 4 April – open coaching (any topic)



In addition to the regular coaching sessions, in 2023/4 Vikki is running monthly online coaching workshops as follows:

14:30-16:30, Monday 11 September 2023: How to start the year the way you mean to go on

14:00-16:00, Wednesday 4 October 2023: How to be your own best supervisor

10:00-12:00, Thursday 2 November 2023: What to do when you've got too much to do

14:30-16:30, Monday 4 December 2023: How to write when you're struggling to write

14:00-16:00, Wednesday 10 January 2024: How to overcome imposter syndrome

10:00-12:00, Thursday 1 February 2024: How to manage your time and your energy

14:30-16:30, Monday 4 March 2024: How to make decisions and prioritise

Join the coaching community on Slack (see 'How to join' section below) to attend the workshops or watch the recordings back at a later date. Dates, times and titles of workshops after March will be confirmed later in the year.

Who can attend

The coaching programme is open to all University of Birmingham postgraduate researchers (PGRs). PGR programmes include: MPhil, MMus, MRes, MA by Research, MSc by Research, MLitt, PhD, PhD with integrated study, EngD, DDS, MD, Higher doctorates and Professional doctorates.

How to join

Complete this short form to be emailed an invitation to join ThePhDLifeCoach workspace on Slack. Once you have received your invitation, sign-in or register with your Birmingham email address, to become a member of the community. You do not need to register for each session, just return to Slack and drop-in whenever a session is running.

What our PGRs say about the coaching programme

Coaching participant

“Vikki's coaching sessions have been a saviour for me. They have made me feel supported, seen and understood, as well as giving me the tools to start being kinder to myself. Vikki is kind, compassionate and so knowledgeable about the academic environment and how to coach for it. I would 100% recommend her coaching to everyone regardless of where you are on your academic journey!”

About the PhD Life Coach

Dr Vikki Wright is the founder and CEO of The PhD Life Coach, where she supports research students and academics to achieve their goals with less stress and more fun. Before going full time as a life coach in 2022, Vikki was a Professor at the University of Birmingham. She has supervised several PhD students to successful completion, was the Director of Postgraduate Training for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, and has published research on developing transferable skills in PhD students. She brings this wealth of experience of academia in general, and Birmingham specifically, to her coaching where she is certified by both the Institute for Leadership and Management and The Life Coach School. Find out more about Vikki on her website. You can also find out more about how Vikki supports research students by listening to her podcast, The PhD Life Coach, available on Apple, Spotify or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Introduction to The PhD Life Coach


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