Major amendments on research thesis

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miriam
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Major amendments on research thesis

Post by miriam » Wed Jan 22, 2020 3:56 pm

I'm being asked by trainees who've been given major amendments to DClinPsy research, what official policy there is (perhaps at BPS or ACP-UK or GTiCP) about employment situation if you can't qualify at end of funded period and means to raise complaint re course research supervision?

Imagine for example, a trainee told their design was fine by course, completed thesis "good", who then gets told by external examiner that it isn't at doctoral standard and needs radical revision / more data collection to pass. They can't then take up job offers, but course ends. Is there means to complain about this mismatch in standards? How do they cover the income gap of training funding ending but not being qualified? I've heard of several trying to rewrite thesis whilst in band 6 "holding posts" with prospective employer, for months or even years. It doesn't usually lead to unemployment. But it does lead to huge stress, £7500 lower salary and/or having to do work in own time around newly qualified job, and in some cases might result in the loss of qualified post offer. Plus consequences for the prospective employer, who either has to recruit again, or create a post at a lower band than advertised for an indefinite period of time.

I don't disagree that some of the concerns raised by external examiners are legitimate (I've seen under-powered samples, weak sampling, poor design, and other issues I'd have raised myself). It might well be that the truth is that some courses or supervisors set lower standards than should be the case for doctoral level research. The question is more how these concerns can appear to come out of the blue to trainees who think they are doing textbook projects, and have absolutely no concerns about passing their thesis and viva. Surely the research can't be both good enough to satisfy the course and not raise concerns, but also not good enough to pass the requirements of external examiners without that suggesting issues with inconsistent standards and/or quality of research supervision from course? I think that there needs to be some consistency of standards across courses/examiners, and some accountability if the course supervisors miss major concerns that later lead to major amendments - especially where this has significant knock-on financial impact for trainee.

By way of example, I employed a trainee (with offer conditional on HCPC registration) who relocated to join me, only to find the external examiner felt their thesis sample size / methodology was inadequate, and required major amendments. It was very difficult for both of us to try to work with 12m+ of unqualified status. For me as a small business it was crippling to pay £30k for someone who could only do the work of a trainee I could get on placement for free, and not pick up income generating work (eg they weren't able to do court work, insurance-funded therapy or provide supervision to other professionals) so I ended up with a very expensive AP/trainee who was not utilising their skills - especially as they moved on as they finally got their HCPC registration. That's a huge cost for a small business (or an NHS team), whilst for them the £7500 shortfall from expected income might make mortgage/loans/childcare costs very difficult.

I know of at least 5 other examples, but I suspect there are a few people each year affected. So let me know if you have experience and how it panned out, or if you are aware of any policy/guidance, sources of support or rights of redress. If these don't exist, who should make them?
Miriam

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Spatch
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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by Spatch » Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:02 pm

I'm being asked by trainees who've been given major amendments to DClinPsy research, what official policy there is (perhaps at BPS or ACP-UK or GTiCP) about employment situation if you can't qualify at end of funded period and means to raise complaint re course research supervision?
I am of the school of thought that you can't assume a thesis is done until it is done. Trainees and PhD students generally get corrections and you need to factor that in as part of writing up and being awarded a doctorate, and its a dangerous assumption that it's a fait accompli on the day the viva is finished.

I would unpack several things.

The first is about what is considered inadequate supervision. This is tricky because viva outcomes are based on both the written text and the trainee's performance at viva, so there is the question if the project was unsound, there was a failure at the supervisor level, at the course team level, or the trainees defence of it was inadequate. Because of the subjective nature of peer review and the matter of academic judgement it would be hard to prove if a supervisor/ course was genuinely negligent (beyond not offering supervision at all or doing something grossly wrong), if a trainee had interpreted feedback a certain way, if there was a genuine mismatch in expectations or if something else was being played out. In your example, a small sample size isn't necessarily an indication of poor science, it may be a limitation beyond the scope of what a trainee could reasonably achieve in the timeframe. That doesn't make the project inherently bad or the course being unreasonable to sanction it. Even if a trainee was told by a supervisor and course team that a project was fine, but a viva panel felt differently, this is more akin to submitting a journal paper review and being rejected by one of peer reviewer out of several which blocks a publication. If a course does even a basic provision, it would be hard for a trainee to argue that they had grounds to complain because doctoral level work is ultimately the responsibility of the candidate rather than the supervisor and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator has some rulings around this.
How do they cover the income gap of training funding ending but not being qualified? I've heard of several trying to rewrite thesis whilst in band 6 "holding posts" with prospective employer, for months or even years.
It used to be that qualifieds-to-be were held on Band 6 until having their DClinPsys awarded, but even major corrections are generally due in 12 months so this shouldn't lead to people working at this level for years. What you can do is have people taking on qualifed jobs, then getting snowed under with work and not having time or energy to write up, but this I think you could argue that this is the individual's responsibility rather than any other third party. Their income gap is unfortunate, but they are no different to any PhD student who takes on a post doc before finalising corrections, a trainee accountant who has to resit their ACCA exams and remains in post, or contractor who signs on to do a new project before an old one is done -its a choice they are actively making that may disadvantage them.
I employed a trainee (with offer conditional on HCPC registration) who relocated to join me, only to find external examiner felt thesis sample size / methodology inadequate, and required major amendments. It was very difficult for both of us to try to work with 12m+ of unqualified status
I think NHS trusts and others employers are coming around to the idea that people do get major corrections that hold up HCPC registration and they need to account for this possibility. From what I have heard some are stricter on expectations on time to award and contingencies around this (I have heard people lose posts when they didn't get their HCPC within the 6 month timeframe). Again, this is something the trainee has most control over and courses, employers and supervisors can't do much to expedite someone doing their research.

When I qualified this was less of an issue, but now hiring panels/supervisors have started to impose expectations or favour those who already have their DClinpsys when making hiring decisions. Similarly, DClinPsy courses are wising up to PhD candidates who have not yet submitted and have been awarded their PhDs, because there is nothing worse than writing up your PhD on your first year of clinical training.

It has made me very conscious about hiring at Band 7 level. That includes trainees in their final year of placement, but also people who are writing up. If I was to hire someone in that position, I would be in close contact with HR around them passing their probationary period being conditional on their submiting on time, and meeting particular expectations and hiring at Band 6 until those gateways were met. I would be explict to the interviewee about this as well, and set a plan with them as part of my supervisory responsibility.
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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by miriam » Wed Jan 22, 2020 11:25 pm

I agree with most of that Spatch. But I can also see why a trainee might be shocked to not pass, and to not get their expected step up in income, when the course agreed the research design/sample/write up and gave only positive feedback.
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Spatch
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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by Spatch » Thu Jan 23, 2020 10:43 pm

We have to be clear we are talking about a very small number of trainees as the situations you are describing are comparatively rare. The vast majority of trainees pass or get minor corrections, submit corrections on time and qualify with minimal issues. As you often state, selection generally works quite well at picking people who can pass the course.

As for the course granting approval and positive feedback, this breaks down into several stages depending on the course. Trainees usually start with an idea, approach a supervisor (generally external to the course team, who may or may not be from a DClin background) and work up an idea for a thesis. This initial idea is fairly rough and often pitched at a high level that a research or academic tutor on a course (who is not likely to be an expert in every project area but a generalist) approves, then helps the trainee work up until it starts to resemble a viable protcol.

This gets the green light to start and the trainee gets to work on their research, often submitting piecemeal pieces of work to supervisors and tutors at differing time points. Often drafts get comments which then lead to revisions and multiple redrafts, so the trainee/supervisor/tutor can start to lose perspective and can become too close to the material. There can be lots of positive feedback and encouragement across all of these stages, but often the only time a full draft is finally completed is shortly before submission (very few trainees will complete months ages in advance and sit on them prior to submission). The viva panel on the other hand is usually fresh to the material, only viewing the final product and may not have any particular attachment to a given approach or methodology. This is where some of those disagreements around academic judgement can occur.

This assumes that you have the trainee functioning and motivated optimally. You may be surprised that there are trainees who value the research element less, see it as a necessary evil, or just want to do the minimum to scrape through. Or feel they can blag the viva. In my experience this is also when problems of this kind occur, leading to major corrections, revise and resubmission or (in some rare cases) programme failure. In my time, working with dozens of trainees in varying roles, I have seen a several cases of major corrections. Mostly anticipated but the odd one due to academic disagreement. Personally, I see it as a form of peer review, with all the attendant issues that raises.

Well, readers I hope that little jaunt gives you some insight into my 1000 yard stare and deepening sense of detachment to the phrase "revised draft". I hope you join me next time, when I will be reflect on my favourite therapeutic ruptures witnessed in the clinic room.

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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by miriam » Fri Jan 24, 2020 1:28 am

Again, fits with my experience - particularly in terms of many trainees seeing the research element as a hoop to jump rather than giving it the value it merits as one third of the training process.

And yes, this scenario is relatively rare (though my post was triggered by being told of it happening to several people from one course this year). I'd say we are talking about something in the region of 0.5-1% of trainees being affected, perhaps two to five people per year cohort - but that's just a guess based on the numbers I've seen.
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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by Lancelot » Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:36 pm

Many courses have submissions in spring and early vivas - so they can complete corrections before the end of course.

As a research supervisor, it can be difficult as trainees can leave things to the last minute, and sometimes they do not follow your advice. I have one who I only saw half a draft despite prompts (though this was someone I picked up last minute as the previous supervisor left) and it was frustrating as all the corrections were things I would have easily spotted.

You get the odd external examiner who has ultra-high standards and probably is not consistent. Often they have unis over a barrel as you don't want to piss them off as a lot can grind to a halt.

If you are a small business, you may not want to take the risk of employing someone without HCPC reg in the future.

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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by AnsweringBell » Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:53 pm

Lancelot wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 12:36 pm
Many courses have submissions in spring and early vivas - so they can complete corrections before the end of course.
Even working with those timeframes, a person in my cohort was still shocked by a 1 year major corrections outcome in the Spring, and lost their offer of employment as a result. So I can absolutely see why this is a thing to raise from an employment perspective.

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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by miriam » Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:14 pm

There are individuals communicating with me directly (perhaps in order to preserve anonymity) who believe that the incidence of this happening are much higher. Does anyone know how we might get data? Can we do a FOI request for each course, for example?
Miriam

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Re: Major amendments on research thesis

Post by reishi » Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:46 pm

I think late graduation due to major corrections is quite high, too. I am now doing my final placement in a Trust employing trainees from a variety of courses for their specialist placements. We have a dedicated trainee space and naturally we talk to each other in the office. We share how things are in our courses and I heard so many of these stories, including only half of a cohort graduating on time last year.
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