Scottish Mathematical Sciences Training Centre -- Follow-on funding for a Taught Course Centre for UK PhD students in the Mathematical Sciences

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics


Since the autumn of 2007 when the SMSTC became fully operational, it has offered a broad range of high-quality courses designed for first year PhD students in the mathematical sciences. The primary aim of these courses has been to broaden students' mathematical perspective with the ultimate goal of bringing their experience into line with that offered in competitor countries and of making the recipient of a UK PhD in the mathematical sciences more competitive in the academic employment market. The SMSTC provides eight core streams of material, each taught in 20 two-hour lectures (over two semesters) delivered "live" by dedicated video-conferencing (VC). Comprehensive printed notes are made available for students to download and read about a week before each lecture from, the SMSTC wiki-based website. There is also local tutorial support provided by a student's home department, and there are two short residential symposia at which students have the opportunity to meet each other and the teaching teams. Beginning PhD students have normally been expected to take three streams, and to spend about 75% of their time studying the course material during the first six months of their PhD programme. This means that students are also able to begin working with their supervisor from the start of their PhD studies. The SMSTC also provides generic skills training in key areas which support research, such as using bibliographic databases, report writing and giving talks. SMSTC is a cooperative venture (consortium) of mathematical sciences departments at seven Scottish universities, (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews and Strathclyde, together with Stirling as an associate member) and as such draws on the active participation of academic staff from these departments in both its management and operational functions. The management of the SMSTC is undertaken by a Director and Deputy Director together with an Academic Steering and Management Group (ASMG) which contains representatives of each participating department and is constituted so as to be able to give a broad academic overview of the areas of mathematical sciences involved. It also contains external representatives in order to provide an independent perspective and advice. As well as being important for quality assurance, this aids in the dissemination of good practice throughout the UK. Each core stream that we offer is delivered by a team of academics drawn from across the universities and is headed up by a Stream Leader. The Stream Leaders projected to be in post for 2011/12 are also named as co-Investigators on the project. They are all eminent researchers in their respective fields and are capable organisers who have proved their abilities in inspiring their team members to actively contribute to a coherent programme of instruction within the stream. They oversee the operation of each stream and coordinate the teaching team, ensure that appropriate assessment takes place and prepare a brief stream report for the ASMG. Day-to-day administration for SMSTC is undertaken by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) which is a joint institute of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities established in 1990. Since then ICMS has organised over 200 meetings and has an established reputation in the UK and internationally for organising regular high-quality scientific events.

Planned Impact

Since the aim of the TCC initiative is to provide core student training, it is clear that the main impact of this proposal will be in the people and knowledge categories. But because a large proportion of PhD graduates are employed outwith academia, there will also be significant impact on society and the economy. People SMSTC's core aim is to provide high quality broadening training in the mathematical sciences to first year PhD students, equipping them with skills in a range of mathematical and statistical techniques. This should enable students to recognise and exploit connections between different branches of mathematical sciences and thus enhance their ability to do research at a high level. SMSTC also provides generic skills training in key areas which support research, such as using bibliographic databases, report writing and giving talks. Proposal original proforma document
Page 4 of 7 Date printed: 10/05/2011 14:56:57
Date saved: 10/05/2011 14:56:38
There is an acknowledged problem in the people pipeline within UK mathematical sciences, with UK PhD students finding it hard to compete with those whose PhD programmes involve a substantial taught component. The recent International Review of Mathematical Sciences notes the low proportion of UK-trained mathematical scientists amongst new academic appointments and says: the panel regards this fragility as a serious potential risk to the UK's future international standing. The goal of SMSTC is to broaden our students' mathematical perspective to bring their experience more into line with international norms, so they are more competitive in the academic employment market. Knowledge The fundamental aim of SMSTC is to enhance the PhD programme by teaching our students a broad range of mathematical and statistical ideas and techniques. This will equip them with the necessary background knowledge to make scientific advances in their research during (and after) the PhD. Economy and society A large proportion of mathematical sciences PhD students enter employment outwith academia. They are highly prized by employers, as shown for example by starting salaries. A broader mathematical knowledge as provided by SMSTC will undoubtedly increase the value of mathematical sciences postgraduates to the economy and society.


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