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GW4 Connect

Cross-institutional group coaching programme for postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities

This year we are launching a cross-institutional group coaching programme for postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities. It forms part of the GW4 Connect initiative, a suite of EDI activities developed by GW4 Alliance, which brings together researchers from the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

This pilot programme will offer 12 participants the chance to work with coaching experts and peers from across the region to create safe space for honest, free conversations outside institutional structures. Through peer-to-peer discussion, facilitated by the coaches, you will share the strategies you have employed and the strengths you have developed as a postgraduate researcher that has enabled you to try and balance study with parental responsibilities.

Importantly, you will not be expected to arrive with the answers or solutions, but with an open mind and a willingness to engage with the group coaching process to co-create solutions, exchange practice and wisdom, and build a community around common experience.

About the programme

Starting in 2023, we will create a unique opportunity for peer-learning, developmental training and network building for postgraduate researchers. We invite you to meet, share, support and learn from your peers building a network of support that you can take forward beyond the programme.

Group coaching is an effective way to bring people together who face a common interest or concern. Caring for children and undertaking postgraduate research often involves navigating a system seemingly inhospitable to families, with research expectations that can involve considerable travel and disruption to support networks, while facing rising costs for essentials like childcare that are rarely supported by research grants. Group coaching provides a safe, non-judgmental, mutually supportive space that enables you to explore these structural issues as a group and offers the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning to develop new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

The programme is co-designed and co-facilitated by Alice Ballantine Dykes, Founding Director of Mama Coaching, and Nic Willcocks, associate coach and facilitator at Mama Coaching. Alice and Nic will cultivate the right time, space, and focus to explore together the issues that face the group collectively. They do not provide answers or tell you what to do. Instead, they encourage greater self-awareness and offer tools for personal growth.

Over the course of the 10-month programme (July 2023 – May 2024), you will be invited to:

  • Two, half-day, in-person facilitated workshops at the beginning and end of the programme
  • Two, 20-minute, 1:1 in-person contracting session (held at the introductory and final workshop) with expert coaches
  • Six, 90-minute online, facilitated, group coaching sessions.

During these activities, and over the course of the programme, you can expect to:

  • Form support networks with programme participants
  • Discuss and explore challenges or barriers you face, while gaining clarity, sharing strategies of past successes, and sourcing new ideas and practices
  • Be able to articulate and engage your lived experiences as strengths
  • Enhance skills such as active listening and open questioning
  • Learn foundational coaching principles such as being non-judgmental and practicing unconditional positive regard
  • Share and discuss commonalities, insights and actions that have emerged from the programme, with the option of feeding back to GW4 universities
  • Understand how to advocate for change

GW4 Connect will create systems of support that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. We will provide a transformative experience creating strong bonds between participants that form the nucleus of a network for postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities.

Time commitment and Eligibility

Potential participants will need to commit to:

  • Attend two half-day, in-person workshops
    • An introductory workshop (18 July 2023)
    • A final learning and reflection workshop (9 May 2024)
  • Attend two 20-minute, 1:1 in-person coaching sessions (18 July 2023 and 9 May 2024)
  • Attend six, 90-minute, online, group coaching sessions
    • Session 1 (13 September 2023)
    • Session 2 (19 October 2023)
    • Session 3 (28 November 2023)
    • Session 4 (11 January 2024)
    • Session 5 (6 February 2024)
    • Session 6 (6 March 2024)

Although the dates for the online, group sessions are set, we will work with the selected group of participants to find the best, mutually agreed time of day to hold the sessions.

Reasonable travel and accommodation will be provided to attend the in-person activities for those without institutional funding. We also realise that childcare may impact your availability to join in-person sessions, which we do not want to be a barrier to participation. Please come speak to us about your childcare needs, as we are keen to offer funded options that will suit your situation.

To be eligible, you will be:

  • A postgraduate researcher (PhD or Professional Doctorate) at a GW4 university or co-supervised at a GW4 university past probation, but not in final year.
  • Agree to participate in all elements of the programme.
  • Have the approval of your supervisor to engage with the programme in full.

How to apply

Deadline for applications is 12pm on Wednesday, 19 April 2023, which can be completed here. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of professional service leads from GW4 universities to select participants.

You can only apply to one of the GW4 Connect EDI programmes:

  • A peer-to-peer mentorship programme for postgraduate researchers from the global majority[1] (with wrap-around support), or
  • A facilitated, group coaching programme for postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities.

Applications submitted to both will be returned to the applicant for a decision.

Each programme provides equal levels of facilitated and peer-to-peer support, but are delivered in distinct ways tailored to the needs of the specific community. To learn more about the mentorship programme, please click this link.

If you have any questions about the programme, your eligibility, or how to apply, please feel free to contact the Talent and Skills Team (


[1] Global Majority refers to Black, African, Asian, and Brown people, people of dual heritage, those native to the global south, and / or those who have been racialized as ‘ethnic minorities’. These groups represent approximately 80% of the world’s population.

Please note, this programme was previous called GW4 Connect – Peer Mentorship for Postgraduate Researchers of Colour.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter