CRE PGR Symposium 2020

In the latest CRE blog, PhD students Hannah Budge and Ivy Matoju talk through their experience of organising the annual CRE postgraduate student symposium.

PhD student Ivy Matjou presents an overview of her research

Each year the students from the Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) organise a symposium to showcase the research they are working. It also provides a fantastic opportunity to receive comments on their work from their peers and colleagues in CRE. This year the symposium was held in the impressive surroundings of the Howden Room on campus, which really helped to add to the occasion.

This year we took a slightly different approach to the symposium, with the day was filled with a combination of rapid 3-minute presentations by the first year PhD students, insightful talks from staff based on their own research experiences, 10-minute presentations by the second year and above students, as well as the usual short papers submitted by students for staff to peer-review prior to the day itself.

Following the introduction by Hannah, the talks took the audience across a range of subject areas and geographical ones too: from the development of Responsible Research and Innovation frameworks, understanding place attachment in the era of mobilities, to the aspect of human rights, and to women in agriculture, and; from as close to home as the north-east of England, to the Islands of Scotland and as far away as Mexico’s Valle de Jovel, Southeast Nigeria and West Papua (Indonesia).

PhD student Hannah Budge presentsing at the CRE symposium

The 3-minute presentations by the 1st years were exceptionally detailed given the time constraints they had (it was amazing just how much could fit into such a short space of time). They outlined providing outlines of the ideas they will be following through their years at the university, including room for change and adaption required when conducting research in the field. The remaining presentations focused on the results obtained so far in the students’ studies, hurdles they had encountered and changes they had to put in place.

The exchanges between the presenters and the audience were viewed as beneficial by both groups with the exchange of thoughts, ideas, concerns and interests amazing to witness. Participants in the symposium stated that the event had allowed them to see new links between the topics presented and their research areas of interest or more generally other opportunities to consider throughout their PhD, thanks to the inclusion of other talks such as the use of social media and experience of pursuing a PhD with CRE. The submitted paper was also deemed to be of the appetizing variety with the reviewers’ keen to read the full version conference paper entered. The social at the end of the day provided a good way of winding down and further conversation on shared interests and future opportunities.

The symposium in full swing


We both enjoyed the opportunity to organise the CRE PGR Symposium, and the final event itself. How smoothly it ran reflected our combined efforts over the past few months. It was not however without some issues along the way, we have summarised this below in the form of some handy tips for those who are considering organising similar events in the future, including next year’s symposium;

  • START EARLY! It may seem like an obvious point, but we cannot stress this enough. We started meeting weekly from the beginning of November and this meant that the workload was spread out over a few months, making it much more manageable to fit in around our own research and prevented any last-minute stress.
  • Speak to others who have organised and attended past events. By listening to their experiences, for instance issues with too small rooms, this meant that we could learn from them and avoid similar situations. Additionally, their feedback was valuable in terms of how the event was structured. By showing that you have taken on their concerns means that people are more likely to engage with the event as it continues to evolve the fit the needs of students.
  • Be flexible and creative with your timetable. One problem we had was that many of the PGR students were away conducting their fieldwork when they symposium was on, meaning it was difficult to initially fill up the entire day due to a lack of participants. To solve this, we had had to think creatively on what we could do to fill this time, we settled on asking some staff members in CRE if they would be willing to help. We are very grateful that they were happy to do so! There was an insightful talk about doing, and life after, a PhD in CRE and a presentation regarding using social media to promote yourself as a researcher. The latter generated much discussion and potentially a future social media training session for those in CRE. This highlighted that thinking of what else you can therefore offer at an event is important.
  • Plan breaks to keep everyone well fed and hydrated. The continuous supply of coffee and food ensured that people’s concentration levels didn’t falter throughout the day, and by having breaks meant that people could chat to others about their research and give some informal feedback. So, a thank you to CRE for funding the refreshments!
  • And finally, enjoy it! After months of work it was great to sit and listen to the presentations highlighting the diversity of topics in CRE, and afterwards hearing that people felt more confident about their presentation skills. It was nice to hear our hard work had proved to be fruitful for others.

Thank you again to everyone who attended and contributed to the event! We couldn’t have done it without you all.

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