Coaching for PhD students

Coaching can be a particularly effective part of the PhD experience, especially for social scientists whose work is often done in isolation. A two way process designed to raise awareness through giving feedback and effective questioning, it involves the coach drawing on well proven techniques and processes that assist the coachee to achieve their desired outcome.

There are four coaching programmes offered through LSE’s Academic and Professional Development Programme for PhD students.

The Writing Coaching Group, especially useful for Year 2 students, links 4 or 5 students from various disciplines into groups to read and comment on one another’s work following an initial ‘crash course’ on writing etiquette. The groups meet regularly over the course of a year and can check in whenever necessary with former Royal Literary Fund Fellow Marina Benjamin, who co-delivers the programme with the Teaching and Learning Centre.

“It sounds obvious but the group gives you concrete readers that you enjoy speaking with and writing for.”

The Coaching for Completion Group is a five session programme designed for students who are around a year away from submitting. Delivered by Dr Claire Gordon and Dr Sarabajaya Kumar from the Teaching and Learning Centre but structured very much around what the students collectively want and need, it has proven successful in dealing with issues such as time management, writer’s block and performance anxiety.

“ … simply having a platform to express personal concerns to a like-minded group made me feel supported, which is comforting in a highly competitive academic environment.”

Coaching for Completion is also offered on a one to one basis, with students able to meet with Dr Sarabajaya Kumar (Academic and Professional Development Adviser to PhD students) to discuss how they can best prepare, in terms of time, energy and focus, for successful completion of their thesis. Up to six half hour sessions are available for each student.

“Often it helps to speak to somebody who isn’t your supervisor or an academic in your department. Having an independent person like that to consult with (not about content but about the processes more generally) can help lay some doubts to rest, and make you feel more prepared."

Finally, Dr Kumar offers a one to one Coaching for the Viva programme, in which students are helped to think through the process and purpose of the viva and encouraged to consider the sorts of questions that examiners are likely to ask and how to prepare for answering them. Around 100 students each year benefit from this programme.

“The sessions gave me guidance on how to structure answers, mentally prepare, and how to perceive and approach the viva objectively. I owe much of my viva success to them.”

To find out more about the programmes, and express an interest in participating, please email|

You can read more about the programmes, and hear what two participants say about them, in a Coaching for research students at LSE| post on the LSE teaching blog.