DTA Autumn School

PhD student Sam Capp reflects on his experience of University Alliance’s DTA Programme ahead of the Autumn School this week.

The Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA) is a programme designed to enable the UK to compete as a knowledge economy in the 21st Century. In order to achieve this a strong research and innovation ecosystem is fundamental.  The aim is to respond to industry needs by producing independent, highly-employable researchers with expertise and skills in strategically-important research areas.

One way which the DTA achieves this is through the residential programme, where all DTA students in their field attend. These residentials, from my experience, are a great way to realise the scope of your research and see what impact it could have on the future. Being part of the founding cohort, predictably titled ‘Cohort 1’, for the DTA energy programme, I have been on a fair few of the residentials. The first being the Autumn School, which for me was at Kingston University, London. The Autumn School was great way for all of the cohort to meet each other for the first time and provided a great baseline for things to come. It really makes you understand your own project and gives you a feel for all the other research going on in your field. I remember feeling a little out of place at first as I had only just started my project, but as the saying goes, everyone is in the same boat. Where I am based, we may have literally needed one with the amount of rain we get, but that’s Manchester for you!

Since then we have had residentials at the swanky Energy Institute in London, the impressive Sheffield Hallam University and the fantastic University of South Wales. During these residentials we had debates, presentations, inspiring talks, interesting lectures and lots of fun activities which all really enhance your research skills and great you to think about the bigger picture. One aspect which is very interesting is the interactions with people from industry which can enhance collaboration and transfer knowledge.

Perhaps my favourite part of the residentials is the visit to a working site. We visited the Energy Centre with its Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) at kings cross, TATA steel at Port Talbot and Drax power station, North Yorkshire. This really opens your eyes to the vast work which goes on constantly which you are unaware of.

The residentials are not the only activity which the DTA offers in order to improve you as a researcher but they are a great part of it which makes them worthwhile. Finally it bring s together a bunch of like-minded people who you will be able to call friends.


Sam Capp is studying for a PhD as part of the Surface Engineering Group at Manchester Metropolitan University as part of the Doctoral Training Alliance. You can find him on twitter @Sam_Capp_PhD.

Further reading