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The NDS Staff Training Fund was set up to support a greater level of external training for NDS staff to equip them with skills they might not otherwise have access to. The fund ensures our department has the best trained staff, allowing us to deliver the best academic, research and support activities. Three members of staff - Gemma Horbatowski, Ashley Raghu and Liset Pengel - talk about their experiences of using the training fund.

Training and development

Gemma Horbatowski, HR Advisor

In my position as HR Advisor, I know about the NDS Staff Training Fund as we are often asked to help inform staff about it. It’s sent out in staff mail-outs, it’s discussed in the Support Staff Forum, and it’s discussed in people’s HR inductions. However, it could always be advertised more. I’m in the fortunate position of being aware of it because I signpost it to others!

I’ve used the training fund twice: first to do my Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Level 3 and then to do my CIPD Level 5, which are the gold-standard qualifications for working in HR. If you want to progress in HR, you have to go through the Levels (3, 5 and 7). One day I’d like to take on Level 7, but it’s a big commitment and I’m not sure I’d need that qualification in my current role; it would, however, be useful if I wanted to manage a large department in the future.

Doing Level 3 was almost expected of me because of the legislation that surrounds HR, so I did it straight away. The decision to do my Level 5 came out of a PDR with my line manager where I said I wanted to take on more responsibilities in my role and be regraded. My line manager was incredibly supportive and I started my Level 5 in 2018.

The greatest challenge is the workload! I was out for a day a week, but you don’t announce to the department that you will be at work less, so your workload doesn’t necessarily decrease by that much! Across the year, I had six essays to submit. However, Jo Snoeck and Lisa Bjork were great about letting me have days off here and there on annual leave to help me meet my deadlines, regardless of how busy we were at work.

I cannot thank the department enough. Not only did they pay for my qualification, they also allowed me to step out of my role one day a week. I would go to college every Monday during term-time. But while I was at work, I’d still have to complete assignments, audits etc., so I still needed to do roughly 20% of my study workload on the job. The team was also really supportive and always asked me how I was getting on.

For anyone thinking of using the NDS Staff Training Fund, I would say 'Do it!' You will have a real sense of pride at the end of completing your qualification. Yes, it’s hard to find a balance between work, home and studying, but you don’t know what doors will be opened both in the department and externally at the end of it. The department is so supportive, so don’t be afraid to step outside of the box. Even if a qualification doesn’t 100% align with your role, you should still pursue it and talk to someone about it. I’ve been thinking about using it again to train myself in counselling others! We’re so lucky to have this opportunity as a department, and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to take advantage.

Ashley Raghu, DPhil student

I used the NDS Staff Training Fund to be trained in transcranial doppler ultrasound, a useful technique for clinical research. I initially heard about the fund from a colleague in my group who had used it the previous year. I emailed HR, who provided me with the information I needed to apply. The application process was simple, and it was a relief to have the training funded. Using the Fund in this way helped me move forward with a research project that we were conceiving at the time. I would definitely recommend using the fund to other members of staff – if there’s something you need funding for, just apply! What do you have to lose?

Liset Pengel, Senior Research Associate

I used the training fund for training on the GRADE approach, which is the gold standard, systematic approach to making judgements about the quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. It can also be used for guideline development, which is something that my centre was going to be involved in. I found out about the fund through the NDS Bulletin. I was keen to attend a course on the GRADE approach, so I spoke to Jo Snoeck. The application process was straightforward and I was told of the outcome within a couple of weeks. The course helped me gain essential skills that I could immediately apply to my role. To anyone considering using the fund, I would say that applying is definitely worth a try!

Apply to the NDS Staff Training Fund

Members of staff who are interested in using the NDS Staff Training Fund can apply year-round using the application form available here. It is also available to fund travel and accommodation for NDS researchers to learn new skills in collaborator groups in the UK and abroad. 

Applications are welcomed from staff in any and all roles in NDS, be they clinical, research, support, administrative, technical or nursing. Applications to receive the fund should be submitted to Jo Snoeck at

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