Chapter 5 - Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students

 

 

  1. Introduction
    1. This Statement of Procedures incorporates the previous separate Statements of Procedures:

      i) ‘Statement of Procedures: Maximum and Minimum Periods of Study for Research Degrees’;
      ii) ‘Statement of Procedures: Changes to Registration Status for Postgraduate Research Students’;
      iii) ‘Code of Good Practice - Transfer of Registration from MPhil to PhD’.
    2. This Statement provides information with regard to making changes pertaining to a student’s registration status, and in particular, specifies options open to students and their Faculties when problems arise in the management of the research, with reference to the timeframe for completion of graduate research degrees, which it lays out in detail.
    3. Where students are funded by a Research Council, or other sponsorship body, the procedures outlined in this document are necessarily subordinated to those of the sponsor.
    4. Where International Students are granted a visa to study in the UK, the procedures outlined in this document are necessarily subordinated to those of the UK Home Office.
  2. Periods of Study (applies to students entering prior to the academic year 2019-20. See section 3.0 for students entering from the academic year 2019-20)
    1. The following scheme will apply:

      PERIODS OF STUDY1 FOR DEGREES IN THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE RESEARCH 

      From October 2009

      (See Appendix 1 for students who commenced their studies before October 2009)
        PT: Min PT: Max FT: Min FT2: Max
      PhD3 n/a 7 years4 n/a 4 years4
      PhD by Publication n/a 2 years n/a 2 years
      MPhil n/a 5 years4 n/a 3 years4
      MPhil by Publication n/a 2 years4 n/a 2 years4
      MbyRes n/a 3 years4 n/a 2 years4
      MbyRes by Publication n/a 1 year n/a 1 year
      EdD n/a 7 years n/a 4 years
      EngD n/a 7 years4 n/a 4 years4
      DClinPsy n/a n/a 3 years 3 years
      DClinRes/DClin Prac 3 years5 6 years5 n/a n/a
      MD3 n/a 5 years4 n/a 3 years4
      MS3 n/a 5 years4 n/a 3 years4
      DEdPsy n/a n/a 3 years 3 years
      DD/DEng/LLD/DLitt/DSc No stipulated period of study

      1 Your period of study is measured from the date of your initial registration until award of your programme, disregarding any interruptions or withdrawal from the programme.

      2 FT will include for this purpose, Postgraduate Research Assistants on Research Grants registered for PT PhDs; Postgraduate Research Assistants; Postgraduate Teaching Assistants.

      3 Students on Four Year PhD programmes must observe the minimum period of study requirements associated with the Regulations governing the Masters programme specified in the Programme of Study.

      4 All maximum periods of study may include up to twelve months continuation status (see section 5).

      5 Candidates for the DClin Res/DClin Prac register on a part-time basis: candidates registered on these programmes will be health professionals who will undertake research as part of their working duties, which will contribute towards meeting the programme outcomes.

  3. Period of Study (applies to students entering from the academic year 2019-20. See section 2.0 for students entering prior to the academic year 2019-20)
    1. The following scheme will apply:

      PERIODS OF STUDY FOR DEGREES IN THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE RESEARCH –
      From the 2019-20 academic year
       Full-time1: Min (years) Max (years)
      PhD  n/a2  4
      PhD by Publication  n/a  2
      MPhil  n/a  3
      MPhil by Publication  n/a  2
      MbyRes  n/a  2
      MbyRes by Publication  n/a  1
      EdD  n/a  4
      EngD  n/a  4
      MD  n/a  3
      MS  n/a  3
      DEdPsy  3  3
      DClinPsy  3  3
       DClinRes/DClin Prac/DClinPrac (Res)  These part-time programmes have a minimum study period of 4 years and maximum of 6 years3
       DD/DEng/LLD/DLitt/DSc  No stipulated period of study 

      1FT will include for this purpose, Postgraduate Research Assistants on Research Grants registered for PT PhDs; Postgraduate Research Assistants; Postgraduate Teaching Assistants.

      2Students on Four Year PhD programmes must observe the minimum period of study requirements associated with the Regulations governing the Masters programme specified in the Programme of Study.

      3Candidates for the DClin Res/DClin Prac/DClin Prac (Res) register on a part-time basis: candidates registered on these programmes will be health professionals who will undertake research as part of their working duties, which will contribute towards meeting the programme outcomes.

    2.  Your period of study is:
      1. measured from the date of your initial registration, disregarding any interruptions, until submission of your thesis, or withdrawal from the programme. Where the maximum submission date falls on a date upon which the University is not open it will not be counted as a failure to submit if submission takes place on the first working day after the closure period;
      2. calculated as a pro-rata equivalent of the full-time period of study for the programme upon which the student is registered, if registered on a part-time basis;
      3. calculated on the basis of a 37.5 hour working week for full-time students, and the pro-rata equivalent for part-time students.
    3. Where the student’s funding period is shorter than the maximum period of study given, the student and supervisory team should plan for submission by the funding end date. Disciplinary norms may also dictate planning to submit within a shorter time-period than the maximum periods given above for self-funded students.
    4. The periods of study given above provide the maximum period of study for the programme in question, unless an extension to the maximum period of study (and to your period of continuation status, where applicable) has been granted (see ‘Extensions to study below). As extensions are only granted under exceptional circumstances students are expected to plan appropriately to manage their research project within the time period given. Students who have not received an extension and have not submitted within their maximum period of study should normally be deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress (see ‘Students deemed withdrawn’ below).
  4. Interruption of Studies

    International Students who are Tier 4 visa holders: interrupting your studies can have serious consequences for your immigration status as the University may be required to report this interruption to the Home Office. This will lead to the curtailment of your visa. It is important that you receive advice on the implications of your decision, which you can access by contacting International Student Support. The circumstances in which the University will report your interruption to the Home Office are outlined here.

    In cases where a student subject to immigration control is unable to demonstrate that they have valid immigration permission, the student will be advised to take a period of interruption until they can demonstrate that they have obtained this permission. If the student does not take a voluntary interruption, the University may invoke a period of interruption. This will be initiated by the Immigration Compliance Unit but will then follow the standard interruption request procedure. The period of interruption will end when the student is able to demonstrate that they have valid immigration permission. If the student is not able to demonstrate this within 28 days then the student will be referred for withdrawal.

    All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether interruption of studies is allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.

    1. The University defines interruption of studies to mean an entire of cessation of academic work for a specific period. Periods of interruption do not count towards the timeframe for completion of the degree, and can be considered as a suspension of normal academic requirements. During a period of interruption, a student does not undertake academic study, and will not receive supervision. A student’s registration will be suspended until they re-register and resume their studies.
    2. The University permits interruptions of study with good cause, which normally means of positive benefit to a programme of study for personal, financial or medical circumstances. Interruptions on medical grounds should be supported by clear medical evidence, where this is not in English, an authorized translation is required. Full-time students should consider that in difficult but less critical circumstances, a change to mode of attendance to part-time status might also be an appropriate alternative. It is not appropriate to apply for an interruption to go on holiday, see Annual Leave, below. Students should note that interruptions of study shall normally only be granted when academically viable, where this is not the case a student shall be required to withdraw but may apply to reinstate their registration at a later date (see reinstatement of registration below).
    3. Students on full-time, part-time and continuation status are eligible to interrupt their studies.
    4. Interruption does not imply a termination of registration, but marks a period of voluntary suspension of study. For periods of interruption students will remain students of the University and be subject to the normal student regulations. The University requires that Annual Monitoring Review reports are completed. However, the student’s circumstances will be taken into account, and necessary processes will be handled in an appropriate way. Student services are not normally accessible during a period of interruption with the exception of the Chaplaincy, Students’ Guild, the Health Centre, Wellbeing Services and Living Support, who are able to provide continued support for the first 4 weeks of an interruption, and where appropriate, the last four weeks prior to return, see 4.10 below. A student will normally retain access to Library facilities and their IT account will normally remain active during their interruption. Care should be taken to ensure that only appropriate communication with the student takes place during this period as they are advised not to engage with study for the duration of their interruption. Therefore, any urgent/ important communications with the student requiring response or attention should be sent to the student’s personal email address and any letters sent in hard copy to their home address where appropriate.
    5. Students shall normally fall under the University Conventions and Procedures currently applicable upon the resumption of their studies.
    6. The minimum period of interruption is one calendar month.
    7. The maximum period of approval for an interruption is one year. In exceptional circumstances, the start date of a period of interruption may be backdated to a maximum of four weeks prior to the date of application. Any addition to a period of interruption previously granted must be made on the basis of a reconsideration of the student’s circumstances. The maximum period of approval that may be granted for interruptions in total across the course of a programme should not exceed 2 years. Exceptions beyond this time-period may be made with the approval of the Dean of Postgraduate Research. Where a continued interruption is not approved a student will be required to re-register or withdraw, but may apply to reinstate their registration at a later date (see reinstatement of registration below). Where a student fails to re-register or extend their period of interruption, they will be deemed to have withdrawn and will have their registration terminated. Subsequent requests for reinstatement will be considered under the terms of reinstatement of registration.
    8. Maternity, shared parental and adoption leave: Students who apply for interruption on the grounds of maternity, shared parental and adoption leave will not have the period of interruption for these types of leave counted towards their maximum number or total period of interruptions. Please also see the Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy and the Postgraduate Student Absence Policy.
    9. Prior to resumption of their studies, all students who interrupt due to medical circumstances are responsible for completing a medical self-assessment form (the PGR Personal Absence Certificate) which will ask the student to provide details of their current state of health and for details regarding further support that they may require. Any students who:

           - have interrupted following Health, Wellbeing and Support for Study at level 2 or above or Fitness to Practice Procedures;

           - have been interrupted for 12 months or more;

           - have had more than one instance of medical interruption during their studies;

           - and/or have demonstrated exceptional circumstances under which it has been deemed necessary for a student to demonstrate their fitness to return to study, 

      must also complete a Medical Practitioner evidence form and meet with the PGR Education Welfare Advisor upon their return or within 1 month prior to their return date in order to ensure that their ongoing support requirements during their studies can be assessed. If a student is unable to obtain medical evidence or arrange for completion of the Medical Practitioner evidence form, the Wellbeing team may convene a Case Management Panel to assess whether the student is fit to resume studies. If the Case Management Panel cannot be reassured of an improvement in the student’s health and their safety in a University environment, a further interruption may be considered or if this is not possible, referral to the HWSS level 3 process.
    10. Applications for interruptions to study should be made by the student through MyPGR: prior to doing so students should speak to their supervisor and international students should also speak to International Student Support. The request shall be passed, for consideration and approval, to the student's lead supervisor and Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor or nominee1 via MyPGR. PGR students returning from interruption must meet with their supervisor prior to their return to studies and complete a return to study checklist.
    11. Students living in University accommodation should note that interruptions to their programme of study will result in the termination of their accommodation contract. Students should also note the terms and conditions of their accommodation contract and will be expected to vacate with immediate effect (normally within 7 days). If there are extenuating circumstances for requiring accommodation during an interruption period, students should contact the Accommodation Office via the Student Information Desk in the first instance.
    12. Students in receipt of studentship funding should ensure that they are aware of the implications for their funding of a period of interruption, and should check their financial offer letters for more information.
  5. Temporary Visa Interruption (applicable only to students who are subject to immigration control) 
    The Home Office requires the University, as a Tier 4 Sponsor License holder, to ensure that all of our students have valid immigration permission which allows them to study in the UK. In cases where a student does not have this permission, the University will need to demonstrate that he or she is not studying during this period. All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether temporary visa interruption is allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.
    1. Where a student subject to immigration control is unable to demonstrate that they have valid immigration permission, the student will be advised to take a period of voluntary interruption (see interruption of studies above) until they can demonstrate that they have obtained this permission. If the student does not take a voluntary interruption, the University will invoke a Temporary Visa Interruption, during which time a student’s access to the University and its services is limited in accordance with the limitation specified in interruption of studies above. This will be initiated by the Immigration Compliance Unit. The period of interruption will end when the student is able to demonstrate that they have valid immigration permission. If the student is not able to demonstrate this within 28 days then the student will be deemed withdrawn (see deemed withdrawn, below), unless it is appropriate to transfer their mode of attendance to distance learning, and approval to do so is granted. The 28 day period will start from the day that the Temporary Visa Interruption is invoked by the Immigration Compliance Unit and recorded on the student record.
    2. During a period of Temporary Visa Interruption a student will still be able to access International Student Support, who will work with the student to try and ensure that they obtain valid immigration permission as quickly as is possible.
    3. Where a period of Temporary Visa Interruption is initiated, the Immigration Compliance Unit will seek advice from the student’s College as to the academic implications of this interruption and communicate these to the student, identifying where possible the requirements of the student upon their return to study and the available support mechanisms.
    4. For appeals documentation and guidance, please visit the Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals.
  6. Annual Leave

    International Students who are Tier 4 visa holders only: Students should be aware that should a period of leave be followed or preceded by a period of interruption International Student Support may be required to report their absence from their studies to the Home Office.

    All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether annual leave is allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.

    1. It is important that students take time out from their studies for a break in order to maintain an appropriate work/life balance. Periods of study for research degrees are calculated with an allowance for periods of annual leave during the registration period, as such taking a period of annual leave does not alter the end date of research programmes.
    2. Research students are expected to take active steps to manage their studies, to not take more than four weeks of leave at a time, and to take due consideration to the timing and management of any periods of leave to ensure that it does not impact on their studies or upon maintaining regular contact with their supervisory team. As such, absence for periods of leave must be discussed in advance with the supervisory team. Students must also ensure that they comply with any requirements of their funding body with regard to taking leave. Annual leave should be taken in the calendar year in which it is accrued.
    3. Students are entitled to take up to 8 weeks of annual leave a year, pro-rata for students studying on a part-time basis, inclusive of public holidays and University closure days, and are encouraged to make full use of this entitlement in accordance with the conditions outlined above.
  7. Changes to Mode of Attendance: Full-time and Part-time Status

    International Students only: Tier 4 visa holders will be required to apply for a new Tier 4 visa before switching to full-time or part-time mode of attendance. Students considering changing their mode of attendance should discuss the immigration implications of this change with International Student Support and should be aware that a switch to part-time in particular means a more restrictive visa. All requests from international students to change their mode of attendance to full-time or part-time must be signed off by a member of the Immigration Compliance Team.

    All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether changes to mode of attendance are allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.

    1. A change to mode of attendance means a change from one to another of the following statuses: full-time, part-time, or variance in part-time hours.
    2. Permitted part-time registrations: 0.5 FTE(full-time equivalent), 0.6 FTE, 0.7 FTE, 0.8 FTE, 0.9 FTE. Please note that the nature of some programmes may limit which FTEs students may register at (e.g. credit-based programmes).
    3. Changes between full-time and part-time modes of attendance should be used to assist students who are either unable to devote a full working week to study for good reasons, or to allow part-time students who find themselves able to devote extra time to study to do so.
    4. Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellors and Executive Deans or nominees1 should be sympathetic to requests for changes to mode of attendance, and have due regard to the student's changed circumstances as well as the Faculty's (or delegated School's) continued ability to offer appropriate supervision and facilities.
    5. Applications for changes to mode of attendance between full-time and part-time or to change part-time hours:
      1. Applications to change from full-time to part-time and vice versa result in a change of programme and should be made by the student on the appropriate form, available from PGR Support (for students entering prior to the academic year 2019-20) or online (applies to students entering from the academic year 2019-20).
      2. International Students Only: the student must make an appointment to see International Student Support for approval. Students who are abroad should email the International Student Support Office and the Faculty (or delegated School) should obtain the signature on the form on behalf of the student. 
      3. The form should be signed by the student and passed, for consideration and approval, to the student's first supervisor and Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean (who will consider the resource implications of the request).
      4. Requests to change status may not be made more frequently than at six month intervals, without an exceptional case being made.
      5. On approval by all parties, the Faculty (or delegated School) should send a copy of the form to the Postgraduate Administration Office to update the student's record, and the student and supervisors should review the supervision agreement and update as needed.
      6. Approval shall be contingent on a satisfactory review taking place no later than 3 months after the change of status had taken effect. The student and supervisory team should undertake this review during a contact event to confirm that the change in arrangement was working. If there were problems with the arrangement that cannot be resolved by the student and supervisory team the lead supervisor should refer this to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean (normally the person who approved the request) for further consideration with a recommendation for action.
  8. Continuation Status
    1. A move to Continuation Status is not an automatic right for a student, however, all students are encouraged to apply to transfer at the appropriate point in their studies. Continuation Status is granted on the basis of a decision by the Faculty (or delegated School) that the student:
      1. no longer requires normal levels of supervision;
      2. will not undertake any significant additional research;
      3. will be expected to make minimal use of University resources (see also the ‘Code of Good Practice - Supervision of Postgraduate Research Students’).
    2. For entrants prior to 2019-20:
      1. A move to Continuation Status is not an automatic right for a student, but only granted on the basis of a decision by the Faculty (or delegated School) that the student no longer requires normal levels of supervision, and will be expected to submit within 12 months.
      2. Students may be permitted to transfer to Continuation Status where the Faculty (or delegated School) is able to assure itself that the student has completed their research and will not undertake any significant additional research. Such students are not charged normal full-time or part-time fees. Students on Continuation Status are not returned in the Research Activity Survey, and therefore do not attract quality-related research (QR) funding. Academic grounds are the primary consideration; however, students who have transferred to continuation status will be expected to make minimal use of University resources.
    3. For entrants from 2019-20:
      1. Successful progression (see above for more information) should for the majority mean that they are ready to transfer to continuation status three to six months ahead of submission. As such monitoring applications to transfer to continuation status provides indicative evidence of which students may not be making adequate progress. As such, failure to transfer or to apply to transfer to continuation status may result in assessment of whether action needs to be taken under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’.
      2. In order to assess whether or not a student meets the conditions stated above, evidence will normally be required that:
        1. The Student is in a position where formal submission of the thesis within three-six months is demonstrably possible. For part-time students this period should be calculated on a pro-rata basis.
        2. The student should always be in a position where formal submission within their maximum period of study is demonstrably possible.
        3. The student has provided a project time-line to submission with their application.
        4. The supervisory team have received a complete or near complete (as determined by the Faculty (or delegated School) and specified in the Faculty (or delegated School) Code of Good Practice) draft of the thesis.
          1. Requirements specific to the MbyRes/MPhil/PhD by publication: all publications comprising an element of the thesis should be published, and the supervisory team should have received a complete or near complete (as determined by the Faculty (or delegated School) and specified in the Faculty (or delegated School) Code of Good Practice) draft of the integrating chapter (as specified in 5.1 of the 'Regulations Governing the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy/ Master of Philosophy/ Master of Arts by Research and Master of Science by Research by Publication'.
        5. There are not any outstanding actions in place under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’. (e.g. a warning, the conditions of which the student has not met).
      3. If a student fails to submit their thesis within six months of transferring to continuation status, action will normally be taken under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’.
      4. Such students are not charged normal full-time or part-time fees. Students on Continuation Status are not returned in the Research Activity Survey, and therefore do not attract quality-related research (QR) funding. Academic grounds are the primary consideration; however students who have transferred to continuation status will be expected to make minimal use of University resources.
    4. Applications for transfer to continuation status:

      Applications must be made through MyPGR following discussion with the supervisor. Approval will be required from the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean.
  9. Upgrade of Students from MPhil to Doctoral Study

    All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether upgrade from MPhil to Doctoral Study is allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.
    1. The Regulations for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy provide that:

      "Candidates registered for a degree of Master of Philosophy, Master of Arts by Research or Master of Science by Research may be allowed to transfer their registration to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and to have all or part of the period of study already completed under the original registration counted towards the period under the new registration." (2.2)
    2. A student registered for the degree of Master of Philosophy who wishes to upgrade to an appropriate doctoral programme shall submit a formal application. Students registered for a degree of Master of Arts by Research or Master of Science by Research should seek advice from their Department if they wish to consider making an application to transfer programme: procedures for upgrade are only applicable for students on an MPhil programme who wish to upgrade to doctoral study.
    3. Purpose of Upgrade: The purpose of the upgrade process is to:
      1. Confirm that the student is making satisfactory progress;
      2. Confirm that there is evidence that the student is able to produce work of doctoral quality;
      3. Act as a structural milestone within the student’s research journey;
      4. Provide the student with formal feedback on their work, and a developmental opportunity in the form of a viva;
      5. Provide an opportunity for a detailed review of the research project and plan to take place from experts independent of the supervisory team.
    4. Timing of upgrade: 
      1. Entrants registering before the 2019-20 academic year: 

        Time-frames for transfer of registration should be specified in Faculty and Department Handbooks and should normally take place not later than after 18 months of full-time registration, or 36 months of part-time registration. Applications to transfer registration should take place within a timeframe that allows a decision about changes to registration status to be made within this timeframe.
      2. Entrants registering from the 2019-20 academic year: 

        Transfer of registration should normally take place not later than after 12 months of full-time registration, or the pro-rata equivalent for part-time registration, and as specified within Faculty and Department Handbooks. Applications to transfer registration should take place early enough to allow a decision about changes to registration status to be made within this timeframe. This means that Departments should specify internal deadlines for initial submission of documentation for consideration by the Department Upgrade Committee.
      3. All students 

        In exceptional circumstances beyond the student's control applications for deferral to the deadline for transfer of registration may be made. These will be considered by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean. Further details on the process to be followed in consideration of deferral of the deadline for the transfer of registration from MPhil to Doctoral Study, which may involve applying for deferral of the deadline for initial submission of documentation to the Department Upgrade Committee, is appropriate as set out in annex 1. 'Applications for deferral'
    5. Submission requirements: 
      1. Supervisory Team:The candidate’s supervisors appointed for the Master of Philosophy shall have the opportunity to submit a report commenting on the application and statement.
      2. Student: The student shall apply to upgrade via MyPGR and shall upload documents as required by their Department: : the required documentation will vary by Department, in order to account for disciplinary variations. Approval of upgrade submission requirements in each Faculty sits with the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean. Departments or Faculties may also determine whether any additional mechanisms for considering upgrade applications are necessary; but if any mechanisms are in place they must be operated without exception for all applications within the Department or Faculty.
      3. In all cases the documentation required must be sufficient to allow the Department Upgrade Committee to form a judgement and provide feedback on the candidate’s progress, and determine whether or not to make a recommendation to support the candidate’s request to upgrade.
      4. Faculty and Department Handbooks should provide clear guidance on the documentation required. Indicatively, this might include: 
        1. A statement of aims and objectives;
        2. A statement of how the candidate expects the final thesis to demonstrate how the thesis meets the programme requirements for an award at doctoral level, with reference to the qualification descriptor for level 8 in the Credit and Qualifications Framework;
        3. A contents outline for the thesis;
        4. Submission of one or more pieces of written work (as defined by the Department) in good presentational order;
        5. A draft timetable for submission of the thesis within the candidate’s planned submission period.
      5. The candidate may also be expected to give a presentation on their work, in addition to attending a viva.
    6. Department Upgrade Committees:  
      1. At the end of the upgrade viva, the Upgrade Committee may, if they choose, inform the candidate of their preliminary recommendations; however, in doing so it must make clear that this will be a recommendation only, subject to confirmation at faculty level.
      2. Upgrade requests should be considered by a Department Upgrade Committee. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean must give approval to the arrangements with regard to constituting Upgrade Committees within their Faculty. These arrangements should ensure that:
        1. One member of the Department Upgrade Committee is nominated to act as Chair and;
        2. The Department Upgrade Committee comprises at least two members of academic staff4, none of whom should be (or have been) a supervisor, PGR Pastoral Tutor or mentor of the student;
      3. The Committee shall viva the student; the viva may take place by video-link provided it complies with the procedure set out in Annex 2: Upgrade Vivas by Video-link;
      4. The student’s lead supervisor should attend the Committee’s meeting as an observer. To allow the student to make any comments they wish to the Committee without their supervisor being present, the student shall always be invited to talk with the Committee after the supervisor is asked to leave;
      5. The Committee shall confirm that, bearing in mind the requirements in respect of periods of study (above - entry prior to the 2019/20 academic year & entry from the 2019/20 academic year) the projected programme of research can be completed within the period of study stipulated.
    7. Upgrade Outcomes (applicable for students entering from 2019/20)
      1. At the first attempt at upgrade, the following outcomes are available:
        1. Pass;
        2. Require completion of minor amendments2 within 2 months (or the pro-rata equivalent for part-time registration);
        3. Refer for a second attempt within 3 months (or the pro-rata equivalent for part-time registration)and normally recommend initiation or progression of a case under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’.
      2. Following a second attempt at upgrade as a consequence of outcomes 9.7.1 b or c at the first attempt (see above), the following outcomes are available to the Department Upgrade Committee:
        1. Pass;
        2. Remain registered as an MPhil student, where a student has provided satisfactory evidence of their ability to submit work of MPhil quality, within the appropriate time-frame for an MPhil;
        3. Remain registered as an MPhil student and normally recommend initiation or progression of a case under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’.
      3. Upon review of a second submission by a student, if the Department Upgrade Committee are satisfied that a recommendation of ‘pass’ can be made to the Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean without the necessity for a second viva they may make this recommendation to the Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean without delay.
      4. When a student has not met the criteria for upgrade, the Department Upgrade Committees may determine whether or not it is appropriate to recommend initiation or progression of a case under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’. This should normally be used where there is evidence that:
        1. Performance at upgrade is indicative of wider concerns with performance;
        2. Performance at upgrade indicates a failure to engage responsibly with their studies.
      5. Normally, upgrade will not be the first point at which progression concerns might be noticed, as such, it is important that referrals to the  'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’are not delayed as a matter to be dealt with through the upgrade process. This means that it is more likely that the Department Upgrade Committee will normally recommend progression rather than initiation of a case under the  'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’. Warnings issued prior to upgrade can usefully use completion of upgrade requirements and performance in the upgrade as actions that a student needs to successfully undertake to demonstrate satisfactory performance. Staff responsible for monitoring action under the  'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’ can ask Department Upgrade Committees to report accordingly in their feedback.
    8. If the Department Upgrade Committee has concerns that a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is significantly impacting their ability to successfully complete the upgrade process no decision (for 19/20 entrants in line with the above outcomes in 9.7) should be taken until it is determined whether it is appropriate to take alternative action under the ‘Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures’.
    9. As this is a developmental process the Department Upgrade Committee will provide written feedback to the student on their submission and their performance in the viva.
    10. Where the University is required to provide progress reports to a student’s sponsor, the report of the Department Upgrade Committee should be used as a source of information for that purpose.
    11. The Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean retains final authority with regard to the decision to approve or reject upgrades of registration.
    12. Transfer of Registration from PhD/MD/MS/EngD to MPhil/MbyRes
      1. Faculties (or delegated Schools) should be aware that the transfer of a student to a doctoral research programme, or the acceptance of a candidate onto a doctoral research programme, is a contractual undertaking by the Faculty to provide a student with a programme of supervision in preparation for examination at doctoral level. It is not possible, therefore, for a student’s registration to be ‘down-graded’ from a doctoral research programme to MPhil/MbyRes without the agreement of the student. In cases where a Faculty, after due consideration, has reason to believe that a student is not able to produce work at doctoral level, this must be clearly stated to the student with the recommendation that they transfer their registration to an MPhil or MbyRes Programme.
      2. Following agreement from a student, a Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean or nominee1 may approve the down-grading of registration.
      3. Confirmation of the change in programme should take place through the completion of a change in programme form.
  10. Extensions to Study 

    International Students only: An extension to the length of a programme may require the student to extend their visa. In all cases the student should make an appointment to see International Student Support for the correct procedures to follow.

    All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether an extension to study is allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.

    Research Council Students only: AHRC and ESRC students, who require an extension to their submission date, must submit an application to the University’s nominated contact in the Postgraduate Administration Office. Applications must be received 3 months before the submission deadline date and will be forward to the AHRC or ESRC for approval. Applications should be supported in writing by the supervisor and be fully supported by medical evidence if the request is based on an illness. For BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC and STFC please refer to specific Terms and Conditions.

    1. Extensions are an approved increase in the overall duration of the period of study for the research programme. Extensions should be used in cases where a student will exceed the maximum period of study (entry prior to 2019-20, entry from 2019-20) for the degree for which they are registered. See students deemed withdrawn (below) with regard to taking action when a student has exceeded the maximum period of study for the degree for which they are registered without good cause. For applications for deferral of internal deadlines, e.g. for the transfer of registration from MPhil to Doctoral Study please see Annex 1. 'Applications for deferral'
    2. An extension to the maximum period of study will only be granted by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean in very exceptional circumstances. In cases of illness, excessive personal, work or other commitments, or other difficult circumstances it is expected that the student and Faculty will follow the advice on Interruption of Studies. In the case of problems with their research, students are expected to have built in a time allowance for addressing for problems and as such failure to do so will not normally be sufficient grounds for an extension. If they have not done so, it is unlikely that an extension of registration will be permitted. Where necessary, an extension may be granted in concert with issuing a warning under the ‘Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice
    3. Students wishing to apply for an extension to the overall duration of the programme may do so by completing the appropriate form, available from the Faculty and the PGR Support Team. The form should be signed by the student's lead supervisor, and then forwarded to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for consideration together with an outline of work completed against each chapter heading, and a work-plan and schedule. Approval should not be given without these documents being provided to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean's satisfaction.
    4. Extensions to Study for students entering from the 2019/20 academic year:
      1. Approval for extensions will not be given later than six months prior to the maximum date of submission (or re-submission), unless exceptional circumstances justify consideration of a later application.
      2. Extensions will not be given for longer than a year, pro-rata for part-time students, and the length of the extension requested should be justified.
      3. Normally, only one extension request for a particular deadline will be approved.
    5. On approval by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean, a copy of the extension form should be forwarded to the Postgraduate Administration Office. The PGR Support Team will notify the student of the outcome.
    6. Students living in University accommodation should note that extensions to the programme of study do not automatically extend the accommodation contract, and that students wishing to remain in University accommodation must obtain the permission of the Director of Campus Services through the Accommodation Office, subject to normal student regulations and contracts.
  11. Withdrawal from Study

    International Students only: Withdrawal is always a difficult choice, but for international students it can also have serious immigration implications of which students are often not aware. The immigration rules are not lenient, and very rarely make allowances for compassionate circumstances. It is vital that international students are aware of the ramifications of their decision before it is finalised, and understand what actions they must take after the withdrawal to ensure that they are allowed to study in the UK in the future. It is a requirement of the Immigration Office that only authorised University personnel in International Student Support interview and sign off forms for students who wish to withdraw from their studies.

    All students in receipt of funding, whether that is through the University of Exeter, a Research Council, a Student Loan or any other financial sponsorship, must check whether withdrawal from study is allowed under the terms and conditions of their funding. It is the student’s responsibility to check these conditions ahead of requesting to change status.

    1. Where a student has failed to demonstrate that they have valid immigration permission within 28 days of the start of the period of invoked interruption, as described above, the Immigration Compliance Unit may recommend to the Dean of Postgraduate Research that the student be withdrawn from study. For appeals against withdrawal on this basis, please refer to section 5.4 above for more information.
    2. Students are permitted to withdraw from their programme of study at any time and for any reason, but are reminded that any fees or fines outstanding must still be paid.
    3. On withdrawing from a programme, registration is terminated, and the student ceases to be a student of the University. Students considering withdrawal from study due to adverse personal circumstances should ensure that they have first considered an interruption of studies.
    4. To aid the University in understanding the reasons for student withdrawals, and to formally tell the University about the decision to withdraw, students are asked to complete a form, available from the PGR Support Team and the Postgraduate Administration Office website.
    5. The form should be signed by the student and passed to the student's first supervisor and Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean or nominee1. International Students only: Following Faculty approval the student must make an appointment to see International Student Support for final approval. Students who are abroad should email the ISA with details of their withdrawal and the Faculty should obtain the signature on the form on behalf of the student.
    6. Once all parties have signed the form, the Faculty (or delegated School) should write to the student and a copy of the form and letter should be sent to the Postgraduate Administration Office to update the student's record.
  12. Students deemed Withdrawn
    1. The University may de-register a student and initiate the termination of registration for good and documented reasons. A student retains the right to appeal such a decision under the University's normal procedure for academic appeals.
    2. In order for a student to be de-registered, one of the following must apply:
      1. Students who do not re-register after the end of a period of interruption will be de-registered and registration terminated. Subsequent requests for re-instatement of registration may be considered.
      2. In cases where a student makes unsatisfactory progress, the Faculty may make a case to the Dean of Postgraduate Research for termination of registration, as set out in the ‘Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’. Students who have not submitted their thesis by the end of their maximum period of study should be deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress3.
      3. The University retains the right to terminate registration in cases where a disciplinary offence has been committed, a regulation has been broken or a student fails to complete or comply with a University procedure.
      4. Where a student has failed to demonstrate that they have valid immigration permission within 28 days of the start of a period of invoked interruption, the Immigration Compliance Unit may recommend to the Dean of Postgraduate Research that the student be withdrawn from study. 
      5. Students who have had sanctions for four weeks or who have been unable to register due to debtor status will be deemed to have withdrawn and will have their registration terminated. Subsequent requests for reinstatement will be considered under the terms of reinstatement of registration  once any debt has been settled.
      6. Students who do not re-register within 4 weeks of the designated registration period will be deemed to have withdrawn  and will have their registration terminated. Subsequent requests for reinstatement will be considered under the terms of reinstatement of registration.
      7. Students who fail to submit their thesis by the end of their period of study, including the end of a period of resubmission and where the Faculty, PGR Support or PGR Administration Teams have not been notified ahead of the deadline, may be recommended to the Dean of Postgraduate Research that the student be withdrawn from study. Subsequent requests for reinstatement will be considered under the terms of reinstatement of registration.
      8. Students who fail to submit amendments to their thesis by the deadline stipulated in the examiner’s report and where the Faculty, PGR Support or PGR Administration Teams have not been notified ahead of the deadline, may be recommended to the Dean of Postgraduate Research that the student be withdrawn from study. Subsequent requests for reinstatement will be considered under the terms of reinstatement of registration.
    3. Re-registration following completion of the maximum period of study will only be granted by the Dean of Postgraduate Research in very exceptional circumstances. In cases of illness, excessive personal, work or other commitments, it is expected that the Faculties (or delegated Schools) will recommend to students that they interrupt their studies at that time. If they have not done so, it is unlikely that an extension of registration will be permitted. Faculties (or delegated Schools) should also be aware that for students funded by Research Councils, it is the responsibility of the Faculty to seek permission for an interruption to a student’s studies (except ESRC where matters should be referred to the Postgraduate Administration Office in the first instance).
  13. Termination of Registration
    1. On termination of registration, a student ceases to be a student of the University, and all academic rights and responsibilities are ended. Students are reminded that any fees and fines owed to the University at withdrawal remain due.
    2. Students living in University accommodation should note that withdrawal from the programme of study does not automatically terminate the accommodation contract. Attention should be given to the section of the withdrawal form dealing with this matter.
    3. Graduate research students withdrawing from a programme may have accumulated enough credit, through taking taught modules, to be awarded a qualification other than that for which the student was registered. This will depend on the modules taken, and the credit accumulation and award rules for the programme.
  14. Reinstatement of Registration
    1. Reinstatement after withdrawing voluntarily or being deemed withdrawn:
      In exceptional cases a student may request reinstatement after withdrawing voluntarily or being deemed withdrawn. Such a request will be considered by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean and will take account of the student's circumstances, the resources available within the Faculty (or delegated School) and the academic feasibility of continuing study after a prolonged absence.
    2. Reinstatement after withdrawing voluntarily or being deemed withdrawn following completion of the maximum period of study:
      Where a student had already completed the maximum period of study at the time of withdrawing or being deemed withdrawn, an outline of work completed against each thesis chapter heading, and a work-plan and schedule should be enclosed with the application. Approval by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean and the Dean of Postgraduate Research is required.
    3. In cases where reinstatement is permitted, the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean will determine the period of further study required, in line with the normal period of study for the relevant programme.
    4. Reinstatement is not automatic and will depend upon the Faculty's (or delegated School's) continued ability to offer appropriate supervision and facilities and whether or not there remain academic grounds for continuing the student's research.
    5. Due to the exceptional nature of reinstatements, cases should be handled in consultation with the Postgraduate Administration Office.
    6. Payment of a reinstatement fee will be required.

1 It is at the discretion of the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean to decide whether or not a nominee may be appointed and Faculties (or delegated Schools) must specify who this nominee is in Faculty PGR handbooks. The following roles may be specified as nominees: Department Director of PGR, relevant PGR Manager, the Head of PGR Support.

2The definition of minor amendments is as set out in 8.3.1 of the 'Handbook for Examination of Postgraduate Research programmes'.

3Exceptions may apply where it would be more appropriate to address progress concerns via the ‘Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures (HWSSP) – Exeter and Penryn Campuses'.

4 For the avoidance of doubt, individuals engaged on a self-employed/ consultancy basis and individuals engaged on a claims basis or who have an honorary appointment at the University are not eligible for appointment to Department Upgrade Committees with the exception of members of NHS staff who have an honorary apppointment with the University, who may be considered for appointment to Department Upgrade Committees.

Appendix 1

For students who commenced their studies before October 2009, the maximum period of study is counted as the period between initial registration and thesis submission.

MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM PERIODS OF STUDY FOR THE DEGREES OF MPhil & PhD
    FT* PT
PhD  Min 3 years 6 years
Max 4 years 7 years
MPhil  Min 2 years 4 years
Max 3 years 5 years
EdD  Min 2 years 4 years
Max 4 years 7 years


FT will include for this purpose, Postgraduate Research Assistants on Research Grants registered for PT PhDs; Graduate Research Assistants; Graduate Teaching Assistants.
† All maximum periods of study may include twelve months continuation status (see continuation status).

Annex 1- Applications for deferral

For students applying to defer upgrade (see section 9.4, above), or EMPS students only PGR Progression Portfolio (see EMPS PGR student handbook).  PGR Upgrade Deferral Request Form For students from 2019-20. Please ensure you read the process before completing.

  1. Introduction

    1. This document is an annex to the requirements for ‘Upgrade of Students from MPhil to Doctoral Study’ specified in the ‘Statement of Procedures: Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students’ to provide further details on the process to be followed where consideration of deferral of the deadline for the transfer of registration from MPhil to Doctoral Study is appropriate.
    2. An application for a deferral to the deadline for transfer will only be applicable where appropriate mitigating evidence is available to demonstrate the existence of serious and unexpected circumstances that had a disruptive impact on a student’s studies and research and where the circumstances listed under 3, exclusions, are not applicable.
    3. Completion of the upgrade process by the deadline for transfer means that students necessarily have to apply for a deferral to the deadline for submission of documentation for upgrade. Whilst this takes place ahead of the final deadline for transfer, it is necessary in order to allow time for completion of the upgrade process, such as consideration by the Faculty Upgrade Committee and completion of further work, where the outcome is not a pass at the first attempt.
  2. Responsibilities of Faculties

    1. To provide clarity with regard to the initial deadline for submission of documentation for upgrade for its students;
    2. To ensure that Faculty Upgrade Committees are scheduled to take place in a timely manner subsequent to the deadlines for submission;
    3. To provide consistent decision making with regard to requests for deferral, keeping records of the grounds for accepting or declining requests for deferral to demonstrate this;
    4. To provide procedures and clear guidance on how students can apply for deferral. This information should also include details of the implications and likely outcomes of any deferral application, including any local policies with regard to the scheduling of Faculty Upgrade Committee meetings (e.g. to allow for deferred Faculty Upgrade Committee meetings to take place at the same time as Faculty Upgrade Committees are considering upgrade submissions referred for a second attempt). Handbooks should stress that applications for deferral are for extraordinary circumstances only and will be rejected if they are not accompanied by appropriate evidence.
  3. Exclusions

    1. An application for a deferral to the deadline for transfer will not be appropriate if:
      1. An interruption should have been applied for instead. In cases of personal, financial or medical circumstances or other difficult circumstances it is expected that the student and Faculty will follow the advice on Interruption of Studies. As an interruption suspends a student’s registration this will lead to an automatic postponement of the deadline for transfer of registration for the duration of the period of interruption;
      2. Periods of study for research degrees are calculated with an allowance for periods of annual leave during the registration period, as such failure to plan for periods of annual leave would not be a mitigating circumstance;
      3. Reasonable adjustments for disabled students are implemented through an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) in accordance with the Inclusive Practice within Teaching and Learning Policy. Deferral or other forms of adjustment on the grounds of a disability will not be considered if they are not supported by an ILP. A disability that has not been declared in a timely manner cannot be taken into account retrospectively, unless the student can provide a reasonable explanation and properly documented evidence for not having declared it (see also the University’s procedures for Student Academic Appeals);
      4. Where a change to mode of attendance e.g. to part-time study was advised to address concerns with a student’s ability to devote sufficient hours to their studies, and was not applied for, a student’s failure to devote sufficient hours to their studies after that point would not be deemed sufficient to justify a deferral;
      5. In the case of problems with their research, students are expected to manage their time appropriately, which includes setting aside time for preparation of the documents required as part of their upgrade submission, and to have built in a time allowance for addressing problems with their research. As such, unless the problems with their research were of such a scale that this was not feasible, failure to do so would not normally be sufficient grounds to justify a deferral;
      6. Issues related to a student’s research that had not been evidenced through the completion of a MyPGR contact event at the time the issue arose;
  4. Serious and unexpected circumstances
    1. An application for deferral of the deadline for transfer may be considered if the following circumstances apply: 

      Personal circumstances (where interruption is not appropriate) Evidence Required
      a) single occasions of illness Forms of evidence to support such circumstances might include:

      - A Police Crime Report

      - A copy of a prescription notice

      - A letter from a counsellor/Solicitor/Doctor

      - A death certificate

      b) adverse personal circumstances
      c) Relapses/ exacerbations of long term fluctuating conditions/ disabilities
         Unforeseen Impediments  
        Unforeseen impediments constitute circumstances that effect a student’s ability to conduct or pursue their research in the last 4 months (normally during the period of Nov to Feb for full-time September starters) and ongoing, which are corroborated by a member of their supervisory team: 
      d) A radical shift in the political and/or social landscape of the project so that the initial aims of the project are brought into some doubt or are deemed no longer feasible

      Forms of evidence to support such circumstances might include:

      - Corroboration by a member of the supervisory team evidenced through the completion of a MyPGR contact event at the time the issue arose;

      e) Unexpected delays to getting data that is key to formulating the proposal, i.e., research question, or any other documentation required by the upgrade process as established by their department.
      f) A breakdown in technical equipment that is key to formulating the proposal, i.e., research question, or any other documentation required by the upgrade process as established by your department.
      g) Any organisational issues beyond the student’s control, e.g. a strike, closure of the University. 
      Where a student has evidence of having experienced mitigating circumstances of a serious and unexpected nature that do not fit neatly into one of the categories listed in 4.1 a) - g) they may, nevertheless make an application for a period of deferral.
  5. Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures
    1. When considering mitigation for personal circumstances (as listed in 4) it is important to consider whether or not referral to the Health, Wellbeing and Support for Study procedure is applicable. It may also be appropriate to direct the student to other sources of support if circumstances are ongoing.
  6. Time-frames for application
    1. An application for deferral should normally be made 6 weeks before the expected submission deadline for upgrade. In exceptional cases, i.e. when serious and unexpected circumstances occur closer to the deadline, an application can be made later, provided that it is prior to the Faculty Upgrade Committee’s scheduled meeting. If serious and unexpected circumstances arise after the student’s first attempt at upgrade these may also be considered.
  7. Process
    1. An application for deferral must be supported by:
      1. verifiable and/or independent evidence (see 4.1 ‘evidence required’ for details)
      2. a statement by a supervisor, and, where appropriate, pastoral tutor;
      3. a work-plan with a proposed date by which the work will be submitted;
      4. The evidence provided must give a clear indication of the length of time by which progress was delayed: if deciding to accept the application for deferral this will inform the Faculty’s decision about what period of deferral might be considered reasonable, which shall not exceed a period of three months.
    2. Where an application for deferral is made on the basis of especially sensitive information this should be treated confidentially. If a student prefers the reasons for the application may be considered by their pastoral tutor, with whom the student may have discussed their circumstances, who will report to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, without sharing the detail of the evidence provided to them.
    3. Applications for deferral will be granted by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor, in collaboration with the relevant discipline DPGR and the PGR Support team.
    4. Where a period of deferral to the deadline for transfer is approved:
      1. this will be added to the student’s record, however, it will not lead to an extension to the thesis submission deadline. It is expected that the time elapsed by the point at which thesis submission would take place would normally mean that a student would have had sufficient opportunity to get back on track with their studies. See also Extensions to Study.
      2. No further deferral of the transfer deadline will be permitted without further agreement. Without agreement any failure to transfer by the deadline given will normally result in action being initiated or progressed under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’ unless the Faculty has concerns that a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is significantly impacting their ability to successfully complete the upgrade process by the deadline, where it should then be determined whether it is appropriate to take alternative action under the ‘Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures’.
      3. depending on the nature of a student’s funding, it may be necessary to report any delay in successfully upgrading within the first year (pro-rata) of study to a student’s sponsor.
  8. Failure to apply for or have a period of deferral approved
    1. If an application for deferral is unsuccessful failure to transfer by the deadline given will normally result in action being initiated or progressed under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’ unless the Faculty has concerns that a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is significantly impacting their ability to successfully complete the upgrade process by the deadline, where it should then be determined whether it is appropriate to take alternative action under the ‘Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures’.
    2. If a student has not applied for deferral failure to transfer by the deadline given will normally result in action being initiated or progressed under the 'Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement: Code of Good Practice’ unless the Faculty has concerns that a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is significantly impacting their ability to successfully complete the upgrade process by the deadline, where it should then be determined whether it is appropriate to take alternative action under the ‘Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures’.

Annex 2 - Upgrade Vivas by Video-link

  1. Upgrade Vivas by Video-link 
    1. This section applies to all upgrade vivas where one or more participant joins the viva via a video-link.
    2. The University has adopted a permissive approach to the use of vivas by video-link, recognising that vivas may be held as successfully by video-link as a viva where all participants are physically in the same room. When making decisions about whether attendance by one or more participant at the viva should take place via video-link, rather than travelling to attend in person, the University’s ‘Environment & Climate Emergency Business Travel Policy’ should be adhered to with regard to prioritising low carbon solutions such as video-link attendance. It may also be a preferable option for students, e.g. on financial grounds, or to satisfy the reasonable adjustments of an ILP .
    3. The Faculty is responsible for taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the upgrade viva process is equitable and should be mindful of the latest advice available from IT Services with regard to holding meetings online. In determining whether or not it is appropriate to conduct an upgrade viva by video-link, the Faculty must be able to have confidence that:

      a) The Faculty Upgrade Committee will be able to assure themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work.

      b) The technology is sufficient to enable a viva to take place without limiting communications and that arrangements will be made to postpone the viva if this is not the case.

      c) All participants are able to access an appropriate, comfortable location for the viva, whether on or off-campus, where the probability of interruptions occurring is minimal. To facilitate this participants based off-campus should be reminded of the need to ensure that they have refreshments and have made appropriate arrangements for their comfort. Where multiple participants are in one location the Chair of the Faculty Upgrade Committee is responsible for ensuring that the location is appropriate, but may seek guidance from the PGR Support Team in so doing;

      d) Where an ILP is in place, any reasonable adjustments can be complied with, bearing in mind that the advice set out in an ILP might not have been written for a remote upgrade viva. See also ‘Inclusive Practice within Teaching and Learning’, and in particular, section 7, ‘Postgraduate Research Students.

      The PGR Support Team may consider that the Faculty has provided de facto confirmation that it is has confidence in points a)-c) by virtue of the fact that no participant has raised concerns in advance about any of these points. Specific approval from a Faculty PGR Manager or the Head of PGR Support, if necessary using their judgement to refer any cases to the discipline Director of Postgraduate Research or Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research1 , is required where:

      1. An ILP is in place, to ensure that appropriate adjustments can be made;

      2. Or any concerns have been raised about proceeding with the upgrade viva by those attending the upgrade viva with regard to points a)-c)
    4. Addressing these points means that:

      a) The Faculty Upgrade Committee, the student, and their lead supervisor (as an observer) must confirm in writing if it is not feasible for the viva to proceed in this way and confirm at the conclusion of the viva that the holding of the upgrade viva by video-link has had no substantive bearing on the examination process.

      b) Participants may join the viva from multiple locations but the platform should be tested with all participants ahead of the viva, and approval should always be subject to confirmation of a successful test.

      c) Consideration should be given to the need for members of the Faculty Upgrade Committee to consult privately. The arrangements for managing the candidate and supervisor joining and leaving the meeting should be set out in advance of the remote upgrade viva, noting that the student shall always be invited to talk with the Committee after the supervisor is asked to leave.

      d) Where a candidate is joining a viva by video-link from an off-campus location, costs incurred for the use of resources elsewhere should be met by the candidate provided these costs are made explicit at the point at which the decision is made to hold the viva by video-link.

      e) The Faculty Upgrade Committee should be mindful of the risk that the viva may need to be halted and should ensure that it agrees an approach to record-keeping during the viva discussions to ensure that the viva could be recommenced successfully at a later date.

      f) The Chair of the Faculty Upgrade Committee will be responsible for:
      i. Halting the viva in the event that the technology fails or is significantly interrupted or is of a poor quality such that participants are not able to fully engage in the viva. This may include halting the viva at the request of the candidate, if there are any indications of problems with the technology being used.
      ii. If the viva is halted, confirming in writing to all participants that the viva has been postponed;
      iii. Keeping a record and reporting to their Faculty DPGR in the first instance should anyone present be unable to confirm that the holding of the upgrade viva via video-link had no substantive bearing on the upgrade process;
      iv. Ensuring that all participants confirm that they have not kept a recording of the viva.
      v. In cases where unexpected technological problems halts the viva: informing the relevant PGR Support Team.
    5. The PGR Support Team should keep records of decisions made to hold or not hold a remote upgrade viva, along with records on actions taken with regard to postponed or halted vivas.

      Last updated November 2022


      Alternatives to the Faculty DPGR are those set out in the TQA Manual, as able to act on behalf of the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of College.

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