Advice for postgraduate research students (PGRs)
Information and guidance for all students
Visit the Student experience and study in 2020/21 webpages for more information on: campus safety, student support services, international travel and accomodation.
View a full list of university communications with PGRs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Return in 2021
Read the university guidance about return in 2021, including guidance for postgraduate research students (this page will continue to be updated as the situation changes).
Advice for new postgraduate researchers
Can I start my research degree online?
If you are currently unable to conduct your research on-campus, contact your supervisor to discuss your plans. Make sure you understand the formal requirements of your programme and be aware that there are specific considerations for those who have student visas. Please discuss any issues with your supervisor and Student Visa Services if relevant.
If you are starting the year remotely, please do still register online, and then complete the Start Your Studies form, when you receive your invitation emails.
Academic progress and support
What support is available for PGRs during this time?
We understand this is a difficult time for our PGR community, and that trying to conduct research under the current circumstances may be challenging. The full range of support is still on offer, and significant effort has been made to make this available virtually. You should still be in regular contact with your supervisor. Please stay in touch with them during this time – they have been reminded to continue their support as normal, albeit virtually, and if this is not happening for any reason, you should get in touch with your PGR administrator, School/Department or Faculty PGR Director for further advice.
There is a wide range of support available for postgraduate researchers. This includes academic and pastoral support within your Faculty and School, but also the services provided by our Wellbeing team, the Bristol Doctoral College, support for International students and Visa Services.
What approach is being taken to supervision?
Supervision meetings will continue using online platforms with face to face meetings being reintroduced where it is practical and safe to do so. Each Faculty and School will be taking an localised approach to reintroduction of face to face meetings and you should discuss your preferences and needs with your supervisory team.
Given current circumstances, your supervisors have also been asked to arrange regular pastoral check-ins with you: please engage with these, and with your School and Faculty offices which are ready to support and advise you.
I am concerned about the impact on my academic progress
Adaptation and change are a normal part of the research process. However, we appreciate the current circumstances may require you to significantly adapt your project aims or move research online.
In some cases, your programme of research might be affected or impeded by such factors as (and not restricted to) an inability to undertake field trips, visit and use facilities (laboratories, instruments, libraries, archives), undertake qualitative surveys, or access research data, materials, or supervisor support and feedback.
We recommend you discuss any issues impacting your research (related to Covid-19 or otherwise) with your supervisor as soon as they arise, record any such barriers to your work and be prepared to make adjustments or changes to research plans. Your supervisor will be able to help you consider appropriate mitigations and changes to allow you to continue your research.
In a limited number of cases, mitigation may not be possible and this may affect your overall progress towards submission. In such circumstances School PGR Directors/Officers or Faculty PGR Directors (FPGRDs) will be ready to discuss extensions to the period of study if necessary, on a case by case basis. The final decision continues to rest with the FPGRD.
More detailed advice on this and other issues, including Annual Progress Monitoring and vivas, can be found in the Guidance for Postgraduate Research Students document on the Advice for PGR students page.
Please see the section on Covid-19 mitigation statements below for additional information.
What if illness due to Covid-19 impacts on my research?
If you do need to use a period of illness caused by Covid-19 as an extenuating circumstance for us to consider when assessing your work, it is important that you have notified us that you are symptomatic or have tested positive through the coronavirus self-reporting form. Keeping the University informed of your status - be it symptomatic, positive or self-isolating - also enables us to direct the correct help to you. See below for details on how to submit a Covid-19 mitigation statement as part of your thesis submission.
Fees and COVID-19 related extensions
If you are in receipt of a COVID-19 related extension that takes you beyond the three-year minimum for fees, you will not be charged any additional tuition fee. Please note that the University may continue to charge external funders for tuition fees, where a doctoral programme has been set up with a longer duration, or where tuition fees are offered for COVID-19 related extensions.
Will my external funding be impacted?
The latest communications from external funders can be found on our Delays to research and spending grants page.
UKRI has provided and is developing more detailed guidance on training grants (i.e. studentships).
Please ensure that you also raise any concerns that you have about external funding provision with your supervisor.
Will I still be able to use research facilities at the University?
General information about safe access to libraries, laboratories and other buildings can be found on under the Campus safety section of these webpages.
You can also visit the Buildings and facilities pages on the Staff Sharepoint site for the latest information about the University's approach, including guidelines, measures and responsibilities as well as the COVID-19 working guide.
Please consult with your supervisor or School office if you have any concerns about access to buildings or laboratories and ensure you are following any rules or safety protocols.
How can I continue my research during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Our top priorities are to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and students, and to fulfil our wider social responsibilities. However, we encourage research to continue where it can be undertaken safely with social distancing, at home or online — although we appreciate that individual circumstances will vary, and this will not be possible in all cases.
As the situation changes, please discuss your individual circumstances with your supervisor and ensure you follow Public Health England guidance and the UK Government's recommendations regarding social distancing.
More detailed guidance can be found on our Conducting research during the COVID-19 crisis page. In many cases colleagues have found effective ways of working and adapting their research (e.g., running focus groups online) so we encourage you to discuss with others and share good practice.
Visit the Tips and Tools for PGRs during Covid-19 webpage on the Bristol Doctoral College website for further advice and training opportunities.
Can or should I be working from home? What IT support is available?
If you are currently working at home, please continue to do so. If you have been working on campus during the restrictions, there will be no change to your current arrangements. Please refer to the Staff Sharepoint site for the latest guidance.
However, if you have specific requirements that make working from home difficult (for example, access to equipment) and you haven't already told us, please discuss these with your supervisor and Faculty/School PGR director and read the University’s Covid-19 Working Guide. It is possible to request a specific workspace from your Faculty if required.
If your research has practical elements requiring you to be on campus, but you are unable to join us here for personal or health reasons, please contact your supervisor.
You can find IT guidance on working from home on the IT support for working from home page.
Can I undertake field research that is urgent because of its highly seasonal nature?
Wherever possible you should be delaying work of this nature until such time as the relevant restrictions allow much greater flexibility.
However, the University recognises that in certain circumstances this creates major difficulties because of the need for such work to be conducted within a particular time/seasonal window or undertaken at a site with specialist research equipment or facilities. In those cases, such work may take place, but is subject to strict criteria/limitations. In addition to any national (including devolved administrations’) restrictions that pertain at the relevant time.
What's the situation regarding travel?
The University expects all staff and associates to avoid all non-essential travel and to consider alternatives to travel (such as video conferencing) where this is possible.
Please consult with your supervisor and/or School/PGR Director if you have any travel plans relating to your research that will be impacted by the current situation. Full guidance on domestic and international travel can be found on the Staff Sharepoint pages.
Can I still do research with human participants?
The RED Research Governance Team have developed Guidance for University of Bristol research involving human participants.
This guidance will be updated as more information becomes available or as the situation changes. As a priority, please follow all Public Health England guidance and broader University of Bristol guidance regarding the outbreak. Ensuring the health and safety of participants and researchers is our primary concern.
Submitting your thesis and vivas
Covid-19 mitigation statement for thesis submission
If you're planning to submit your thesis before 1 August 2021, you now have the option to include a statement on the impact that COVID-19 has had on your research — and the steps you've taken to adjust. To read the full details of the new policy, visit the Annex 17 - COVID-19 statements page. (Please note that the University may extend the period depending on circumstances.)
I am due to submit my research degree thesis, what should I do?
The University has moved to a policy of electronic-only submission for research degree dissertations. This will last throughout the period of disruption until at least October 2020.
Please email a fully formatted PDF of the dissertation to the Academic Quality and Policy Office team at email@example.com.
You are still required to submit an electronic copy separately to Turnitin (this part of the submission requirement is unchanged). Find full information here about presenting and submitting your dissertation for examination.
Will my viva still go ahead?
Yes. While vivas and oral examination should normally be conducted within four months of submission, they might be postponed beyond this if circumstances dictate and if there is no impact on you. Until further notice oral examinations will be conducted by videolink wherever possible and in accordance with our normal regulations for remote vivas.
See the 'Guidance for Postgraduate Research Students' document on the Advice for PGR students page for further details on assessment.
These arrangements will also mean that we envisage no need to change the current schedule of meetings this academic year of the Research Degrees Examination Board.
The University remains committed to an assessment regime which will enable students and external stakeholders to have confidence in academic outcomes, marks and awards. In exceptional circumstances, the University may vary the methods and the timescales, but not the standards, by which these outcomes are achieved.
Requesting an independent chair for your online viva
As part of recent changes to PGR Covid-19 arrangements, there is now a requirement for your main supervisor to discuss the option of appointing an Independent Chair with you prior to your online viva.
- The use of online vivas during the Covid-19 period has been effective and following a review the previous requirement for the appointment of a Chair for all online vivas was stopped.
- An Independent Chair under normal circumstances is required where there are only external examiners or where there is an inexperienced examiner.
- The option of an Independent Chair is open to you if you feel that this would give you more confidence or reassurance in the online viva.
To find out more, please discuss this with your supervisor.
Advice for PGRs with other roles
Where can hourly paid teachers (HPTs) and TSS staff find guidance?
The University's Staff SharePoint site contains:
Where can I find more advice for staff about issues related to COVID-19?
Further guidance for staff is available on the University's COVID-19 Sharepoint site.
Coronavirus advice and support
If you have any questions about this guidance, or you need support or advice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any feedback on this page, please email the Bristol Doctoral College at email@example.com.
Tools and tips for PGRs during COVID-19
Visit the Bristol Doctoral College website to see tools, tips and training available for PGRs during the COVID-19 outbreak.