Advice for postgraduate research students (PGRs)
Information and guidance for all students
Visit the Student experience and study in 2021/22 webpages for more information on: campus safety, student support services, international travel and accomodation.
In line with step 4 of the UK government's roadmap, many coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions on the approach to teaching, learning and research have been lifted. However we know issues relating to COVID-19 may still be having an impact on how you can carry out research and progress with your research degree. This page addresses specific factors that may be specifically affecting postgraduate research students.
Advice for new postgraduate researchers
Can I start my research degree online?
As you begin to commence your studies, you must keep actively in touch with your supervisor, school or faculty administrators, and/or DTE about your plans for travelling to Bristol (when appropriate).
If it has been agreed that you can start you are starting the year remotely, register online and then complete the 'start your studies' form when you receive your invitation emails. Make sure that you understand the formal requirements of your programme and be aware that there are specific considerations for those who have student visas.
If you are an international student travelling to Bristol to start your research degree, check the University's Travel to Bristol pages for information and support on travel restrictions, including help with the costs of coronavirus testing and quarantine where required. Discuss any issues with your supervisor and Student Visa Service if relevant.
The UKVI Visa regime now allows for arrivals up until 6 April 2022 for academic year 2021/22. This means that, in most cases, postgraduate research students with a Tier-4 visa who might have difficulties travelling to Bristol can register and start remotely. They will need to arrive by 6 April 2022 however, otherwise the CAS will be withdrawn.
It is important that postgraduate research students who plan to start their degree remotely discuss plans with their supervisor, school, faculty and/or DTE. Advice will be given on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, postgraduate research students might need to postpone registration until they can arrive in Bristol. Many postgraduate research students' programmes can accept starters throughout the year, so in some cases postgraduate research students planning to arrive later in the academic year might need to postpone registration until they can arrive in Bristol.
Academic progress and support
I am concerned about the impact on my academic progress
We recommend you discuss any issues having an impact on 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.
Check the section on COVID-19 mitigation statements 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. 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.
Are funding extensions still available?
There are no plans to give outdisburse additional funding for extensions at Bristol. If you have an external funder you will need to consult with them directly, but please note most funders are no longer providing extensions. The latest communications from external funders can be found on our Delays to research and spending grants page.
UKRI have given some flexibility to Doctoral Training Partners and Centres for Doctoral Training to award exceptional cases, so if you are funded by UKRI please contact your CDT or DTP for further advice on local processes.
You can read UKRI’s detailed guidance on for students impacted by the pandemic for more information about changes to funding deadlines, extensions and support. training grants (i.e. studentships).
If you are experiencing financial difficulty as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, the University has some emergency funding options that may be able to help. Please ensure that you also raise any concerns that you have about external funding provision with your supervisor.
Can I use research facilities at the University?
With the campus reopened, spaces and services have been adapted in line with government guidelines to be COVID-19 secure. General information for all students about safe access to libraries, laboratories and other buildings can be found on under the Campus safety section of these webpages.
In most cases, PGRs have extended access to buildings. This will be in accordance with your School's requirements and local risk assessments. Check with your school or the individual service or facility for local opening times. 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.
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. In many cases colleagues have found effective ways of working from home and adapting their research (e.g., running focus groups online) and may wish to continue with this approach. We encourage you to discuss this with your supervisor and share good practice with your peers. You can find IT guidance on working from home on the IT support for working from home page.
Can I travel to undertake field research?
There are no restrictions on domestic travel for research. For research that involves international travel please read the full guidance on travel on the Staff Sharepoint pages. 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 COVID-19 restrictions. The Global Travel Approval process should be used for international travel.
Can I still do research with human participants?
All research projects involving face-to-face research must have an appropriate risk assessment and mitigation plan in place to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate way. For research conducted on third-party premises, this must meet any requirements of the third-party
The RED Research Governance Team have developed Guidance for University of Bristol research involving human participants. As a priority, please follow all Public Health England guidance and broader University of Bristol guidance to ensure the health and safety of participants and researchers.
Submitting your thesis and vivas
COVID-19 mitigation statement for thesis submission
If you're planning to submit your thesis, you 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.
I am due to submit my research degree thesis, what should I do?
The University has moved permanently to a policy of electronic-only submission for research degree dissertations.
Please email a fully formatted PDF of the dissertation to the Academic Quality and Policy Office team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are still required to submit an additional 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?
Fully online oral examinations have been the standard approach during COVID-19 restrictions. In line with current guidance, it is now also permissible for oral examinations to be held entirely online, or partly online (two or more participants in the same room with others attending remotely) or fully in-person. All participants must agree to the arrangements and no pressure must be put on anyone to assent to the oral examination being conducted partly online or fully in-person. No participant must be required to attend in person if they do not wish to do so.
See how the research degree examination process works for more information.
Requesting an independent chair for your online viva
As part of recent changes to postgraduate research student 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 any fully or partly online viva.
- 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 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.