Annex 3 - Procedure for addressing unsatisfactory academic progress

Introduction

This formal procedure must be followed when a research student’s academic progress is still below the standard required after they have been given enhanced academic support (see Section 6.3 of the Regulations and Code).

Research students whose academic performance is below the standard required should be advised at every stage of the options available to them, including voluntary withdrawal and requesting to change their registration to another degree.

Written records shall be kept of all informal and formal meetings at which a student's academic progress is considered and shall be copied to all participants and filed securely in the school.  Students will be invited to sign off action plans so as to indicate that they have seen and understood the plans. Where feasible, students should be informed of progress decisions in person, otherwise via their University email address. Failure by the student to agree records, to acknowledge progress decisions or to sign off an action plan will not delay the operation of the procedure outlined here.

Under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998, students may request access to any progress information held by the University during their studies e.g. progress reports and annual progress review reports.

Unless the context indicates otherwise, references within this procedure to an office holder shall refer to that office holder or to a nominee. References to the supervisor shall be taken to mean the student's main supervisor or supervisory team, as appropriate. Where the student's main supervisor is the School PGR Director or Faculty PGR Director, a nominee will be appointed. 

1. Formal progress meeting

If the research student’s progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory after the period of enhanced academic support (see Section 6.3 of the Regulations and Code), the supervisor will notify the student and the Faculty PGR Director in writing, copied to the School PGR Director, to initiate this procedure. Figure A3.1 summarises the procedure.

Upon notification, the Faculty PGR Director will set up a formal progress meeting as soon as possible. The purpose of this meeting, chaired by the Faculty PGR Director and attended by the student, the supervisor and the School PGR Director, is to consider the causes of the continuing unsatisfactory progress and any extenuating circumstances. At this meeting, both the student and the supervisor may raise, in writing or in person, any issues which they consider to be impeding the student’s satisfactory progress. The student may bring a friend or supporter (this person may be from Just Askwith them to the meeting, although that person will not normally take part in the discussion. Formal notes will be taken and copied to all parties. The Faculty PGR Director will consider whether any action can be taken to resolve any issues raised. If so, the Faculty PGR Director may direct that enhanced academic support is extended for a single further period, normally not exceeding two months (or four months for a part-time student), with appropriate measures in place to address the issues, for example in relation to supervision or additional support for the student. The purpose of this extended period is to allow the student additional time to complete Plan 1 (see Section 6.3 of the Regulations and Code).

If the Faculty PGR Director concludes that there are no external causes for the unsatisfactory progress, the Faculty PGR Director will direct that the student should move immediately to the continued concern stage under the next part of this procedure.

In either case, the Faculty PGR Director must notify the student and the school of the outcome of the formal progress meeting in writing within one week of the meeting. 

If the period of enhanced academic support has been extended and the supervisor and the School PGR Director consider that progress is satisfactory by the end of the extended period, they will advise the Faculty PGR Director accordingly. The Faculty PGR Director will then write to the student and the school to confirm this and this procedure will immediately come to an end.

If the period of enhanced academic support has been extended and the supervisor and the School PGR Director consider that progress is still not satisfactory by the end of the extended period, they will advise the Faculty PGR Director accordingly. The Faculty PGR Director will then direct that the student should move immediately to the continued concern stage and will notify the student and the school in writing of this decision.

When notifying the student that the continued concern stage has been initiated, the Faculty PGR Director should also inform the student of the potential consequences if a Registration Review Panel recommends termination or a change of registration.

2. Continued concern stage 

At this stage, the research student has failed to demonstrate satisfactory progress for several months and is at risk of being required to transfer to a different programme of study or, in the worst case, to withdraw. 

If the Faculty PGR Director has directed that the continued concern stage should be initiated, the supervisor, in consultation with the School PGR Director, must draw up an action plan (“Plan 2”), normally within two weeks of the student being notified they are in the continued concern stage. Plan 2 must specify clearly what needs to be done, who is responsible for each action and the deadline for completion of the work (not exceeding three months or six months for a part-time student). Plan 2 should also include information about relevant support and training.

The School PGR Director will write to the student with a copy of Plan 2, setting out exactly what the student has to do by the specified deadline to recover from being in the the continued concern stage. The letter and the plan will be copied to the Faculty PGR Director. The School PGR Director will monitor progress against Plan 2 and will report to the Faculty PGR Director at the end of the continued concern stage period. On receipt of the School PGR Director’s report, the Faculty PGR Director will decide either to remove or to extend the continued concern designation, or to refer the student to a Registration Review Panel.

Where the actions in Plan 2 are satisfactorily completed within the agreed timescale and the School PGR Director reports to the Faculty PGR Director that they are satisfied with the progress of the student, the Faculty PGR Director will inform the student in writing, copied to the supervisor, that the student is no longer in the continued concern stage and this procedure will immediately come to an end.

Where the student has not completed Plan 2, but where the School PGR Director reports that there are extenuating circumstances, the Faculty PGR Director may choose to extend the period during which the student is deemed to be in the continued concern stage, once only, by no more than two months (or four months for a part-time student).  In this case, a further meeting of the student, the supervisor and the School PGR Director may then take place to agree the outstanding actions with appropriate timescales and to update Plan 2 if necessary. The Faculty PGR Director will write to the student, copied to the supervisor and the school, with the updated plan. The School PGR Director will continue to monitor progress against the updated plan and will report again to the Faculty PGR Director at the end of the extended period.

Where the actions are not satisfactorily completed within the agreed timescale, the School PGR Director reports continuing serious concerns about the student's progress and there are no extenuating circumstances, the Faculty PGR Director will inform the student in writing, copied to the supervisor and the school, that the case is being referred to a Registration Review Panel.

The Faculty PGR Director will refer the case to a Registration Review Panel by notifying the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR) in writing.

3. Registration Review Panel

3.1. Composition of the Registration Review Panel

The Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR) will appoint a Registration Review Panel consisting of the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (PGR) as Chair and two senior academic members of staff (normally including at least one from the same school as the student) who must have had no previous involvement in the matter and who are independent of the student and the supervisor. The Faculty Education Manager is responsible for the administration of the Registration Review Panel, and the Faculty Education Manager (or a nominee) will normally attend the panel.

The University Secretary’s Office will provide a clerk to the Registration Review Panel, to make a formal record of the proceedings and to provide advice on procedural matters. Meetings of a Registration Review Panel may be recorded at the discretion of the Chair. 

3.2. Initial steps

The school should provide the following documentation for the Panel:

This documentation should be sent to the student and to the members of the Registration Review Panel at least 14 days before the hearing. The student should be invited to respond in writing and to submit any supporting documentation at least seven days before the hearing, for circulation to the members of the Registration Review Panel and the school. The main supervisor should be invited to provide a brief statement in writing, if desired.

3.3. Remit of the Registration Review Panel

The Registration Review Panel will hold a hearing at which both the student and representatives from the school, normally including the main supervisor, are entitled to be present. The student may be accompanied at the hearing by an adviser, friend or representative.

The Registration Review Panel will consider:

•     whether or not the student is capable of attaining the required academic standard within the timescale prescribed by regulation for the award;

•     the amount of work already completed to a satisfactory standard (especially where the student’s registration is to be changed); and

•     any extenuating circumstances.

3.4.      Procedure of the Registration Review Panel

The order of the hearing will be at the discretion of the Registration Review Panel, but will normally be conducted as follows:

a.    the representatives from the school will present their submissions;

b.    the student will present their response;

c.     the Panel may ask questions of the school and the student;

d.    the parties may ask questions of each other; and

e.    each party will be offered the opportunity in turn to sum up or make closing remarks, with the student being given the final word. 

3.5.      Decision of the Registration Review Panel

The decision of the Panel will be that of the majority of its members.

The Registration Review Panel may recommend any of the following courses of action:

The Panel may also make other recommendations on any matter it considers relevant.

The Registration Review Panel will report its recommendations within two weeks of the hearing to the Dean and the Faculty PGR Director. The Dean will make the decision on the case on the basis of the Panel's recommendations within a week of receiving the recommendations and will inform the student, the supervisor, and the school, attaching a copy of the Panel's report. A copy of the decision will be kept in the student’s file.

Appeals against a decision to terminate or change the registration of a postgraduate research student may be made under the Examination Regulations.

4. Termination of the academic progress procedure

If a decision has been taken at any stage to bring the procedure to an end and there are subsequent concerns about the research student’s academic progress and performance, the enhanced academic support process (in Section 6.3 of the Regulations and Code) should be initiated rather than starting with any of the stages of this procedure, unless the Faculty PGR Director decides otherwise.

Figure A3. 1 Flowchart of the procedure for addressing unsatisfactory progress

Unless the context indicates otherwise, references to an office holder shall refer to that office holder or to a person nominated to act on their behalf. References to the supervisor shall mean the student's main supervisor or supervisory team, as appropriate. If the student's main supervisor is also the School PGR Director or the Faculty PGR Director, somebody else will be appointed to take on the role of School PGR Director or Faculty PGR Director.


The numbering of steps in this flowchart does not necessarily correspond to the numbering of sections in the text in the regulations.

Stage 1 - Formal Progress Review Meeting

 

Stage 2 - Continued concern

 

 Stage 3 - Registration Review Panel

Notes

  1. It is the responsibility of students to inform their sponsor that this procedure has been initiated and to update the sponsor on progress thereafter.
  2. Where academic reports to sponsors are requested, supervisors must provide honest assessments of progress.