Information specifically for postgraduate research students
Most aspects of study as a research student are covered by QA7. It is very important that you are familiar with this document.
- Approval of your candidature
- Transfer from MPhil to PhD
- Examination procedures
- Facilities for research students
- Feedback mechanisms
- Generic skills training
- Teaching duties
- 'Writing up'
- If you think things are going wrong
- The Postgraduate Research Ombudsman
Approval of your Candidature
Soon after you start at the University, you will be asked to complete a Candidature Form'. This form, which you will complete with your Supervisor, finalises the details and title of your research topic, the name(s) of your Supervisor(s), your funding arrangements, your start date, any special requirements and any restrictions that are to apply to access to your thesis after it has been deposited in the Library. Once completed, the form, together with an outline of your planned research, will be passed to the Faculty or School Research Students Committee for approval, and you will then receive a letter from the Student Records and Examinations Office confirming these details. Any subsequent changes that you and your Supervisor wish to make to any of the details specified on the Candidature Form will require approval from the Research Students Committee.
Most research students who ‘do a PhD’ register in the first instance for the degree of MPhil. The transfer from MPhil to PhD is subject to your passing an assessment process, the details of which vary between Departments, but which normally involves submission of written work and an oral examination. Your Supervisor will advise you when s/he thinks you are ready to undergo the transfer process.
Notifying the University of your intention to submit your thesis
You are required to give at least two months' notice of your intention to submit your thesis. This may be done via email, in writing or, preferably, by completing an HD1 form. This form may be downloaded from the Postgraduate Resources website.
Theses for research degrees must be presented in a format specified in the Thesis Specification. It is particularly important that you follow the instructions about binding: any sort of unglued binding, such as spiral binding or a ring binder is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Printing on both sides of the paper, however, is welcomed, provided that you use sufficiently heavy paper to avoid show-through. The University's Printing Unit is fully aware of the binding regulations, and will copy and bind your thesis to the University specifications at a very reasonable cost (considerably cheaper than some firms outside the University). The format for dissertations written as part of taught programmes is specified by the individual Departments and you should seek guidance from your Department/School.
Limiting access to your thesis
Paragraph (v) of regulation 16.1 states that:'Access to a thesis deposited in the Library shall be unrestricted unless, for reasons of confidentiality, the relevant Board of Studies has approved a proposal which states the reasons for such restricted access, and the period of time for which the restriction should hold. If the proposed restriction is for longer than three years, the Board of Studies decision must be reported to Senate.' The important point to note is that, if you wish there to be a restriction on access, you must seek the approval of the Board of Studies at the earliest possible time, preferably when your Candidature Form is put to the Board of Studies - you may not suddenly decide as you hand your thesis in that access to it should be restricted.
When you have prepared three copies of your thesis in accordance with the Thesis Specification document, you must bring all three copies to your Graduate School or Division Office, where you will be asked to complete an HD2 form. You should then take all three copies, together with a copy of the HD2 form countersigned by a member of Registry staff, back to the person in your Department or School who is responsible for sending the copies to the examiners. It is vital that you follow this procedure, not least for financial reasons: once you have handed in your thesis, no further fees are chargeable. If you do not bring the copies to the Graduate School or Division Office, the student system will not be amended to show that you have handed in your thesis and you or your sponsor will continue to be charged fees.
The viva voce (oral) examination
Regulations for the award of the degree of PhD require that candidates pass a viva voce (oral) examination conducted by the examiners on the broader aspects of the field of research in addition to the subject of the thesis. The Board of Examiners will generally comprise one or more external examiners, together with an internal examiner. Your Supervisor may not attend the viva voce examination, but should be available for consultation while it is taking place. The examiners are appointed by Senate on the recommendation of the Board of Studies and will be experts in the specialist field of the candidate and/or related fields.
The outcome of the examination
After the viva, the Board of Examiners will make a recommendation to the Board of Studies. This recommendation can be anything from a pass with no corrections to the thesis required, to a fail with no resubmission of the thesis permitted. The full range of possible outcomes is given in Regulation 16.
The prospect of failure
After the very large amount of work and time involved in preparing a research thesis, the likelihood of failure can sometimes suddenly seem great, but you should remember that it would be very unusual for you to have got as far as the final viva voce examination if your Supervisor did not think that both you and your thesis were ready for such a stringent examination (although you should be aware that the final decision about when your thesis is ready for submission rests with you, not your Supervisor).
If you disagree with the recommendation made by the examiners and approved by the Board of Studies, you may request a formal ‘Review’. Details of the Review procedure are given in Regulation 17. You should note, however, that it is not possible to ask for a review simply on the grounds that the outcome of the examination is not what you had hoped for or expected. The Students’ Union can assist and support you throughout. Guidance about your choices for the future can be obtained from the AWARE Centre in the Students’ Union, 1 East, Level 3.
Facilities for research students
Senate agreed at its meeting in March 2000 the following guidelines on minimum standards of facilities that should be made available to all full-time research students:
- a desk and appropriate chair situated in a suitable non-laboratory, non-hazardous environment (a PC laboratory would, however, be acceptable for this purpose)
- a reasonable amount of secure space for personal possessions
- a reasonable amount of shelving and/or filing space
- access to a telephone in accordance with Departmental guidelines and practices
- access to Departmental photocopying facilities
- access to a networked PC and associated printing facilities, as appropriate for each student's programme of research
QA7 includes information about how you should provide feedback to your Supervisor, and how s/he should provide feedback to you about the quality of your work. In addition, postgraduate student representatives sit on Department/School Staff/Student Liaison Committees (SSLCs) and on the University Research Students Committee. If you wish to make a formal complaint against another student, a member of staff or a service or facility of the University, the procedures for doing so are set out in the Procedure for Student Complaints. The University is keen to find out students' views on all aspects of their study, and for this purpose conducts a series of surveys. These are carefully coordinated to avoid 'survey fatigue'. If you are asked to participate in a survey, please make every effort to do so - the more people respond, the more likely it is that things will change!
Research postgraduate training
The University has a comprehensive programme of postgraduate training. In addition to this, academic Departments/Schools provide a range of courses and training opportunities for their own postgraduates. The University provides general training opportunities using open learning materials, courses and workshops covering information technology, teaching and tutoring, and personal and professional skills development. For more details, please contact Dr Tracey Stead, Postgraduate Skills Training Co-ordinator, in the Careers Advisory Service.
Teaching duties carried out by research students
QA9 covers the Development of all Staff and Students undertaking Teaching Activities. If you are carrying out, or are intending to carry out, teaching duties within the University, please make sure that you are familiar with this document.
‘Writing-Up’ - ‘Administration’ and ‘Continuation’ Fees
Most full-time research students will be funded for three years, although the regulations allow up to four years for the completion of a PhD thesis. Once you have completed the minimum period of study required for your particular degree, and provided you have completed the necessary amount of work, you are eligible for transfer to either the ‘Administration’ Fee, or to the ‘Continuation’ Fee, both of which you may hear referred to as ‘writing-up’. The ‘Administration’ Fee in 2011-12 is £93, and the ‘Continuation’ Fee is £580, payable on a pro-rata basis every six months. For the ‘Administration’ Fee, you are entitled to receive neither supervision nor access to the Library; for the ‘Continuation’ Fee you may receive minimal supervision plus continued access to the Library.
In order to transfer to either 'writing-up' status, the correct form must be put by your Supervisor or Director of Studies to the Faculty/School Research Students Committee for approval. If this procedure is not followed, your transfer to 'writing-up' will not be recorded on the student record, and you or your sponsor will continue to be charged at the part-time or full-time rate as appropriate.
What to do and who to see if you think things are going wrong
The work required for a research degree can occasionally be exhausting, frustrating and seemingly endless. Almost all research students, even those who appear to be achieving good results and making rapid progress, suffer at times from the feeling that their work is pointless and that they are getting nowhere. Nevertheless, if you feel that things are going more seriously wrong, you should normally seek advice in the first instance from your Supervisor. If you feel, for whatever reason, that this would not be a good idea, there are many other people who can offer support and advice:
• the Director of Studies in your Department
• the Head of your Department
• the Associate Dean (Graduate Students) in your Graduate School
• the Students' Union AWARE Office www.bathstudent.com/aware
• the Postgraduate Association
• the Postgraduate Ombudsman (see below)
The main thing to emphasise is that you should seek help as soon as you think there might be a problem, and not suffer in silence.
Usually you can resolve problems with postgraduate supervision by consulting with either the Director of Studies or the Head of Department/School. However, if you feel that this has been ineffective, or that it would be inappropriate, you can seek advice from the Postgraduate Ombudsman, Professor Michael Threadgill. Consultations with him are treated in the strictest confidence and he will only contact staff in your Department or School if you ask him to do so.
Professor Michael Threadgill
Tel: 01225 386840
The Deputy Postgraduate Ombudsman is Dr Irene Turner.
Tel: 01225 386163