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University of Bath

Coronavirus advice to doctoral students

As the impact of Covid-19 continues among changing advice from the UK Government, here you'll find the latest guidance to doctoral students.

Advice from the Doctoral College

This page focuses on doctoral specific issues and will be updated on a regular basis. The following sections have been recently updated:

You must consult regularly with your supervisory team about your work. Wherever possible, you should continue to work on your research from home. If this is not possible, speak to your supervisory team about alternative work you can do.

Please be reassured that we want you to succeed as doctoral students and we will do everything we can to support you and to accommodate any changes that need to be made. You can find advice and resources on looking after your mental health and wellbeing at the bottom of this page, and Student Services are still available at all times.

If you have any further questions please contact your departmental Director of Studies (Doctoral) or email the Doctoral College and please keep your supervisory team informed of any concerns.

The University is continually updating its guidance to students and staff and so we strongly recommend that you regularly check the guidance at the University's Coronavirus page.

You can also find an archive of all emails sent to students from the University about Coronavirus, including a message from the Minister of State for Universities on accommodation, finals, finances and visas.

Updated guidance on returning to campus

We have updated guidance for doctoral students on returning to campus on 18 June, covering working in offices, working in laboratories, access to the Library, and overseas travel on University business.

You can also read an email from 9 July from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) on the updates on the pilot scheme for returning to work in laboratories on campus, along with his previous emails.

Returning to campus for the new academic year in September

An email was sent on 2 June, outlining the University's plans to be open for the next academic year with students on campus. The start dates for different groups may be phased, according to the UK Government rules to combat Covid-19 at that time. You can read the full guidance on returning to campus for the new academic year.

We appreciate that many doctoral students don't work to the standard University semester dates, and the date you'll return to campus will depend on your programme of research. Some have already returned, as part of the pilot schemes above. The scaling up of these laboratory-based research activities on campus will be managed and prioritised by the Deans in each faculty/school with support and advice from technical staff, and will be overseen by a new Research Pilot/Scale-Up Group, which will continue to consult with the research community, Technical Services, Estates, the Trades Unions and HR and ensure a uniform approach.

If you have any questions about returning to work on campus, please contact your supervisor, Director of Studies or Head of Department.

Impact on your studies

Supervisory meetings

Whether you remain at the University or are working from a distance, it is crucial that you continue to liaise with your supervisory team. As face-to-face meetings are no longer possible, it is important to discuss as to how best to maintain contact. The University has encouraged us to use Microsoft Teams.

It is important to recognise that the situation will not ease for a significant period of time, and may result in more stringent limitations; it is therefore important that in your discussions with your supervisors you look ahead over at least the next few months.

If your lead supervisor is ill you should contact your second supervisor and your Director of Studies to discuss what arrangements need to be put in place for supervision of your project.

Recording the impact on your studies

All students, whether or not you are able to continue with your studies, should keep a record of how Covid-19 has affected your research activities/studies. This evidence will be crucial if you subsequently find that you need to extend your registration or seek an extension of your funding (subject to your funder’s requirements).

Whilst effects are sometimes obvious, it is also important to recognise that many issues are often less obvious, and that sometimes many smaller factors can accumulate over time. Remember also that applications for extensions are normally considered as you near the end of your current periods of registration (which is when you can best-judge how much additional time you need). In the case of first and second year students this can be in several years’ time – hence the importance of keeping a record of issues as they happen.

It is up to you how you record these details but, to help you, here are some examples of the types of things that you may wish to think about:

  • specific research-related activities that have had to be put on hold, possibly influenced by loss of access to facilities such as labs, library, specific computer/data sources, or facilities outside of the university. Your work may also be affected by your inability to travel for fieldwork (in the UK or overseas) or to visit other research institutions, or your inability to collect data through surveys or interviews
  • temporary changes to the nature of your activities, such as if you're limited to writing or editing confirmation reports or thesis chapters while waiting to resume lab, surveys or other key research activities (see the option to temporarily change to Writing-Up status)
  • down-time in having to redesign your research plans (including associated discussions and agreements with your supervisory team), and the need for new ethical approvals (which can be significant, especially when dealing with external agencies such as the NHS)
  • reduced work rates or limitations to activities associated with working from home
  • loss of support e.g. loss of contact with supervisory team due to their isolation and health issues
  • financial implications including lost income or funding (and need to supplement through alternate employment resulting in reduced study time), and key research activities delayed into the final non-funded stages of your registration
  • caring responsibilities
  • physical health issues, including those of yourself or someone in your household, and how these have affected your ability to study
  • anxiety and personal mental health factors e.g. through isolation from family and friends, loss of loved ones, concerns over returning to study
  • other personal issues including additional pressures faced by certain groups of students who may be disproportionately impacted by the current crisis, including but not limited to: disabled students, international students, minority ethnic students, LGBTQIA+ students…
  • any other aspects - please note this list is not exhaustive

Importantly, where possible you should include the dates and how has this affected the overall duration of your research (thus informing the duration of a future request for an extension). Should you wish to apply for an extension of registration or of your submission deadline, see our guidance on suspensions and extensions.

If you have any queries please email the Doctoral College Programmes team for more information.

Impact on funding and income

We understand that students will be concerned about the impact that any disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis may have on their ability to fund their research project. You can read an update from Student Services on the Hardship fund, which was emailed to all doctoral students on 10 July.

Whether you are in receipt of a funded studentship, are self-funded or are working part-time to fund your research, you will no doubt have questions. The answers to these questions are likely to vary depending upon your funding arrangements and your personal circumstances. However, the following general guidance may be useful for those of you who are experiencing disruption caused by the pandemic.

For clarity, when we talk about a CDT we mean a Research Council-funded Centre for Doctoral Training (e.g. SAMBa), whereas when we talk about a DTP we mean a Research Council-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (e.g. SWBio). We recognise that some students are funded by the EPSRC DTP training grant, which can sometimes cause confusion when we say “DTP”, but that is a fund that is paid direct to the University to administer rather than one, like SWBio DTP, which involves multiple partner institutions and is administered by the lead partner.

If you are funded by UKRI or are funded by other sources but are part of a CDT or DTP cohort:

  • If you are recorded on Je-S (UKRI’s Joint Electronic Submission system) as being funded by, or associated with, one of the UK Research Councils, please read this guide to UKRI funded extensions. This is in response to the UKRI announcement on costed extensions to funding for up to six months (on 9 May) and Guidance for the research and innovation communities (students & training grants) (on 24 April).
  • If you are unsure whether you are recorded on Je-S, please email the Doctoral College.
  • Aggregate data on the number of UKRI-registered students in their final year of funding requiring a funded extension was submitted to UKRI by the revised deadline of 9 June. The Doctoral College submitted data for those students who are not part of a CDT or a DTP (e.g. SWDTP, SWBio, NERC GW4+, MRC Biomed), whereas the data for those in CDTs or a DTP was submitted by the relevant centre or partnership. The Studentships team have started to make extension payments to those whose funding end date has passed or who are close to their funding end date. Data for those students whose funding end date is from 1 April 2021 will be reported to UKRI on 30 June. If you have any questions, please email the Doctoral College.

If you are funded by other sources (e.g. University, Alumni, external sponsor, self-funded) and are not part of a CDT or DTP cohort:

  • The University is not in a position to provide funds for extensions. Some students can access funded extensions by applying for a UKRI costed extension or for additional funding from their sponsor.
  • If you are experiencing financial issues, you should contact the University Hardship Fund, which is for those students who are experiencing financial difficulty and are unable to meet basic or unexpected additional costs from other sources of support, and for those who have experienced a change in financial circumstances due to unforeseen events. You can also apply to the Covid-19 non-furlough scheme hardship fund, which is designed to assist students who due to the nature of their employment at the University of Bath do not qualify for the University Furlough Scheme and are facing financial hardship due to Covid-19.
  • If you have completed the minimum period of study for your programme, and you are temporarily unable to continue with core research activities such as lab work, field work or data collection activities, and you are unable to adapt your project or to suspend your studies, but you are able to continue writing-up, you can contact the Doctoral College about temporarily switching to writing up status (paying the Continuation fee) for a specific period of time, after which you will return to full registration and full fees to resume full research activities.
  • If you are unable to continue working at all such that you feel that you will need a suspension of studies or an extension of your registration period due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, you should talk to your supervisor and contact the Doctoral College in the normal way.
  • If you are funded by an external sponsor (i.e. but not by UKRI or the University), you should talk to your supervisor about contacting your specific sponsor(s) in the first instance, to see how they are responding to the situation and whether they can provide an extension to your funding. If you or your supervisor needs any advice on how to approach this discussion, please contact the Doctoral College.
  • Information on other funders' web pages is limited at this stage (e.g. Cancer Research UK’s page Coronavirus Information for grant holders, including students). However, the University’s Research & Innovation Services (RIS) has published the guidance received so far and it is worth checking regularly for any updates on your particular funder. The University’s Studentships Team is also closely monitoring the situation. You should also check on your own funder’s web pages, and revisit frequently in case of updates.
  • The Department of Development & Alumni Relations (DDAR) are currently communicating with all supervisors where their students are funded by Alumni, and once they have received updates from them they will be reaching out to donors to discuss any potential adjustments to funding periods.
  • If you are a self-funded student, you may want to consider suspending your studies to ensure that you are not charged further tuition fees, or temporarily switching to writing up status. We understand that suspension may be problematic for some (e.g. Tier 4 visa holders) so we would recommend talking to your supervisors, and contact the Doctoral College about the best approach to take in your specific circumstances. International students must check the information from SIS - noting the complexities of student immigration, and that every student’s situation is different, the Doctoral College will not advise international students on their situation.
  • If you are working part-time, or full-time, to fund your doctorate, and your income has been affected by the Covid-19 crisis, you may want to consider suspending your studies to ensure that you are not charged further tuition fees, or temporarily switching to writing up status.
  • If you are undertaking paid teaching work at the University, and you are reliant on that income, you should check with whoever you liaise with for your teaching within your department regarding equipment and software to enable you to teach online.
  • Depending on your research area, it may be worth checking for calls for paid work, sometimes to support action against Covid-19 e.g. there has been a call from Public Health England (PHE) to recruit lab-capable researchers to help with Covid-19 testing on short term contracts, and some students are engaging with the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath.

  • There may be other paid work outside of the research-sector including additional delivery drivers and shelf-stackers for supermarkets who are struggling due to unprecedented demand and loss of staff.

  • Check the UK Government's guidance Universal Credit and students.

If you are funded by more than one source (e.g. UKRI and industry, UKRI and University)

  • You will need to review the guidance above and select the parts that are most relevant to your funding circumstances. If you are still unsure contact the Doctoral College.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

  • The University updated its guidance on furlough for hourly-paid and casual staff on 30 April. Where the page refers to staff, this includes students who are employed.
  • Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Head of Department (of the department who employs the individual member of staff or student) to consider individual cases and to (in discussion with HR and in line with the government guidelines) make the final decisions whether or not an individual can be furloughed.
  • If you wish your case to be considered then you should approach the person who has hired you: for them to forward to the appropriate Head of Department. In the case of students employed to work with the Doctoral College, Prof Cathryn Mitchell, as Academic Director, acts as the HoD.

You can read our detailed guidance and information on funding and income from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International & Doctoral).

Flexible remote working opportunities

You can also read our guide to flexible remote working for doctoral students, (added on 20 May), which may have opportunities suitable for you to supplement your income during this time.

Tier 4 visa holders

Student Immigration Services has provided Coronavirus information for Tier 4 visa holders.

Further information is being sought from UK Visas and Immigration, so check this web page regularly.

If you have any issues please contact studentimmigrationservice@bath.ac.uk

Progress reports

You and your supervisor are expected to continue completing six-monthly progress reports, and you should both use the report to record what actions have been taken to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on your research, as well as any detrimental effects on your research.

You will also be keeping a separate record of how the Coronavirus disruptions have affected your studies, for your own reference and also external use.

Suspensions, extensions and temporary change to Writing-Up status

If you have completed the prescribed minimum period of study for your programme and are temporarily unable to continue with core research activities such as lab work, field work or data collection activities, but you are able to continue writing-up, you may wish to apply for a writing-up window – a temporary change in registration to Writing-Up (paying the Continuation fee) for a specific period of time, after which you will return to full registration to resume full research activities. The advantage is that you will be charged a significantly-reduced fee during this period.

If you are unable to continue working at all such that you feel that you will need a suspension of studies or an extension of your registration period due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, you should talk to your supervisor and contact the Doctoral College Programmes team.

The Doctoral College announced an automatic three-month extension of registration for all students who were in their final year of registration on 1 April 2020. You can read our full information for students in their final year of registration, which was added here on 30 April.

Further information for students in earlier years is being finalised and will be announced shortly.

Your research progression

Taught phase elements of your studies

Arrangements for Professional Doctorate programme residentials, Integrated PhDs and other taught elements are governed by the University’s cessation of face-to-face teaching from the end of 17 March 2020 – see Coronavirus update: learning and teaching to go online. However, reflecting the gradual return to campus over the summer, residentials from September 2020 onwards are being considered. If you have any queries please contact your programme Administrator.

Research phase elements of your studies

Local Departmental/Faculty policies will apply e.g. office and laboratory procedures, attendance requirements, and whether or not to continue with ongoing research activities. Please check with your Supervisor or Director of Studies.

Guidance on carrying out interviews and focus groups online

Based on the University of Bath Data Protection Policies, the various ethics committees have developed guides for changing from face-to-face interviews to use telephone or online interviews:

Travel, including those already on fieldwork or on placement

Information on travel, including exceptional circumstances was updated on 18 June, along with the risk assessment process you must follow.

Updated information on your key academic milestones

The information at Guidance and forms for doctoral students lists the standard academic process. The information below covers the changes due to the current circumstances:

  • Registration: induction
    If you are a new student then you should receive some local support from your Department or School, as well as a central induction. Please discuss any local requirements with your Supervisory team. All new doctoral students are required to attend the central induction session Starting Your Doctorate. If you have joined the University from February 2020 you can now access this session online.
  • Approval of candidature
    It is possible that the current crisis may lead you to delay your start date but if you do start your doctorate during this crisis, you will still need to complete your Candidature form with your supervisor within one month of your start date if you are full-time, or within three months if you are part-time. Candidature forms will continue to be submitted to FDSCs for approval in the normal way.
  • Confirmation (not required for Professional Doctorates)
    Students who are unable to submit for confirmation by their expected deadline because of the Covid-19 crisis, can request an extension to their confirmation deadline. The process is not difficult as all we need is an emailed rationale from the student and evidence of their supervisor’s support – emailed to the Doctoral Programmes team. Given that face-to-face confirmations are no longer possible, and if it is not possible to delay the confirmation, students and supervisors may need to request to hold the session via video conferencing. See Appendix 3 of QA& Research degrees for guidelines on how to plan, set-up and conduct a video conference confirmation.
    It is not possible to submit a hard copy of your confirmation report to the office (where currently required). For this reason, we are changing the submission requirements for the foreseeable future.
    A hard copy will not be required, please submit your confirmation documents via the Moodle submission points by your deadline dates.
  • Writing up
    You can still apply to transfer to writing up status in the normal way. You are also able to temporarily change to Writing-Up (Continuation).
  • Notice of intention to submit thesis or portfolio
    Students are still required to give at least two months’ prior notice to the Doctoral College, of the intended date of submission of their thesis.
  • Submission of thesis or portfolio
    Students who are unable to submit by their registration end date because of the Covid-19 crisis, should contact the Doctoral College to request an extension.
    It will not be possible to submit a hard copy of your thesis. For this reason we are changing the submission requirements for the foreseeable future.
    First submission of thesis
    A hard copy will not be required, please submit your thesis via the Moodle submission points by your deadline dates. Arrangements for vivas and confirmation examinations will be forwarded to you in due course.
    Archive copy of thesis
    We will accept a receipt from Print Services showing that your thesis has been submitted for hard binding in order to process your viva paperwork for graduation. We will be happy to collect hard bound thesis from Print Services when we are next on campus. Please email your Programmes Administrator, at the email addresses below, when your thesis is ready for collection.
    Faculty of Engineering and Design: doctoralprogrammes-eng@bath.ac.uk
    Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences: doctoralprogrammes-hss@bath.ac.uk
    Faculty of Science: doctoralprogrammes-sci@bath.ac.uk
    School of Management: doctoralprogrammes-som@bath.ac.uk
  • Examination (Viva Voce)
    Given that face-to-face vivas are no longer possible, and if it is not possible to delay the viva, students and supervisors may need to request to hold the exam via video conferencing. See Appendix 3 of QA& Research degrees for guidelines on how to plan, set-up and conduct a video conference viva.
  • Graduation
    The Graduation Ceremonies in summer 2020 have been cancelled.

Resources and IT

If you are still on campus, check the University's latest information on Campus Facilities to see what is available to you.

Working from home

If you now have to work from home, it is still your responsibility (as it would be in your office on campus) to carry out a workstation self-assessment. If an issue is identified then you should seek support and advice from a member of staff, either the Computer Workstation Assessor or your Departmental Coordinator. If you have any specialist equipment on campus, such as ergonomic chairs, specialist keyboards and mice or software, follow our advice on Essential Visiting Procedures, which involves liaising with your Dean and University Security.

IT

The University has provided guidance on working from home as well as resources on Safe use of computers at home and Flexible working with laptops. There is also guidance on accessing systems remotely. If you need more guidance after following these documents you can contact shew@bath.ac.uk for further advice.

Further IT guidance can be found at Top Desk (Working from Home).

All doctoral students can access their files through a variety of ways, including through UniApps and files.bath.ac.uk via VPN. There is a significant amount of software available remotely.

The wide range of facilities should mean that most students are capable of working remotely. However, a few students may have specific research software installed on their campus PCs. In order to access these machines you will need to have set-up Remote Access to your PC, and they must be switched on in your office. Contact the IT Service Desk to set up this facility, and (assuming that you are no longer able to access your office to switch on your machine) contact the Doctoral College doctoralcollege@bath.ac.uk – we will then see how this can be done.

NB most of the lab PCs (with specific licensed software) have been set up for students to use remotely AND have been set-up to be woken-up remotely: see information on Wake up my computer.

Doctoral College support

The Doctoral College staff is now working from home but we shall maintain full support as far as is possible. We would encourage students and staff to use email rather than telephone, and we can then arrange a phone call if needed.

DoctoralSkills

The majority of our face-to-face training courses and workshops have been transferred online. We have a number of free webinars that are open to all, along with new online resources in development.

Visit our Professional Development programme on Moodle to browse what's coming up. Make sure you register in good time, so we can send you the joining instructions for your course.

We have also introduced a new DoctoralSkills: Extra resource on Moodle, to signpost online training from external providers, covering communication, IT and digital skills, personal effectiveness, research methods, entrepreneurship and more.

Where possible, doctoral students are still expected to engage in the equivalent of at least 10 days of skills development activities per year (pro-rated for part time students, for example five days for 0.5 FTE).

Doctoral College events

We are in the process of reviewing our events and activities and have already transferred the Writing Wednesdays and Cake in the Commons events online. Join our new Doctoral College Facebook group to take part in these virtual events and stay in touch with Doctoral College students and staff.

We are looking at online alternatives for A Slice of Research, Starting your Doctorate, Three Minute Thesis and other face-to-face events.

Wellbeing during self-isolation

It's important to look after your mental health and wellbeing, and there are several things you can do to support yourself and others:

  • Take breaks from watching and reading the news, including social media.
  • Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Take care of your body, take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  • Make time to unwind, try to do some activities you enjoy.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines where you can.
  • Connect with others, talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Student Services is now providing all its services virtually; if you need wellbeing support, wherever you are, ring 01225 383838 or email studentservices@bath.ac.uk with your phone number and they will return your call. You can also read Student Services FAQs on the Coronavirus.

The SU Advice & Support Centre is also operating remotely via email on suadvice@bath.ac.uk and can support you via email, video, Microsoft Teams or Zoom, between 10:00–16:00 from Monday–Friday.

Alongside these professional services, we have our Doctoral Peer Support scheme (introduced on 5 May), where you can have regular one-to-one meetings with a fellow doctoral student. With your peer supporter you can discuss issues arising from working remotely on your doctoral studies, or just have informal chats to support your wellbeing.

You can also find useful advice and practical tips on coping with isolation and looking after your mental health from Mind.

And at the bottom of the page is a guide from Dr Zoe Ayres on working on your PhD remotely.

Read advice from the BBC on Coronavirus: Five ways to work well from home and BBC Science Focus on successfully working from home in lockdown, as well as advice from My Whole Self on looking after yourself while working from home.

Try practising the APPLE technique from Anxiety UK and visit their website for more advice on relaxation.

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety there are a number of places you can turn to for support:

Other University providers

As well as the university’s key Coronavirus information page, several teams have issued updates as a result of the current situation. These include:

How to work on your PhD at home

Scientist without a lab