Coronavirus advice to doctoral students
With the increasing cases of COVID-19 and the 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:
- 27 May: Initial steps for returning to campus (within Advice from the Doctoral College).
- 21 May: Guide to UKRI funded extensions (within Impact on funding and income: if you cannot progress with your research).
- 20 May: Guide to flexible remote working for doctoral students (within Impact on funding and income: flexible remote working opportunities).
- 5 May: Introduction of the Doctoral Peer Support scheme (within Wellbeing during self isolation).
- 5 May: Guidance on furlough for hourly-paid and casual staff (within Impact on funding and income: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)).
- 30 April: Automatic three-month extension of registration for all students in their final year (within Suspensions and extensions).
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.
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.
Initial steps for returning to campus
An email was sent on 22 May from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) following the government's advice for those who are unable to work from home. You can read this update on the pilot scheme for returning to work in laboratories on campus.
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.
Impact on your studies
All students, whether or not they are able to continue with their studies, should keep a record of how COVID19 has affected your plans. 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). It is up to you how your record these details but it will be important to note any time spent having to redesign your work and on the duration of subsequent research activities.
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. 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:
If you cannot progress:
- Your stipend payments will continue provided you are fully enrolled or you are already on suspension but still eligible to receive stipend payments (e.g. maternity/paternity/adoption/sick pay).
- You should not request a new suspension of your studies if your funder (e.g. UKRI, various Research Councils such as EPSRC and ESRC, the University) has indicated that a funded extension could be provided, as this will mean that your stipend payments will stop (unless you are still eligible for the UKRI-standard 13 weeks’ sick pay within a rolling 12 months). 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 have any questions please email the Doctoral College.
- If you are funded but not by UKRI or the University, and you are not sure what you should do, you should contact your specific sponsor(s) in the first instance, to see how they are responding to the situation. Once you know what your sponsor is recommending then you can talk to your supervisors, and the Doctoral College about the best approach to take.
- 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. We understand that this approach may be problematic for some (e.g. Tier 4 visa holders) so we would recommend talking to your supervisors, and the Doctoral College about the best approach to take in your specific circumstances.
- 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.
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.
If you can progress but are worried about being able to afford to pay fees due to reduced income (see note above on Furloughing):
- 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, even if you are still able to do some work on your research project, to ensure that you are not charged further tuition fees.
- 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.
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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 and extensions
If 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.
The Doctoral College has now 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.
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 will be 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. 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:
- Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee (SSREC) Social Distancing & Data Collection guide
- Psychology Research Ethics Committee (PREC) Social Distancing & Data Collection
- Research Ethics Approval for Health (REACH) Social Distancing & Data Collection
Travel, including those already on fieldwork or on placement
In keeping with advice from the UK Government, current University guidance is that you should not be travelling. If you are already overseas then you should ensure that you monitor the UK Government’s Coronavirus travel guidance and carefully monitor and follow any local advice. An updated risk assessment will invariably need to be completed.
If you are undertaking (field)work in your home country, you should still risk-assess your activities, and follow local advice and requirements.
You must review with your supervisor your regular schedule of virtual meetings.
A key reference is the Doctoral College Health & Safety Guide for Doctoral Students, which includes guidance on off-campus working and risk assessments.
In all cases please keep your supervisory team (not just your lead supervisor) fully informed of your plans.
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, should email the Doctoral College to request an extension to their deadline.
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.
- 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: email@example.com
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences: firstname.lastname@example.org
Faculty of Science: email@example.com
School of Management: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.
The Graduation Ceremonies in summer 2020 have been cancelled.
Resources and IT
The thought of working from home, in some cases without access to your PC, laboratories and other facilities, can initially be very daunting. Many resources are available to you from a distance, however, and they are detailed below.
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
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 email@example.com for further advice.
Further IT guidance can be found at Top Desk (Working from Home).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 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: