Off-campus research activities: guidance for doctoral students
This Guide will help to ensure that you are well prepared if you need to undertake any research activities off-campus.
As a doctoral student, you might need to engage in some off-campus activities as part of your research. This may include, but is not limited to, fieldwork, data collection, attendance at conferences and visits to other research institutions.
There is a need to be aware of potential risks, and, more importantly, to prepare adequately before working off-campus, in particular when working overseas.
Whilst it is the responsibility of the Department and the supervisor to provide you with all practical and reasonable means of support to minimize any risks whilst you are away, it is also your responsibility to minimize your own exposure to danger when working off-campus and make sure that you are well prepared for your trip.
Our Health and Safety Guide for doctoral students provides a comprehensive overview of the University's policy and standards on Health and Safety that are relevant to doctoral students.
Before you go
Inform the relevant people
As well as ensuring that your supervisory team know about your plans, you will need to complete the Off-Campus Activities Notification form and return it to your Doctoral Programmes Administrator in the Doctoral College before you leave. This form will be shared with the University Security Office.
At certain times, the University may need to respond to the needs of students and staff when and emergency situation arises overseas. It is important you let us know your plans so that we can support you in situations like this.
If you are in doubt as to whether you should complete this form please discuss with your Doctoral Programmes Administrator.
Review your supervision arrangements
Depending on where you are going and for how long, you should discuss with your Supervisor(s) the frequency and method of your supervision before you leave. This is in order for you to be able to continue discussing your research and so that you may report any issues you may have. Supervisors also have responsibilities to make sure their students are engaging with their study safely.
If you are away on fieldwork or data collection, please report to your Supervisor(s) frequently on issues including:
the progress of your research
further plans for your fieldwork
health and safety conditions
any emergencies that have occurred and any further potential risks
any changes in your health
your date of return to the UK
Undertake a Risk Assessment
Depending on where you go, your visit may contain various risks. You will need to liaise with your Supervisor(s) in order to complete a Risk Assessment to assess if there are any potential safety concerns.
If you are going to be spending a significant time overseas, you may also find it useful to consult with your Supervisor(s), academics and other students who have working or living experiences in the same or similar destination. Cultures can vary largely and what you might have taken for granted, might be unusual or even unacceptable in other countries. It is therefore important to develop an awareness of traditions, customs and taboos in the area where you are going before you leave.
Whilst you are working off-campus it is important to think about the purpose of your visit. If you are there for research purposes, your research may involve sensitive topics with vulnerable people, so please make sure you have obtained ethical approval from your department and advice from your supervisors on all potential ethical issues. If your research involves human participants, you must not start to collect data before you have received full ethical approval. You can contact your Departmental Research Ethics Officer (DREO) for any queries relating to research ethics and also read this guidance on research integrity and ethics.
You should ensure that your passport and visas are valid for duration of the trip. You should consult the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website which is regularly updated and has comprehensive information on all countries, including advice on the current political situation, and warnings of unrest and crime blackspots. It also gives travellers’ tips and information on vaccinations.
There is also a website and app for doctoral students to register their trips with an organisation called Global Response. Registration provides live travel updates, helplines for emergencies and support for repatriation and medical care if required.
When working off campus it is essential to protect yourself from the diseases you may encounter whilst away, especially if you are going overseas. Vaccinations against infectious disease are a major part of this protection and we encourage you to book to see specialist nurses in the travel clinic to discuss your travel plans and what immunisations you will need. Many need to be given weeks or even months before you depart, so don't leave it too late. The University Medical Centre offers a full range of vaccinations and is a registered Yellow Fever centre. A charge will be made for certain vaccinations, which are not covered by the NHS.
The University Travel Insurance provides cover for student travel associated with fieldwork trips outside Britain lasting up to six months. If you are going to be away for longer, you will need to arrange additional insurance cover.
Irrespective of the length of your stay, you must complete the Travel Insurance Request form as soon as you book your trip.
You should try to secure your accommodation before you embark on any significant off-campus work that requires you to relocate or temporarily relocate. It is your responsibility to find suitable accommodation for your trip. If you are going overseas, then you may have to pay a deposit in advance for your accommodation. Ensure that you take all reasonable steps to ensure that the accommodation is legitimate and you are protected.
An alternative is to book some temporary accommodation before you leave the UK, so that you have somewhere to sleep and leave your belongings when you arrive whilst you look for somewhere to live.
The Students’ Union Advice and Support Centre can answer any queries you have about accommodation and look over any contracts, as appropriate. You can contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fees and Financial support
It is your responsibility to ensure that arrangements are in place to manage your financial affairs while you are away and that all UK domestic arrangements are finalised prior to starting work off campus. You may already have funding in place, but if not, there a number of funding and support schemes you may wish to consider. You should also check with your Supervisor who may be able to pay for fieldwork expenses if this is part of a funded project.
Permission to use University equipment off campus must be agreed prior to you leaving and portable electrical equipment, such as tape recorders and laptop computers, must be safety checked and tested by University staff prior to departure.
Students holding a Tier 4 visa
If you are a Tier 4 visa holder and are away from the University, our responsibilities as your Tier 4 sponsor remain the same. Your responsibilities to comply with the conditions of your Tier 4 visa and to inform the University of any changes also remain the same. Students requiring further information about their visa, or who may need to make a visa extension, should contact the Student Immigration Service.
Support for students with disabilities
Having disabilities may add additional risks to your off-campus activities. If you have a disability, impairment, long-term health condition or specific learning difficulty, you should consult with the Disability Service to make sure you will be able to access disability support when you are away.
University attendance monitoring and engagement
The University is responsible to ensure you are attending and engaging with your study. Please make sure you familiarise yourself with University policies and complete all the required paperwork before your departure.
While you are away
You may face distressing or isolating situations when working off-campus so do remember that you can still access our support services. You may also find these suggestions helpful on improving your well-being in difficult situations:
take a break. Over-stressful work could cause various psychological and physical problems
talk to your supervisor(s), Director of Studies or the Doctoral College
seek support from the Wellbeing Service.
Sickness and sickness reporting
If you become ill during your overseas visit, it is important that you are sure how to access medical care as soon as possible. It is also important to inform your supervisor(s) of your health condition so they can support you.
Equality and diversity
We hope that you will enjoy your time off-campus. However, if you encounter any kind of discrimination, The Students’ Union Advice and Support Centre or the University’s Equality and Diversity team can support and help you.