4. Selection, Admission and Induction of Students
4.1 Pre-Entry Information
- The Graduate School will make clear and accurate admissions information readily available to applicants and staff involved in the admissions process;
- The University requires all departments to have at least one designate Postgraduate Admissions Advisor who must be an academic member of staff. The designed Postgraduate Admission Advisor(s) is required to undertake appropriate initial training on selection and admissions procedures and encouraged to undertake continued professional development.
- The University will provide staff involved in the Admissions process with guidance on selection and admissions procedures.
- Departments must provide clear, accurate and comprehensive pre-entry information to potential applicants. This should include:
- Information on research opportunities – database of expertise, Training – what is available? Generic or department training
- Resources – supervisors.
- Completion times – regulations.
- Expectations and demands up on research students
- Entry requirements – regulations.
- Admissions process – departmental consideration before official application completed.
- Financial information including information on funding opportunities and costs.
- Appropriate contacts.
- The University requires all Academic departments to have clearly defined admissions and selection criteria for each programme of study – PhD, MPhil or MSc.
- The University will publish clear and accurate information on postgraduate admissions on its website and in printed form.
- The University will provide applicants with a declared medical condition or disability with appropriate information and a contact in Durham University Service for Students with Disabilities (DUSSD).
4.2 Entry Requirements
- The University will normally admit only those students who meet the entry requirements as outlined in the Core Regulations for Research Degrees by thesis or composition and/or the Programme Regulations for Research Degrees by Thesis or Composition or the Core Regulations for Taught Doctorates. Exceptions to this are dealt with by concession as considered by the relevant Deputy Dean.
- The University requires all applicants to submit the names of two referees, normally academic referees, who can comment knowledgeably upon their suitability to undertake research in the relevant field.
- The University requires academic departments to operate rigorous selection policies and procedures.
- The criteria for selection should be put in writing. They should include:
- evidence of the suitability of the candidate to undertake research in the relevant field, including, where appropriate, proficiency in the English language.
- Evidence of the suitability of the candidate to undertake a research project in the proposed field of study within the allotted time span;
- evidence of the availability of a supervisory team which is qualified to supervise the candidate in the research project;
- evidence of the availability of resources to support the candidate’s research project to a successful conclusion.
- The University requires that departmental selection policies and procedures should be put in writing and a current copy lodged with the Graduate School.
- All decisions related to the admissions of applicants to Postgraduate Research Degree programmes will normally be taken by the Supervisor(s) and the Department Postgraduate Admissions Advisor and will be subject to approval by the Graduate School.
- Applications submitted to the Graduate School for approval will be considered by the Postgraduate Admissions Officer, or his/her representative.
- The Graduate School will issue the formal offer letter to applicants which contains the following information on the postgraduate research programme or reference to appropriate web link:
- Information on fees;
- The field of study;
- The plan of study;
- The facilities and space to be made available to students;
- Arrangement for their supervision;
- Requirements upon them;
- Expectations in terms of academic and social conduct and performance and requirements;
- The availability of research training;
- Direction to other relevant information.
- The Graduate School will seek assurance from the student that he or she has sufficient financial support to complete his/her studies.
- The Graduate School will provide an institutional induction programme at the beginning of the Michaelmas and Epiphany terms.
- The Institutional Induction programme includes:
- general information about the institution and its postgraduate portfolio in the relevant subject(s);
- the institution’s registration, enrolment, appeals and complaints procedures plagiarism procedures, assessment requirements and research degree programme regulations;
- Information about how supervisory arrangements work;
- The institution’s research ethics and codes and those of relevant professional bodies and discipline groups, including consideration of issues concerning authorship and intellectual property;
- The institution’s expectations of the independence and responsibilities of the student;
- Student support and welfare services such as counselling and advice centres;
- A summary of the facilities that will be made available to the student, including the learning support infrastructure;
- Relevant health and safety and other legislative information;
- Where appropriate, a brief outline of the proposed research programme(s), together with the normal length of study and the facilities that will be made available to the student;
- Reference to the challenges that will typically face research students during the course of their studies and where guidance may be sought in the event of difficulties;
- Any opportunity for the student representative body to introduce themselves, including specific postgraduate representation;
- Social activity, including that provided specifically for postgraduates;
- Opportunities for postgraduates to be represented by the student body;
- Details about opportunities and requirements for skills development.
- The Graduate School will make available on the web, information provided at the Institutional Induction Programme.
- The Graduate School will provide all new students with a postgraduate information pack at the start of their studies.
- The Graduate School Committee will monitor attendance at the Institutional induction programme.
- The Graduate School will collect feedback from students and other stakeholders on the Induction Programme which will be used to evaluate the programme. A report on this evaluation will be considered by the Graduate School Committee.
- The University requires all academic departments to have in place an agreed induction programme for new students, attendance at which should be monitored.
- The department induction programme should include:
- The academic standards of the programme;
- Standards and skills as outcomes of the programme including the learning outcomes of any taught modules;
- The curriculum including the skills training programme and the research element;
- Methods of teaching and learning;
- Regulations governing progression;
- Subject related research codes and ethics and IPR;
- Programme related health and safety requirements.
- The University requires all supervisors, at an early supervisor meeting, no later than three months from the start of supervised study, to have completed an induction with each of their new students.
- The supervisory induction should include the completion of a checklist which is filed in the student’s departmental file and the completion of a Training Needs Analysis.
Appointment of Supervisors
- The University requires that all research degree students are supervised by a team made up of at least two supervisors with one designated as the ‘principal’ supervisor.
- The ‘principal’ supervisor must be a member of academic staff of the University, and must normally:
- Be post probation;
- Have gained a doctoral degree or have equivalent experience of research;
- Be demonstrably research-active;
- Have had previous experience of at least one successful supervision.
- The ‘additional’ supervisor must normally:
- Have gained a doctoral degree of have equivalent experience of research;
- Be demonstrably research-active.
- The University requires that supervision should be undertaken by those staff who have appropriate skills and subject expertise.
- At least one member of the supervisory team be engaged in research in the relevant field of research.
- Supervisors for all approved candidates are formally appointed by, and a responsible to the Graduate School Committee as well as to their Board of Studies or Board of School.
- The University requires that all staff who have not previously supervised research students undertake appropriate initial training and development and that experienced supervisors are encouraged to undertake continued professional development.
- The Graduate School will maintain a current register of academic staff who are qualified to act as research supervisors.
4.7 Management of Supervision
- The University requires each academic department to have a departmental policy on the management of supervision. Departmental policies must be forwarded to the Graduate School for approval by the appropriate Deputy Dean on behalf of the Graduate School Committee. Any subsequent changes to this policy must also be forwarded to the Graduate School for approval on behalf of the Graduate School Committee.
- The University requires the policy on the management of supervision to include the following:
- Departmental structure and lines of responsibility for overseeing the management of supervision. This could be undertaken by the Head of Department or by other specifically agreed arrangements such as by a Departmental Postgraduate or Research Committee.
- A clearly defined policy which states the maximum number of research students which a supervisor may supervise at anyone time. The case for taking on a student above the maximum number must be made to and approved by the Deputy Dean on behalf of the Graduate School Committee.
- Procedures for checking that supervisors and students comply with Graduate School Committee and University requirements.
- A clearly defined policy to ensure that adequate progress is being maintained.
- A clearly defined policy on the minimum frequency of scheduled meetings.
- A clearly defined policy to ensure that if a supervisor ceases to be available to a student under supervised study, for a period of more than 3 months e.g. while on extended leave away from Durham or due to retirement or ill-health, that arrangements have been made for continued academic supervision to be given.
- If a student has any worries about his or her supervision which it is not possible to discuss with the supervisor, he or she can approach the Director of Postgraduate Research/Chair of the Department Postgraduate or Research Committee, the Chair of the Board of Studies, or the Deputy Dean of the Faculty.
- The Graduate school has clearly defined responsibilities of supervisor and student which are made available to all staff and Postgraduate Research Degree students.
- At the beginning of each term, the Graduate School will provide supervisors of any research students with an information pack including a copy of the Postgraduate Student Guide, the responsibilities of student and supervisor and details of training opportunities for staff and students.
- The University requires that all research supervisors and students adhere to these defined responsibilities for students and supervisors.
4.8 Progress and Review Arrangements
- Supervisors and students are required to keep agreed written records of progress and a projection of activity resulting from supervision.
- All students are required to ‘keep term’ in accordance with the University General regulations, which state that postgraduate students are required to engage in research and/or advanced study to a standard satisfactory to their supervisor. Students who fail to keep term without good cause will be issued with a formal warning from the relevant Deputy Dean.
- For students registered on research programmes lasing more than one full-time year, the University requires all academic departments to have progress reviews at six, eighteen and thirty months (or part-time equivalents) following the beginning of the research programme or from the beginning of the period of independent research in the case of students registered for taught doctoral programmes. The University requires departments to have a policy on the structure and formal of the reviews which must be forwarded to the Graduate School for approval by the Deputy Deans on behalf of the Graduate School Committee. Any subsequent changes to the departmental policy must also be forwarded to the Graduate School for approval by the Deputy Deans on behalf of the Graduate School Committee.
- The University requires all students who are registered on programmes lasing more than one full-time year to take part in Departmental review twelve months (or part-time equivalents) after the beginning of the research programme or twelve months (or part-time equivalents) from the beginning of the period of independent research in the case of students registered for taught doctoral programmes. This may also include a formal upgrading to PhD, but must be a significant achievement to ensure the student is working at the correct level. This twelve month review will normally be the submission of a written piece of work of at least 5,000 words or equivalent considered by a panel that includes the student’s main supervisor, and a minimum of one other member of staff (appointed by the Chair of the Board of Studies). The student will normally be required to make an oral presentation of his/her work, with questions put by panel members.
- The criteria relating to the review, and any resulting documentation, should be held on the student’s departmental file.
- Following the panel meeting an appropriate recommendation should be made to the Board of Studies. The Board of Studies will consider whether to endorse a positive recommendation and what action to take in the case of a negative recommendation. Any recommendation from the Board of Studies will be considered by the relevant Faculty Deputy Dean.
- The Graduate School Committee requires all research and their supervisor(s) to complete and Annual Report on progress each Summer, while they remain registered – this includes the time when they are on continuation, i.e. writing up their thesis following the end of supervised study. Annual Reports should also be completed for students under exam, with the exception of those who have just received a positive recommendation from the examiners. Students registered for taught doctoral programmes are only required to complete an Annual Report on progress once they have registered for the period of independent research under supervision.
- The Annual Report requires confirmation that the progress reviews have been completed satisfactorily, and that any actions identified have been taken.
- The Annual Reports will be reviewed by the Director of Postgraduate Research in the student’s department (or the Head of Department if the Director of Postgraduate Research is the student’s supervisor) and then by the Faculty Deans of the Faculties concerned.
- The Deputy Deans are responsible for reviewing the Annual Reports and for taking up with Board of Studies any questions arising from the any annual report. The Deputy Deans will provide a summary on the outcome of the Annual Report exercise to the Graduate School Committee during the Michaelmas Term.
4.9 Development of Research and Other Skills
- The University provides a Postgraduate Training Programme consisting of an Induction Day followed by a series of courses over the academic year. The learning outcomes of this programme are consistent with sections C to G of the JRC/AHRC Skills statement.
- The University requires academic departments to provide training opportunities consistent with sections A and B of the JRC/AHRC Skills statement and a current policy statement on department provision should be lodged with the Graduate School.
- The University requires all postgraduate research students to complete a Training Needs Analysis in the first month of their studies, a copy of which should be maintained on the student’s departmental file.
- Students will choose appropriate courses from those available to meet the needs identified in their training needs analysis.
- Students will review their training needs on an annual basis.
- The University requires that all postgraduates employed in teaching must be inducted, trained and monitored. Students are also encouraged to participate in other activities in their department. Additional duties must be negotiated between the students and the supervisory team.
4.10 Feedback Mechanisms
- The University will collect feedback from current Postgraduate Research Degree
Students through an initial Postgraduate Research Degree student questionnaire submitted by the end of the induction period within three months of registration and annually through a Postgraduate Research Degree student annual survey.
- The University will collect feedback from all recently completed research degree graduates through an exit questionnaire.
- The Graduate School will consider feedback from other stakeholders, including supervisors, review panels and internal examiners; external parties including external examiners, sponsors and collaborating organisations.
- The Deputy Deans are responsible for providing a summary on the outcome of the review of the internal examiners reports to the Graduate School Committee during the Epiphany Term.
- The Deputy Deans are responsible for providing a summary on the outcome of the review of the external examiners reports to the Graduate School Committee during the Epiphany Term.
Appointment of Examiners
- The University requires that all research degrees are examined by, an Internal
Examiner and an External Examiner. Where a candidate is also a member of staff within the University, or where appropriate examining expertise can not be found within the University, a second External Examiner will replace the Internal Examiner. Staff candidates include those who have become staff since completing their supervised study.
- The University will offer training and guidance to internal and external examiners of research degrees.
- All examiners:
- Must normally be post probation, members of staff who are on probation may be nominated if they have had previous appropriate examining experience;
- Must normally be a current member of academic staff of a University or Research Institute;
- Must normally have gained a doctoral degree or have equivalent experience of research. Experienced members of staff who do not themselves hold a PhD qualification may be considered as examiners provided they have the relevant subject expertise;
- Must have subject expertise;
- Must be demonstrably research active;
- Staff who have acted in any formal supervisory capacity for a candidate cannot be considered for appointment as examiners;
- Examiners are nominated by the Board of Studies, for approval by the Graduate School Committee, on the forms issued by the Graduate School Office. Supervisors should be consulted about the nominations.
In addition to the above, external examiners:
- Must have standing within their own academic community.
- The two examiners must between them have experience of a least three successful supervisions and have examined three students at postgraduate research degree level.
- Professional experts may be appointed as advisers to the two examiners, to serve on the examination panel if the relevant Deputy Dean approves the nomination from the Board of Studies.
- The Board of Studies is required to provide the Graduate School with a nomination for the appointment of examiners three months prior to the submission of the thesis. The nomination should include confirmation from the Head of Department that the examiners meet the criteria as outlined in section 4.11 (3) . Academic departments are not required to provide the Graduate School with evidence; however academic departments are required to retain evidence that examiners meet the criteria outlined in section 70, which may be required by the Graduate School for audit purposes.
- If an examiner does not meet these criteria, a case must be made by the Head of the department which will be considered by the Deputy Dean of the relevant faculty and approved on behalf of Senate by the Chair of the Graduate School Committee.
- Once nominations are received and approved (where appropriate), the Graduate School will send a letter of appointment to the Examiners along with relevant information including the institutional assessment criteria for the award and the Guide to Examiners and internal Advisers of Research Degrees.
4.12 The Thesis
- The thesis is expected to form a coherent whole, with a consistent argument or
series of arguments running through it. The incorporation of material published by the candidate during the period of registration for the degree is permitted, but the footnoting/end noting must make clear which sections of the thesis are based on published material and how much individual responsibility the candidate has for any jointly authorised work. Such material must be properly and stylistically incorporated into the thesis.
- During the writing up period, the supervisor is expected, as part of their normal duties to offer the student advice and constructive criticism on the preparation of the thesis without compromising the independence of the candidate’s work
- The supervisor is expected to read the final draft of the thesis before it is prepared for submission, to offer an opinion to the student, and, if appropriate, to advise that modifications are made. However, the supervisor is not an examiner and the student should be made aware that the final decision rests with the examiners and that the supervisor’s opinion is not part of the examination process. If the supervisor considers that a thesis has serious shortcomings which will jeopardise its likely success, he or she should put that opinion in writing to the student. The decision on when to submit a thesis is however entirely the student’s own.
4.13 The Submission
- When the thesis is ready, the student must submit two copies to the Graduate
School Office with the submission documents and two loose copies of the abstract (one copy should also be bound with each copy of the thesis).
- The Graduate School Office will send the copies of the thesis to the appointed examiners with the Guide to Examiners and Internal Advisors and the Report Forms.
4.14 Oral Examination (viva voce)
- Preparation for the oral examination should be given via the supervisor. The supervisor should ensure that the student understands the requirements and purpose of the oral examination and is prepared for this.
- The criteria and requirements by which a candidate is assessed are specified in the Core Regulations for Research Degrees by thesis or composition and/or the Programme Regulations for Research Degrees by Thesis or Composition or the Core Regulations for Taught Doctorates Examiners are requested to complete the examination within three months of their receipt of the thesis, and to contact the Graduate School Office if this is not possible.
- An oral examination is required for all Doctoral degree candidates and higher Master’s Degrees (MPhil), but is at the examiners’ discretion for first Master’s candidates.
- After reading the thesis, each examiner should independently write an individual report answering some specific questions designed to emphasise the criteria for the award of the degree and provide a general report of his or her opinion of the thesis.
- A copy of the individual report should be sent to the Graduate School in advance of the oral examination.
- The arrangements for an oral examination will be made by the internal examiner, or the supervisor where there are two external examiners; this will include notification of the details to the candidate and the Graduate School Office. In all cases where an oral examination is held, the supervisor will be consulted by the two examiners, and may, at the invitation of the examiners, attend all or any part of the oral.
- The University requires that oral examinations should be conducted in accordance with the procedures as set out in the Guide to Examiners and Internal Advisors of Research Degrees.
- The oral examination may be held outside Durham with the approval of the Deputy Dean of the Faculty concerned. If the circumstances require it, the candidate’s expenses should also be refunded.
4.16 Outcome of the Examination
- The recommendations of the examiners may, at their discretion, be reported informally to the candidate at the oral examination.
- Report Forms are completed by the Examiners and returned to the Graduate School Office for final approval by the Deputy Dean.
- Candidates will receive a letter notifying them of the result of the examination. If unsuccessful, students will be referred to their supervisor for information on what further action is required or available to them.
- If the decision is that the degree be awarded forthwith, the candidate should send two hardbound copies of the thesis to the Graduate School Office;
- Where minor corrections are required, these must be completed, normally within six months of notification.
- Where the examiners consider that a thesis is unsatisfactory the following options are open:
- To recommend that the candidate should fail and should not be permitted to resubmit, i.e. that the failure be outright (this would be where the thesis falls very short of the required standing).
- Where the shortcomings are considered capable of correction within on calendar year, and when it is the first examination of the thesis, they may recommend that the candidate should be permitted to resubmit the thesis in a revised form.
- That they be awarded a lower degree forthwith on the basis of the thesis as submitted, or that th thesis be resubmitted for second examination for a lower degree.
- In cases where the thesis was satisfactory, but the oral examination was not, the candidate will be allowed to have a second oral examination or take a written examination within six months.
- The procedures for submission for re-examination are similar to those for the original examination. In addition, candidates have to pay the appropriate resubmission and continuation fee at the time.
4.17 Conferment of the Degree
- Once the hard-bound copies of the thesis have been submitted to the Graduate School Office, students will be issued with a letter and Pass List confirming that they have met the requirements of the degree, subject to conferment at congregation and being free from debt. Until the degree has been officially confirmed, the Graduate School Office can provide successful candidates with a statement confirming that they have satisfied the examiners, should copies of the Pass List not be considered adequate by other authorities.
- Students with any outstanding debts to the University (tuition fees, accommodation charges, library fines, overdrawn printer credit account) will not be able to go through congregation until the debts have been settled. Students cannot claim to have been awarded the degree until they have gone through congregation, either in person or in absentia.
4.18 Student Representation
- Senate Standing Orders require academic departments to have in place staff student consultative committees and where there are postgraduate students, at least one postgraduate student must be elected to represent their views.
- The University has a comprehensive Complaints procedure for students. The procedure clearly defines the various stages of the procedure including who is involved at each stage. The Complaints Procedure is available in the University Calendar and on the University web-site. Reference to this website is provided in the Postgraduate Guide.
- The University has comprehensive Appeals Regulations for all students. These regulations clearly define the grounds for appeal, and clearly define the stages of an appeal process including who is involved at the various stages. The Appeals regulations are available in the University Calendar and on the University web-site. Reference to this web-site is provided in the Postgraduate Guide.