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Learning and Teaching Handbook

8.1.5: Progress and Review Arrangements

Continuous Monitoring of Progress

43. Supervisors and students are required to keep agreed written records of progress, and a projection of activity resulting from supervision. This is of particular importance in the first year of study (or part-time equivalent) when candidates will be expected to, in conjunction with their supervisor(s): complete the induction process; have their training needs analysed; and, for those candidates on a research programme lasting more than one full-time year, prepare for the Formal Progression Review typically held at approximately 9/21 months (full-time/part-time).

44. All students are required to make appropriate academic progress, in accordance with University General regulations, which state that postgraduate students are required to engage in research and/or advanced study, to a standard satisfactory to their supervisory team, throughout their period of supervised study. Students who fail to make academic progress without good cause, and who fail to respond to departmental warning(s), will be issued with a formal warning from the relevant Chair of the Faculty Education Committee (PG) , and may be required to withdraw from the University.

45. The University requires all research students to complete, in conjunction with a designated member of their supervisory team, an Annual Report on progress each summer, for the duration of their registration – 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 by students under examination, with the exception of those who have just received a positive recommendation from the examiners. Students registered for professional doctoral programmes are only required to complete an Annual Report on progress once they have registered for the period of independent research under supervision.

46. 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, if necessary, by the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG) . Faculty Education Committees (PG) are responsible for reviewing the Annual Reports and for taking up with Boards of Studies any matters arising.  A summary of the outcome of the Annual Report exercise will be considered by the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG) , and following this by Quality and Standards Sub-Committee, during the Michaelmas Term. 

47. The University requires all research students to undertake a series of more formal progress reviews. These reviews will be administered by the student’s academic department (or the department of their primary supervisor, if the supervisory team comprises staff from more than one academic department). The review schedule and structures are outlined in principles in paragraphs 48-57. In addition, all departments are required to have a clear statement on Research Student Progress and Review made available to all staff and research students, contained within the Research Student Handbook. Departmental policies provide specific guidance on the timing, format and assessment for each review, in line with the principles defined below, and will be discussed in detail with students prior to the first progress review. All departmental statements require the approval of the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG) .

Formal Progression Review

48. All students who are registered on programmes lasting more than one full-time year must take part in a departmental Formal Progression Review approximately 9/21 months (full-time/part time) after the beginning of their research programme or, for those students registered on professional doctoral programmes, approximately 9/21 months after the beginning of their period of independent research.  These timescales are indicative – it is likely that there may be some variation between different disciplines, however, any variation will be clearly indicated in the departmental policy on Research Student Progress and Review.

49. The Formal Progression Review is designed to ensure that candidates are making good progress, working at the correct level, and demonstrating the potential for success doctoral study (or master’s-level study for those students on master’s programmes lasting more than one full-time year). The Formal Progression Review will normally require the candidate to submit for assessment a substantive piece of work as defined by the department, to be considered by a panel of at least two members of academic staff who are not part of the student’s supervisory team and, if appropriate, the student’s main supervisor (appointed by the Head of Department). The student will normally be required to make an oral presentation of his/her work, with questions put by panel members. In some disciplines, the candidate may be required to undertake an equivalent activity (for instance, an examination) which will similarly be considered by staff independent of the supervisory team.

50. Following the panel meeting an appropriate recommendation will be made to Board of Studies: either that the candidate has demonstrated the potential for doctoral study, and should be allowed to proceed, or that the candidate has not demonstrated the potential for doctoral study, and may not proceed on a doctoral level programme. The Board of Studies will consider whether to endorse the recommendation. Any negative recommendation from the Board of Studies will be considered by the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG) .

51. A candidate who has not demonstrated the potential for doctoral study will be required to transfer to a master’s-level (normally MPhil or MLitt) programme in the first instance. A candidate may be required to, and will be given the opportunity to, be assessed for a second attempt, normally taking place within two months. A second recommendation will be made following this reassessment: that the candidate should be allowed to proceed to doctoral study, permitted to continue on to a master’s level programme, or required to withdraw. The recommendation will be considered by the Board of Studies and, if it requires a further change in student status, by the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG) .

52. Boards of Studies may recommend that a candidate registered in the first instance on a research master’s programme lasting more than one full-time year be upgraded to PhD as part of a Formal Progression Review, if the candidate demonstrates the potential for doctoral study. Any such recommendation will be made to the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG) .

53. All departments are required to have, within their policy on Research Student Progress and Review, a clear statement on the format and operation of the Formal Progression Review, and the criteria against which the student submission is to be assessed.

Further Progress Reviews

56. For students registered on research programmes lasting more than one full-time year, the University requires all academic departments to have further progress reviews at intervals of approximately 12 months after the Formal Progression Review. There are two specific types of further progress review:

  • Confirmation reviews, which take place during a student’s period of supervised study, and which are designed to ensure that students continue to make good progress;
  • Completion reviews, which take place towards the end of a student’s period of supervised study, for which students are expected to submit a plan for completion indicating how they propose to finish their thesis, and which are designed to ensure that students are ready to complete the period of supervised study.

57. The University requires departments to have a statement on the structure and design of the further progress reviews within their research student handbook. The University does not have a prescriptive format for further progress reviews; however:

  • all reviews should focus on whether the candidate’s progress is appropriate, and whether the candidate is on track to submit their thesis in advance of their final submission deadline;
  • the completion review include confirmation of an explicit timescale for submission (and the possibility of recommending a further period of supervised study if required)with a target of submission within either 3, 6, 9 or 12 months;
  • the format of further progress reviews must be approved by the appropriate Chair of the Faculty Education Committee (PG).

58. The number of reviews which a student will undertake depends upon the length of their programme. For instance:

  • a student undertaking a two-year full-time MPhil programme would have one Formal Progression Review at 9 months, and a further Completion review at 21 months;
  • a student undertaking a three-year full-time PhD programme would have one Formal Progression Review at 9 months, a Confirmation review at 21 months, and a further Completion review at 33 months;
  • a student undertaking a four-year full-time PhD programme would have one Formal Progression Review at 9 months, two further Confirmation reviews at 21 and 33 months, and a further Completion review at 45 months.

59. Part-time students undertaking research degree programmes lasting longer than one full-time year are required to undergo a Confirmation review after approximately 9 months, before undertaking their Formal Progression Review at approximately 21 months, with further progress reviews 12 months thereafter.

60. Students not deemed to be making good progress at further reviews may be subject to Academic Progress Procedure (as noted in paragraph 46) if appropriate.

Progress During the Continuation Period

61. Students enter the continuation period once their period of supervised research study is completed, typically after three years of study for a full-time PhD. Students are encouraged to submit their thesis as soon as possible after then end of their period of supervised study, and are required to submit by their submission deadline. Submission deadlines will be:

  • for PhD students, no more than 12 months after the end of supervised study;
  • for students undertaking a two-year full-time Master’s programme (or part-time equivalent), no more than 9 months after the end of supervised study;
  • for students undertaking a one-year full-time Master’s programme (or part-time equivalent), no more than 6 months after the end of supervised study.

62. Students are not subject to the Academic Progress Procedure during the continuation period; however, if a student requests an extension to the final submission deadline, a review should be conducted to consider any relevant medical or other evidence, and to agree a revised schedule for completion.  

63. Students who do not submit by their final submission deadline, and who are not granted an extension to the deadline, will be withdrawn.

Students who Withdraw and Return

64. A student who withdraws from their studies during the continuation period, or who is withdrawn for non-submission, may seek permission to return. Students who wish to return must be formally assessed by their Department, who may recommend a further period of supervised study or continuation before the student proceeds to examination. Any decision on whether to re-admit a student who has withdrawn will be taken by the Chair of the relevant Faculty Education Committee (PG).