Frequently Asked Questions

Brighton beach sunset

Welcome to the Doctoral College’s CV-19 FAQ and resources site. We know that you are facing immense challenges every day and we hope the FAQs below will address any concerns you have about your studies. We will add further FAQs as necessary in response to future queries. We also have a dedicated extensions to deadline FAQ page. If you have a concern not covered by our FAQs, please contact us on DoctoralCollege@brighton.ac.uk.

We recognise there are numerous ways your studies might be disrupted such as an inability to access labs, studios, archives or equipment, or to carry out planned field work or data collection. You might have or develop health issues, or childcare responsibilities, or find yourself with extra caring for friends and relatives. Your mental health might be affected, leaving you drained of the emotional and psychological resources needed to focus on your research. You may also find yourself under pressure financially or in terms of access to housing. We really hope this site will help you address these disruptions and pressures.

This is a new blog and you will find certain sections are described as ‘coming soon’. We are working on these and hope to have material to support you on these pages shortly.


Contents

How should I continue my studies now the University has closed and many countries have implemented a lockdown?

The Doctoral College is keen to assist you in managing the ongoing situation and along with your supervisors we will support you in any way we can. The impact on doctoral study is complex and affects people in very different ways. While we have the answers to some questions, other issues are still being worked through. We will be keeping students and supervisors informed by email and through updates on this blog. Thanks for bearing with us.

If you have any immediate concerns about the impact of the University’s closure and/or national lockdown on your studies which aren’t answered by our FAQs, please contact your supervisor. You may also wish to contact your School Postgraduate Research Coordinator or one of the Doctoral College’s Directors of Postgraduate Studies. See our contacts page for details.


How should I hold supervision meetings?

Speak to your supervisors and discuss how you might use online technology to hold meetings online. The University’s Information Services recommend Microsoft Teams as a way to communicate and collaborate remotely. It’s a platform that’s new to many of us so don’t worry about being unfamiliar with it. We’ve been using Teams in the Doctoral College for online workshops and staff meetings, and have found it to be intuitive and user friendly (and sometimes even fun!). We are encouraging supervisors to be flexible, especially on deadlines, and find the best way to support you. Supervisors are aware that you may not be able to focus on your studies because of other pressures you are facing.


I’m due to submit my thesis this year. What if the COVID-19 situation impacts on my ability to submit on time?

If you are in receipt of funding and your end of funding date is before the end of March 2021 you can apply for an extension to that funding for up to six months. If you are self-funded or have been funded and are now in your write-up period and your submission deadline is before the end of March 2021, you can apply for a fee waiver of up to six months. You will need to apply on PhD Manager and attach one of our COVID-19 extension forms.

Please see our dedicated Extensions FAQ page for full details.

[Edited 11/06]


I’m not due to submit my thesis soon but already feel this situation will disrupt my studies and put me behind schedule. What should I do?

We recognise there are numerous ways your studies might be disrupted and in late April we developed an approach for extensions for all our doctoral students, both funded and self-funded.

In summary, if your submission deadline is before the end of March 2021, you can apply for an extension of up to six months. A planned government review on funded extensions for students with deadlines after March 2021 is due to commence in June 2020. When we know the outcome of that we will be able to confirm the full details of our approach for both funded and self-funded students with later deadlines.

As previously communicated, we also ask that you continue to keep brief notes of how your work is being affected so you can refer back to these if you need to request an extension now or further down the line. For extensions, our funding body, UKRI, requires us to request details of how COVID-19 has affected your studies but we don’t want this to be an onerous task for you. We recognise there are a wide range of issues affecting our students as a consequence of the pandemic. Please see our disruption notes guidance for full details and examples of the kind of notes we are asking for.

Keeping notes as an aide-memoir will also help us to work with you, your supervisors and Postgraduate Research Coordinators to assess the impact of this disruption and find the best way forward on a case-by-case basis. This may require an extension to your registration in the coming months or later on as you approach thesis submission deadline. Or it could be that you require an alternative or additional means of support.

We are not expecting students to formally suspend their studies during this period unless you have a period of ill health. However, if that is an option you would wish to explore, please discuss this with your supervisor and Postgraduate Research Coordinator (PGRC) and let your Research Student Administrator (RSA) know.

If you are a funded student and have a period of ill health, the normal sick pay rules will apply; you will receive payments for up to 13 weeks for ill health supported by a medical certificate.

See also ‘My deadline is after 31 March 2021. Can I have an extension?’

Please also see our dedicated Extensions FAQ page

[Updated 04/05]


Could we have a blanket 3 month extension for everyone? 

Please see the response to this question on our Extensions FAQ

[Updated 04/05]


I’m feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Where can I get support?

This is a stressful period for everyone and looking after our mental health and wellbeing is vital.

All schools have Student Support Guidance Tutors (SSGTs) who you can reach out to if you are struggling. SSGTs offer guidance and support on a range of issues such as stress, study difficulties, loneliness and now, of course, a range of issues relating to our COVID-19 era. SSGTs can also refer you on to specialist services within the university. These specialist services include counselling support specifically for doctoral students provided by an experienced psychotherapist. In the first instance, whether you need advice, a sounding board or more tailored, specialist support, please contact your SSGT. They will then be able to assess your needs and work out how best to support you.

The University has a range of support and resources available to all students. Included in this is the Big White Wall, a service offering free, anonymous online support to UoB members (log in with your usual details).

We have details of these resources along with recommended resources from our students on a dedicated mental health and wellbeing resources page on this blog.

Please do take time to look after yourselves and ensure your health and wellbeing are prioritised. For some people, that might mean they want to keep on working while others may need to step back from their studies and focus their energies elsewhere for a while. Whatever approach you take please keep in touch with your supervisor and let them know.

[Updated 10/06]


How do I submit my thesis for examination and how can the viva take place?

You can submit your thesis remotely. When you are ready to submit, please upload your thesis and abstract to PhD Manager via ‘Examination’ > ‘Upload thesis and abstract’ and we will count that as your official submission date. Provided that the examination team has been approved, the examiners will be contacted to arrange a date for the viva.

In common with many other UK universities, we will be holding vivas online providing all parties are in agreement with this arrangement.

We will be using Teams for remote vivas. We will also run separate ‘Teams tests’ with all participants in advance of the viva to make sure the online technology is working. It may feel a little odd to have your viva online and we totally understand that. Your examiners will too. We are committed to supporting you in this and won’t throw anyone into the ‘digital deep end’.

Read our guidance and advice on online vivas.

If you don’t want to have your viva online, your viva can be postponed.

If you have any questions about your viva, please contact our Examinations Officer Ursula O’Toole on U.O’Toole@brighton.ac.uk. And a reminder: at no stage should you or your supervisors attempt to contact your examiners directly.

[Updated 11/06]


What happens with my Annual Progression Review/Progression Review Panel?

APRs will now take place remotely using Teams. We hope that they will provide an opportunity to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your research, how research plans can be adjusted and any support you may need. If you wish, you could also raise other pressures and issues you are facing such as financial, caring and health issues.

There has been understandable concern from some students that the current disruption will have caused their research plans to change (in still uncertain ways) or that some of the work they were intending to submit for this year’s APR will be delayed. Even when this is the case, we would still ask that the APRs go ahead. Your APR panel will understand the disruption you have experienced and adjust their expectations accordingly.

There may be exceptional occasions when APRs are delayed due to the current crisis, but we anticipate the vast majority proceeding using Teams.

If you have any concerns over an APR, please speak with your Postgraduate Research Coordinator.

Please also see our APR advice and guidance for all participants.

[Updated 11/05]


I’m in receipt of funding. Will this be affected? Will I be eligible for an extension to my funding?

Extensions to stipends linked to the disruption of your studies is understandably an issue of concern to our funded students. Since the start of the current health crisis in the UK, we’ve been working hard to resolve this issue while awaiting national guidance. On 09 April, the UKRI announced its guidance on extensions for final year PhD students who are funded by Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and have been affected by Covid-19. Students in receipt of DTP funding have been notified by their DTP and we issued details of our own aligned approach in late April.

Please see our dedicated Extensions FAQ page. for full details.

[Updated 04/05]


I’m a self-funding student. Will I have to pay fees if my studies are extended?

If you are self-funded and your submission deadline is before the end of March 2021 you can apply for a fee waiver of up to six months. Please see above for details relating to students with later deadlines.

Please also see our dedicated Extensions FAQ page.

[Updated 04/05]


My data collection was supposed to include face-to-face contact with participants? What should I do?

The face-to-face collection of data is suspended for all research projects. We have developed some guidance to provide clarity about alternatives to face-to-face data collection and contingency plans for PGR student research. Please see this Research Services Ethics Framework page for details.


I’m an international student on a Tier 4 visa. How will this affect me?

Remaining in the UK: If you are remaining in the UK, remote supervision meetings and participation in online workshops can count as engagement points as follows:

  • For supervision meetings, please use the ‘Supervision meetings’ tab on PhD Manager to enter the meeting notes. Once your supervisor has approved them, this will count as an engagement point.
  • Participation in online workshops hosted by Brighton Doctoral College can count as an engagement point. Please book your place on PhD Manager as usual, join in the online workshop and we will mark your attendance.
  • Participation in external online workshops can count as engagement point. You will need to write up notes about the session and enter onto PhD Manager for your supervisors approval

Left/leaving the UK: The University will continue sponsorship of international students who are leaving the UK and students can return to the UK on their current visa. If you have returned or intend to return to your home country, please keep in regular contact with your supervisor wherever possible and register your monthly engagement on PhD Manager. If this presents difficulties, please do notify your RSA. If you are leaving the UK, please let the Doctoral College and Student Visa Compliance teams know in advance.

Details of financial support available for all students, including international, can be found in question 19 below.

[Updated 17/04]


Are there any online workshops available to support my learning and research skills development?  

In mid-March, we took the decision to cancel all face-to-face PRDP workshops for the remainder of this academic year. We are developing online replacements and at present can confirm the following workshops will be delivered remotely: Preparing for your Primary APR; Preparing for your Secondary APR; Preparing for Viva; Academic Writing Skills; Research Ethics and Integrity; Nvivo training; English Language Support.

If you have booked onto a session you will be contacted with details. If you wish to join a session, visit our PRDP online page or check out online workshops on PhD Manager. Please note, we don’t yet have all session details confirmed but hope to do so shortly.

We also have other online resources available such as a video archive of our research masterclass series and links to external and other UoB resources. See our online training page.


What happens if I have a placement or internship arranged?

For those of you undertaking or due to undertake placements with an external organisation please contact the organisation as soon as possible to find out about the guidance their staff are being required to follow in response to COVID-19. Please then follow the external organisation’s guidance in your interactions with them. If this disrupts your placement please contact your supervisor and the Doctoral College to discuss how to manage this disruption.


I was due to attend an external conference or similar event and it has been cancelled or postponed. What should I do?

If you have already paid for the event, please talk to the organisers/company directly about a refund. If you have any questions about any aspect of attendance at an external conference or similar event, please contact the Doctoral College in the first instance. We will be able to advise you on what to do next including how you can repay any refunds, how to carry over the funding options, using Research Training Support Grants and applying to the Research Student Conference Support Fund this year and next year.


Can I book travel or accommodation now for a conference or event taking place later in the year?

In line with government advice, no travel or accommodation should be booked, internationally or in the UK, until further notice. We will not be able to reimburse any travel or accommodation costs booked during the current period. [New FAQ 17/04]


What’s happening to this year’s Festival of Postgraduate Research?

Again, in mid-March we took the decision to postpone our annual celebration of doctoral research. When life starts to become more normal and our human connections less screen-based, we’ll think about how we can bring our doctoral community together in-person. In the meantime, and together with schools, we’ll be exploring options for online interactions and community building. Doing a PhD is often isolating – and now more so than ever. We want to keep in touch with you all and hope you’ll want to keep in touch with us and with each other.


How can I obtain equipment and other items (eg eBooks) I need for my research to continue from home?  

We have set up the Doctoral Resources Fund (DRF) to support those of you who need to obtain equipment and other items to allow your research to continue at home. Schools have been asked to make funds available to support their doctoral students in purchasing small items such as headphones, printer ink and paper. If you wish to seek support from the DRF please contact your School Postgraduate Research Coordinator who will guide you on how to apply. If your PGRC is not available please contact your Deputy Head of School for research who will assist you. We ask you to follow the same guidance that has been given to University staff which is please do not purchase any items yourself and seek reimbursement via expenses. Schools will not provide approval for purchases via this method. Where possible we will arrange for items purchased for you via your school’s DRF to be delivered to your home. If you require larger items of equipment, such as laptops, it may be possible to borrow these. Please contact your School Postgraduate Research Coordinator who will advise you on the process for borrowing laptops. (Please note, the university has a similar, limited resources and equipment central fund available during CV-19 called ‘The Student Fund’. Our own DRF effectively replaces this element of the central fund for doctoral students. Any applications to ‘The Student Fund’ will be redirected to our own fund so don’t worry if you have applied there.)

Some of you have made enquiries about buying eBooks for your research and enhanced access to Jstor and other online resources. The good news is that many publishers, including Jstor, are offering extended access during CV-19. In addition, the University library has purchased 20,000 extra eBook titles in the last two weeks. You can find details of the library’s regular catalogue and extended provision on our library services page.

eBooks have to be purchased from library budgets. If you need an eBook or enhanced access to online resources please discuss this first with your supervisor to obtain their support for the purchase Please then contact library staff through the ‘subject enquiries’ email address on the home page of your library subject guide. [New FAQ 17/04]


I’m struggling financially. Is there any support available for me?

CV-19 has brought additional financial pressures for a number of our students due to loss of income and additional monetary burdens. If you are struggling financially, you can find details of a range of hardship funds for all students – home, EU and international – on the university website. Since these funds have varying eligibility criteria, we recommend contacting studentadvice@brighton.ac.uk for guidance on how the University can best support you if you have financial difficulties or concerns.

You may also like to explore and subscribe to the Student Advice Services’ money blog. [New FAQ 17/04]


How do I raise an issue for discussion?

During COVID-19 and the related lockdown, the Doctoral College will be meeting with school PGR Reps on a monthly basis. If you have any questions or issues you’d like to be raised at these meetings, please contact your school representative. [New FAQ 24/04]


I may need to take time off for compassionate reasons. Who do I talk to?

We recognise, particularly at this time, that you may need to take a break in your studies for compassionate reasons. If you would like to discuss the possibility of a suspension, please talk with your supervisory team and your PGRC who will be closely aware of your circumstances. This can be done in confidence. We are, of course, very happy for you to contact us in the Doctoral College and if you are an international student or are funded we will be able to advise you and your supervisors on any particular issues you might need to be aware of as you make your decision. [NEW FAQ 09/06]


Last updated 10 June 2020

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