Online APR guidance for all participants

Groynes on beach

Annual Progress Reviews (APRs) are currently taking place online. This page offers some guidance and advice regarding online APRs and their conduct given the COVID-19 situation and ongoing lockdown.

Please also see our general APR guidance.

The Doctoral College recognises that all Postgraduate Researchers’ doctoral projects will be affected by the coronavirus crisis, and forthcoming online APRs will need to take this into account. In some cases, lockdown will have prevented normal research activities taking place, and will have had an impact on restarting research activity. In other cases, less research activity than planned will have been possible. Many projects may be in the process of, or have already, shifted to online data collection. In addition to the practicalities of research changing and thus affecting progress, many people may have been experiencing anxiety and stress related to the current situation.

As with face-to-face APRs, these should be productive meetings that are helpful to Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) in taking their projects forward. We anticipate, therefore, that in addition to assessing progress made during the year to date, the meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss and confirm changes already agreed with the supervisory team and/or to explore ongoing challenges and potential ways forward for the project. The online APR is an opportunity to be creative, to share advice and good practice, and to consider plans and goals.

The APR will still result in a decision regarding progress being made, and the options remain unchanged. However, given the current circumstances the APR may be a more discursive exercise rather than focused on judging progression alone. The APR is also an opportunity to formally record how projects have been delayed by the pandemic, and this formal record may be used in future applications for extensions or as mitigating circumstances. (This may be in two or three years’ time, so accurate reporting at the online APRs of delays caused by the pandemic is important.) The Readers’ APR report will note if PGRs have raised this in the Progression Reports they submitted for the APR.

Process

Online APRs should take place as scheduled, but where attendance of supervisors was optional, the Doctoral College now strongly recommends that at least one supervisor attends the online APR. This does, however, remain at the discretion of the PGR. In addition to offering support to the PGR after the APR has finished, supervisors will be able to note any advice or suggestions regarding changes to plans. Where appropriate, supervisors can be invited to comment in the normal way.

Online APRs will take place using Microsoft Teams, and it remains the responsibility of the first supervisor to arrange the APR meeting. The supervisor will set up the APR in Teams a week in advance of the scheduled meeting, notifying all participants, and we recommend that they hold a practice meeting with the PGR to ensure familiarity with the software and online format.

Conduct of the meeting

The APR will start with a pre-meeting between the two readers, then the APR itself which will start with the APR readers inviting the PGR and supervisor to join them. At the end of the APR meeting the PGR and supervisor will be asked to leave while the readers deliberate, then invited back to the Teams space for the decision and further discussion if appropriate.

Online APRs should not last longer than 90 minutes.

Problems with the technology should be raised immediately – it is quite likely that participants may not hear something being said, may lose video, or both. Please make other participants aware of any issues as they arise.

May 2020

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