Information for doctoral researchers

We understand our doctoral research community will be concerned about COVID-19 and the impact of enhanced social distancing and safety measures on their studies.

We're committed to adapting our services and operations to ensure doctoral researchers have access to the information, guidance and support needed to progress through these uncertain times.

A special message for Doctoral Researchers

Together with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Allison, Professor Liz Peel (Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Doctoral College)) shares a special message for doctoral researchers in light of recent challenges.

Now more than ever, it is important to maintain regular and open communication with your supervisors. If you have not yet spoken to your supervisors about the current situation, please contact them without delay.

The coronavirus guidance for staff applies equally to doctoral researchers. Please read this information carefully and familiarise yourself with the latest guidance and advice. If you have any queries, please contact your supervisors or email Loughborough Doctoral College if your query relates to your training or development.

Frequently asked questions

I am in financial hardship, what should I do?

If you are experiencing financial difficulty we encourage you to contact the Student Advice and Support Service for an appointment.

They can assist you in ensuring you are receiving all the statutory support that they may be entitled to, which in some cases will include doctoral loans or welfare benefits. They can also signpost you to relevant charitable trusts, help address debts, and if required, assist with your budgeting for the year.  

They can also advise as to whether you may be eligible for support from the University’s hardship fund.

If you are a UK or EU student living in England, you may be eligible to apply for a UK Government doctoral loan to support the cost of your studies (up to £26,445 in the 2020/21 academic year). The loan is suitable for full-time and part-time postgraduate research students undertaking programmes lasting up to eight years. Loan repayments will begin after you have completed your programme and have an annual income of over £21,000. Students from Wales also have access to government funding for postgraduate study.

When can I return to campus?

You should work from home if you are able to do so and should only come to campus if you cannot conduct your research activities off campus. Research facilities, including laboratories study spaces and studios will remain open. Where working on campus has a positive impact on your wellbeing (for example because you do not have adequate space at home to work), you may also work from campus for some of your time. Please speak to your supervisors in the first instance, so that appropriate arrangements can be put in place to ensure effective social distancing can be maintained.

If you do have to work on campus, doctoral researchers are required to take a free and rapid Covid-19 lateral flow test on return. This will help us to avoid importing cases of Covid onto our campuses. You can book a test via the Connect and Protect form.

If you have medically diagnosed underlying health conditions, over seventy or pregnant, you should work remotely in accordance with UK government guidelines and the University guidelines for staff.

My research involves in-person data collection, or travel outside of the UK. What should I do?

  1. Investigations involving human participants

    Human participant work is starting to recommence on campus. You should

    1. Obtain ethical approval as normal (if approval had already been given before lockdown then proceed to step 2)
    2. Produce a risk assessment for the human participant work, including Covid19 associated risks and social distancing measures and safety controls
    3. All human participant work that can be carried out virtually MUST not be carried out in person (for example questionnaires) during National Lockdown/Tier 3 and 4
    4. Once step 1 and 2 have been approved, the approval is made by the Dean of the School
      • These risk assessments need to be produced for all human participant research even if the work is classed as low risk such as carrying out questionnaires, surveys and where necessary one-to-ones. 
      • Risk assessments should be signed off by your School Safety Officer and then sent to Julie Turner, SSDO J.M.Turner@lboro.ac.uk for H&S review. This is a temporary extra measure during the current situation and we will eventually revert back to School Safety officer review only.

    For low level human participant work just involving questionnaires, interviews etc the generic risk assessment template can be used. 

    For all other human participant work, the normal biological or School laboratory risk assessment will need to be used.

    Travel outside of the UK

    Doctoral researchers who wish to travel against FCO advice in order to conduct research outside of the UK will be required to complete a disclaimer. If this applies please email pgresearch@lboro.ac.uk for further information.

     

How will my progression be affected?

Doctoral researchers across our community have experienced disruption to normal working practices since the first lockdown. We have encouraged you to work with your supervisors to mitigate such disruption by reorganising tasks or adjusting your research programme wherever possible. To date, we have seen a range of creative and innovative solutions deployed so your research programme can progress to its original schedule.

If your personal circumstances, including caring responsibilities, or the nature of your research, mean that you have not been able to change your project plan or you feel your progression has been significantly impacted, you may submit a mitigating circumstances form at the time of your next progression review board.

As social distancing will remain in place for the foreseeable future you should be prepared to continue to apply contingency planning, wherever possible, to your research and thesis. In some cases, contingency plans may span the entire duration if your PhD and involve some fundamental changes to your approach or methods.

While this represents a huge challenge for doctoral researchers and their supervisors this adaptability should help keep delays to the PhD to an absolute minimum, so that you can move on to the next stage of your career as smoothly as possible.

How will my stipend be affected?

If you are in receipt of a stipend and actively registered, the University will continue to pay your stipend. The Doctoral College is also pleased to confirm that some funds have been made available to support doctoral researchers who have experienced significant disruption to their progression as a result of the pandemic. Enhanced awards are available for those with caring responsibilities.

Awards will be allocated to eligible students following the Progression Boards in July and October 2020 and January and April 2021. You do not need to prepare anything in addition in order to be considered for an award. We will review the progression board outcome and any mitigating circumstances claim that you submit and will contact you after the Board if you are eligible for additional support.

Information for UKRI-funded students is accessible here: https://www.ukri.org/news/coronavirus-impact-on-ukri-supported-research/

How will I complete my viva?

Online vivas have become standard practice since the first lockdown and, currently, for the majority of cases we expect vivas to continue to be held remotely with all parties joining via electronic means.  A blended model where the internal examiner and the candidate meet face to face, with the external examiner joining remotely is possible if current social distancing is observed.

If your viva is approaching, you are advised to discuss your preference with your supervisors in the first instance. Schools have been issued with further guidance on conducting vivas which you may also find useful when considering your options.

If you, or an examiner falls ill, it may be necessary to reschedule your viva. Please contact us to discuss further.

How will I submit my thesis?

We are only accepting electronic submissions until further notice. Please contact the Doctoral College Office to discuss further.

Will there be a graduation ceremony this year?

The University intends to offer all its graduates a chance to attend graduation ceremonies as soon as it is safe to do so. We will make further information available to you as restrictions start to ease.

I have concerns about my Tier 4 visa. What is the University advising?

If you are continuing your research degree, working remotely in the UK You should continue to meet your supervisors remotely or in person, according to the local guidance that is in place in your School. You should continue to ensure that your monthly meetings are recorded on Co-Tutor. We shall continue to sponsor such students who are engaging with their studies and meeting the necessary progression requirements and your visa will not be affected.

If you are continuing your research degree, working remotely from your home country We are aware of a number of students who returned home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic who have not yet returned. If you are based outside of the UK and have not yet informed us, please do so as soon as possible using the email pgresearch@lboro.ac.uk. Please can you also ensure that your current home address is up to date by using the Self-Service portal.

You should continue to meet your supervisors remotely (via video conferencing software, or telephone) and ensure that your monthly meetings are recorded on Co-Tutor. We shall continue to sponsor such students who are engaging with their studies and meeting the necessary progression requirements and your visa will not be affected.

If you hold a Student visa please note that any periods of non-engagement with your research of 30 days or more may impact on our ability to continue to sponsor your study. If you are experiencing any difficulties that mean you cannot continue with your research you must let your supervisors and the Doctoral College Office know as soon as possible, so that we can offer further guidance and support.

Please also be aware that the concessions set out in the UKVI guidance will all be kept under regular review and will be withdrawn once the situation returns to normal.

If you are unable to engage with your studies If you are currently unable to engage with your studies or are finding that your progression is being severely impacted as a result of COVID-19, it is important that you discuss your circumstances with your supervisory team as soon as possible. We hope that adjustments can be put in place that will enable you to continue with your studies, even if this means your research plan needs to be adapted. If you are considering a leave of absence, please contact the Doctoral College Office so we can discuss the potential implications on your visa status as soon as possible.

Please be reassured that, providing you continue to engage with your programme, the University will continue to sponsor you and your visa will not be affected.

If you need visa advice, you should contact the Student Advice and Support Service.

I am being threatened and abused and/or have experienced hate crime and/or discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, LGBTIQ+ status, disability, age, nationality or any other basis. What should I do?

We take all allegations of abuse and harassment very seriously. You can report the matter to the University via the Online Incident Reporting Portal, the Security team in Loughborough, at main reception at Loughborough University London or the Police. If you feel in immediate danger you should dial 999 and ask for the Police.

I have additional caring responsibilities as a result of a closure of a nursery/school/day centre or other care facility and will struggle to work productively during lockdown. What should I do?

We recognise that you might find it very difficult to work while caring for dependents, and we ask that you to do whatever you are able to do.  If you are in receipt of a stipend and continue to work on your PhD this will be maintained, at the full rate, throughout the lockdown period.

Please ensure that you keep in close contact with your supervisors during this period. If you feel you are not able to continue with your research, you should discuss this with them as soon as possible. You may wish to submit a mitigating circumstances form at the next progression board if you feel your circumstances have been exceptional and there has been significant disruption to your PhD.

Limited funding is currently available, up until July 2021, to support those who have had their progression most severely disrupted, resulting in an unsatisfactory progression outcome. Up to £2500 is available as a one-off payment, which looks most favourably on those with caring responsibilities and/or health/wellbeing impacts which have been created/exacerbated by the pandemic.

You do not need to prepare anything in addition in order to be considered for an award. We will review the progression board outcome and any mitigating circumstances claim that you submit and will contact you after the Board if you are eligible for additional support.

The Doctoral College is continuing to review funding availability and we will keep you up to date with latest developments as soon as we can.

Can I continue to take part in Doctoral College workshops and events?

All face-to-face Doctoral College workshops and events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, but a number of workshops and events are still taking place remotely, see our training events page for full details.

In addition, we have been developing online resources to enable researchers to continue their development remotely via Learn. We encourage you to seek developmental opportunities outside of a formal setting too. Please read the Doctoral College Handbook for further guidance and some examples.

What should I do if my supervisors fall ill?

If both your primary and secondary supervisor fall ill, or you are unable to contact them for a period of more than a week, please let your DDP or School administrator know so that we can check on everyone’s wellbeing.

The Doctoral College Office and Loughborough Doctoral College remain operational, albeit working largely remotely, therefore you should ideally contact us via the usual channels. Due to the volume of enquiries we are receiving there may be some delay in our response, and we ask for your patience.

Can I have a face-to-face supervision meeting?

  • Given you should work from home if you are able to do so and should only come to campus if you cannot conduct your research activities off-site, online supervision is advisable at the current time.
  • Continue to discuss how supervision takes place with your supervisors and be respectful of others’ wishes. Familiarise yourself with the University guidance on ‘How to say when it’s not OK’  
  • Although face-to-face supervision is not advisable during this third lockdown, the University is not prohibiting it if is conducted in a Covid secure way under current social distancing and health and safety advice.
  • It is important to remember that online/virtual supervision meetings should be recorded in the same way as face-to-face meetings.