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 hardship as a result of the pandemic, you may be eligible for support from the University’s hardship fund. Further information is available on the Student Advice and Support pages.

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?

The majority of our doctoral researchers will still need to work from home as lockdown eases, however some of our researchers have now started returning to laboratories, study spaces, and studios where appropriate social distancing measures have been put in place.

Regaining access to facilities is at the discretion of the Dean of each School. We advise that you discuss your specific circumstances with your supervisors who will be able to advise if a return to your School is possible at this time.

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. On the staff webpages, please substitute references to your line manager with your supervisors.

My research involves in-person data collection. What should I do?

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. 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, although face to face one-to-ones should still be avoided where possible.
    • 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.

How will my progression be affected?

Doctoral researchers across our community have experienced disruption to normal working practices since the beginning of 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.

As we plan for some form of social distancing to remain in place for the foreseeable future you should be prepared to continue to apply contingency planning 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 will 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. 

If your personal circumstances or the nature of your research means that you feel your progression has been significantly impacted, you may submit a mitigating circumstances form at the time of your next progression review board.

How will my stipend be affected?

Some UKRI and/or University funded students nearing the end of their funded period who have faced significant disruption may be eligible for short (up to six month) funded extensions. Given the individual nature of doctoral programmes, disruption is being monitored on a case-by-case basis, and in line with UKRI requirements.

Doctoral Researchers who are eligible based on the current criteria have been contacted by the Doctoral College already. If you have not been contacted and wish to discuss your eligibility, please contact your supervisor in the first instance.

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?

As lockdown restrictions start to ease and staff and Doctoral Researchers return to campus there is an opportunity to resume face-to-face vivas. For the majority of cases we expect vivas to continue to be held remotely with all parties joining via electronic means, or via a blended model where the internal examiner and the candidate meet face to face, with the external examiner joining remotely. In some cases it may be possible for the candidate to meet with both examiners in person. Social distancing must be observed in all scenarios.

If your viva is approaching you are advised to discuss their 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 summer graduation ceremony this year?

We have made the difficult decision to postpone the summer graduation ceremonies until April 2021. We encourage you to attend the Easter graduation ceremonies so that you, your family and your friends can celebrate your achievements together with your peers and academic supervisors.

In the meantime, the University has exciting plans to honour this year’s graduates. Follow Loughborough University on Facebook and Instagram and tune in on Wednesday 29 July 2020 for a very special surprise celebration for our 2020 graduates.

In order to formally complete your studies, there are a couple of final steps you must complete before you leave us. Visit our preparing to graduate pages for doctoral researchers for more information.

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. This includes students who have been based outside of the UK for more than 60 days. Please be aware that we are still planning on contacting all such doctoral researchers after a two month period to ensure that you are well, and to ask if you need any additional support at this difficult time.

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 Tier 4 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 under Tier 4 and your visa will not be affected. It is envisaged that this will allow the vast majority of Tier 4 students to be able to complete studies within the normal expected timescale without requiring further visa permission.

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 unexpected caring responsibilities as a result of a closure of a nursery/school/day centre or other care facility. What should I do?

If you are unable to work due to unexpected caring responsibilities, we will deem you to be working from home and you should follow the advice set out for staff who have been instructed to self-isolate.

We recognise that you might find it difficult to work while caring for dependents, and we ask you to do whatever you are able to do. 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.

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?

  • Please discuss this with your supervisors in advance and be respectful of other’s wishes. Familiarise yourself with the University guidance on ‘How to say when it’s not OK’  
  • If you can meet in person and maintain a 2m distance the meeting can proceed without face coverings, if all parties are comfortable with this.
  • If a distance of 2m cannot be maintained the meeting can proceed with face coverings, if all parties are comfortable with this.
  • Please ensure that the room is well ventilated in all cases.
  • If your School has risk assessed the space you intend to meet in, in line with Covid secure guidance, then more detailed information will be available from your School’s Health and Safety contact regarding safe occupancy levels.
  • Whilst the weather permits, you may wish to meet with your supervisor/s outside, in which case a face covering is not required.