Latest updates

Update for doctoral researchers - 22 April

Dear Doctoral Researchers

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back after the Easter break and provide a summary of the recent changes that have taken place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that you find the information below helpful.

I would also like to thank the DR Presidents’ Team, Tom and Rieman for quickly surveying our doctoral researcher population before Easter, and for the 21% of our doctoral researcher community who responded. The information has been shared with us and provides valuable insights into how the pandemic is affecting some of our researchers.

Day to day work: We hope that by now you have had opportunities to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your PhD with your supervisors and have been able to make adjustments to your research whilst we are in a period of remote working. We encourage you to keep a record of these discussions in your monthly supervisor meeting notes and to discuss any changes or challenges with them as soon as possible. We also ask you to be mindful of the fact your supervisors are also experiencing many of the same challenges and it is important that we foster a supportive environment as we continue to work through the pandemic.

The University is constantly reviewing the situation with regard to laboratories being closed. We cannot yet put a timescale against the reopening of labs and for this reason we advise you and your supervisors to make contingency plans extending over several months. There are other circumstances where contingency plans of a similar duration are required, such as research requiring fieldwork or studies with human participants.

If you are concerned that suitable adjustments are not possible, or have not been put in place, we ask that you speak to your supervisor, or DDP as soon as possible. Together, we must make it our aim to keep any delays to you completing your PhD to an absolute minimum so that you can move on to the next stage of your career as smoothly as possible.

We are not expecting Doctoral Researchers to take a leave of absence unless they are experiencing exceptional personal circumstances, or are taking up a formal role as part of the national response to the pandemic. If you feel any of these situations apply to you, please speak to your supervisors in the first instance.

Financial hardship: If you are experiencing immediate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, for example the loss of a part time job, you can find more information on the University’s hardship fund here:https://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/sass/finance/hf/

Formal progression requirements: We will be following the standard schedule for progression board dates as far as possible and you should aim to submit your report in time for the next Board, as advised by your School. 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. To relieve pressure on NHS staff, we have suspended the requirement to submit medical evidence so you SHOULD NOT request evidence from the University Medical Centre or from any other medical service to support such a claim.

Stipend payments: For those in receipt of stipend payments these will continue to be paid throughout any period of remote working.

If you require a short absence from your studies (up to one month) as a result of COVID-19 your stipend will be paid as usual (please see the Code of Practicefor more information on short absences).

If you become unwell and are eligible for sick pay, this will be paid up to a period of 13 weeks (maximum per 12 month period).

Some students may find themselves unable to engage with their studies for a period of over a month. With the facility to work remotely we hope that this will be rare, however should you find yourself in this situation please alert the Doctoral College Office and your School Administrator as soon as possible so we can discuss your specific circumstances. We will seek to support you wherever possible, but it may be necessary for you to take a formal leave of absence and for stipend payments to be suspended during this period.

Stipend extensions: If you are in receipt of a stipend paid from the University, you will know that we have elected to continue to make full stipend payments to you during the current disruption. As a consequence, you should not expect a stipend extension at the end of your funded period. For UKRI-funded students only, UKRI’s guidance does allow stipend extensions in some circumstances, especially for current final year students. Schools are currently undertaking an analysis of the impact of the pandemic on the progression of individual students. If you have been severely impacted by the pandemic and think you are eligible, you should speak to your supervisor in the first instance.

Thesis submission: We are not currently accepting hard copy theses. Until further notice, all theses will need to be submitted electronically. Please emailpgresearch@lboro.ac.uk when you are ready to submit and we will send you further details of the electronic submission process.

Remote arrangements for vivas: We are permitting vivas to take place using video conferencing software and have produced some guidance which can be found on the Doctoral College website. Some Doctoral Researchers have opted to defer their viva instead. If you wish to do this please can you let us know by contacting pgresearch@lboro.ac.uk so that we can verify this is your preferred option.

Tuition fees: Research, supervision and assessment are continuing, and therefore no refund of tuition fees is intended. This is in line with the government advice which has stated that students ordinarily should not expect any fee refund if they are receiving adequate remote support. Those taking a leave of absence will have their tuition fee statements adjusted accordingly.

Extension fees: In recognition of the disruption Doctoral Researchers and their supervisors have experienced over the past few weeks as we moved to remote working, we will be able to offer some extension fee waivers.

If your submission date falls between now and the 30 June 2020 and you require an extension of NO LONGER than three months, an extension fee will not be charged.

Please note any extension requests for a period starting after 30 June 2020, or any requests for periods exceeding three months, should follow the formal extension process and will be subject to the standard extension fees. From 1 July 2020 onwards we are currently planning to revert to standard practice for extension requests for all students and full extension fees will apply. (These dates may be subject to review as the situation develops further). Please contact your School Administrator in the first instance to discuss your extension request.

Visas: It is important that all students, including those holding a Tier 4 visa, continue to hold regular monthly meetings with their supervisors via remote working and that a record of these is kept on Co-Tutor.

If you are a Tier 4 visa holder and have returned home and have not yet notified us please do so by contacting pgresearch@lboro.ac.uk as soon as possible. Please can you also ensure that your current home address is up to date by using the Self-Service portal.

If you have a Tier 4 visa you will receive a separate email by the end of the week outlining further key points you should be aware of.

Training and Development: We are looking at online provision, including moving the Summer Showcase online, and adding to our remote resources portal. If you have resources that could be shared online, whether personal, professional or research-related, please feel free to contact us at the email address doctoralcollege@lboro.ac.uk. We will continue to monitor the situation and the impact on our researchers, and will be doing what we can to provide support for you at this time.

Wellbeing: We recognise that this is a period of considerable uncertainty and that you may be feeling more anxious. Your concerns on mental wellbeing came through strongly in the DR Presidents’ survey results. Your mental health and wellbeing is our primary concern and the University is committed to supporting you. Resources available to you include the remote learning portal for Doctoral Researchers and the Yellow book, and you can also continue to access mental health support via Student Services. Please also keep in regular contact with your Supervisory team.

We also urge you to look after each other, especially if you have friends or co-workers who you know are feeling worried or who you think might be feeling worried. Calls, texts and video-chat are all easy and effective ways to keep in touch and enjoy some time in the company of others.

With best wishes

Professor Liz Peel, APVC Doctoral College