Information for postgraduate researchers

This information applies to all research students, ie those on MA/MSc by Research, MPhil and PhD programmes, and for supervisors, graduate research administrators and other staff supporting the PG researchers. In addition to the information provided here, the York Graduate School homepage contains links to all current information relating to the PG Research experience.

We are updating these pages as the situation develops, so please check them regularly.

You should also consult these official sources of information:

Thesis submission and examination

Thesis submission and examination have been moved online.

Online viva guidance

Until 31 October 2020, vivas are to take place via an online platform. If this isn’t possible, or if you would rather delay until a physical meeting is possible, you can request an extension via your Department. Any delay between the submission of the thesis and the viva, however, will not be grounds for appeal in this case. Please contact your Department if you need further information.

The Graduate School has developed student guidance for online vivas and guidance on conducting final vivas for research degrees during the COVID-19 outbreak. We suggest you look at this information before deciding whether it is right for you.

Submitting your thesis

York already accepts electronic submission of theses and you should work towards the existing deadline. Refer to the guidance on submitting your thesis on the Graduate School web pages. If your deadline is within the next three months and you are not able to meet it due to the current situation, please refer to our extensions guidance

Supervision and formal academic progress

Supervision meetings should continue remotely. Your Department will let you know if you are to have a formal review of progress.

Online supervision guidance

During the period of home working, the work to be done should be discussed and agreed between you and your supervisor(s) as usual, including agreed targets/milestones and meetings (including TAP meetings). A normal schedule of supervision/line management should be maintained via video-conferencing or telephone, as appropriate. Even if progress on your research is very limited, it is important to maintain contact and keep a record of meetings. Any documents should be shared electronically in advance so that the time can be used to best effect (in the case of TAP meetings, these should be attached to the TAP preparation form in SkillsForge). All formal supervision and TAP meetings should continue to be recorded in SkillsForge. For more information, visit our working from home page.

If your primary supervisor is unavailable

Many of our PGRs have at least two supervisors. If you do not, then one of your independent internal Thesis Advisory Panel members can cover for your supervisor. If you have any concerns, please contact your Department, or you can also contact the Student Hub for pastoral support.

Review of progress procedure

The following exceptional process, which has been put in place in direct response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, applies to all research students with a progression deadline between 23 March and 31 October 2020. If the COVID-19 pandemic extends beyond July, this date range will be extended accordingly.

First attempts

If you have a first attempt at progression within the above stated time frame, your Department will consider the available evidence and determine whether or not you will be automatically progressed. If, setting aside the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, your Department has existing and significant concerns about your progress, then you will still have your progression review, but in a slightly modified way. If this applies to you, you will receive information from your Department on the next steps in due course.

Decisions will be considered on a rolling basis, three months out from the institutional deadline. So, Departments will be asked to make decisions about students with a deadline before the end of June by the end of March, by the end of April for those with a deadline before the end of July, and so on. You will be notified of the decision, at the latest, within a week of the decision deadline (e.g. by 7 April for decisions due by the end of March for students with a progression deadline before the end of June). Your Department may be able to make the decision earlier.

Second attempts

If you have a second attempt at progression within the above stated time frame, your second attempt will, as far as possible, proceed as planned. The meeting will take place via video-conferencing. If you or any or your panel are unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an extension can be requested (see guidance on extensions).

Deciding who needs to have a formal review of progress

The Graduate Chair (or their nominated deputy) is responsible for determining if you should be progressed automatically or subject to a formal review of progress.

The Graduate Chair will make this decision based on the available evidence which may include (where available) supervision reports, TAP reports, and a supervisor’s report. Drawing on this evidence, the Graduate Chair will decide if, given the exceptional circumstances we are in, you should be progressed automatically.

If there are reasonable grounds for significant concerns about the progress you are making with your research project and/or your engagement with the research programme (and that these are unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic), then you will need to have a formal review of progress. Your department will be clear about the reasons you are subject to a formal review of progress and will support you through the process. You can also seek support from the GSA.

In the case of second and third year students only, your Graduate Chair may choose to postpone a review of progress for three months if there are concerns about the progress of your research project (unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic) and you could easily address those concerns within three months.

Your research

This is a period of unprecedented change in the global university sector with an almost complete move to online teaching and homeworking. We are fully aware that research which needs access to physical resources will be halted by this change, but we encourage everyone to do what they can given the restrictions they are under. The University’s IT infrastructure and digital resources are being enhanced to cope with expected demand.

Access to laboratory work

All but the most essential parts of the University are closed from 5pm on Wednesday 25 March. If you haven’t been given explicit permission to access a laboratory or other building, you should assume it is closed until further notice. Please see the email from the Registrar to staff and research students sent on 25 March and the email from the VC to staff and research students sent on 11 May.

The University's Research Contingency Group is actively planning a phased re-opening of research facilities when lockdown is eased. The interests of PGRs are represented on this group and it has been agreed unanimously that in all such decisions, access for PGRs will be considered alongside research staff.

If your ability to carry on with your research is affected by COVID-19, you should still try to stay in contact with your supervisor and record the disruption in the supervision meeting notes in SkillsForge.

In some cases, especially if you are self-funding or have left the country in order to be with family, it may be most appropriate to take a Leave of Absence. Current UKVI guidance allows you to take up to six months Leave of Absence without that affecting your student visa - see the information for Tier 4 students.

If you are nearing the end of your programme and have been affected by COVID-19, you can apply for an extension to your submission deadline. You should do this three months before your current deadline. We have simplified and accelerated that process - see the question below.

Research that has been severely disrupted

If your ability to carry on with your research is affected by COVID-19, you should try to stay in contact with your supervisor and record the disruption in the supervision meeting notes in SkillsForge. You should consider taking a Leave of Absence, but if that is not possible or appropriate, you should do what you can. We will consider extension requests on a case by case basis through the normal process, with compassion and understanding about how this has affected us all. You do not need to address this until three months before your deadline. We will make special provisions to deal with Leave of Absence and Extension requests related to COVID-19 quickly and with minimal evidence requirements.

Extensions if you are unwell

If you are unwell for less than a month:

For many research students, a shorter period of illness can be accommodated within the contingency provided by the continuation period, and the project adjusted as necessary. If that is not possible in your case, you can apply for an extension later. Please keep your Department informed, and keep records of the disruption to your research to aid that application.

If you are unwell for a month or more:

If you are more than three months away from your submission deadline, you should follow the normal sickness procedures and apply for a leave of absence - this will automatically extend your deadlines.

If you are unable to apply for or take a leave of absence, you should keep a record of the extent of your illness and its impact on your research and apply for an extension later. You should also alert your supervisor and/or Department that this is your intention.

If you are within three months of your deadline, you should apply for an extension to your submission deadline.

I have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and this has had an impact on my academic work, will I get an extension to my submission deadline?

If you are within three months of the deadline and need an extension to your submission, resubmission (if you have been asked by the examiners to revise your thesis) or corrections deadline because you have been affected by COVID-19, all you need to do is complete the COVID-19 contingency: PGR extension request form so that we know who you are and how you have been affected.

Requests for up to three months will be approved by Research Student Administration within five working days. Requests for longer extensions will need to be referred to the Special Cases Committee, which meets monthly.

Read full details of the PGR Special Cases: Contingency Measures.

Why must I wait until three months before the deadline?

We want to give you the extension appropriate to your individual circumstances and, if your deadline is more than three months away, it won’t be possible to tell how big the impact has been upon you.

Does my supervisor or anyone else need to support the extension request?

Your supervisor and Department will not be asked to support your extension request if it relates to COVID-19. They will be informed when your deadline changes.

If the request is for more than three months, we will contact your supervisor and ask them to comment.

Do I need to provide evidence of how I have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to get an extension?

In the following circumstances you will not be asked to provide evidence. However, we do still want you to tell us how bad the impact is so that we can give you an Extension which is appropriate to your individual circumstances.

  1. Illness with symptoms of COVID-19 (or similar symptoms).
  2. Other illness, but where obtaining medical evidence is not currently possible (i.e. since the University has advised students NOT to go to their GP solely to get evidence).
  3. Circumstances in the student’s domestic situation are challenging, e.g. some member(s) of family are ill or self-isolating, caring responsibilities, etc.
  4. Lack of access to required research facilities and/or resources (e.g. laboratories, libraries/archives (where online alternatives are insufficient), computing facilities, etc) and/or other COVID-19 related difficulties in undertaking necessary data collection (e.g. due to travel restrictions and/or social distancing requirements);
  5. Unavailability of the supervisor due to COVID-19, and the department is unable to provide suitable cover (e.g. a second supervisor or appropriate TAP member);
  6. Additional paid or voluntary work requirements due to COVID-19.
  7. Other severe impact of COVID-19 (e.g. on mental health, interaction with existing disability, etc).

Note that the above also applies to requests for Leave of Absence.

I cannot access the Google form, how do I ask for an extension?

If you cannot access the form because you are in a country where access to Google is restricted, we advise you to use the University VPN https://www.york.ac.uk/it-services/services/vpn/.

If you cannot do that, or you become too unwell to complete the form yourself, someone else may complete it on your behalf. If someone completes the form on your behalf, you will receive an email notification to your University email account.

Continuation fees for extensions

No continuation fees have been charged since 1 January 2020 and we guarantee none will be charged between 1 January 2020 and 31 October 2020. Emails confirming extensions have been changed to remove any reference to continuation fees.

For more information see Continuation fees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting your mental health

Just as important as keeping a structured workload is looking after yourself. Make sure you’re taking regular breaks through the day and schedule in days off. Here’s a list of some of the support and wellbeing initiatives currently in place:

  • Check the health and wellbeing pages for a wide-range of resources, including coronavirus: looking after your mental health and wellbeing.
  • You also have a range of specific resources for research students on the Graduate Research School support and wellbeing page, including access to ‘The Wellbeing Thesis’ online tool.
  • Check out the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Keep Home and Carry On campaign – providing online support and ideas on how to stay in touch.
  • Contribute to and make use of the student-led PhD Survival Project.
  • Contact our Postgraduate Research Liaison Officer, Jamie Khoo,with ideas on how we can support and bring together research students from across the University. Email her at PGR-liaison-officer@york.ac.uk.
  • Eat well and be kind to yourself. Don’t place undue pressure on yourself. For 24/7 online support, see the service for York students, Big White Wall. Meditation apps like HeadSpace and Insight Timer may also be helpful (charges may apply, read before you download).

Keep an eye on the Graduate Research School newsletter and blog for further updates.

Funding and financial support

Emergency Student Support Fund

With thanks to our community of donors from alumni, staff, friends and supporters of the York Unlimited philanthropic campaign, we have set up an Emergency Student Support Fund (COVID-19).

This provides financial support of up to £500 (per applicant) for students facing unanticipated financial challenges.

The fund helps students with housing and food costs, travel expenses, technology costs associated with online learning, and other financial challenges.

In the first three rounds, we received a high volume of applications and more than 600 students received emergency support. Applications were carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis against core criteria, and all applicants have been contacted directly by email, which included details of other sources of support and financial assistance.

The fourth round of our Emergency Student Support Fund opened at 2pm on Wednesday 3 June and will close at 2pm on Wednesday 10 June.

The fund is being supported through donations from alumni, staff, friends and supporters of the University. If you would like to find out more and donate, visit our fundraising page. Thank you.

Stipends and sick pay

All PGRs in receipt of a stipend through the University will continue to be paid as normal. If the remote working period covers the date when you return from leave of absence, you need to contact your Department to ensure that stipend payments are restarted. If you do not receive your stipend, please contact your Department in the first instance.

In the case of short-term, self-limiting illnesses lasting less than four weeks, the expectation is that the period of absence is accommodated within the registered period of study. If you are in receipt of a stipend, this will continue to be paid during a short-term illness, but the continuation of funding beyond four weeks will vary by funder:

  • UKRI allow up to 13 weeks paid sick leave and you should notify your Department as soon as possible if you are ill for longer than four weeks.
  • The terms and conditions for other funders may vary with respect to sick pay, so you should also check your funder's terms and conditions if you are not UKRI or University funded.

In either case, if your illness lasts longer than four weeks, you should apply for a Leave of Absence.

Student Support Fund eligibility

Students within their examination period would normally not be eligible for assistance from the Student Support Fund. However, we are accepting applications from students in their examination period who have been affected by COVID-19 and who require financial assistance with any living costs, up to a maximum of £3,000. Applications are assessed on a case by case basis and awards are not guaranteed.

Students within their continuation period (sometimes called 'writing up') are eligible to apply to the Student Support Fund. Under normal circumstances, students within their continuation period would only be assessed for a maximum award of £330. However, if you have been affected by COVID-19 during your continuation period, we will assess your application for an award of up to £3,000 to assist you with any living costs. Applications are assessed on a case by case basis and awards are not guaranteed.

I'm worried about my funding

We're engaging with funders where we can, and we are also working through established mission groups such as the Russell Group and Universities UK to ensure that the needs of our postgraduate research community are understood and responded to. Read our email update for more information.

International students

If you are worried about your visa status

Please see our information for Tier 4 students

International travel

If you are due to go to a placement or international conference

Students who teach

Pay for research student who teaches

Provided you have accepted the booking on Dashboard you will still be paid for any work no longer required as a result of the University being required to restrict operations.

If you have accepted a drawdown booking we will check with your department how many hours they anticipated you would work while the University is operating in a limited capacity and you will be paid for these hours.

Please note that this is only in relation to COVID-19.

Professional development and training

The Research Excellence Training (RET) Team are moving all training for Summer Term 2020 online (via Zoom, Google Meet and through webinars). Resources and slides will be made accessible to participants in advance coupled with an online session/discussion at the time scheduled. If, for whatever reason, the session cannot be delivered, the resources will be made available to participants to enable self-directed learning. The RET Team will use this period to evaluate the effectiveness of online learning and refine future provision to best serve students and staff. See An Update on PGR Training and Support and check further updates on the Research Student Community blog.

Additional contacts