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 Research School homepage contains links to all current information relating to the PG Research experience.

Conducting your research during the pandemic

Face-to-face research

For face-to-face research, the research checklist should be completed by a member of staff or postgraduate researcher carrying out the research activity. Those carrying out face-to-face research activity must read the University COVID-19 Management Procedure and University COVID-19 Risk Assessment for baseline understanding.

Working from home

Problems with conducting research

If you have concerns about the impact of new/ongoing COVID-19 restrictions (e.g. restricted access to specialist facilities, problems undertaking fieldwork) on your research project, it is vital that you, your supervisor(s) and other interested parties (e.g. TAP members, funder, Graduate Chair, or CASE partner) agree a mitigation plan to maximise the chances of your successful on-time completion. Mitigation planning should include discussion of:

  • Re-structuring the timetable of research;

  • Changing the topic, methodologies and/or emphasis of the project. For example, reduced time available in the lab or in the field might mean a new approach is required to address the research question;

  • Resource and training implications.

Your plan should be reviewed regularly as circumstances continue to evolve.

If your project cannot be reconfigured to accommodate the constraints imposed by new/ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, you will need to consider taking a leave of absence. We recognise that opting for a leave of absence will, for many, be a last resort, and it may be particularly problematic for some international students. It is not a decision to be taken lightly - or without advice - but it might be the best option for your circumstances.

We 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 eight 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 before applying for an extension?

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 six 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

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

We have extended our guarantee to waive continuation fees. No continuation fees have been charged since 1 January 2020 and we guarantee none will be charged between 1 January 2020 and 31 March 2021.

See information about continuation of studies.

Thesis submission and examination

Thesis submission and examination have been moved online.

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

Online viva guidance

Until 31 January 2021, 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 York Graduate Research 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.

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 December 2020. This deadline has been extended from an original deadline of 31 October 2020.

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.

Supporting your mental health and wellbeing

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:

Funding and financial support

You can find information about support funding and loans on our assistance funding web page.

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.

Returning to campus and alternative options

A number of postgraduate researchers (primarily international) may have difficulties returning to campus due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. If this applies to you, you must work with your department (supervisors, TAP members and Graduate Chair) to agree one of the following:

1. Temporary Remote Research (TRR)

You may apply for a period of Temporary Remote Research (TRR) if you cannot get to campus for 1 October but you believe:

  • you will be able to return to York in due course, and

  • your project is suited to a further spell of remote research.

If applicable, your funder or sponsor will need to give their consent.

Where Temporary Remote Research is approved:

  • we will ‘start the clock’ for the approval of a period of TRR from 1 October 2020 (i.e. for the purpose of TRR approval we will discount all ‘working from home’ time before this date)

  • the process for the consideration of TRR will involve a discussion between you and your supervisor(s) and the completion of a short form (to follow) which will be approved by the department (up to 4 months TRR), by the Faculty (4-6 months TRR), or by Special Cases Committee (over 6 months, up up to the permitted maximum which is normally 9 months for PhD students)

  • supervision, support arrangements, and other practical considerations will be based on TRR for new PGR students.

2. Transfer to Distance Learning variant of a PGR programme

Alternatively, you may want to transfer to a distance learning variant of your existing PGR programme, if one is available (check with your department). Unlike TRR, transfer to a distance learning programme assumes that you will not be returning to campus-based/focused research for the remainder of your period of enrolment. You will need to meet the distance learning attendance and in-person supervision requirements (see the University’s Framework for Distance Learning PGR Programmes. Your funder/sponsor, if applicable, will need to give their consent to the transfer.

3. Leave of absence

If you cannot return to campus in the Autumn Term and neither a period of Temporary Remote Research nor a transfer to a distance learning variant is suitable (for example, if your funder/sponsor’s is unwilling to accept the TRR or distance learning options), then you will need to request a leave of absence.

Next steps

If you have not already done so, the first step is to consider the options above and talk to your supervisor. If you cannot return to campus by 1 October 2020, you need to apply (with the support of your supervisor) for the option that best meets your needs. The GSA are happy to provide independent advice should you wish. Details of how to apply were emailed to all PGR students over the summer.

Additional contacts