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Covid-19 impact and Doctoral Researchers

Professor Stephen Shute, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources)

Today (29 May), Pro Vice-Chancellor Stephen Shute wrote to all Postgraduate Researchers with an update in light of the Covid-19 situation and an invitation to join a PGR Open Forum on 11 June. You can read the email below.


Dear Doctoral Researcher

Following my email at the start of this month I am in touch again to check in with our PGR community and provide some updates.

As I have mentioned, we understand that as Doctoral Researchers you are in a unique position, juggling your studies, often alongside teaching responsibilities, and the challenges of now researching away from campus if possible to do so. Thanks to all of you who helped to organise and participated in the recent virtual PGR Forum, which reiterated these and other issues you are experiencing. The report from this meeting, written up by your peers, is now feeding into our formal Doctoral committees.

I also acknowledge the initial findings of the nationwide Vitae Smarten survey on Covid-19's impact on PGRs and Early Career Researchers. I expect that many of you completed this survey, and we await the full results when the survey closes. The University is aware of these issues and takes them very seriously.

We know those of you who are international PGRs are experiencing specific issues, too. International PGRs will have heard from the Research Student Administration Office last week and there will be more information from 1 June on your options regarding breaks in study. I want to reassure you that while you should have already been in touch with the University regarding your location, there are no new or additional risks to your immigration status. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your visa, our International Student Support team is available to help.

To ensure all PGRs have the additional opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the University Executive, I will be hosting a PGR Open Forum on Thursday 11 June with Director of Research and Enterprise, Sue Angulatta and Director of the Sussex Doctoral School, Professor George Kemenes. This will take place from 1pm to 2pm via Zoom and you can register using this Eventbrite link. I hope to see many of you there.

Later in the month, from 15-19 June, the Doctoral School will be holding the Festival of Doctoral Research online. Though we can’t meet in person, it’s more important than ever this year to bring our doctoral community together and celebrate the research taking place at Sussex. The programme offers something for everyone, from the Three-Minute Thesis (which I am hoping to be able to judge), research poster and research photograph competitions to Finishing Your Doctorate panels, a selection of RDP workshops and a Library Wikipedia Editathon. I encourage you to get involved.

I am also pleased to share that the Spring Researcher-Led Initiative funds have been awarded, and the Doctoral School will be supporting nine diverse projects from researchers across the University. These include an important initiative from Kamillia Kasbi (Life Sciences) highlighting BAME role models for STEM researchers, and a particularly timely initiative from the Hive Scholars to hold Tea & Talk online wellbeing sessions accompanied by care packages for PGRs who may be feeling isolated. You can read about all the successful projects on the Doctoral Connections blog.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and there remains much going on at Sussex and nationally to support PGR mental health and wellbeing. Sussex’s U-DOC project, which reported in January, undertook vital research into supporting the mental health of doctoral researchers. Their suggested self-care strategies poster may be particularly useful to any researchers feeling overwhelmed at this time. Two wellbeing workshops, Looking After Yourself During Your PhD and Creating A PhD Online Support Group, will run during the Festival. This recent Doctoral Connections blog post links to many resources that you may find helpful as we continue to make our way through the Covid-19 crisis. And please remember that the Student Life Centre is a service available to you and the first point of contact if you are struggling.

All best wishes


Pro Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Shute

Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Friday, 29 May 2020

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