Research Student Administration Office

Throughout your research degree

Here you'll find information for research students about the key stages and processes that occur throughout a research degree. This information can be found in full in the Handbook and Regulations for Doctoral Researchers. You may find it helpful to look at the advice and information given to research degree supervisors, as this will familiarise you with the role supervisors play in the progress of your research degree.

Key sources of support for research students
The Doctoral School

The Doctoral School

The Doctoral School is a University-wide collaboration with the aim of supporting doctoral researchers across the University, sharing our vibrant intellectual culture and helping you become part of the research community at Sussex. Specifically, it enables an institutional framework for the provision of University-wide skills training and professional development opportunities, as well as co-ordinating a regular programme of social activities and events relevant to the particular needs and interests of research students. The Doctoral School is also host to two major national doctoral training programmes, as well as monitoring the progress and assessment of all doctoral researchers. The Doctoral School is comprised of several functional units:

  • Research Student Administration Office

    Your main point of contact with all issues regarding registration, progress and examination matters should be with the Research Student Administration Office in Sussex House. The office deals with all aspects of research student administration from registration to graduation, including the production of ‘To Whom it May Concern’ letters and issuing of CAS/ATAS for international students.The Research Student Administration Office is based in Sussex House.

    The reception is open from 10.00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday.
    Enquiries may be made by phone: 01273 876550 (internal extension 6550), or email: researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk
  • Researcher Development Programme

    The experience of studying for a doctoral qualification is at once unique and shared. Your work with your supervisor or supervisory team will be at the core of your studies; however, the Doctoral School also co-ordinates a range of events to support your development as a researcher (from applying to funding to publishing your research; from the use of social media to technical support in computer-assisted qualitative data analysis). You are strongly encouraged to explore what is on offer via the Researcher Development Programme – not least for the opportunities it offers to meet other researchers and to develop interdisciplinary research networks within and beyond Sussex.

    The Researcher Development Programme provides year-round professional, research and career development workshops and events specifically for doctoral researchers at Sussex.  All our workshops are mapped to the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which describes the knowledge and skills of effective researchers. You should discuss your development needs with your supervisor on commencement of your doctorate, and by consulting the RDF will be able to identify the skills required to undertake your project. It's a good idea to review your skills on a periodic basis as you progress, and as part of your ongoing professional development.
  • Doctoral Training Partnerships

    Established by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Sussex ESRC DTC is one of a network of 21 Doctoral Training Centres in the UK. Funded by the ESRC and Sussex, the Centre provides 22 studentships each year for social science research; students join 1 of 6 interdisciplinary pathways: Understanding Behaviour; Global Social Transformations; Knowledge and Society: Well-being, Health and Communities; Citizenship, Justice and Security; Global Economic Performance.

    Sussex is also the co-ordinating institution for the Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE), one of 11 new Doctoral Training Partners with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Our partners are Courtauld Institute of Art, Essex, Goldsmiths, Kent, Open University and UEA; together we expect to support over 375 doctoral students in the arts and humanities over the period of the AHRC award, with our first intake in October 2014.
  • Funding

    The Doctoral School Funding page has details of support available to researchers wishing to collaborate with other research organisations, undertake international study visits, present at overseas conferences and engage with potential employers.
  • Sussex Research Hive

    The Sussex Research Hive is the Library's designated area for researchers, open to all doctoral researchers and research staff. It provides private study areas, bookable meeting rooms and space for information discussion and collaborative work. SAGE Publications have given funding to support both the Research Hive and the Library's innovative work in engaging with the research community at Sussex. Three Research Hive Scholars support the area whilst engaging with and fostering the research community at Sussex. The Scholars are on hand in the Hive to talk about the support available to researchers and to find out what users want from their research community. These hours are advertised in the Research Hive and on the Research Hive events calendar.
Support within schools

Support within Schools

When you register for a research degree at Sussex, you will be based in one of our 11 Schools of study. The Schools form the academic heart of the University, driving forward academic development in research and teaching and fostering an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Each School provides a stimulating and supportive environment in which you will flourish supervised by staff at the forefront of their fields. Many of our Schools bring together related departments, capitalising on the connections between subjects to deliver new and exciting opportunities for research students and faculty. Student representatives ensure there is a strong connection between student opinion and how each department is run. There are various officers within each School who will be able to provide you with advice and assistance during your time as a doctoral student:

  • Director of Doctoral Studies

    The role of the Director of Doctoral Studies is to assist the Head of School in ensuring that the University’s and School’s strategic and operational plans for research students and postdoctoral staff are achieved, to include meeting the growth agenda; to play an essential role in ensuring that the standards set for doctoral students and supervision are maintained, and to provide leadership in developing new initiatives and formulating policy on matters relevant to research students and postdoctoral staff.
  • Director of Student Experience

    The role of the Director of Student Experience is to assist the Head of School in ensuring that the University’s and School’s strategic and operational plans for student support are achieved; to provide leadership in developing and contributing to policy determined at University level under the direction of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) and also by the School’s senior management team, in the areas of student support and the student experience, to include helping ensure consistent practice across the University.
  • Research Convenor

    Some departments have a Research Convenor who assists the Director of Doctoral Studies. In these cases, the Research Convenor is responsible for the allocation of supervisor/s, oversight of supervisory arrangements for research degree students in the department or research centre, liaison with the Director of Doctoral Studies over any changes of research supervisor, organisation of departmental arrangements for the annual review of research students and submission of a departmental report to the Director of Doctoral Studies on the outcome of reviews conducted by the department.
  • Research and Enterprise Co-ordinator

    The Research and Enterprise Co-ordinator is part of the School administrative team and is responsible for local induction arrangements, maintaining records of research students and supervisory arrangements including reporting on frequency of supervisory contact, assisting with the planning of the annual review and viva, assisting with the administration of studentships, and processing expenses for doctoral students.
  • PGR student reps

    The Student Rep scheme is co-run by the University of Sussex and the University of Sussex Students’ Union. Student Reps provide an essential link between Students, the Union and the University. PGR Student Reps are Postgraduate students, elected by Sussex University and by Brighton and Sussex Medical School students to represent the views and interests of students in their subject. Reps find out about issues impacting on students’ studies and experience. They may raise these informally with individual members of staff or more formally at department, school, and university level committees in order to effect positive change. Being a student Rep gives an opportunity to learn and practice new life skills that can improve your employability. There is a strong tie between Student Reps and Student’s Union School Councillors, to ensure that important issues feed in to the decision making processes of the Students’ Union. A number of Student Reps are elected to hold positions on University committees to raise issues at a higher level.
Support services outside the schools

Support services outside the Schools

There are a range of support services which provide advice and help to students across the University:

  • Student Support Unit

    The Student Support Unit is a team of specialist advisors who work with students who may need support at the university due to a long term condition, such as disability, learning difficulties or mental health problems.
  • Student Life Centre

    The Student Life Centre offers information and advice to all Sussex Students. Their aim is to help you to gain the best university experience you can, whatever your circumstances, by ensuring if you run into problems you get appropriate guidance and support.
  • International Student Support

    Coming to study in the UK is an exciting experience, with opportunities to broaden your academic, social and cultural horizons; we also recognise it can be a time of anxiety, especially when you are making arrangements to leave home. The International Student Support office aims to offer you a high level of support to ensure that your time with us is as rewarding and problem-free as possible.
  • Academic Development

    Academic Development workshops and one-to-one tutorials are available free of charge for students for whom English is a second or additional language. The workshops also offer guidance on academic referencing and plagiarism. The aim is to raise students’ awareness of academic practice, language and culture. The sessions are run through the Sussex Centre for Language Studies.
  • Starting to Teach

    Starting to Teach is the University's training module for new, early-career and more experienced Higher Education teachers. Starting to Teach is a Master's level module accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), meaning successful completion of the module can gain you Associate Fellowship of the HEA.

    Starting to Teach is open all PhD students, whether you are currently teaching or not, although to benefit most from the module you should consult with your supervisor about the best moment in your studies to undertake the training. Most people find it beneficial to settle into Sussex and their PhD before taking the module, and while you are required to complete Starting to Teach if you want to teach at Sussex, you can do this either before or alongside your teaching. 

    The module consists of 5 workshops across one term, with a series of small assignments. We run the module 8 times across the academic year, allowing you to book a time of year that works best with your studies and teaching. 
Where to go when you need help

The university doctoral community consists of Doctoral Researchers (or Research Students), Researchers, Supervisors, and Professional Services staff. All members of this community are committed to the values of mutual respect, professionalism and collegiate support.

Doctoral Researchers are encouraged to raise issues as early as possible. When appropriate, the university supports informal action and resolution without the need for a formal process. Any issue raised with a member of university staff will be treated confidentially, at the request of the Doctoral Researcher.

The short guide in section 22 of the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers explains three ways in which you might be able to access support if required.

On arrival
Registration

Registration is the formal process of recording that you have become a member of the University.  Once you have registered you will be able to receive tuition, sit examinations, and use the Library, Computing and other University facilities. Once registered you will receive a University registration card which includes membership of the Students’ Union.

  • Registration for Current Students

    In order to remain a candidate for the degree you are required to renew your registration each academic year. Information regarding registration will be sent to you by email in August/September each year.

    All students should register using the online registration system. If you are full-time and unable to register using the online system, you should attend registration in person.
  • Contact by Post

    The University will contact you by email in the first instance, using your University of Sussex email address. Should the University need to contact you by letter, the following addresses will be used:

    1. Correspondence for full-time, part-time or pre-submission students will be sent to term-time addresses;
    2. Correspondence for fieldwork/distant learning students will be sent to fieldwork/distant learning addresses.
  • Term-Time Address

    When you register you should confirm your term-time address, any changes to your address should be updated on your details via Sussex Direct.
  • Health Service

    You and your dependents may register with the University Health Service. 
  • Council Tax

    Full-time registered students living in University-managed accommodation are generally exempt from paying Council Tax and the University supplies details of tenants to the local authority.

    If you are a full-time student not living in University accommodation we will provide you with a letter confirming your registration status which you may use to establish your Council Tax liability with the local authority.

    If you are a part-time or pre-submission student you should contact your local Council Tax Office for further information on any discounts you may be eligible for.
  • Electoral Registration

    If you live in University-managed accommodation you should receive electoral registration forms automatically, if you are living elsewhere you might not. Please note in order to vote you must be registered.
Induction

All research students offered a place are notified in advance of a programme of University and School level induction events which are designed to inform them about, and help them settle into, their studies at the University. Prior to their attending the University all students are provided with access to an induction handbook and dedicated website which outline the full package of support that is available during induction, as well as more general background information about the University, support services and practical advice including a dedicated website and handbook for international students.

Your School will ensure that all new research students meet their supervisor and the Research Convenor as early as possible.

In addition to a wider induction of students by the University, your School will arrange meetings for new students presided over by Directors of Doctoral Studies, or nominees, at which you should be familiarised with ‘The Responsibilities of Research Degree Supervisors and Students’. (see below)

A more informal social gathering will also be arranged at which current postgraduates including research students and appropriate faculty will be present. All new research students will be provided with key information relating to the requirements expected of them and sources of support that are available.

Personal web profile

Once you have commenced your research degree you are encouraged to set up a personal profile on the University’s website. The profile facility allows you to present yourself and your research on your School webpages. This can help raise your academic profile and promote your research. 

Supervision
First supervisor meeting

In most cases you will have a main supervisor and then one or more secondary supervisors, all of whom will provide you with advice and guidance throughout your time at Sussex. Your main supervisor is responsible for communication with the Research Student Administration Office and will take the lead in the administration of your research progress. In cases of joint or co-supervision, one of your two supervisors will be responsible for taking this role. You are required to submit via Sussex Direct a record of each meeting with your supervisor(s) – a mutually agreed summary of the key issues discussed and agreed deadlines – for both submission of work and feedback.

You should have your first meeting with your supervisory team within your first two weeks after registration. This meeting should include a discussion of the schedule of supervisory meetings and also consider your, and your supervisors’ expectations of supervision. A positive relationship with your Supervisors will be a key factor in the success of your doctorate, and the questionnaire to ‘clarify the roles, responsibilities and expectations’ of Doctoral Researchers and their Supervisors (see section 23 of the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers) can be used for this purpose. It is vital that a record of these early supervisions are made in Sussex Direct.

Responsibilities of research degree students

The responsibilities that must be observed by Doctoral Researchers are as follows:

• maintaining regular contact with the main supervisor in accordance with University policy on attendance, engagement and absence for Doctoral Researchers, available at: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations

• Within 3 months of first registration, to organise a meeting with the supervisor to discuss the Researcher Development Framework, and to complete a Training Needs Analysis

• to prepare a research plan (or School equivalent) which must be approved by the supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies; the School will state the specific requirements and timing but this must be completed by the end of the second term of study at the latest

• discussing with the supervisor/s the type of guidance and comment which will be most helpful, discussing expectations of supervision, and agreeing upon a schedule of meetings

• keeping a record of supervisory meetings using the online system, to be confirmed by supervisors

• taking the initiative in raising problems or difficulties, however elementary they may seem

• for the safety of themselves and others, Doctoral Researchers working in a potentially hazardous research environment must take the initiative to ensure that they are competent in any relevant research techniques to be used. Those travelling to potentially unsafe areas for fieldwork need to obtain insurance accordingly

• planning a research project which is achievable within a schedule consistent with the normal expectations of the University, and maintaining progress in line with that schedule

• maintaining the progress of work in accordance with the stages agreed with the main supervisor, including in particular the presentation of written material as required in sufficient time to allow for comments and discussion before proceeding to the next stage

• providing annually, the work required by the school and a brief formal report to the Director of Doctoral Studies as part of the Progression Review process

• deciding when to submit the thesis, taking due account of the supervisor/s advice, and of University requirements regarding the length, format and organisation of the thesis

• taking responsibility for their own personal and professional development

• agreeing their development needs via the Training Needs Analysis with the main supervisor at the outset of the programme, reviewing these on an annual basis, and attending any relevant development opportunities so identified

• being familiar with institutional regulations and policies that affect them, including the regulations for their qualification

• being aware of the University’s Code of Practice for Research and adhering to the requirements and observing the principles contained therein

• being aware of the University’s Open Access policies and the copyright implications of publishing their thesis in the institutional repository

A Doctoral Researcher who considers that his or her work is not proceeding satisfactorily for reasons outside his or her control should discuss the matter with the supervisor/s and, failing satisfaction, with the Director of Doctoral Studies and/or Research Convenor who will advise on any grievance procedures. In particular, the Doctoral Researcher should ask to meet the Director of Doctoral Studies if the Doctoral Researcher feels that he or she is not establishing an effective working relationship with the supervisor/s, bearing in mind that the alleged inadequacy of supervisory or other arrangements during the period of study would not constitute grounds for an appeal against the result of a research degree examination unless there were exceptional reasons for it not having come to light until after the examination, in which case it might be considered.

Responsibilities of research degree supervisors

The main supervisor is directly responsible in their role as supervisor to the Director of Doctoral Studies and, through that officer, to the Head of School. The main supervisor (or co-supervisor in the case of joint supervisions) is expected to provide the Doctoral Researcher with advice at every stage in the planning and conduct of research and in the writing of the thesis and to ensure, through the Director of Doctoral Studies, that replacement supervision is available in the event of any significant period of absence. The more specific responsibilities of the main supervisor are as follows:

  • maintaining regular contact with the Doctoral Researcher in accordance with University policy on attendance, engagement and absence for Doctoral Researchers, available at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations/;

  • within 3 months of first registration, to organise a meeting with the Doctoral Researcher to discuss the Researcher Development Framework;

  • to agree a schedule of regular meetings with the Doctoral Researcher in accordance with School policy,  and consider the expectations of supervision (see section 4.3 and 23 of the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers) with the Doctoral Researcher;

  • to confirm the draft  records of supervisory meetings using the online system;

  • to approve and pass on to Director of Doctoral Studies a research plan (or School equivalent) produced by the Doctoral Researcher; which must be approved by the supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies; Schools will have specific requirements and timing but this must be completed by the end of the second term of study at the latest.
                            
  • to complete an annual report on the Doctoral Researcher’s progress for consideration within the framework of the school and/or department’s Progression Review procedures, for later submission to the Director of Doctoral Studies;

  • to provide advice and support to the Doctoral Researcher on the preparation of a suitable thesis research outline during the first year of their study, in accordance with School procedures;

  • to request written work as appropriate, and return such work with constructive criticism and within reasonable time;

  • if working in a potentially hazardous research environment, ensuring and monitoring that the Doctoral Researcher possess adequate technical competence in any relevant research techniques, so that he or she presents no undue risk to themselves, others, and/or University facilities;

  • to give detailed advice on the necessary completion of successive stages of work so that the whole may be submitted within the scheduled time;

  • to ensure that the Doctoral Researcher is made aware of inadequacy of progress or of standards of work below that generally expected;

  • to identify prospective examiners.

The more general responsibilities of those involved in the Doctoral Researcher’s supervision are as follows:

  • to be accessible to the Doctoral Researcher at other appropriate times when he or she may need advice;

  • to give guidance about the nature of research and the standard expected, the planning of the research programme, literature and sources, attendance at taught classes, requisite techniques (including arranging for instruction where necessary), and the problem of plagiarism;

  • to be familiar with the standard expected of research degree examiners, consistent with the guidance laid down by relevant Research Councils;

  • to arrange as appropriate for the Doctoral Researcher to talk about his or her work to faculty or graduate seminars, and to be well briefed about the procedures involved in oral examinations;

  • to provide clarification on the guidance or comment that will be offered on the Doctoral Researcher’s written submissions;

  • to ensure that the Doctoral Researcher is aware of the University’s Code of Practice for Research and that he or she adhere to the requirements and observe the principles contained therein;

  • to ensure that the Doctoral Researcher is aware of the University’s Open Access policies and the copyright implications of publishing their thesis in the institutional repository;

  • to advise on the need for training in the ethical, legal and other conventions used in the conduct of research, and supporting the Doctoral Researcher in the consideration of these as appropriate.
     
  • to ensure that the Doctoral Researcher is aware of institutional-level sources of advice, including careers guidance, health and safety legislation and equal opportunities policy;

  • to maintain and develop the necessary skills and expertise in order to perform all facets of the role effectively (including taking up appropriate continuing professional development opportunities as agreed by the Doctoral School Board). 
FAQs about supervision

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about supervision, designed to complement the advice and information given to students and supervisors in the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers and the Handbook for Supervisors and Directors of Doctoral Studies.

What is the role of a supervisor in relation to the thesis?

A thesis is a research student’s project – which means the research student is in charge of that project. This means that the supervisor is there to help you and push you towards successful completion, but that ultimately you are in charge of your progress and what you’re writing about.

So, your supervisor will provide realistic but challenging deadlines, which take into account how much time you have remaining before your registration or funding deadlines but which also help you develop and maximise your research output. They will also take into account any targets set by the University or School.

In terms of your written work, supervisors will provide you with general feedback and advice, and help you develop a structure and framework in which to deliver your research content. They will discuss with you what needs to go in each chapter, and make comments and suggestions about your research plans. Your supervisor is not a proof-reader or editor – their focus will generally be your research and how well you’re communicating it, so it’s up to you to spot and correct mistakes in your written prose.

How should my supervisor be motivating me?

You are responsible for motivating yourself. Your supervisor can arrange deadlines with you and discuss how work is progressing, but you are responsible overall for keeping your work going. If you find yourself struggling, it is always worth discussing any problems with your supervisor, as they may be able to advise you on how to overcome them or provide you with a fresh perspective on what you’re trying to do.

For more specific advice about motivation, procrastination and writing, you should consider getting help from elsewhere. Take a look at the workshops offered by the Researcher Development team, consult the Student Life Centre pages and talk to other researchers in the Sussex community through the Doctoral School blog and the Research Hive.

I have two supervisors, but I'm not sure what the role of my second supervisor is?

While all research students have two supervisors, the roles and responsibilities of these supervisors varies from School to School, and sometimes from research project to research project. For specific details about the roles of your supervisors, consult your School’s Handbook or Guidelines for Research Students.

In some cases, students have a main supervisor and a secondary supervisor, who are responsible for 90% and 10% of the supervision respectively, meaning the student works closely with the main supervisor and only occasionally consults the secondary supervisor. In other cases, the supervisors take a more equal role, with the research student working closely with both, and both supervisors attending supervisions and being included on emails etc. In either case, if you find your supervisors offering you contrasting advice or disagreeing with one another, don’t worry about which supervisor is ‘right’ – rather, use these different opinions to establish more firmly what your own position is in relation to a particular problem.

How much contact time should I have with my supervisor?

Each School has specific guidelines on how much contact time a student can reasonable expect with their supervisor, although the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers recommends that students and supervisors have formal contact at least once a month, which can take various forms.

However, the amount of contact time needed will vary depending on your project, your subject area and the stage you are at in your doctorate. Some projects need intensive supervision at the start to ensure students have the necessary technical and methodological skills, while others require more supervision in the later stages of the doctorate as the student has produced more research and written work for the supervisors to read and comment on.

What are the regulations regarding recording supervision meetings?

All supervision meeting should be formally recorded on Sussex Direct by supervisors and students in consultation. Schools may also have specific requirements about recording supervision, so consult your School’s Handbook or Guidelines for Research Students.

What kind of feedback can I expect from my supervisor?

The kind of feedback supervisors give depends on the project, the supervisor and the student. Some supervisors provide general feedback once they’ve read your work, others will write detailed comments on your text. Some will write by hand, others will use track-changes or email. Some will provide brief and regular feedback across term, others will provide extensive feedback on full chapters or sections of your thesis.

Discuss with your supervisor how and when they intend to give feedback so that you know what to expect. If you find yourself struggling with the way your supervisor is giving you feedback, discuss potential alternatives with your supervisor – you should be able to negotiate an approach that suits both of you.

When is it appropriate to seek external advice about your research?

Talking to academics beyond your School and university is vital for promoting and developing your research. Discussing your work with other experts in your field at conferences, seminars and online is a great way to establish a useful network of contacts and identifying potential external examiners. However, if you want to work more formally with people outside of your institution, you must discuss this with your supervisors before making any arrangements, in order to ensure that professional standards are maintained and confidential information is treated with due care.

Should I be sharing written work with my supervisor when I feel it is not quite ready to share?

Your research project will be work in progress right up until the moment you submit the final version after your viva. This means that throughout your studies, your work will never feel ‘finished’ ‘perfect’ or even ‘good enough’. This also means that while your supervisors will be expecting work of a certain standard, they are not expecting you to hand in a perfect piece of research or for you to produce the final answer to a question every time you hand in work to them. If you were producing perfect work, there would nothing for your supervisor to help you with, and if you are already capable of coming up with the ultimate answer to your research questions, then there’s perhaps not a lot of point in doing a PhD!

Writing a thesis and conducting research at this level is a back and forth process between you, your supervisors and the wider researcher community. Other people’s comments on your work will help you push your research to greater levels of intellectual rigour and improve the way you’re communicating your ideas. Recognising that you can only get so far without your supervisors’ feedback will help you stop worrying about getting your work perfect and start using your relationship with your supervisor effectively.

Will I keep the same supervisor over the course of my studies?

In some cases it may be necessary for the School to change your supervisor(s) during the course of your studies. This could be temporary, due to research leave or illness, or it could be on a permanent basis, for example as a result of a change in the focus of your project or if your supervisor leaves the University. In all cases the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School will ensure that appropriate replacement supervision is arranged as soon as possible. 

What should I do if I'm concerned about my working relationship with my supervisor?

If you experience any problems with your supervisory relationship, your first step should be to discuss them with your supervisor. Your supervisor may be unaware of the problems you’re experiencing and how you feel, and so discussion can help you both resolve things. If you feel there are still issues around your working relationship that are affecting your work, your next step is to talk your department’s Postgraduate Research Convenor or Director of Doctoral Studies. The Student Life Centre can also offer support if you would find it helpful to talk to someone outside of your School.

A guide has been developed to help you feel secure and confident in raising any issues, which also lists many useful outlets for help. If required, refer to the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers.

 

The first year: research outline

Your research progress is reviewed annually and is an important process. The first stage is the preparation of a research plan (or School equivalent) which sets out the overall plan, objectives and timetable for your research. This needs to be completed by the end of your second term of full-time study at the latest. Your research plan will need to include a proposed thesis title, be endorsed by your supervisor and approved by the Director of Doctoral Studies.

  • Training Needs Analysis

    You must complete a Training Needs Analysis with your supervisor at the start of each year. By reflecting on your training needs you can identify areas for development and then target specific workshops and courses offered by the Doctoral School that focus on these areas.
  • Ethical review

    All staff and students whose research involves living subjects will require ethical approval before their research may commence. To determine whether you need an ethical review, during your first year you will need to complete an ethical review checklist. Subsequently, if appropriate, you will need to gain ethical approval for your research via  a committee review.
Progression Review and Progress Reports

The following is an abridged version of the full details regarding Progression Review, which is available in section 7 of the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers.

Each year of registration you will need to achieve satisfactory progress in your research. The Director of Doctoral Studies in your School will advise the Research Student Administration Office on whether you have academic clearance to progress.

Although you should raise any concerns you may have during the course of your Registration, the Progression Review process does also provide a confidential opportunity to draw attention to any problems you may be  experiencing, or any areas where you might be better supported by your department or School.

Your School will define the academic work that is required to be produced as part of your Progression Review. This will vary by discipline, and by the year in which you are studying. The work required could typically include draft thesis chapters, a review of literature, an advanced plan of research, presentation of data and findings or a draft paper for publication. The format in which your work is presented will be defined by your School.

In addition to the presentation of your research as part of the Progression Review, you will be asked to complete a report outlining your progress. This report will be confidential, and for your Progression Review members only. If your Progression Review meeting includes your secondary supervisor, separate arrangements will be made in your School for you to raise issues confidentially. Your main supervisor will also be asked to complete a similar report.

You will be required to attend a formal Progression Review meeting with at least one member of Faculty who will be nominated by the Director of Doctoral Studies and who is not your main supervisor. This meeting is sometimes referred to as a ‘Thesis Panel’.

Your supervisor(s) may also attend with your, and the Director of Doctoral Studies’ agreement. The meeting is to discuss your academic progress and may include an academic defence of the subject matter of the thesis or ‘mini viva’.

Following the Progression Review, a recommendation will be made to the Director of Doctoral Studies on your registration status for the following academic year.The Director of Doctoral Studies will confirm to the Research Student Administration Office that:

• all reports have been completed by both the Doctoral Researcher and the supervisor;

• the Progression Review meeting has taken place;

• a decision has been taken on your registration for the following academic year.

Following your annual review, if your progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, there are three options which your School may consider.

1. you may be offered a period of provisional registration. Your School will set the conditions that you have to meet by the end of that period (e.g. completion of a chapter) in order to progress and be fully registered

2. your registration may be transferred (downgraded) from PhD to MPhil

3. you may be refused permission to register in the following academic year.

Any period of provisional registration should normally conclude before the commencement of the following academic year.

Your Progression Review will normally occur in the Spring/Summer. It is however possible to convene a  Progression Review at any point in the year. Doctoral Researchers or Supervisors can request an Interim Progression Review, for the approval by the Director of Doctoral Studies. Directors may themselves also convene an Interim Progression Review.

If you have been refused permission to re-register and consider that the decision was based on inadequate evidence or taken in an improper manner, you have the right to appeal against that decision in writing to the Secretary of the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board within 21 days of notification of the decision. As here: www.sussex.ac.uk/ogs/complaintsappeals/academic/

General monitoring of your progress and attendance

Your School will advise you of the character and frequency of the research supervision that you can expect to have with your supervisor(s). At minimum there should normally be one formal meeting each month between Doctoral Researcher and supervisor, all of which need to be recorded via Sussex Direct. Your supervision records will create a useful history of discussions with your supervisors which you can refer to during your research.

Your school will apply procedures to monitor your attendance on a regular basis, in accordance with the University policy on attendance, engagement and absence for Postgraduate Doctoral Researchers, available at: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations/

For full details please refer to the attendance and engagement policy, which sets out the expectations of all Doctoral Researchers, whether sponsored on a tier 4 visa or otherwise. The baseline requirement is for one engagement every month, which would normally take the form of a supervision, and this continues during periods of fieldwork and pre/post submission of your thesis.

Fieldwork

On successful completion of your first annual review, you may be permitted to carry out research elsewhere in the interests of your academic work providing that you spend at least half of your minimum prescribed period of registration as a research student at the University. The minimum prescribed period of registration for the MPhil Degree is three terms for a full-time student and six terms for a part-time student and for the PhD Degree it is six terms and nine terms respectively.

Before you proceed on fieldwork you should ensure:

  • your thesis title and research outline/research topic have been submitted and approved;

  • you have ethical approval for fieldwork where necessary;

  • you have completed the necessary risk assessments and insurance applications;
  • you have received notification in writing from the Research Student Administration Office that approval has been granted for you to proceed on fieldwork;
  • if you are attending a Research Skills Course as a compulsory requirement for your studies that you have completed this course before going on fieldwork.

The general expectation is that 100% of the relevant fees will normally be paid.  With respect to periods away on fieldwork, however, a discount of 35% may be agreed, subject to the approval of the Director of Doctoral Studies.  This discount will only be approved where a clear case can be made on the basis that you will not have access to the standard facilities, infrastructure and support network that would normally be available to you.    

Please advise the Research Student Administration Office of your address during your absence and any subsequent change of address.

Please contact the Research and Enterprise Coordinator in your School Office to make any necessary arrangements with regard to your work space.

Please note that, in accordance with the arrangements approved by your School, you should maintain regular contact with your supervisor(s) to advise on your progress.

  • Application Procedure:

    Please complete an application to undertake fieldwork or to study away from the University, which can be found on our Forms and letter requests page.

    Once completed your application should be passed to your main supervisor who will make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School. The Director of Doctoral Studies in your School will then make a decision on your application.

    The completed form will be sent to the Research Student Administration Office who will write to inform you of the decision.

    Please note that you must apply for permission to undertake fieldwork in advance and retrospective applications will not be approved.

  • Application to extend your period of fieldwork or period of study away from the university:

    In order to extend your period on fieldwork or study away from the University please complete the Fieldwork Extension application form, which can be found on our Forms and letter requests page.

    If your supervisor supports your request they will make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies who will notify the Research Student Administration Office of the final decision. The Research Student Administration Office will then write to you to notify you of the decision.

  • Return from fieldwork or study away from the University:

    On your return from fieldwork or study away from the University please advise the Research Student Administration Office of your term-time address and check that addresses held on Sussex Direct are correct.
Change of registration status

Changing status from full-time to part-time or vice versa

Tier 4 research students should refer to the section titled ‘Information specific to International/tier 4 sponsored students below’.

If you wish to change your registration status from full-time to part-time or vice versa, please contact the Research and Enterprise Coordinator in your School in order to obtain the relevant application form.

If you are applying to change your status because you are due to receive sponsorship please attach a copy of the award letter to the application form.

If you have completed the required minimum period of registration before making an application for a change of status, your maximum date of registration will not be recalculated. Your maximum date of registration will only be recalculated if you have not yet reached your minimum date of registration.

Once you have completed the form, you should send it to your main supervisor who will make a decision on your request and make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your school whether or not your registration status should be changed. The Director of Doctoral Studies may then approve the change of registration and will inform the Research Student Administration Office who will then write to you to notify you of the decision.

Changing to pre-submission status

You can apply to transfer to pre-submission status, for which a reduced fee is payable, if you have completed your research work and collected all your data. Your supervisor must approve a well-worked first draft of your thesis as well as a detailed timeline and plan to submission before you are eligible to request a transfer to pre-submission status. Please discuss your progress with your supervisor before you complete an application form for pre-submission status.

Pre-submission status is not normally approved before the completion of three years full-time study or five years part-time study.

If you are eligible and would like to apply to transfer to pre-submission status, please contact the Research Student Administration Office. Please note that a transfer of registration status will only take effect from the beginning of a term or the beginning of a month.

Once completed, your application form should be passed to your main supervisor who will make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School. The Director of Doctoral Studies will then make a decision on your application. The completed form will be sent to the Research Student Administration Office who will write to inform you of the decision.

As a reduced fee is charged for pre-submission status, you will only have limited access to University facilities and you will not be entitled to:

  • attendance at seminars, classes or tutorials;
  • use of work-rooms, laboratories or similar facilities;
  • University accommodation or membership of, or election to, University Committees;
  • use of a study space or locker;
  • social facilities of the University, other than the Careers and Employability Centre (CEC).

Although a reduced fee is charged you will still continue to receive the same level of use of facilities of the Library and Computing Service up to your maximum date of registration.

Applying for an intermission from your studies

You may only make an application for intermission in advance An application for retrospective intermission is not permitted. A maximum of one year of intermission is permitted during your research degree. Intermission is taken in periods of months, beginning on the first of a month.

Please be aware that intermission is not a right and the University may set conditions for your return.

Should it be necessary for you to request intermission you should consult your main supervisor in the first instance. You should then complete an application form which is available from the Research and Enterprise Coordinator in your School. If your supervisor supports your request they will make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies who will notify the Research Student Administration Office of the final decision. The Research Student Administration Office will then write to you to notify you of the decision.

Please be aware that intermission is not a right and the University may set conditions for your return. If you take a period of intermission on health grounds, your return to study must be approved by a Fitness to Study Panel.

Applying for an extension to your registration period

The maximum period of registration for the MPhil is three years for a full-time student and four years for a part-time student. The maximum period of registration for the PhD is four years for a full-time student and six years for a part-time student and the maximum period of registration for the EdD and DSW is six years.

In exceptional circumstances you may request an extension to your period of registration past your maximum period of registration. Exceptional circumstances may include illness, accident, exceptional personal circumstances, maternity, paternity, or adoption. You may apply for an extension of one, two or up to a maximum of three quarters. Each quarter (3 months) must begin on the first of a month.

Your request for an extension should be made to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School, at least three months before your maximum period of registration is reached . When making your request you should supply the following information:

  • a statement setting out the reason for the request for an extension;
  • a statement of the current progress of your research and writing-up;
  • a timetable for the completion and submission of your thesis;
  • any documentary evidence in support of the request;
  • a statement of support from your main supervisor.

The Director of Doctoral Studies in your School will then make a decision on your request and inform the Research Student Administration Office who will then write to inform you of the outcome.

Any extension granted will constitute a final period of registration. If the Director does not agree to grant you an extension, you will be required to withdraw on academic grounds and you will no longer be a candidate for a University of Sussex degree once your maximum period of registration has been reached.

Withdrawing from your studies

If you wish to withdraw from your studies you should contact your supervisor in the first instance to discuss your decision. It is also advisable to contact your School Research Enterprise Co-ordinator as, depending on your reasons for wishing to withdraw from your studies, there may be an alternative option available to you. Yu may also find it useful to contact the Student Life Centre for advice and support before making a decision.

You should notify the Research Student Administration Office of your intention to withdraw from your studies in writing, confirming the date on which you wish to withdraw. The Research Student Administration Office will then write to you to confirm your withdrawal.

Change of title, supervisor or degree

Changing your thesis title

Your thesis title should be approved with your research plan as part of the annual review process in your first year. Should you wish to change the title of your thesis you should consult your main supervisor in the first instance. If your supervisor agrees with the change you should then complete an application form which is available from the Research and Enterprise Coordinator in your School.

Once completed your application should be passed to your main supervisor who will make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School. The Director of Doctoral Studies in your School will then make a decision on your application and inform the Research Student Administration Office who will then write to inform you of the outcome.

Changing your supervisor

If you wish to request a change to your supervision you should consult with your Research Convenor or Director of Doctoral Studies in the first instance. If either your Research Convenor or Director of Doctoral Studies is involved as main or second supervisor you should consult your Head of School. You may also seek advice from the PGR student representative in your School before making a formal request.

The Director of Doctoral Studies in your School will then make a decision on your application and inform the Research Student Administration Office who will then write to inform you of the outcome.

Changing from an MPhil to a PhD

If you wish to apply to transfer your registration from the MPhil to PhD you should consult your main supervisor, providing him/her with a written application which consists of a copy of written work produced so far and a statement of the way in which the thesis will be developed, including a timetable.

Your main supervisor will pass your application to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School together with his/her recommendation.

Recommended practice is that the application will then be considered at an internal viva examination which should be conducted by a member of the School other than your main supervisor, your supervisor may be present with the agreement of the student. The recommendation will then be passed to the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School who will then make a decision on your application and inform the Research Student Administration Office who will then write to inform you of the outcome.

Refusal of permission to change your registration from MPhil to PhD

If you are refused permission to change your registration from MPhil to PhD and consider that the decision was based on inadequate evidence or taken in an improper manner, you have the right to appeal against that decision in writing to the Secretary of the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board within 21 days of notification of the decision.

Annual, maternity, adoption and paternity leave

Annual leave
All doctoral students are entitled to a maximum of eight weeks annual leave including public holidays and University closure days. Students should notify their supervisors in writing of when they intend to take their annual leave. Those students holding Tier 4 visas sponsored by the University may take annual leave without risk to their immigration status. While on annual leave, students and supervisors should continue to make contact every month.

Maternity leave
All doctoral students are entitled to one full year (52 weeks) of maternity leave. Those students in receipt of an RCUK stipend or a Sussex Scholarship are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave on full stipend and a further 26 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Students may decide when they wish their maternity leave to begin, but should inform the Research Student Administration Office of their intentions no later than two months before the start date.

Adoption leave
Adoption leave is granted on the same basis as maternity leave.

Paternity leave
Fathers are entitled to up to 10 days (two weeks) ordinary paternity leave and up to 26 weeks of additional paternity leave. For those students in receipt of an RCUK stipend or a Sussex Scholarship, the ordinary paternity leave will be at full stipend and the period of additional paternity leave may include paid and unpaid leave, depending on the individual circumstances, and any paid leave should be at full stipend. Students may decide when they wish their paternity leave to begin, but should inform the Research Student Administration Office of their intentions no later than two months before the start date.

Information specific to international students

1 Working during your studies

Tier 4 visa holders are allowed to work according to the restriction on your visa. As with other immigration conditions attached to your visa, it is a criminal offence to breach your work conditions. The Home Office take breaches very seriously and a breach could lead to your removal from the UK, or refusal of future immigration applications and/or a time bar on returning to the UK. Please read this information carefully and if you are unsure of anything come to speak to an International Student Adviser.

If your stamp has a 'restriction' it means you can work but only under the following conditions:

  • you can work in your spare time while studying but this should not exceed the number of hours stated on your visa in term-time, degree level students should have a 20 hour restriction (see below for term-time definitions by type of student)
  • you should always check your work condition on your visa and if you think you have been given an incorrect condition please email us at immigration@sussex.ac.uk
  • the working week - The Home Office defines a 'week' as meaning a period of seven days beginning with a Monday. Note that this is a maximum so during term-time (or for research students during any period) you must not exceed 10 or 20 hours in any week even if you work fewer hours in other weeks. You must include all of your employment, including unpaid work, if you are working in more than one job. All work that you do in the UK must be included, even if your employer is based outside of the UK 'On-call' hours where you are not actively engaged in work but where you have to be in a particular place that counts as employment under UK working time regulations, count towards the 10 or 20 hour limit
  • withdrawal from study - you should not work if you withdraw from your studies, either temporarily or permanently. This is because your permission to work depends on you following a course of study that has work rights attached to it. This is confirmed in the Home Office guidance for employers on page 28. Students who leave their course early need to be aware that once they are no longer studying a course they are not entitled to work, regardless of when their permission to be in the UK ends

Tier 4 visa holders are not able to:

  • be self-employed or engage in business activity (freelance work is not allowed)
  • be employed as a professional sportsperson or sports coach
  • be employed as an entertainer
  • take a permanent full-time job
  • work during any period of overstay

You can work unrestricted hours when you have completed your studies and you still have current immigration permission. The date on which your studies end is decided by the University and you should not work full-time before that date.

When can I work more than 20 hours?

PhD students with a Tier 4 visa are not allowed to exceed 20 hours a week while you are studying.

The exceptions are:

During periods of approved annual leave/holiday PhD students c?n work more than 20 hours (please see the procedure to request holiday below, under ‘taking a break from your studies’.

Once the viva takes place:

  • If you pass unconditionally, you have no further study commitments. You are permitted to work over the 20 hours per week permitted and you can carry on working until your visa expires, or you leave the UK for any reason (there may be complications re-entering the UK on your Tier 4 visa after your studies have ended);
  • If you have corrections, you are not permitted to work over the 20 hours per week permitted until the corrections are submitted, normally within six months. After corrections have been submitted you can work over 20 hours until your visa expires, or you leave the UK for any reason (there may be complications re-entering the UK on your Tier 4 visa after your studies have ended);
  • If you are required to revise and resubmit your thesis, you will be registered for another year and you must not work over the 20 hours per week permitted until you have resubmitted your thesis and the Research Student Administration Office have confirmed that you have no further academic commitments. In some cases a second viva will be necessary, and you should then follow the advice above for passing unconditionally or corrections.

PhD students can contact the Research Student Administration Office to request a work letter for your employer, researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk 

For further advice about working and your visa please contact an International Student Adviser by email at immigration@sussex.ac.uk. If you inform us of a breach of your visa conditions we are obliged as a Tier 4 Sponsor to let UKVI know of the breach.

2 Taking a break from your studies

The University has policies for PhD students on taking annual leave/holiday, authorised absence and intermission (temporary withdrawal). You need to carefully consider whether there are implications for your Tier 4 visa with each of these policies.

2.1 Annual Leave / Holiday

All research students are entitled to up to eight weeks holiday per year, including public holidays and University closure days. However, tier 4 visas only permit paid work of up to 20 hours a week during ‘term-time’. As term dates do not apply to research students, in order to define the holiday periods where in excess of 20 hours paid work can be undertaken, a record of holiday dates are required.

Tier 4 sponsored students may take annual leave without risk to their immigration status. Students wishing to take annual leave are required to seek permission from their supervisors, and submit the ‘Annual leave / Holiday request form’ to the Research Student Administration Office.

While on periods of holiday, academic supervision would not normally occur, however students must make contact every month with their main supervisor.

2.2 Intermission 

If a research student wishes to take a period of intermission, the University will cease to be their sponsor. The Research Student must then return to their home country and apply to the University for a new CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance to Study) and a new visa when they are ready to resume their studies. The intermission form should be used to make an application for intermission, and please note that retrospective applications for intermission are not permitted.

Research Student fees will cease to be accrued during intermission and the course end date will be extended by the length of an intermission.

2.3 Authorised Absence

In some circumstances, Tier 4 students who need to take a short break from studies for a period not exceeding 60 days are able to apply for authorised absence. Acceptable reasons for permitting an authorised absence are as follows:

  • To receive minor medical treatment (medical certificate required)
  • To take maternity/paternity leave (birth certificate or official medical certificate required)
  • Illness which would not ordinarily result in an absence exceeding 60 days (medical certificate required)
  • Illness of a close family member/dependent (medical certificate required)

Authorised absences can only be permitted where it will not have any negative impact on the student’s academic progression, or the student’s ability to complete their studies within their current leave to remain in the UK. Only one period of authorised absence can be applied for during the entire registration.

Research Student fees will cease to be accrued during the sole permitted period of authorised absence and the course end date will be extended by the length of an absence.

If a research student cannot return to studies after taking a period of authorised absence (up to a maximum of 60 days, normally taken in whole months) the student will be required to intermit and the University will withdraw sponsorship. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the University can continue sponsoring a student for more than 60 days and this is normally where a student is too ill to travel.

Authorised Absence - application process

Students can request the authorised absence application form from the Research Student Administration Office (RSAO). The application form needs to be approved by the lead supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies. Where research students are requesting authorised absences on medical grounds, medical evidence must be provided in support application for, and return from authorised absence. The medical evidence will need to confirm the research student is fit to return to studies. Research students who are experiencing personal difficulties are strongly encouraged to seek advice and support from the University’s Student Life Centre.

The authorised absence will be logged on the student record and the research student will receive confirmation the authorised absence has been approved from the RSAO.

Only one period of authorised absence will be permitted during a course of study.

Research Student responsibilities during an authorised absence

During an authorised absence students must continue to meet the conditions of their visa and maintain contact with the University via the main Supervisor, and to also keep contact details up-to-date in Sussex-Direct. 

Right to work during an authorised absence
Research Students are able to work up to 20 hours per week during a period of authorised absence.

Returning from an authorised absence
Ten working days before the student is due to resume their studies they should contact the School to confirm they will be returning on the expected date. Any further break from studies is liable to require an intermission and to leave the UK.

Where an authorised absence has been taken on medical grounds, Research Students are required to provide medical evidence of their fitness to study ahead of a return.

3 Course changes, ATAS and completing your course early 

The following course changes will have an impact on your visa status. They apply to students whose visa was issued on or after 6 April 2016. If your current visa was issued before this date please contact us for advice - immigration@sussex.ac.uk.

MPHIL to PhD - if the new course end date for the PhD is within your existing visa, you can make this course change and your visa will not be affected. If the new course end date is beyond your visa expiry date, you will need to make a new Tier 4 visa application from overseas before making this course change.

PhD to MPHIL - you will need to make a new Tier 4 visa application from overseas before making this course change.

Changing PhD - provided you can complete the PhD within your existing visa, you can make this course change and your visa will not be affected. If you need more time to complete the PhD, you will need to make a new Tier 4 application from overseas before making this course change.

ATAS – certain Science and Engineering PhDs are required to have ATAS clearance which is a scheme which aims to help stop the spread of knowledge and skills that could be used in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery. If a course is ATAS requiring and the course end date is extended by more than 3 months, research students are required to apply for new ATAS clearance within 28 days of the academic extension being granted. Failure to do so is a breach of immigration conditions, noting that ATAS requirements apply to all forms of immigration status, and not solely Tier 4. ATAS clearance will also be required in each instance of an application to extend a Tier 4 visa.

3.1 Change of study location and fieldwork

The University is required to report any significant changes in Research Student circumstances to the Home Office. If a Research Student changes their primary site of study for a significant period of time the University must notify the Home Office of the new study location.

During any period of agreed change of study location, whether based overseas or just away from the normal term-time address, students are still required to engage with studies on a full-time basis, comply with the University’s Attendance and Engagement Policy for Research Students.

Change of Study Location or Fieldwork?

If a Research Student is conducting primary data collection in the field, please refer to the process and application required for Fieldwork. Change of study location cannot be used for periods of primary data collection that require ethical approval or insurance. Change of study location can be requested at any point during studies, but most often occurs during periods of thesis write-up. These periods must be agreed by supervisors to be consistent with the plan of research and not cause any delay to submission.

How to request a change of study location

The change of study location application form is to be completed if you wish to temporarily change your primary site of study (University of Sussex) for a period of three months or longer.

Travel should not be arranged until you have received written confirmation that your change of study of location application has been approved from the Research Student Administration Office. If during your period of change of study location your visa is due to expire, the Research Student Administration Office will require evidence of departure from the UK (via boarding pass and passport stamp)

If a Research Student does not intend to return to the UK within current leave to remain the University reserves the right to withdraw sponsorship. 

Research Students who are changing their study location for less than 3 months are required to notify their supervisors of their location, update their contact details on Sussex Direct and report this change of address to the Home Office via their changes in circumstances form.

3.2 Completing your course early

If you complete your course earlier than the date stated on your CAS it will be necessary for the University to report this to UKVI and your visa will be curtailed. UKVI will email you to confirm your new visa expiry date and should curtail your visa to 4 months from your new course end date, which will be when you are formally awarded the degree. Please note that if you leave the UK, you may not be able re-enter on your Tier 4 visa as you leave is likely to have been cancelled. So we advise that you don't re-enter the UK on your existing visa if you have been reported to UKVI for completing your studies early. For example, if you complete early and leave the UK you will not be able to enter the UK for your graduation on your Tier 4 visa, and will need to apply for a standard visitor visa.

4 Extending your visa as a current PhD student

The maximum period of registration for the PhD is four years. In exceptional circumstances a Research Student may request an extension to a period of registration, and an extension to a Tier 4 visa. Exceptional circumstances include,

  • illness
  • accident
  • exceptional personal circumstances
  • maternity, paternity, or adoption 

Visa extension before thesis submission - your academic extension needs to be agreed by your supervisor. Once agreed, you can request a CAS from the Research Student Administration office (RSAO - researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk). When the CAS is issued it will be sent to International Student Support and we will contact you with more details on submitting the visa application and financial requirements. We advise beginning the process at least three months before your visa expiry date to avoid any issues.

PhD students have the option of applying in the UK or overseas. If applying in the UK your visa application must be submitted on or before your visa expiry date. Full details on applying here http://www.sussex.ac.uk/internationalsupport/immigration   

Visa extension after thesis submission - the University CAS issuing policy states:

The University will not normally issue a CAS for a Postgraduate Research (PGR) student who has already submitted their thesis and requires an extension to their leave to attend their viva or complete revisions, unless that student has expressed an interest in applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES).

If you have submitted your thesis and are not intending to apply for the DES scheme, then you will be expected to leave the UK on or before your visa expiry. If you need to return for your viva you can apply for a short-term student visa. Any corrections can be submitted from overseas and your attendance at Sussex is not required.

If you need to extend for viva/corrections and you intend to apply for DES in the future, you can request a CAS from the Research Student Administration office (researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk) and you can make this visa application from within the UK or overseas. We recommend you come and see us to discuss your situation at least three months before your visa expiry date. The length of visa you will get and the amount of money you need to show for the visa application depends on the course dates we put on your CAS.

NOTE: Students who receive official financial sponsorship or have done within the last 12 months need consent letters for all visa extensions.

5 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa (DES)

The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa (DES) is designed to give students who have almost finished their PhD an additional 12 months of Tier 4 (General) immigration permission in which to look for and start work in the UK. You can apply for this visa when you have had your viva and either passed unconditionally or submitted corrections. You must apply from within the UK before you formally complete your PhD.

You must apply before you officially complete your PhD. You should start planning for your DES Tier 4 application 1-2 months before you are due to submit your thesis. The University will only issue a DES CAS once you have had your viva and either passed unconditionally or submitted any corrections. Please email our International Student Advisers for advice 1-2 months before you are due to submit your thesis.

In order to be able to apply under this scheme:

  • You must have current immigration permission which allows you to apply in the UK under Tier 4. You must have a current Tier 4 visa. If you have left the country and returned to the UK on a student visitor visa or a general visitor, you are not eligible to apply
  • You must be studying for a PhD qualification or for one of the doctorate qualifications listed in Annex 6 of the Tier 4 policy guidance as acceptable postgraduate research qualifications. The research Master's degrees (MRes and MPhil) listed in the same annex are not acceptable for the Doctorate Extension Scheme
  • You must be applying within 60 days of the expected end date of a course leading to the award of a PhD
  • You must apply in the UK
  • You cannot apply after you have completed your PhD. Your degree is formally completed when the exam board and Senate approve your examiners' recommendation to award you your degree so it is essential that you submit your DES visa application before this date. If you are unsure about when this date will be, you should check with the Research Student Administration Office

You will be making a Tier 4 visa application for the Doctorate Extension Scheme. For details about how to apply please go to the section on our website, making a Tier 4 visa application in the UK.

Some PhD students decide to leave the UK and return for their viva on a student visitor visa. However, if you decide to do this it would not be possible to apply for the Doctoral Extension Scheme visa (as you need to have a current Tier 4 visa).

If you are currently financially sponsored by a government or an international scholarship agency, or if your financial sponsorship ended within 12 months prior to you making your DES application, you will need your sponsor's permission to remain in the UK. Your sponsor must confirm in writing that they have no objection to you continuing to remain in the UK (paragraph 56 of the Tier 4 policy guidance). We recommend a letter which meets the criteria in paragraph 202 of the Tier 4 policy guidance, but instead of detailing the amount of money your sponsor will give you, you should ask them to say that they have no objections to you remaining in the UK.

If you are coming up to your visa expiry date, or are about to have your viva it is very important that you discuss your options with an International Student Adviser in plenty of time, as there are some circumstances where the University policy will not allow a CAS to be issued for the scheme. Please contact us if you wish to discuss your situation by emailing immigration@sussex.ac.uk.

5.1 What is my expected end date?

The immigration rules define the 'expected end date' as 'the date the PhD is expected to be formally confirmed, by the sponsor, as completed to the standard required for the award of the PhD'. You will need to contact the Research Student Administration Office to discuss your dates and request a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) at researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk.

Your twelve month period of leave under the scheme will begin from the expected end date that we put on the CAS.

Normally we will only be able to issue a CAS for the scheme after your viva has taken place and:

  • you have passed unconditionally, or
  • you have been advised that corrections are necessary and have submitted these corrections

Successful applicants will remain under the sponsorship of the University during the twelve month period. It will be necessary for holders of this visa to remain in touch with the University as we will have monitoring and reporting duties to fulfil for UK Visas and Immigration.

The visa granted will be under Tier 4, and can't be extended. However, you may wish to consider switching into a work category before your DES visa expires, such as Tier 2. Please see full information on the Doctorate Extension Scheme on the UKCISA website, and the UK Visas and Immigration Tier 4 policy guidance.

Information specific to part-time research students

Students registered part time normally take six years to complete the PhD, and may apply to transfer to continuation status after a minimum of three years. Part time registration is considered to be equivalent to 60% of full time registration, and you should agree with your supervisors on the frequency of supervisory meetings.

As is the case for full time students, your research progress is reviewed annually and is an important process. The first stage is the preparation of a research plan (or School equivalent) which sets out the overall plan, objectives and timetable for your research. This needs to be completed during your first year. Your research plan will need to include a proposed thesis title, be endorsed by your supervisor and approved by the Director of Doctoral Studies. You will also need to gain ethnical approval for your project, as set out in the first year guidance for all students (see above).

The format of the annual review process for part-time students is determined within your School and you will be given advice by your supervisor and the Director of Doctoral Studies. Following successful completion of the annual review and approval of your research plan, you will be permitted to register for the next academic year and to apply for fieldwork.

Appeals and complaints

You may appeal against a decision by the examiners of your thesis following your examination. If you wish to appeal a decision by your examiners, you should submit your appeal in writing to the Secretary of the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board, with supporting evidence, no later than 21 days after publication of the result.

The grounds for an admissible appeal are as follows:

  1. that there exist circumstances affecting the student’s performance of which the examiners had not been made aware when their decision was taken, and which could not reasonably have been presented to the examiners;
  2. that there were procedural irregularities in the conduct of the examination (including administrative error) of such a nature as to cause reasonable doubt whether the examiners would have reached the same conclusion had they not occurred;
  3. that there is evidence of prejudice or of bias on the part of one or more of the examiners.

Please note, however, that there is no right of appeal in the University against the academic judgement of the examiners. Nor does the alleged inadequacy of supervisory or other arrangements during the period of registration constitute grounds for an appeal unless there are exceptional reasons for the information not having come to the attention of the examiners until after the examination.

You may also appeal against a decision that your registration be withdrawn, that you be refused permission to re-register, or that you be refused permission to change your registration from Master of Philosophy to Doctor of Philosophy (or vice-versa). You should submit your appeal in writing within 21 days of the notification of the decision.

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that all the relevant evidence is available to the appropriate authority before a decision on re-registration or change of registration is made. Evidence produced later will be taken into account only when there are good reasons for it not having been presented in good time.

Where an appeal is deemed to be admissible, the outcome will be decided in the vast majority of cases by the Chair of the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board on the basis of the evidence available and advice from relevant officers. The more detailed procedures for the consideration of research degree appeals are set out within the regulations for your research degree.

 

Please see the Academic Appeals Procedure for more detailed guidance on the appeals, and the process for submitting an appeal.

There is no right of appeal within the University against a decision of the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board or against the outcome of any process of reconsideration instituted by that Board.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) provides an independent scheme for the review of student appeals. Once the University's internal procedures have been exhausted, the University will issue a Completion of Procedures letter. Students wishing to pursue the avenue of an independent review by the OIA must submit their application to the OIA within three months of the issue of the Completion of Procedures letter. Please see their website for further details.