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. 

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

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. 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.

 

Responsibilities of research degree students

The responsibilities that must be observed by research degree students are as follows:

  • maintaining regular contact with the main supervisor;
  • Within 3 months of first registration, to organise a meeting with the supervisor to discuss the Researcher Development Framework;
  • to prepare a research plan (or School equivalent) which must be approved by the supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies; your School will inform you of specific requirements and timing but this must be completed by the end of the second term of study at the latest. The research plan must include your most recent Training Needs Analysis;
  • discussing with the supervisor/s the type of guidance and comment which will be most helpful, and agreeing upon a schedule of meetings;
  • keeping a record of supervisory meetings using the online system;
  • taking the initiative in raising problems or difficulties, however elementary they may seem;
  • for the safety of themselves and others, students 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 relevant Research Council, 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 a brief formal report to the Director of Doctoral Studies as part of the annual 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 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 Codes of Practice for Research and Intellectual Property 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 student 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 student should ask to meet the Director of Doctoral Studies if the student 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 student 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 student;
  • within 3 months of first registration, to organise a meeting with the student to discuss the Researcher Development Framework;
  • to keep a record of supervisory meetings using the online system;
  • to approve and pass on to the Director of Doctoral Studies a research plan (or School equivalent) produced by the student; 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 student’s progress for consideration within the framework of the school and/or department’s annual review procedures, for later submission to the Director of Doctoral Studies;
  • to provide advice and support to the student 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 student 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 student is made aware of inadequacy of progress or of standards of work below that generally expected;
  • to identify prospective external examiners.

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

  • to agree a schedule of regular meetings with the student, in accordance with School policy and in the light of discussion of arrangements with the student;
  • to be accessible to the student 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 student 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 student’s written submissions;
  • to ensure that the student 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 student 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 student in the consideration of these as appropriate.
  • to ensure that the student 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).

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.

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.

Annual review and progress reports

Each year of registration you will need to achieve satisfactory progress in your research. The Director of Doctoral Studies in your School with 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 process does also provide an 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. 

  • Student Report:

    As part of the annual review, you will be asked to complete a report outlining your progress and return it to the Research and Enterprise Co-ordinator.

    Your student report should provide the following areas of detail:

    • the current stage of your research:

      You should refer this account to your research outline, explaining any changes and indicating the most recent developments. If you are on fieldwork, or have completed it in the past year, you should outline its successes and any issues that arose;
    • any issues you are experiencing in your research which might need access to further specialised advice or resources;
    • whether your work has been significantly impeded by any non-academic factors or if you expect it to be so in the next few months;
    • how many times you have been in contact with your supervisor and whether that has been satisfactory;
    • whether you feel that you have been receiving adequate and appropriate feedback and advice;
    • any courses or training you have undertaken in the past year and whether there are any further requirements that you feel you need;
    • your funding arrangements;
    • research objectives for the forthcoming year;
    • when you realistically expect to submit your thesis;
    • any other factors that you would like to draw to the attention of the Director of Doctoral Studies.

    You will be asked to return the report to your School Office by the date specified.

 

  • Supervisor's Report:

    Your main supervisor will also be asked to complete a report which details:

    • whether you are making satisfactory progress in accordance with the plans in your research outline;
    • your relationship with your supervisor and whether you have kept in touch adequately;
    • when your supervisor realistically expects your thesis to be submitted;
    • whether, in your supervisor’s opinion, there is any risk that you will not submit by your deadline;
    • whether any non-academic factors may have impeded your work sufficiently to make a case for intermission;
    • whether your supervisor thinks that you need any specialist training, advice, or special resources;
    • any problems identified and the possible solutions to rectify those problems.

    Your supervisor will discuss their report fully with you so that you know your supervisor’s views and have an opportunity to comment if you wish. Your supervisor will then forward the report to the Director of Doctoral Studies.

 

  • Annual Review Meeting:

    You will be required to attend a formal annual 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 the agreement of the Director of Doctoral Studies. 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 annual review meeting, 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 student and the supervisor;

    • the annual review meeting has taken place;

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


    Unsatisfactory Progress:

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

    • 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

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

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

    If the decision is to refuse progression to the next academic year the following steps will be taken:

    • the departmental review group, or equivalent within your School assigned to conduct the annual review should produce a detailed report on your academic progress, highlighting aspects that are not satisfactory and include a recommendation to refuse registration in the next academic year;

    • the report should be forwarded to the School Research Degree Committee chaired by the Director of Doctoral Studies. If the School Research Degree Committee accepts the recommendation it should forward the recommendation including the departmental report and a minute of the Research Degree Committee discussion and conclusion to the Research Student Administration Office;

    • the Research Student Administration Office will review the papers to confirm that proper procedures have been followed and that the recommendation is not in contravention of any regulations;

    • the Research Student Administration Office will then send the documents on to the Chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee (and the Chair of the Doctoral School Board) for final consideration and approval;

    • the Chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee (and the Chair of the Doctoral School Board) will approve the refusal if they agree with the recommendation, and notify the Research Student Administration Office of its decision;

    • the Research Student Administration Office will write to you to inform you of the outcome and advise you of your right to appeal and the procedure involved.

 

  • Appeal:

    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.   

    If you have been refused permission to re-register you will receive a letter from the Research Student Administration Office informing you of this and setting out the procedure for appeal.

  • 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 at least one formal meeting each month (or equivalent) between student 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.

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

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.

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

Visa extensions
If you need to apply for a Tier 4 visa extension, you will need to request a Confirmation of Acceptance for Study (CAS) from the University and you should contact the Research Student Administration Office, who will provide you with the necessary documentation. We recommend that you begin this process at least three months before your visa is due to expire. For more information on visa extensions and the application process, please see International Student Support.

Changing to Part-time Status
The Tier 4 immigration rules do not currently allow students who hold a Tier 4 visa to transfer to part-time status. Part time study may be permitted on some other visa types but you should discuss the implications with an International Student Advisor (based in International Student Support) before making any change to your visa status.

Intermission and authorised absence
International doctoral students holding a Tier 4 visa are entitled to a period of authorised absence (a type of intermission) from their studies, during which the University will continue to act as their sponsor. Advice from the UKVI is that this period does not exceed two months (60 days). Periods of authorised absence of up to 60 days will be granted for maternity, paternity or adoption leave, and exceptionally for medical or financial reasons. During the period of authorised absence students must maintain regular contact with their supervisors. Students may decide when they wish their period of authorised absence to begin, but should inform the Research Student Administration Office of their intentions no later than two months before the start date. The standard intermission form should be used.

If a student holding a Tier 4 visa wishes to take intermission for longer than 60 consecutive days, the University will cease to be their sponsor. The 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. In applying for intermission the standard intermission form should be used.

Doctorate Extension Scheme
The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) was introduced by the UK Border Agency in 2013. Through the DES scheme, the University can grant a further CAS to completing doctoral students to apply for an extension to their Tier 4 Visa. The DES visa will allow you to look for and start work in the UK (including self-employment) for a further 12 months after completion of your studies. The scheme can also provide a bridge to longer term extensions in the UK to work under either Tier 1 or 2. You must apply for this while your current Tier 4 is still valid and before you have formally completed your PhD. Contact the International Student Support Office for advice.

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.