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Update for Doctoral Researchers

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

On Wednesday 7 October, Pro Vice-Chancellor Stephen Shute wrote to all Postgraduate Researchers with an update in light of the new academic year and the Covid-19 situation. You can read the email below.

Dear Doctoral Researcher

I’m writing to provide some updates for our PGR community and to give a warm welcome to our new cohort of Doctoral Researchers, as well as to those of you who are continuing your research programmes with us at Sussex.

If you are a new Doctoral Researcher here at Sussex, please visit this page for further information that might be useful for you.

Two new personal development modules have been opened to Doctoral Researchers for the first time, in collaboration with Organisational Development. Mandatory for all staff at the University, these modules on unconscious bias and diversity in the workplace will introduce you to the University's approach and help you to navigate everyday working relationships. The courses are self-led, and available through the Researcher Development Online Canvas site. We hope to add to these in the coming months.

The Researcher Development Programme will continue online throughout the autumn, with the workshop and webinar schedule and a new Digital Researcher strand launching in the next few weeks. Several sessions that were postponed last year will now be held online, including Looking Out for One Another in the PhD Community and Presentation Skills for Researchers, and TEL will be delivering some exciting training throughout the year. The Doctoral School has expanded the Online Training Series, with more places available on research methods sessions, and a new webinar on using NVivo; see the Online Resources webpage for further details.

As you may recall from my previous updates, over the summer we continued to coordinate financial support for Doctoral Researchers. The Sussex Scholarship extension scheme has now concluded, awarding £75k to 54 Sussex-funded PGRs who applied for an extension to their scholarships as a direct result of Covid-19. I would like to thank the Director of the Doctoral School, Professor George Kemenes, and the four Directors of Doctoral Studies representing all areas of the University that made up the awarding panel.

We have also been distributing financial support through the £175k PGR Hardship Fund. So far we have awarded £41,950 to a total of 71 PGR applicants. This continues to be open to those of you experiencing Covid-19 related financial difficulties – except those with access to externally-funded scholarship extensions (e.g. UKRI) and the Sussex Scholarship Extension Scheme. In addition, any of you experiencing financial difficulties – regardless of your funding source – can apply to the general Student Hardship Fund. More information is available on the Hardship Fund pages.

At this point I’d also like to provide some more clarity around how PhD supervision and PhD examination can operate at the current time: 

  • The format of supervision should be agreed by PhD students and Supervisors with distant supervision, in-person supervision or a blend of the two all permitted 

  • The format of a PhD viva examination should be agreed by a PhD student, Supervisors and (once appointed) Examiners. Online vivas and in-person vivas are permitted 

  • Where in-person supervision or a PhD examination is agreed by all participants, this can occur in offices or rooms on campus where 2 metre distancing between all parties can be maintained 

For further guidance on supervision please refer to the Doctoral School webpages and national UKCGE online supervision guidance.

For further guidance regarding viva examinations please refer to the Research Student Administration Office webpages and the bespoke online viva guidance.

The Covid-19 guidance for supervisors and doctoral researchers continues to be regularly updated, so please view the relevant advice.

Finally, I would like to remind you about the University’s new Community Pledge. We have developed the pledge around behaviours that can make a difference in reducing the spread of Covid-19, and because we all have a role to play in making sure that the areas where we live, work, and study are as safe as they can be. I hope you will take a moment to read it and show your support.

I wish you all the best with your research in the coming year.


Pro Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Shute

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Wednesday, 7 October 2020

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