Research Student Administration Office

Throughout your research degree

Find information about the key stages and processes that occur throughout a research degree.

The purpose of these webpages is to provide guidance and information to help Doctoral Researchers navigate through the University's requirements for research degrees. It signposts the key stages and processes involved in the lifecycle of a Doctoral Researcher, and clarifies who is responsible for doing what at each stage.

Please note the information on this webpage has regulatory status - see about these webpages. In addition to the information provided on this webpage and our information on the submission and examination process, Doctoral Researchers should also familiarise themselves with the regulations and policies associated with research degrees at Sussex.

You can also see the advice and information given to research degree supervisors. This will familiarise you with the role supervisors play in the progress of your research degree.

Sources of support for research students
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.

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. The office deals with all aspects of research student administration from registration and examination to graduation, including the production of ‘To Whom it May Concern’ letters and issuing of CAS/ATAS for international research students.

Enquiries may be made by email (researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk) or telephone (01273 876550). 

If you would like to talk with the Research Student Administration Office in-person, please email to make an appointment.

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 communicating your research to undertaking a literature review; from the use of social media to learning how to use data analysis software). 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. The programme is 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 you 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. Contact researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk with enquiries.

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 approximately 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.

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. Research student representatives ensure that the views and opinions of doctoral researchers are heard within the University, and that research students have a mechanism to influence how departments are 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 Researcher:

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 supervisors, oversight of supervisory arrangements for research 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 Progression 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 progression 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 research students, elected by University of Sussex and by Brighton and Sussex Medical School students to represent the views and interests of doctoral researchers in their subject. Reps find out about issues impacting on research 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 PGR Student Reps are elected to hold positions on University committees to raise issues at a higher level. PGR reps are elected in October every year. Find out more about the scheme on the University of Sussex Students' Union website.

Support services outside the schools

Support services outside the Schools

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

Student Life Centre

The Student Life Centre is the first place to come when you have questions, queries, worries or concerns. Their information desk is open all day 9.00 - 17.00 and they offer email and telephone advice, easily bookable appointments and welfare drop-in sessions (usually 11.00 - 16.00) for urgent concerns. The Student Life Centre offers information and advice to all Sussex research students. Their aim is to help you to gain the best university experience you can, whatever your circumstances, by ensuring you get the appropriate guidance and support if you run into problems.

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.

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 and immigration advice to ensure that your time with us is as rewarding and problem-free as possible.

Careers and Employability Centre

The Careers and Employability Centre works within the University's equality and diversity policy. The Centre runs training courses specifically for doctoral students and has specific information for PhD researchers.

English Language for Academic Study

English Language for Academic Study workshops and one-to-one tutorials are available free of charge for research 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.

Fundamentals of Teaching & Learning in HE

Fundamentals of Teaching & Learning in HE is the University's training module for new, early-career and more experienced Higher Education teachers. Fundamentals 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.

Fundamentals 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 Fundamentals if you want to teach at Sussex, you can do this either before or alongside your teaching.

The module consists of 5 workshops, with a group assignment presented for assessment in the final workshop. The module is run 8-10 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.

As a doctoral researcher, you are encouraged to raise any matters with your supervisors whenever possible. The following guidance is intended to signpost support in addition to primary contact with supervisors, and you 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.

What happens if I raise an issue?

All issues or problems can be raised in confidence. No issue raised will influence your academic progress or future career prospects.

One type of issue that can occur during a doctorate concerns supervision. While there is not a right to a change in supervision, the university is committed to all parties working together to resolve supervision issues.

Doctoral Researchers are encouraged to raise any potential mental health or wellbeing issues that influence their studies. In 2018 an Office for Student and Research England award was made to the University to support the mental health of Doctoral Researchers. The project's overarching aim is to provide a sustainable best practice model for the sector to address the challenge of Doctoral Researcher mental health. In particular it will focus on the aims of prevention and early intervention. Secondary aims include the development and implementation of new practice for supporting Doctoral Researchers; enhanced staff and student training across the institution, and working in partnership with statutory health services.

Alternate people are available should the matter concern the individual it would normally be raised with. This may arise where a Director of Doctoral Studies is also the acting Supervisor. In these instances, the School Director of Student Experience can help. In all cases, the University of Sussex Students Union Advocacy and Advice service provides support independent to the University.

The steps taken in response to an issue will be agreed with the Doctoral Researcher at the outset. For example, this could be an informal discussion between a third party and a Supervisor, or the Doctoral Researcher being referred to a specialist support service.

Three ways to access help

1. Peer support and community
  • At early stages, you are encouraged to consult your peers, friends and family. School Doctoral Researcher representatives are there to represent and link Doctoral Researchers together. Drawing on the experience of later years Doctoral Researchers or Post-Docs to work through problems is highly recommended.
  • A great independent source of PhD inspiration: www.thesiswhisperer.com

If you're unsure of how to find your peers, try your School’s Research & Enterprise Coordinator.

2. Informal help
  • The next stage may be an informal chat with someone in your School or a central department. All matters can be raised confidentially, or escalated if requested.

People who can help:

    • in the School: Directors of Doctoral Studies, Research Conveners, Director of Student Experience
    • University support: The Student Life Centre, Doctoral School, USSU, International Student Support

Online information: New Doctoral Researchers at SussexVitae, and Researcher Development.

If you're unsure of where to start, try the Student Life Centre.

3. Formal help
  • If stages 1 and 2 above have not resolved the matter, a formal issue can be raised. This would always require the explicit consent of the Doctoral Researcher and in some cases a written summary

People who can help:

  • Director of Doctoral Studies
  • Research Student Administration Office
  • Advocacy and Support within the USSU

Further information:

If you are not sure where to start, get in touch with the Research Student Administration Office.

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 engage in supervision, attend researcher development workshops, use labs, and use the Library, Computing and other University facilities. Once registered for the first time you will receive a University registration card which includes membership of the Students’ Union.

If you are in receipt of a postgraduate student loan, the Research Student Administration Office will notify the Student Loan Company when you have completed registration. The Student Loan Company will then release your first loan installment. If you have queries regarding registration, please contact the Research Student Administration Office. If you have queries regarding your student loan, please contact the Student Finance England Postgraduate Loan Team.

Registration for current doctoral students

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

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:

  • Correspondence for full-time, part-time or pre-submission research students will be sent to term-time addresses;
  • Correspondence for fieldwork/distant learning research 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 research 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 research student not living in University accommodation, upon request the Research Student Administration Office 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 research student you should contact your local Council Tax Office for further information on any discounts you may be eligible for.

Electoral Registration

Arrangements to register you to vote whilst a research student at the university are managed through annual registration. 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 dedicated webpages 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.

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 research students by the University, your School will arrange meetings for new research 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.

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

New doctoral researchers: online induction resource

The Doctoral School has developed a new resource to help you manage the early days of your doctorate - bringing together interviews with doctoral researchers and staff from across the University, webinar recordings and lots of useful tools.

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 the Sussex website and you can also ask your School to display your profile on the School webpages. This can help raise your academic profile and promote your research. 

Supervision
Main supervisor

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.

Change of supervisor

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.

Clarifying how supervision will work

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 a questionnaire to ‘clarify the roles, responsibilities and expectations’ of Doctoral Researchers and their supervisors can be used for this purpose. It is vital that a record of these early supervisions are made in Sussex Direct.

Mid-year review of supervision

All research students and supervisors are required to engage, at a mid-point each year, in a discussion regarding supervision. A record of this discussion must be made online in the same way as standard supervisions and it may be useful to return to the expectations questionnaire that is normally used at the outset of registration. You are asked to reflect on supervision, and if appropriate to share these views with your supervisors, with the aim of improving the quality and efficiency of future supervision for all involved.

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
  • 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 feedback 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 the work required by your School, including 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 familiar with funding arrangements, terms and conditions, including length of funding and funder requirements should any changes to study be made
  • 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

If you consider that your work is not proceeding satisfactorily for reasons outside your control you should discuss the matter with your supervisor/s and, failing satisfaction, with the Director of Doctoral Studies and/or Research Convenor who will advise on any grievance procedures.

In particular, you should ask to meet the Director of Doctoral Studies if you feel that you are 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.

See also: where to go when you need help.

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 you 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: 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 with the Doctoral Researcher
  • to confirm the draft records of supervisory meetings using the online system
  • to approve a research plan (or School equivalent) produced by the Doctoral Researcher, and to pass this to the Director of Doctoral Studies for further approval. Schools will have specific requirements and deadlines but the research plan 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 they present 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 they 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 they 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.

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.

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 with your 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 - see www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations/.

You'll also have regular Progression Reviews. Progression Reviews give you the chance to discuss your research progress and raise any issues you may have. Find out more on the Student Hub.

See specific information for:

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, such as those offered by the Doctoral School that focus on these areas. Your Training Needs Analysis should be considered by the panel assessing your academic progress as part of your progression review.

Ethical review

All staff and research 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 process

In 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.

Consideration of your research

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 all instances, the work required for Progression Review must be an integral part of your research, and material that is required anyway in the production of your thesis.

Doctoral researcher report

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 Doctoral Researcher report should provide the following areas of detail:

  • the current stage of your research. Your report should refer 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 in the next few months
  • how many times you have been in contact with your supervisor/s 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

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’s report will not be made available to you, so that both your report and the supervisor’s report are entirely confidential to the progression review panel.

Progression review meeting

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’.

While all Doctoral Researchers must undergo a Progression Review each year, if your thesis submission or completion is imminent, your School may agree to conduct your progression review without the needs for an in-person meeting. Doctoral Researcher and Supervisor reports are required in the normal way, for consideration by the review panel. In such cases, the Progression Review must agree a plan to completion, and ensure that the Intention to Submit process and nomination of examiners is completed in the timescales prescribed.

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.

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.

Any period of provisional registration should normally conclude before the commencement of 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 Progression 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 for final consideration and approval.
  • The Chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee 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.

Interim progression reviews

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 of the Director of Doctoral Studies. Directors may themselves also convene an Interim Progression Review.

The process and range of outcomes of Interim Porgression Reviews are the same as described for Progression Reviews.

General monitoring of your progress and atendance

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/

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.

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 ensure that any change of address - for fieldwork or otherwise - is kept up to date in Sussex Direct.

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 and the University policy on atendance, engagement and absence for doctoral researchers, you must maintain regular contact with your supervisor(s) to advise on your progress while you are undertaking fieldwork.

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, before the end of your current period of fieldwork.

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 update Sussex Direct with your correct 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

You can apply to change between full- and part-time (in either direction) if your circumstances change, for example, for personal or employment reasons. If a medical or health condition arises, it may be more appropriate to take an intermission from your studies, unless your health issue indicates that a different rate of study is more suitable.

If you change between full- and part-time (in either direction), your maximum date of registration will be re-calculated. However, only one change between full-and part-time study is normally possible and changes during the last six months of your registration are not permitted. If there is a difference between your funding and University end-date, you may need to apply for an extension 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.

The University does not allow doctoral researchers 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 Adviser before making any change to your visa status.

Changing to pre-submission status (also referred to as 'writing-up' status)

Please note that not all Doctoral Researchers will transfer to pre-submission status and you may have any registration status (full-time, part-time or pre-submission) at the time you submit your thesis. Pre-submission status does not automatically occur; an application to transfer to presubmission status must be made. This is particularly important to note if you are a Doctoral Researcher with funding of three years or less. After your funding ends, if an application for pre-submission status has not been made, standard fees will be charged.

You can apply to transfer to pre-submission status (sometimes referred to as ‘writing up status’) 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 transfer to presubmission status. Please discuss your progress with your supervisor before you complete an application form for presubmission status.

Pre-submission status is not normally approved before the completion of three years full-time study or five years parttime study, and cannot be applied retrospectively. As you cannot apply retrospectively, it is important that you discuss your transfer to pre-submission status with your supervisor ahead of time.

A reduced tuition fee is payable for Doctoral Researchers registered on pre-submission status. Pre-submission can be applied for in blocks of three months (3, 6, 9 or 12 months) up to a maximum of one year and your tuition fees will be adjusted accordingly. Please note that if you are applying for less than one year, your timetable to submission must be realistic and must match the length of time requested on pre-submission status. If you do not submit your thesis before the end of your period of pre-submission, you will need to apply to extend this.

Doctoral Researchers on pre-submission status are entitled to at least two meetings with their supervisory team per three months, unless agreed otherwise with your School. The supervisor will read and comment on a revised full draft of the thesis while the Doctoral Researcher is registered on pre-submission status.

You will not be entitled to:

  • Use of work-rooms, laboratories or similar facilities
  • University accommodation
  • Membership of, or election to, University Committees

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

An application form for pre-submission status is available from our Forms and letter requests webpage. 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 regarding your application. The completed form will be sent to the Research Student Administration Office who will write to inform you of the decision.

Applying for an intermission from your studies

Throughout the research degree, full-time Doctoral Researchers can apply for up to 12 months’ intermission and part-time Doctoral Researchers can apply for up to 24 months’ intermission. Intermission is taken in periods of months, beginning on the first of a month. Doctoral Researchers sponsored on a Tier 4 visa should refer to the information for international students regarding intermision and authorised absence.

If your studies are funded, it is your obligation to be aware of the terms and conditions of your funding award, and how these are affected by an intermission, or any other change to your registration. If you are funded by a US Federal Direct Loan, advice must be taken from the Financial Aid Office before any changes to your registration are made: usfinancialaid@sussex.ac.uk

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, to ensure that there is support in place, your return will be subject to the university’s Fitness to Study policy. Please also note that intermission is granted in addition to parental leave.

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 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.

Up to an additional 12 months of exceptional intermission may be granted and any such application will be considered by the Chair of Doctoral Studies Committee based on a recommendation by the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School.

Applying for an extension to your registration period

Minimum and maximum periods of registration for research degrees are as follows:

AwardMode of StudyMin. period of registrationMax. period of registration
Master of Philosophy

full-time

part-time

one year

two years

three years

four years

Doctor of Philosophy

full-time

part-time

two years

three years

four years

six years

Doctor of Education, Doctor of Social Work part-time four years 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 three, six, nine or twelve months. You may be registered full-time, part-time or with presubmission status for the period of your extension. Please note that in addition to the relevant tuition fee, an extension fee of £125 is payable the first time an extension is granted. This fee is not charged for any subsequent extensions.

Should it be necessary for you to request an extension to your maximum date of registration, you should consult your main supervisor in the first instance. You should then complete an application form, available on the Research Student Administration Office website. If your supervisor supports your request, they will add a statement in support of the extension to the application form and make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies, who will then 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.

When making your request for an extension, you should supply the following:

  • 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.

Any extension granted will constitute a final period of registration. If the Director of Doctoral Studies does not agree to grant you an extension, you will be expected to submit your thesis by your maximum date of registration. If you cannot submit your thesis by your maximum date of registration, you will be required to withdraw on academic grounds and you will no longer be a candidate for a University of Sussex degree.

A further year of exceptional extension may be granted (making 6 years total registration for full time Doctoral Researchers, and 8 years for part-time) and any such application must be approved by the Chair of Doctoral Studies Committee based on a recommendation by the Director of Doctoral Studies in your School.

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. You 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 or your School’s Research and Enterprise Coordinator of your intention to withdraw from your studies. You will be provided with a withdrawal form that you should complete and return to the Research Student Administration Office. Within the form, you will have the opportunity to provide feedback on your experience at the University of Sussex if you wish.

If you are a Tier 4 sponsored Doctoral Researcher, your right to work in the UK would cease with effect from the first day of your withdrawal, and this would end the University’s sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa.

If your studies are funded, it is your obligation to be aware of the terms and conditions of your funding award, and how these are affected by a withdrawal. If you are funded by a US Federal Direct Loan, advice must be taken from the Financial Aid Office before any changes to your registration are made: usfinancialaid@sussex.ac.uk

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 Student Administration Office website.

If you have a Tier 4 visa, changing your thesis title can have implications for future visa applications. Please consult an International Student Adviser.

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 Doctoral Researcher representative in your School before making a formal request. See options on outlets that are available to Doctoral Researchers if help and advice is needed.

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.

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.

Changing from an MPhil to a PhD and vice versa

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.

If you have a Tier 4 visa, you should consult an International Student Adviser before making these changes. They will advise on whether you need to make a new visa application before the course change. Some changes require you to apply from overseas.

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 Doctoral Researcher. 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.

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.

If you wish to change from PhD to MPhil, you should discuss this and seek the agreement of your supervisors and Director of Doctoral Studies. If agreed, your School will notify the Research Student Administration Office.

Annual, maternity, adoption and paternity leave

Annual leave

The University recognises the importance of time away from work/study as a key feature of healthy and productive Doctoral Research. Doctoral Researchers are strongly encouraged to plan ahead, and to use their entitlement of annual leave, which is eight weeks/40 working days including public holidays and University closure days. Doctoral Researchers should notify their supervisors in writing of when they intend to take their annual leave. Those Doctoral Researchers holding Tier 4 visas sponsored by the University may take annual leave without risk to their immigration status. While on annual leave, Doctoral Researchers and supervisors should continue to make contact every month.

Before taking annual leave, Tier 4 visa holders must complete the holiday request application form.

Maternity leave

All Doctoral Researchers are entitled to one full year (52 weeks) of maternity leave. Doctoral Researchers may decide when they wish their maternity leave to begin, but should inform the Research Student Administration Office no later than two months before the start date. Please see the information below if you are a Research Council funded Doctoral Researcher.

Tier 4 visa holders should consult an International Student Adviser for advice about how periods of maternity leave may affect their immigration status.

Adoption leave

Adoption leave is granted on the same basis as maternity leave. Please see the information below if you are a Research Council funded Doctoral Researcher.

Paternity leave

Fathers are entitled to up to 10 days (two weeks) ordinary paternity leave and up to 26 weeks of additional paternity leave. Doctoral Researchers 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. Please see the information below if you are a Research Council funded Doctoral Researcher.

Maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave for Research Council funded doctoral researchers

Research Council funded Doctoral Researchers are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity or shared parental leave. The first 26 weeks will be paid at full stipend rate, pro-rated as necessary for part-time Doctoral Researchers. The following 13 weeks will be paid at a level commensurate with statutory maternity pay. The final 13 weeks are not paid. Partners are entitled to up to 10 days paid Ordinary Paternity Leave on full stipend. Partners may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave; this may include paid and unpaid leave. Depending on the individual circumstances, any paid leave will be at full stipend. Adoption Leave is granted on the same basis as maternity leave. There is no qualifying period for maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

Research Council funded Doctoral Researchers are encouraged to contact the University of Sussex Doctoral School to discuss their parental leave prior to making an application to discuss the potential impacts on their funding and/or stipend payments.

Appeals and complaints

See appeals for PhDs and other research degrees on the Student Hub.

Also find out how to make a complaint about the University.

Important information for international research students

If you’re a student from another country studying a PhD at Sussex, the following things might affect your visa.

Annual leave or holiday

You’re entitled to up to eight weeks of holiday a year, including public holidays and University closure days.

If you want to work more than 20 hours a week during your holiday, you must keep a record of holiday dates. This is so you can show you were working during holidays and not during your studies or periods of authorised absence, which would breach Tier 4 visa conditions.

To take annual leave, get permission from your supervisor/s and submit the Annual leave/holiday request form to the Research Student Administration Office.

Academic supervision doesn't normally happen while you’re on holiday. However, you must make contact every month with your main supervisor.

Temporary withdrawal (intermission)

If you want to temporarily withdraw, we will cease to be your sponsor. You must then return to your home country and apply for a new CAS and a new visa when you’re ready to resume your studies.

Use the intermission form to make an application for intermission. You cannot apply for intermission retrospectively.

Fees will not be accrued during intermission and your course end date will be extended by the length of an intermission.

Authorised absence

In some circumstances, you can apply for authorised absence if you need to take a short break from studies of less than 60 days.

Acceptable reasons for authorised absence include:

  • to receive minor medical treatment (medical certificate required)
  • to take maternity or 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 or dependant (medical certificate required).

You can only get authorised absence if it won’t affect your academic progression or your ability to complete your studies within your existing period of leave. You can only apply for one period of authorised absence during the course of your studies.

Fees will not be accrued during authorised absence and your course end date will be extended by the length of absence.

If you cannot return to studies after taking a period of authorised absence (up to a maximum of 60 days, normally in whole months) you will usually need to intermit and we will withdraw sponsorship.

Authorised Absence application process

Request an authorised absence application form from the Research Student Administration Office (RSAO). The form needs to be approved by the lead supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies.

If you’re requesting authorised absence on medical grounds, evidence must be provided to support your application for, and return from, authorised absence. The medical evidence will need to confirm you are fit to return to studies.

If you have personal difficulties, please seek advice from the Student Life Centre.

The authorised absence will be logged on your student record and you will receive confirmation of the authorised absence from us.

Only one period of authorised absence is allowed during a course of study.

Your responsibilities

During an authorised absence, you must continue to meet the conditions of your visa and maintain contact with us through your main supervisor. You must also keep your contact details up-to-date in Sussex Direct.

Ten working days before you resume your studies, contact your school to confirm you’ll be returning on the expected date. Any further break from studies could mean you have to intermit and leave the UK.

Where an authorised absence has been taken on medical grounds, you need to provide medical evidence of your fitness to study ahead of a return.

Working while studying

Check work restrictions as a PhD student on the Student Hub.

You can request a work letter for your employer. Email researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk.

Changes to your course

Find out about:

Important: If your visa was issued before 6 April 2016, email immigration@sussex.ac.uk for advice.

Extending your visa

See what to do if you’re thinking of extending your visa.

Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme visa (DES) gives you 12 months after your PhD to look for work in the UK.

Find out how to apply for a DES visa.

Summary of Tier 4 requirements at different stages of registration

Registration StatusMin. engagement per monthMin. supervision per monthWorking permission (Tier 4 only)
Standard registration 1 1 20hrs
Authorised absence* (tier 4 only, 60 days max.) 1 0 20hrs
Intermission n/a n/a n/a
Fieldwork 1 1 20hrs
Holiday* 1 0 more than 20hrs
Pre-submission/post-submission/corrections 1 Recommended frequency of at least 2 every 3 months (pro-rata)** 20hrs

 *although supervision may not occur, tier 4 sponsored Doctoral Researchers are required to maintain one monthly contact with supervisors during any period of authorised absence or holiday.

**unless otherwise explicitly agreed and documented to reflect specific circumstances.

Important information for part-time research students

If you’re registered part-time, it normally takes six years to complete a PhD. You 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. Agree with your supervisors the frequency of supervisory meetings.

As with 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 ethical approval for your project (see The first year: research outline, above).

The format of the progression review is determined within your school. You’ll be given advice by your supervisor and the Director of Doctoral Studies. After completing the progression review and getting approval for your research plan, you can register for the next academic year and apply for fieldwork.