Research Student Administration Office

Information for supervisors

Here you'll find information and guidance for supervisors of research degree students regarding supervision, sources of training and support for research students and about the key stages and processes that occur throughout a research degree. You may also find it helpful to look at the advice and information given to research students and examiners. Please note the information on this webpage has regulatory status. See about these webpages.

UK Council for Graduate Education Guide to Online Supervision

UKCGE have published this guide to online supervision to help supervisors navigate the challenges of remote doctoral supervision. The guide shares the benefits of online supervising, outlines the issues and challenges for supervisors and candidates, and suggests strategies and practices for supervisors to consider when working with candidates engaged in research at a distance.

It is authored by three leading experts in the field of research supervision: Swapna Kumar - Clinical Associate Professor of Educational Technology in the School of Teaching and Learning, University of Florida; Vijay Kumar - Associate Professor of Higher Education in the Higher Education Development Centre, University of Oago, New Zealand; and Stan Taylor - Honorary Professor in the School of Education, University of Durham - and is based on the literature into remote supervision.

The guide is particularly relevant in the present circumstances with campuses locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also offers guidance in situations where candidates engage in research at geographical distance from the institution, or in programs that involve online components.

Kumar, S., Kumar, V. & Taylor, S. (2020) A Guide to Online Supervision. UK Council for Graduate Education

Key sources of support for research students

Most of a research student’s day-to-day contact will be at the local level and provided via their department or interdisciplinary unit. The primary source of academic support will be via their main supervisor(s). In addition, each department or interdisciplinary unit will have a person with overall responsibility for research degree students within that unit. If not the Head of Department, this person will commonly be known as the Research Convenor. There will be many areas, however, where final approval or authorisation is required by the Director of Doctoral Studies at School level.

Information on where to go for help has been developed for doctoral researchers. This acknowledges that some research students may not feel confident raising issues with supervisors, and makes suggestions on the different ways to approach an issue, and outlets for help.

Sources of advice and support outside the School

To supplement sources of academic support and advice, assistance is also available in relation to problems or queries of a more personal nature. The arrangements for general student welfare are set out in the Student Handbook.

In addition there are a range of support services which provide advice and help to students across the University. Doctoral Researchers can be be formally referred to any of these services and supervisors should be aware of the range of support and advice offered in order to signpost Doctoral Researchers to the appropriate unit.

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 students to gain the best university experience they can, whatever their circumstances, by ensuring that if they encounter problems they receive appropriate guidance and support.

International Student Support

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

Careers and Employability Centre

The Careers and Employability Centre is part of Student Services at the University of Sussex, and works within the University’s equality and diversity policy. The Centre runs training courses specifically for doctoral students. For more information, see the Centre's information for PhD researchers.

Researcher Development Programme

The opportunity to acquire relevant skills, not just in order to successfully complete the thesis, but also to aid future career development, is now increasingly recognised as an important component of research degree programmes. At Sussex, a programme of courses tailored to meet the skills training requirements of doctoral students has been specially developed. In addition to courses designed to assist with completion of the thesis – e.g. on writing and planning a thesis, and on preparation for the viva – the programme also includes courses to support development of more general transferable and career management skills. Towards the beginning of their studies, research students should agree with their supervisor(s) their skills training requirements using a training needs analysis; training needs should be reviewed at regular intervals, including during the Progression Review process.

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.

Fundamentals of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education module

Fundamentals of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education is the University’s training module for new, early-career and more experienced Higher Education teachers. Fundamentals of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education is a Master’s level module accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), meaning successful completion of the module can lead to Associate Fellowship of the HEA.

Fundamentals of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education is open to all Doctoral Researchers, whether they are currently teaching or not, although to benefit most from the module, it is helpful if students have had time to settle into Sussex and their own studies. Completing the module is a requirement for undertaking teaching at Sussex, be it before or alongside teaching.

The module consists of 5 workshops across one term, with an assignment presented for assessment in the final session. We run the module 8-10 times across the academic year, allowing participants to book a time of year that works best with their studies and teaching.

Full details of the module, including how to register and content covered can be found at www.sussex.ac.uk/adqe/ enhancement/devawardsrecognition/stt

Supervisors and Directors of Doctoral Studies can also have access to the Canvas for Fundamentals in order to familiarise themselves with what Doctoral Researchers are being offered. If you would like access or have any other queries, please contact Fundamentals@sussex.ac.uk

Sources of advice and support within the School

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 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 research training. The Director of Doctoral Studies also usually oversees the admissions process for doctoral students within the School, though Research Convenors may also play a key role.

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 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 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 Postgraduate research students, elected by Sussex University students 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.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.

Admitting new research students

Admission to all research degrees is overseen by the Postgraduate Admissions Office. To be considered for admission, an application must be made via the University’s online application portal PG Apply.

Applicants will need to choose a course from the prospectus and meet the entry requirements. Anyone whose first language is not English will need to meet the English language requirements for their chosen course. English language requirements are set institutionally to ensure an applicant’s English language capability is of a level that will enable them to succeed on their chosen course. The University publishes a list of accepted English language requirements.

Applicants are also normally required to submit a research proposal or statement and guidelines for what each School requires are set out here: www.sussex.ac.uk/study/phd/ apply/tips-research-degrees/research-proposal. Applicants can choose from three entry points, September, January and May. However, not all courses admit to all three entry points and this is made clear in the prospectus. In exceptional cases we can admit outside of the standard entry points, for example where a funder requires a specific start date. Requests for non-standard dates must be approved by the Research Student Administration Office.

Applicants are encouraged to make their application as early as possible. Recommended deadlines for applications are one month before start date (Home/EU applicants) and three months before start date (international applicants). Applicants who are applying for funding will often require an offer letter before they can be considered for funding. Many external and internal funding deadlines are in January and February so applicants will need to have applied for their course in good time.

Tuition fees are listed for each course in the prospectus.

Once the application has been submitted it is the responsibility of the relevant School (usually the Research and Enterprise Co-ordinator) to send the application to relevant convenors/selectors for a decision. If an offer recommendation is made the Postgraduate Admissions Office will issue the offer letter and for those who require a Tier 4 visa a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).

Please note that an offer letter will not be produced until the names of two supervisors have been provided by the School. Doctoral Researchers pursuing a doctoral degree at another institution may come to Sussex as a Visiting Research Student without graduating with our qualification. Please see Appendix 3 for details.

Criteria for selection of research degree students and supervisors

Criteria for selection of research degree students

In selecting research students, Schools must ensure that the following criteria are met:

Essential:

  • A performance in a first degree or, where appropriate, in a field of educational, professional or industrial experience relevant to the research, that suggests the student could successfully complete a research programme;
  • An area of research within the University's expertise;
  • A proposed area of research which, based on the information available, is capable of being studied to the depth required to obtain the degree for which the student is registered;
  • A proposed area of research which, based on the information available, is capable of being completed within the timescale designated for it and for which proper supervision can be provided and maintained;
  • A proposed area of research for which, based on the information available, appropriate University resources (e.g. library, computing, laboratory facilities, technical assistance), an appropriate research environment, and sufficient student resources (e.g. funds to cover field trips) are available;
  • Satisfactory recommendations from external referees;
  • A level of competence in English sufficient to undertake the research satisfactorily (or a requirement to undertake the language tuition identified as necessary prior to and, where appropriate, post registration as a research student).

Recommended Good Practice:

  • Evidence of research skills;
  • A satisfactory outcome at interview with potential supervisor(s) and other appropriate faculty.
  • Interviewing applicants is good practice and allows the applicant to assess the University as well as vice versa. Though costly in terms of time and resources, interviews should be considered an important part of the admissions process. Please refer to Appendix 5 for the ‘Guidance for academic selectors on the conduct of interviews and on making Doctoral Researcher admissions decisions’

Criteria for selection and appointment of supervisors

  • All members of the supervisory team must have a doctoral degree, or equivalent research experience; at least one supervisor must be active in research in an area relevant to the proposed PhD project;
  • The main supervisor must be a full- or part-time employee of the University and must continue to supervise the student to submission unless they leave the University;
  • A main supervisor should usually have supervised at least one PhD to successful completion; however, if the supervisory team includes a member of faculty with the appropriate experience, a new supervisor may act as a main supervisor with the co-supervisor maintaining oversight of progress of the supervision and providing mentoring as appropriate;
  • In appointing the supervisory team, it is essential to consider the research expertise as well as supervisory experience of different members;
  • The current PGR load of each member of the supervisory team should be considered by the relevant member of the School (HoS/HoD/DDS/Research Convenor) before supervisors are assigned;
  • The appointment of an external supervisor will be approved in exceptional circumstances when a case justifying the appointment is made to the Chair of Doctoral Studies Committee. Please see Appendix 4 for details.
Supervision
Supervisory arrangements

It is recognised that different models of supervision will be in place across schools and departments. Whatever arrangements are in place, however, schools and departments must ensure that the following requirements are met:

  • There must be a single identified point of contact both for the student and for administrative purposes. This person will be known as the ‘main supervisor’;
  • There must be an ‘additional supervisor’ able to provide advice and support when the main supervisor is not available. This role may be performed via a joint supervisor, co-supervisor, or by someone drawn from within a wider supervisory team. Recommended practice is that there should be more than one supervisor with whom the student can expect to have regular access or contact;
  • Two supervisors must be specified to the Postgraduate Admissions Office at the time an offer is made to the student. The additional supervisor should also be specified to the Research Student Administration Office at the time an offer is made to the student, or at the very latest by the end of the Doctoral Researcher’s first term. Schools have responsibility for notifying the Research Student Administration Office of the names of the main and additional supervisor
  • Either the main or additional supervisor should be currently engaged in research in the relevant disciplines
  • Members of staff who have a role in supervision of Doctoral Researchers should be suitably equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to support such Doctoral Researchers effectively
  • In the event of loss of the main supervisor, an appropriate replacement should be appointed by the Director of Doctoral Studies and reported to the Research Student Administration Office. Where there is any delay in the finding of a replacement, the main supervisor must ensure that suitable arrangements are in place to support the Doctoral Researcher during the interim.

Number of Research Students
No supervisor should undertake as main supervisor the supervision of more than a limited number of Doctoral Researchers. The limit will vary from one subject to another and according to factors such as a supervisor’s experience and other duties, but each School should have a normal maximum to be exceeded only in exceptional circumstances. A maximum number of 6 FTE Doctoral Researchers is suggested (to be exceeded only in exceptional circumstances with the agreement of the Director of Doctoral Studies).

Frequency of Supervision Schools should state clearly the character and frequency of research supervision that a student can expect with his or her supervisor/s. At minimum, there should normally be at least one formal meeting (or equivalent) each month between the supervisor and Doctoral Researcher. The content and dates of supervision meetings must be recorded on Sussex Direct by the Doctoral Researcher, and confirmed by the Supervisor.

Supervisors should be aware of the University policy on attendance, engagement and absence for Postgraduate Doctoral Researchers, available at: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations/.

The table below provides a summary of the frequency of engagements, including supervision, at different stages of registration.

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

 *although supervision may not occur, Tier 4 sponsored research students 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.

Expectations and review of supervision

Early supervision meetings should agree the schedule and frequency of meetings, but also include a discussion regarding your, and the Doctoral Researcher’s expectations of supervision. A positive Doctoral Researcher / Supervisor relationship is a key factor in the success of a doctorate, and the questionnaire to ‘clarify the roles, responsibilities and expectations’ of Doctoral Researchers and their Supervisors (see Appendix 6) can be used for this purpose. It is vital that a record of these early supervisions are made in Sussex Direct.

In addition, Doctoral Researchers 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 (see Appendix 6) that is normally used at the outset of registration. You are asked to reflect on supervision, and if appropriate to share these views, with the aim of improving the quality and efficiency of future supervision for all involved.

Responsibilities of research degree supervisors
The main supervisor is directly responsible in their role as supervisor to the Director of Doctoral Studies and, through that officer, to the Head of School. The main supervisor (or co-supervisor in the case of joint supervisions) is expected to provide the Doctoral Researcher with advice at every stage in the planning and conduct of research and in the writing of the thesis and to ensure, through the Director of Doctoral Studies, that replacement supervision is available in the event of any significant period of absence. The more specific responsibilities of the main supervisor are as follows:
  • maintaining regular contact with the Doctoral Researcher in accordance with University policy on attendance, engagement and absence for Doctoral Researchers, available at: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations
  • within 3 months of first registration, to organise a meeting with the Doctoral Researcher to discuss the Researcher Development Framework
  • to agree a schedule of regular meetings with the Doctoral Researcher in accordance with School policy, and consider the expectations of supervision (see supervisory arrangements and Appendix 6) with the Doctoral Researcher
  • to confirm the draft records of supervisory meetings using the online system
  • to approve and pass on to Director of Doctoral Studies a research plan (or School equivalent) produced by the Doctoral Researcher; which must be approved by the supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies; Schools will have specific requirements and timing but this must be completed by the end of the second term of study at the latest
  • to complete an annual report on the Doctoral Researcher’s progress for consideration within the framework of the school and/or department’s Progression Review procedures, for later submission to the Director of Doctoral Studies
  • to provide advice and support to the Doctoral Researcher on the preparation of a suitable thesis research outline during the first year of their study, in accordance with School procedures;
  • to request written work as appropriate, and return such work with constructive criticism and within reasonable time
  • if working in a potentially hazardous research environment, ensuring and monitoring that the Doctoral Researcher possesses 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 he or she may need advice
  • to give guidance about the nature of research and the standard expected, the planning of the research programme, literature and sources, attendance at taught classes, requisite techniques (including arranging for instruction where necessary), and the problem of plagiarism
  • to be familiar with the standard expected of research degree examiners, consistent with the guidance laid down by relevant Research Councils
  • to arrange as appropriate for the Doctoral Researcher to talk about his or her work to faculty or graduate seminars, and to be well briefed about the procedures involved in oral examinations
  • to provide clarification on the guidance or comment that will be offered on the Doctoral Researcher’s written submissions
  • to ensure that the Doctoral Researcher is aware of the University’s Code of Practice for Research and that he or she adhere to the requirements and observe the principles contained therein
  • to ensure that the 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 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).
Responsibilities of research degree students
The responsibilities that must be observed by Doctoral Researchers are as follows:
  • maintaining regular contact with the main supervisor in accordance with University policy on attendance, engagement and absence for Doctoral Researchers, available at: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/regulations
  • Within 3 months of first registration, to organise a meeting with the supervisor to discuss the Researcher Development Framework, and to complete a Training Needs Analysis
  • to prepare a research plan (or School equivalent) which must be approved by the supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies; the School will state the specific requirements and timing but this must be completed by the end of the second term of study at the latest
  • discussing with the supervisor/s the type of guidance and comment which will be most helpful, discussing expectations of supervision, and agreeing upon a schedule of meetings
  • keeping a record of supervisory meetings using the online system, to be confirmed by supervisors
  • taking the initiative in raising problems or difficulties, however elementary they may seem
  • for the safety of themselves and others, Doctoral Researchers working in a potentially hazardous research environment must take the initiative to ensure that they are competent in any relevant research techniques to be used. Those travelling to potentially unsafe areas for fieldwork need to obtain insurance accordingly
  • planning a research project which is achievable within a schedule consistent with the normal expectations of the University, and maintaining progress in line with that schedule
  • maintaining the progress of work in accordance with the stages agreed with the main supervisor, including in particular the presentation of written material as required in sufficient time to allow for comments and discussion before proceeding to the next stage
  • providing annually, the work required by the school and a brief formal report to the Director of Doctoral Studies as part of the Progression Review process
  • deciding when to submit the thesis, taking due account of the supervisor/s advice, and of University requirements regarding the length, format and organisation of the thesis
  • taking responsibility for their own personal and professional development
  • agreeing their development needs via the Training Needs Analysis with the main supervisor at the outset of the programme, reviewing these on an annual basis, and attending any relevant development opportunities so identified
  • being familiar with institutional regulations and policies that affect them, including the regulations for their qualification
  • being aware of the University’s Code of Practice for Research and adhering to the requirements and observing the principles contained therein
  • being aware of the University’s Open Access policies and the copyright implications of publishing their thesis in the institutional repository.

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

In particular, the Doctoral Researcher should ask to meet the Director of Doctoral Studies if the Doctoral Researcher feels that they are not 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 Heads of Department or Research Convenors

The Head of Department, or where delegated, the Research Convenor, is responsible for the following functions:

  • the selection of Doctoral Researchers (in accordance with the approved University criteria set out above);
  • the recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies that an offer be made to a selected Doctoral Researcher
  • allocation of supervisor/s in accordance with the procedures and requirements for the appointment of research supervisors identified above. Recommendation for the appointment of supervisor/s to the Director of Doctoral Studies
  • oversight of supervisory arrangements for research degree students in the department
  • liaison with the Director of Doctoral Studies over any changes of research supervisor
  • organisation of departmental arrangements for the Progression Review of Doctoral Researchers.

The Director of Doctoral Studies has oversight of these departmental or School arrangements.

The first year: induction and research outline

Induction for research students

Departments should ensure that new Doctoral Researchers meet, as early as possible, their supervisor/s, and the Research Convenor responsible for Doctoral Researchers within that unit. In addition to a wider induction of students by the University (e.g. introduction to the Library and the Computing Service), departments should arrange meetings for new Doctoral Researchers presided over by Directors of Doctoral Studies (or nominees) at which students should be familiarised with these webpages. A more informal, social gathering should also be arranged at which current postgraduates and appropriate faculty will be present. The Doctoral School web pages ‘New Doctoral Researchers at Sussex’ provide advice to those starting a doctorate and supervisors alike.

 

Research plan or outline

Research students must prepare an outline of the thesis (or School equivalent) for consideration during the first year of their study. Schools will identify the deadline for completion of the outline (e.g. end of first term). A form to confirm the content and title of the student’s thesis and research outline must be submitted by the student and supervisor(s) to the Director of Doctoral Studies. Any subsequent changes in the title or research topic will be valid only when approved by the Director of Doctoral Studies of the relevant School on the recommendation of the main supervisor.

Progression review and progression forms

Doctoral researchers are required to provide work for the consideration of the progression panel (also referred to as a Thesis Committee, or Thesis Panel), as defined by the School and the stage of study. All Doctoral Researchers, and their main supervisor, must also complete written Progression Review Reports. The supervisor’s report will not be made available to the student and vice versa. In addition, a formal Progression Review meeting will be scheduled between the Doctoral Researcher and at least one other person nominated by the Director of Doctoral Studies who is not the main supervisor (normally someone acting in this capacity at departmental level – e.g. this could be the Research Convenor). The main supervisor may also attend with the agreement of the Director of Doctoral Studies. If a Progression Review meeting includes any member of the supervisory team, separate arrangements must be made in the School for Doctoral Researchers to raise issues confidentially as part of their Progression Review.

Following completion of the Progression Review process, Doctoral Researchers should emerge with a concrete idea of how their research is progressing, with definite objectives for the coming year and a timetable for achieving those objectives.

While all Doctoral Researchers must undergo Progression Review each year, if the thesis submission or completion is imminent, the School may agree to conduct the Progression Review without the need for an in-person meeting. 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 at least two months before thesis submission.

Progression Reviews will normally occur in the Spring/ Summer. It is however possible to convene a Progression Review at any point in the year. Doctoral Researchers or supervisors can request an Interim Progression Review, for the approval by the Director of Doctoral Studies. Directors of Doctoral Studies may themselves also convene an Interim Progression Review. The process and range of outcomes of Interim Progression Reviews are the same as described for Progression Reviews.

It is recommended practice that the reports and notes of outcomes of Progression Review meetings are reviewed by department or School-level groups with a good spread of supervisory experience. As well as gaining a shared update on the progress of Doctoral Researchers within the School/ department, this group can usefully filter the cases of Doctoral Researchers whose progress is satisfactory from those whose progress gives some cause for concern and/ or whose supervisory arrangements or technical support need to be addressed. This group should forward the bundle of reports to the Director of Doctoral Studies with a short covering report that flags the cases where progression is problematic or there are other issues requiring attention. This group should also look specifically to see whether the training requirements identified during the initial and continuing training assessments are being fulfilled by candidates.

The Director of Doctoral Studies is formally responsible for approving (or not) the progression of all Doctoral Researchers in their School. The Director of Doctoral Studies may assemble a School-level research degree group to assist with this process (membership of such a group does not prevent a member of faculty from subsequently acting as an internal examiner for the Doctoral Researchers being reviewed). The Director of Doctoral Studies is responsible for instigating appropriate follow-up action in cases where there are concerns emerging from the review process.

If progress is deemed to be satisfactory and no change to the registration status is recommended, Directors of Doctoral Studies should sign the relevant annual review report, as directed by the Research Student Administration Office and return it to that Office by the end of July.

Unsatisfactory progress

If a Doctoral Researcher’s progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, there are three options for the School to consider. These are set out below:

  1. The Doctoral Researcher may be offered a period of provisional registration. The School will set the conditions that the student must meet by the end of that period (e.g. completion of a chapter) in order to progress and be fully registered. Any period of provisional registration should normally conclude before the commencement of the following academic year.
  2. The Doctoral Researcher’s registration may be transferred (downgraded) from PhD to MPhil.
  3. The student may be refused permission to register in the following academic year.

This policy concerns Option 3, the refusal of permission to register in the following academic year, and sets out the procedure that the School should follow in preparing the report on the Progression Review and academic progress, including the rationale for the recommendation to refuse registration. The final decision is taken by the Chair of Doctoral Studies Committee

A departmental review group (or School equivalent) should produce a report on:

  • the Doctoral Researcher’s academic progress
  • the Progression Review process for each year of the Doctoral Researcher’s registration
  • issues relevant to progress arising outside of the Progression Review process.

The completed report is then forwarded to the School Research Degree Committee. The purpose of the report is to ensure and demonstrate that:

  • the Doctoral Researcher has received appropriate supervision and support from the supervisors, School and the University
  • the Doctoral Researcher has been informed that he or she is deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress and given an opportunity to improve the work in order to reach a satisfactory standard (e.g. to demonstrate that the Doctoral Researcher has been given clear and timely advice on work submitted)
  • the Doctoral Researcher has been kept informed of the Progression Review process and understands its possible outcomes.

The report should include a review of the Doctoral Researcher’s period of study at Sussex, based on:

  • progression review reports from supervisors and Doctoral Researcher and the thesis panel (or School equivalent) report for each academic year
  • relevant correspondence with the Doctoral Researcher about their academic standing
  • the online supervisory record.

It is essential that the report consults all available records of the Doctoral Researcher’s progress (not only the records for the year following which deregistration is proposed) and highlights any concerns raised by the Doctoral Researcher and/or the supervisors during the period of study. Missing or incomplete progression review reports, incomplete supervisory records or missing correspondence should be highlighted. This report should then be forwarded to the Research Student Administration Office.

The Director of Doctoral Studies should review the report and highlight any issues to the review group and for discussion at the School Research Degrees Committee (RDC). If the Committee accepts the recommendation for deregistration, the minute from RDC to the Research Student Administration Office should clearly state that the above procedure has been followed; the minute should also note any issues arising from the Director of Doctoral Studies review of the report and the action taken to clarify or resolve those issues.

Ongoing support, development and guidance for research students

Schools and departments should:

  • provide guidance on the resources and facilities available to postgraduate research students and on general aspects of writing a thesis including, for example, the presentation of research outlines.
  • provide training in research techniques and, where appropriate, in the use of the necessary apparatus.
  • provide (or arrange for) training in skills related directly to the students’ research and ensure that adequate guidance is given if the student becomes involved in teaching
  • ensure that students make formal presentations of work-in-progress and are notified of opportunities to present papers at meetings.
  • ensure that students are provided with suitable guidance on preparation for their viva-voce examination (e.g. by attendance at suitable lectures/seminars, participation in ‘mock vivas’ or reference to relevant written guidance materials)
  • make clear whom, within the department, research students should contact regarding any problems, including difficulties with a supervisor, and make clear that counselling and medical services are available.
Change of registration status

Change of registration status

During a Doctoral Researcher’s period of registration they may request a change to their registration status such as:

  • full-time to part-time (or vice versa)
  • request for intermission
  • request to undertake fieldwork.

In such situations the main supervisor should complete the relevant form and make a recommendation to the Director of Doctoral Studies. Please refer to the information for international researchers, for further details on changes of registration for Doctoral Researchers who are sponsored by the University on a Tier 4 visa. The Director of Doctoral Studies may approve the request by signing the form and sending it to the Research Student Administration Office. The Research Student Administration Office will write to the Doctoral Researcher to confirm the change.

Intermission

In some circumstances, a Doctoral Researcher may apply for an intermission (temporary withdrawal). Intermission may be taken in periods of months, beginning on the first of a month, up to a maximum of one year in total. Intermission must be approved by the supervisor and the Director of Doctoral Studies and reported to the Research Student Administration Office who will inform the Doctoral Researcher of their responsibilities with regards to their return. Retrospective intermission is not permitted and students must apply in advance.

A maximum of one year of intermission for full-time students and two years for part-time Doctoral Researchers permitted during their research degree. Please note that intermission is granted in addition to parental leave. In some circumstances, a Tier 4 student can apply for one period of ‘authorised absence’, up to a maximum of 60 days, during the duration of their course. During periods of authorised absence the University will continue to act as the student’s Tier 4 sponsor (please refer to information for international students for details specific to Tier 4 sponsored Doctoral Researchers).

Up to a further 12 months of exceptional intermission may be granted 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.

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

Please note that not all Doctoral Researchers will transfer to pre-submission status and they may have any registration status (full-time, part-time or pre-submission) at the time they submit their 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 supervising a Doctoral Researcher with funding of three years or less. After the funding ends, if an application for pre-submission status has not been made, standard fees will be charged.

Doctoral Researchers can apply to transfer to presubmission status (sometimes referred to as ‘writing up status’) once they have completed their research work and collected all their data. The supervisor must approve a wellworked first draft of the Doctoral Researcher’s thesis as well as a detailed timeline and plan to submission before they are eligible to transfer to pre-submission status. Doctoral Researchers are advised to discuss their progress with their supervisor before completing 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 part-time study, and cannot be applied retrospectively. As Doctoral Researchers cannot apply retrospectively, it is important that you discuss their transfer to pre-submission status with your Doctoral Researcher 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 tuition fees will be adjusted accordingly. Doctoral Researchers who apply for less than one year, must have a realistic timetable and the timetable to submission must match the length of time requested on pre-submission status. If the Doctoral Researcher does not submit their thesis before the end of their period of pre-submission, they will need to apply to extend this.

Doctoral Researchers on pre-submission status are entitled to two meetings with their supervisory team per three months, unless agreed otherwise with their 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.

Doctoral Researchers 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 they are on presubmission, they will still continue to receive the same level of use of the Library and Computing Service up to their maximum date of registration.

Request for an extension of registration

In exceptional circumstances a Doctoral Researcher may request an extension to their period of registration past their maximum period of registration. The maximum period of registration for the MPhil is three years for a full-time student and four years for a part-time student; for the PhD it is four years and six years respectively; the maximum period of registration for the EdD and DSW is six years.

Doctoral Researchers may apply for an extension of one, two, three or four quarters up to a maximum of one year. Doctoral Researchers may be registered full-time, parttime or with pre-submission status for the period of their 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 a Doctoral Researcher to request an extension to their maximum date of registration, they should consult your main supervisor in the first instance. The Doctoral Researcher should then complete an application form, available on the Research Student Administration Office website. The supervisor is required to provide 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 the Doctoral Researcher to notify them of the decision.

When making a request for an extension, the Doctoral Researcher should supply the following:

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

If the Director of Doctoral Studies does not agree to grant the Doctoral Researcher an extension, the Doctoral Researcher will be required to withdraw on academic grounds, that is, they will no longer be a candidate for a University of Sussex degree once the maximum period of registration has been reached.

A further year of exceptional extension may be granted (making 6 years total registration for full-time Doctoral Researchers, and eight years for part-time) 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 the student’s School.

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

 

Change of degree

Transfer from MPhil to PhD

A Doctoral Researcher who wishes to apply to transfer from MPhil to PhD registration should provide a written application to the main supervisor which includes:

  • a copy of written work produced so far
  • a statement of the way in which the thesis will be developed, including a timetable.

The main supervisor should attach a supporting statement and should then forward the application to the Head of Department or Research Convenor.

Recommended practice is that the application will then be considered at an internal viva voce examination conducted by a member or members of the department or School. The main supervisor cannot undertake that examination but, where specific expertise is required, it may be appropriate for a member of the supervisory team to participate alongside other members of the department or School. The main supervisor may also be present with the agreement of the Doctoral Researcher. The recommendation following the examination will then be passed to the Director of Doctoral Studies for approval.

If the recommendation is for the Doctoral Researcher to be upgraded to a PhD, the Research Student Administration Office must be notified of the outcome using the appropriate form. The Research Student Administration Office will write to the Doctoral Researcher to inform them of the outcome of the application.

A Doctoral Researcher who has been refused permission to change registration from MPhil to PhD and considers that the decision was based on inadequate evidence or taken in an improper manner, shall have the right to appeal against that decision by writing to the Office for Student Complaints and Appeals within twenty-one days of the notification of the decision. www.sussex.ac.uk/ogs/complaintsappeals/academic

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 (please refer to the information for international students). While on annual leave, Doctoral Researchers and supervisors should continue to make contact every month.

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 supervising 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 supervising 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 supervising 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.

UKRI 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.

Information specific to international students

Changing to part-time status

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 Doctoral Researchers should discuss the implications with an International Student Advisor (based in International Student Support) before making any change to their visa status.

Authorised absence

Doctoral Researchers holding a Tier 4 visa can apply for one period of authorised absence, which must not exceed 60 days, during the duration of their course.

During periods of authorised absence, the University will continue to act as their sponsor. If a break in excess of 60 days is required, or the Doctoral Researcher has already had a period of authorised absence, please refer to the information regarding Intermission below.

Periods of authorised absence will normally be granted for maternity, paternity or adoption leave, health issues which would not ordinarily result in an absence exceeding 60 days or care/dependent reasons.

During the period of authorised absence Doctoral Researchers must maintain regular contact with their supervisors.

Although working rights under a Tier 4 visa remain unchanged during authorised absence, seeking time to work and/or financial issues are not eligible reasons to request authorised absence.

Fees will cease to be accrued during a period of authorised absence and the course end date will be extended by the length of an absence.

Doctoral Researchers may state 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 authorised absence form should be used.

Intermission

If a Tier 4 visa holder takes a period of intermission, the University is required to report this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). UKVI will curtail (cancel) the current visa and students should leave the UK. When students are ready to resume their studies, they can request a new CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) from the Research Student Administration Office.

The right to work in the UK would cease with effect from the first day of a period of intermission, and the Doctoral Researcher should therefore notify any current employer that they will not be permitted to undertake any further work.

Change of study location, fieldwork, and holiday

Tier 4 sponsored Doctoral Researchers should keep supervisors up to date at all times with their location and the progress of their research. A temporary period of study outside of the UK – that is not a period of fieldwork – in excess of three months requires notification to the Research Student Administration Ofiice via the Change of Study Location form, as here: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/forms/

Students who are changing their study location for less than 3 months are required to notify their supervisors of their temporary location and update their contact details on Sussex Direct.

Please note that periods of fieldwork does not affect the Doctoral Researcher’s Tier 4 status but a report is made to UKVI confirming a change of study location for the period of the fieldwork. The requirement for at least one monthly supervisor meeting (which can be via email/skype) continues during periods of fieldwork.

Tier 4 sponsored Doctoral Researchers are required to use the Holiday request form, which includes periods during non-term time. The holiday request form will enable Tier 4 Doctoral Researchers to work in excess of their stated visa restrictions (normally 20hrs per week) during periods of holiday. As here: www.sussex.ac.uk/rsao/forms/

Further detail of rights to work, and engagements with study can be found under ‘frequency of supervision’.

Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) enables PhD students to seek work/undertake employment for a 12 month period upon completion of their PhD.

Submission and examination

The information below breaks down the submission and examination process for research degrees for supervisors. You may also find it useful to consult the information given to research students and examiners regarding the examination of research degrees.

Appointment of examiners

Examiners are formally appointed by the Research Degrees Examination Board, and written confirmation of the appointment is sent to examiners by the Research Student Administration Office. The viva date should not be set until the appointment of the examiners has been confirmed.

If the proposed internal examiner has not previously examined a thesis at the University of Sussex, the Appointment of Examiners form must clearly indicate the name of the experienced faculty member who will be briefing the internal examiner.

Where there are particular circumstances that warrant it, an independent viva chair will be appointed by the Research Degrees Examination Board.

Once the examiners have been formally appointed and the internal examiner has advised the candidate of the viva date, no further contact between the examiners and the candidate is permitted, as this may invalidate the examination. Instead, contact must be via the Research Student Administration Office or the candidate’s supervisor.

When nominating examiners, Supervisors must disclose and reflect on any associations between Examiners/Supervisors, Examiners/Student and Examiner/Examiner. Declaring a potential conflict of interest does not preclude the use of a particular examiner, but these must be declared and form part of the approval process. In some cases, the potential conflict of interest may be considered to be too significant for an examiner to be approved, however where appropriate, strategies for mitigation can be considered.

It is acknowledged that the combination of a small field and Supervisors with large numbers of joint publications can make it problematic to find an examiner without association. In these instances, a statement describing the context is required. Supervisors are asked to consider the expertise of the examining team as a whole, and if possible look beyond their home departments for internal examiners who, coupled with an external subject-expert, are able together to examine the standard of a thesis.

Please refer to Appendix 7, for the Criteria and Guidance for the Appointment of Research Degree Examiners.

Submission of the thesis or portfolio

A hard copy of the thesis will be sent to external examiners via recorded delivery and to internal examiners through the internal mail. An electronic copy of the thesis will be sent on request.

The examiners' independent reports

Before the viva is held, each examiner is asked to submit an independent report on the candidate’s thesis. The report should be completed using the Independent Report Form, which will be sent to examiners with the appointment letter and is also available from the Forms and Letter Requests webpage.

The independent report should explain concisely the scope of the thesis, its merits and any shortcomings to be addressed in the viva. This report should be returned to the Research Student Administration Office within eight weeks of receipt of the thesis.

Exchange of reports

When all the reports have been received, the Research Student Administration Office will send examiners the independent reports of their fellow examiners. Examiners must not confer on the writing of the independent reports.

The viva voce examination

The viva voce examination should normally be held within one month of the exchange of the independent reports between the examiners, although it may be delayed in exceptional circumstances.

It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to make the arrangements for the viva voce examination, and also to ensure that the Joint Report is completed and signed by both examiners and sent to the Research Student Administration Office within two weeks of the date of the viva.

The examiners are asked to agree in advance whether they wish the supervisor to attend the viva voce examination itself. The candidate may also request that the supervisor is present. The internal examiner should formally notify the candidate of the time and place of the viva voce examination, with a copy to the Research Student Administration Office.

Non-attendance at the viva voce examination

Candidates must be advised that if they refuse to agree a time, or if they do no not attend the viva voce examination at the agreed time they risk failure of the examination, and the examiners will have the right to conduct the examination and make a recommendation to the Research Degrees Examination Board on the basis of the thesis alone.

Environment for the viva voce examination

Consideration should be given to the appropriateness and layout of the room in which the examination is to be held; the room should be separate and quiet and consideration should be given to the positioning of the candidate in order that they may be put at ease. More detailed guidance on the conduct of the viva voce examination can be found in Appendix 2.

Candidates should request any additional support e.g. formal breaks, access requirements, as far in advance of the viva as possible. Support needs should also be discussed with the Student Life Centre.

Distant viva voce examinations

A ‘distant viva voce examination’ is a viva voce examination where one of the parties are not physically co-located and the examination is conducted by videoconference or Skype.

All cases of distant viva voce examination require review and approval by the Chair of the Research Degrees Examination Board well in advance of the proposed viva date. Approval will generally be granted, but may be withheld if this review indicates that the conditions of the examination would substantially disadvantage the Doctoral Researcher regardless of other difficulties that this may present. Further detail can be found in Appendix 2.

Basis of assessment

In considering whether the candidate has met the required standard for the research degree being examined, examiners should make their decision in accordance with the University of Sussex criteria for assessment of research degrees (section 67 of the Regulations for Research Degrees applies).

Examiners should also take into account the doctoral-level qualification descriptors produced by the Quality Assurance Agency, which specify standards and characteristics that are expected of those who are awarded doctoral-level qualifications (section 4.18 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualification refers.

Papers-style thesis

The inclusion in a thesis of work which has been submitted for publication is permitted under the University’s regulations. In examining a thesis of this kind, examiners should (i) be aware that the criteria for assigning to outcome categories are the same as for any other thesis, and include viva performance (i.e. the candidate should be able give a satisfactory defence of the thesis in the viva); (ii) be aware that successful peer review and the publication of papers do not guarantee a pass outcome in an examination for the award of PhD; (iii) pay particular attention to consistency or otherwise in the quality of those parts of the thesis which have not been submitted for publication (linking chapters).

Candidates submitting a ‘papers-style’ thesis are required to include a declaration confirming their contribution to each paper, especially in cases where the co-author is a supervisor.

After the viva voce examination

Examiners may inform the candidate of the recommendation they propose to make. However, it is important that both the examiners and the candidate are aware that such a recommendation is subject to consideration by the Research Degrees Examination Board. In the case of a recommendation for the award of a degree, this is subject to ratification by Senate.

Examiners may indicate to the candidate the extent of any necessary revisions to the thesis being recommended. However, details of those items must also be included in the written report for consideration by the Research Degrees Examination Board and formal onward transmission to the candidate.

If the examiners have marked the hard copy thesis where typographical errors should be corrected, the copy of the thesis may be given to the candidate after the viva voce examination.

Thereafter, any guidance from the examiners to the candidate should be communicated via the supervisor. The examiners must not have any direct communication with the candidate about the revision during the permitted revision period; specifically, they must not advise the candidate whether the extent of the revision is likely to be satisfactory or not, or whether the candidate’s work is ready for re-examination.

The examiners' joint report

A copy of the Joint Report Form will be sent to the internal examiner prior to the viva voce examination and the examiners should complete the report jointly and return the form within two weeks of the viva to the Research Student Administration Office. It is important that this report is as full as possible in order that the Research Degrees Examination Board can assess whether the basis for the examiners’ recommendation is sound.

Section A

Report on the performance of the candidate in the viva voce examination. Special attention should be given to the extent to which any doubts raised in the Independent Reports have been dealt with.

Section B

Indicate the recommendation from the list of permitted recommendations.

Section C

In exceptional cases, indicate which of the reports may not be issued to the supervisor(s) and/or to the candidate. A confidential commentary may instead be added, which will be given solely to the supervisor(s) to assist them in giving guidance to the candidate.

Section D

Detail any corrections that are required, even if a list of corrections has been given directly to the candidate or marked in the hard copy of the thesis.

If the recommendation is that the candidate may revise the thesis and resubmit for the award of either MPhil or PhD, it is important that the examiners provide separate instructions on the revisions required for each award. This section of the report should be as full as possible in order to assist the candidate in their revision of the thesis.

Note that if the candidate is given the opportunity of resubmission for either the MPhil or the PhD, the same examiners will be asked to consider the revised thesis and to submit further independent and joint reports in due course. On reading the revised thesis the examiners will be in a position to decide whether a second viva examination is required.

The Research Degrees Examination Board review

The examiners’ recommendation will be considered by the Research Degrees Examination Board as soon as possible, and normally within two weeks of receipt of the Joint Report. If there is a disparity between the recommendation made by the examiners and the content of the examiners’ reports, the Chair of the Research Degrees Examination Board may seek clarification from the examiners on the basis of their recommendation.

If the recommendation is for the award of a degree, it will be passed to the Chair of Doctoral School Board for approval on behalf of the Senate.

On completion of an examination, the examiners’ reports will be released, under confidential cover, to the Director of Doctoral Studies in the relevant School.

The examination outcome

Examiners may indicate to students their recommendation on the outcome of the examination, but must make clear that this recommendation is subject to ratification (and sometimes change) by the Research Degrees Examination Board. The Research Student Administration Office will inform the candidate in writing of the decision of the Research Degrees Examination Board and will communicate any advice and instructions in cases of referral for corrections or re-examination. The examiners may not contact the candidate until the examination process is concluded.

The role of the Research Degrees Examination Board

The role of the Research Degrees Examination Board is to formally appoint examiners on behalf of Senate and to consider the recommendations made by those examiners on the outcome of the doctoral examination. The Research Degrees Examination Board will then make a recommendation to Senate on the award of the degree, and the Research Student Administration Office will communicate the result to the student.

Most of the work of the Research Degrees Examination Board is carried out by the three Specialist Members, who are each appointed by Doctoral Studies Committee for a 3-year term, and who have experience of graduate work at research degree level in the humanities, the social sciences or in science or engineering. The Chair has discretion to call a meeting of the full Research Degrees Examination Board to consider any cases where the recommendation of the examiners, following the viva, does not appear to be straightforward.

The Research Degrees Examination Board becomes involved with a Doctoral Researcher’s progress at various points during the examination process:

  • at the time of the appointment of examiners (at least two months before the thesis is submitted)
  • when they have received the individual and joint reports
  • of the internal and external examiners for consideration of the recommended outcome (several weeks after the viva)
  • when they recommend the award of the degree to Senate (after all corrections requested by the examiners have been made to the thesis and approved by the examiners).
Appeals and complaints

Academic appeals

The Academic Appeals Procedure is intended to provide a formal means for reviewing a decision made on Doctoral Researcher’s progression, assessment and awards, and resolving the Doctoral Researcher’s concerns in a fair and consistent manner. This is different from the Student Complaints Procedure, which provides a means for resolving specific problems or areas of concern a Doctoral Researcher may have, at the time these arise during the academic year, relating either to teaching/supervisory provision or university services more generally. In making an appeal, privacy and confidentiality will be respected, and disclosure of information provided by a Doctoral Researcher in the course of an appeal will be restricted to those individual officers directly involved in consideration of the appeal. The appeal will be considered in accordance with the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy.

Appeals can be made against the outcome of a research degree/professional doctorate exam or against a decision of the School that a Doctoral Researcher be required to withdraw on the basis of unsatisfactory progress. Please note however that a matter of academic judgment, either by the examiners of a thesis or by those conducting a School-level progress review, is not subject to appeal. For details, please see the Regulations for the Award of the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy or the Regulations for the Award of Professional Doctorates and exit awards in the latest annual edition of the University Regulations.

Appeals must be submitted, with supporting evidence, within twenty-one calendar days of the decision being notified to the Doctoral Researcher. A decision in relation to a research degree exam is not subject to appeal until this has been ratified by a meeting of the Research Degrees Examination Board. A decision of a School progress review that the student has not met the required standard to continue on the PhD, and is required instead to re-register on the MPhil, is not subject to appeal as this is a matter of academic judgment. Nor is a decision of the examiners that a student be required to re-register as a full or part-time student (rather than with pre-submission status) subject to appeal as this is also a matter of academic judgment. For more information please see the Academic Appeals webpage.

Complaints

Wherever possible complaints should be raised immediately with the member of staff responsible, or with one of the support services below, with the aim of resolving the problem directly and informally:

For additional information and guidance on the various stages of the complaints procedure, see the Student Complaints Procedure webpage.

 

Appendices

Appendix 1 - Committee terms of reference
Doctoral School Board

Key role: To promote and develop a strong research training culture and ethos across the University for doctoral students, encouraging activity that is consistent with an internationally outstanding institution and a profile that matches the best universities at home and abroad.

Terms of reference

  1. to develop, communicate and regularly review the implementation of the University’s strategic plan in relation to Doctoral Students;
  2. to identify and draw to the attention of the appropriate University body the resources necessary to implement the strategic plan in relation to Doctoral Students;
  3. to monitor the national and international environment in order to respond appropriately;
  4. to oversee the dispersal of funds for doctoral studentships as may be allocated by Council and by funders
  5. to approve School doctoral recruitment strategies, to receive regular reports from Schools about progress against strategy
  6. to receive reports from Doctoral Studies Committee, to provide advice to Doctoral Studies Committee on University policies and strategy;
  7. to receive reports from Doctoral Training Centre/ Partnership governing boards;
  8. to monitor the performance of major doctoral training grants held by the University;
  9. to advise the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group on the formulation and implementation of the University’s strategy for doctoral student recruitment;
  10. to advise the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group on the setting of doctoral recruitment targets, and the monitoring of performance against those targets;
  11. to advise the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group on policy matters relating to the setting of doctoral tuition fees.

Composition: Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research (Chair), Directors of Doctoral Training Centres, Director of Doctoral Education, Postgraduate Association Chair (where the role holder is a postgraduate research student; where not, then the representative from the Doctoral Studies Committee sitting on Senate shall be the representative to the Board). In attendance: Director of Research and Enterprise, Director of the Student Experience, and Assistant Director of the Doctoral School (Secretary).

Reports to: Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee.

Doctoral Studies Committee

Key Role: The Doctoral Studies Committee shall oversee the delivery of provision for postgraduate research students, including their educational and career development, within the context of delivery of the University’s Research Strategy.

Terms of reference

  1. to make recommendations to Teaching and Learning Committee on general procedures governing programmes of supervised study and research leading to research degrees and professional doctorates;
  2. to approve and keep under review a code of practice for research degree and professional doctorate courses;
  3. to define monitor and review policies and procedures relating to supervision and assessment of research degree students, including: (i) comparability of research student experience across the University; (ii) approval and appointment of research supervisors; (iii) provision, monitoring and comparability of research supervisor training; (iv) development and implementation of processes for the assessment of research students;
  4. to consider, and determine action on: (i) research student annual monitoring procedures and reports; (ii) the annual reports of the Research Degree Examination Board, the Professional Doctorate Examination Board; (iii) the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board; (iv) investigations conducted under the Procedures for Dealing with Allegations or Complaints of Academic Misconduct by Students engaged in Research;
  5. to ratify the recommendations of the Research Degree Examination Board, the Professional Doctorate Examination Board and the Joint Research Degrees Approval Board on the award of degrees and other distinctions;
  6. to consider annual statistical reports on matters relating to admission, retention and award outcomes of research degree and professional doctorate students;
  7. to consider and implement the training and development provision for postgraduate research students, and to ensure there are adequate mechanisms for the inclusion of research students in the research life of the University.

Composition: Director of Doctoral Education (Chair); Directors of Doctoral Studies of the Schools; Directors of Doctoral Training Centres, One representative from IDS; Three postgraduate research School Student Representatives (one of each from Arts, Science - including BSMS - and Social Sciences); Chair of the Research Degree Examination Board. In attendance: Head of Research Student Administration Office (Secretary).

Reports to: Doctoral School Board.

Research Degrees Examination Board

Terms of reference

  1. to appoint examiners, on behalf of Senate. The appointments normally to be approved on behalf of the Board by the Chair or one of the specialist members;
  2. to consider examiners’ reports and to forward recommendations on candidates to the Doctoral Studies Committee in accordance with the University Regulations for Research Degrees; the recommendations normally to be forwarded on behalf of the Board by the Chair or one of the specialist members;
  3. to report annually to the Doctoral School Board;
  4. to formulate instructions and communications to candidates about the results of any examination for a research degree; the communication normally to be forwarded on behalf of the Board by the Chair or one of the specialist members. The Board will hold full meetings annually to discuss trends in examination outcomes and to review examination outcome categories. Notwithstanding this, the Chair has discretion to call a meeting to consider any cases where the recommendation does not appear to be straightforward. In all other cases the examiners’ recommendations are forwarded by the Chair or one of the specialist members, on behalf of the Board, in consultation with the other Board members, where appropriate. In cases where the Board is required to meet there will be a quorum of at least three members of the Board in addition to the Chair, including all of the specialist members.

Composition

  1. Three senior members of the academic faculty as specialist members, one with experience of graduate work at research degree level in the humanities, one with experience in social sciences, and one with experience in science or engineering, nominated by the Doctoral Studies Committee and appointed by Doctoral School Board. The Chair to rotate annually between the three specialist members;
  2. Up to three senior members of the academic faculty, with experience of graduate work at research level, nominated by the Doctoral Studies Committee after consultation with the appropriate Directors of Doctoral Studies in order to ensure coverage and balance of expertise, and appointed by Doctoral School Board.

Reports to: Doctoral Studies Committee.

Professional Doctorate Examination Board

Terms of reference

  1. to set, conduct and mark the examinations for Professional Doctorates;
  2. to approve, on behalf of the Senate, the results of the examination of course-work of candidates and the progress of candidates to proceed to the research component of the course;
  3. to report to Doctoral Studies Committee on the conduct of that year’s examinations and on the plans for the following year’s examinations
  4. to establish sub-groups to make recommendations to the Board on late submissions, and to decide on extensions to submission deadlines and on special arrangements for candidates;
  5. to consider and forward recommendations on candidates who successfully complete Phase 1, or Phases 1 and 2 (the taught component), to the Chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee in accordance with the University Regulations for Professional Doctorates.

For the research component of the course:

  1. to appoint examiners (the appointments normally to be approved on behalf of the Board by the Chairperson or the Vice-Chair);
  2. to consider examiners’ reports and to forward recommendations on candidates to the Chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee in accordance with the University Regulations for Professional Doctorates;
  3. to report annually to the Doctoral Studies Committee;
  4. to formulate instructions and communications to candidates about the results of any examination for Professional Doctorates. The Board will hold full meetings only to consider those cases where a candidate has failed under Regulations 56(b), 56(c), 57(c), 57(d), 57(e), 57(f), 60(b), 60(c) and 61(b) for the award of a Professional Doctorate. Notwithstanding this, the Chair has discretion to call a meeting to consider any cases where the recommendation does not appear to be straightforward. In all other cases the examiners’ recommendations are forwarded by the Chair, on behalf of the Board, in consultation with the Vice-Chair, where appropriate.

Composition: Two senior members of the academic faculty as Chair and Vice-Chair, nominated by the Doctoral Studies Committee and appointed by Teaching and Learning Committee. Normally the two members appointed under this category will be the Chair or the Vice-Chair of the Research Degree Examination Board and also a relevant Director of Doctoral Studies; The Director(s) of Doctoral Studies of the relevant School(s); The Course Convenor(s); The internal examiners nominated by the Director of Doctoral Studies for appointment by the School Teaching and Learning Committee; The external examiner(s) appointed by Teaching and Learning Committee for each course.

Reports to: Doctoral Studies Committee.

Joint Research Degrees Approval Board

Terms of reference

The Joint Research Degrees Approval Board operates on behalf of the Doctoral Studies Committee of the University of Sussex and the Doctoral College Board of the University of Brighton:

  1. with delegated authority to admit candidates to research degree courses in BSMS awarded jointly by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex (note: authority to admit candidates lies with the JRDAB on behalf of the two Universities and it approves the precise admissions process to be followed);
  2. to establish and maintain a register of research degree supervisors for BSMS candidates;
  3. to approve the appointment of external examiners for research degrees within BSMS on behalf of the Senate of the University of Sussex and the Academic Board of the University of Brighton;
  4. to agree the examination arrangements and the examining team in accordance with the regulations for research degree courses in BSMS awarded jointly by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex and overseen by the Joint Approval and Review Board;
  5. to monitor the progress of students including approval of the thesis outline, the supervisory team, the transfer to PhD or MD and requests for suspension, extension and withdrawal;
  6. to recommend to the relevant authorities of the two universities the conferment of the award in respect of all individual candidates by deciding upon the examiners’ recommendations;
  7. to provide feedback and comments to the Joint Approval and Review Board on the operation of the regulations and code of practice for research degree courses in BSMS awarded jointly by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex;
  8. to report annually to the Joint Approval and Review Board for onward transmission (for information, not action) as appropriate to the Doctoral Studies Committee of the University of Sussex and the Doctoral College Board of the University of Brighton.

Composition: Chair or Deputy Chair of the Doctoral College Board of the University of Brighton and the Chair or Vice-Chair of the Research Degree Examination Board of the University of Sussex, one of whom shall be appointed Chair by the Joint Approval and Review Board (with the Chair rotating between the two universities on an annual basis); BSMS Director of Research; BSMS Director of Doctoral Studies; Two other members of BSMS staff involved with research degrees supervision; Doctoral College Manager of the University of Brighton; Secretary to the Research Degree Examination Board of the University of Sussex. In attendance: Secretary to Doctoral College Board of the University of Brighton (Secretary); Assistant Director of the Doctoral School of the University of Sussex; One member of BSMS staff involved in the administration of research degrees.

Reports to: Doctoral Studies Committee of the University of Sussex and the Doctoral College Board of the University of Brighton.

Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board

Terms of reference

On behalf of Senate, to consider appeals against decisions of the Research Degree Examination Board and the Professional Doctorate Examination Board.

Composition: Vice-Chancellor; Two of the other Pro-Vice-Chancellors (excluding the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research); Two other members of the academic faculty appointed by and from Senate. Any three members should constitute a quorum and no member of the Research Degree and Professional Doctorate Appeals Board should be a member of the Research Degree Examination Board or of the Professional Doctorate Examination Board.

Reports to: Senate.

Appendix 2 - Guidance for examiners on the conduct of viva voce examinations

Before the viva, the examiners should hold a pre-meeting to discuss the following:

  • will one of you serve as chair and what will this entail?
  • who will introduce the participants, and explain the structure of the viva to the candidate?
  • who will introduce the purposes of the viva to the candidate and what will they say?
  • what is the (agreed?) provisional decision – good thesis, borderline thesis, failed thesis?
  • how long should this viva last? if the viva is likely to exceed two hours, you may want to include a break
  • provisionally, and recognising that the unfolding direction of the discussion may itself suggest appropriate lines of questioning, what specific questions do you want to ask?
  • it is generally helpful to provide some positive feedback at the beginning of the examination to dispel the potential for candidate anxiety and to allow them to make their best performance.
  • if the discussion moves away from the examination purpose to broader review of the candidate’s work, e.g. to publication options, then this should clearly be signalled in advance and the candidate should be informed that the discussion does not form part of the assessment
  • checklist of preparations for the examination room
  • sufficient comfortable seating and table space
  • clock/watch
  • fresh water and glasses
  • adequate ventilation/heating
  • your notes and other examination paperwork
  • paper and pen/pencil
  • 'do not disturb’ sign on the door
  • telephone unplugged
  • mobile phones switched off.

Guidelines for distant viva voce examinations

The viva should normally be held at the University of Sussex with all parties present in one room. However this arrangement may not always be possible, and in order not to unfairly disadvantage the candidate in such cases the following guidelines must be followed.

A ‘distant viva voce examination’ is a viva voce examination where one of the parties cannot be present at the University of Sussex.

All cases of distant viva voce examination require review and approval by the Research Degrees Examination Board, which delegates this authority to the Chair or Vice Chair to act on their behalf. Approval will generally be granted, but may be withheld if the review indicates that the conditions of the examination would substantially disadvantage the student, regardless of other difficulties that withholding of approval may present.

A request for review of distant examination arrangements needs to be received a minimum of two weeks before the examination. It is preferred that the request is received as early as possible. However, in an emergency situation such as illness or extreme weather, the RSAO should be contacted for advice.

The request needs to:

  1. Explain the rationale for the request
  2. Identify the party that will not be present at the University
  3. Specify the technical arrangements for participation (see below)
  4. Assure the RDEB that a brief report concerning the efficacy and quality of the arrangements will be provided following the viva voce examination
  5. Identify a chair, usually the Director of Doctoral Studies or other senior academic, who will attend the viva to ensure no party is disadvantaged by the process.

Technical guidelines

  1. We expect examinations to be conducted using the best technology which can be practically accessed at the local and remote sites.
  2. The central considerations in assessing the conditions of the examination from a technical viewpoint are whether a continuous video image will be available at both local and remote sites and whether parties at the local site can both see and interact with the distant party.
  3. The Research Student Administration Office can provide guidance on suitable locations on campus for holding a distant viva.

Variance to these procedures may be approved in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix 3 - Policy on Visiting Doctoral Researchers

The University of Sussex has long benefitted from a collaborative research environment in which doctoral mobility is key, and we welcome visits from Doctoral Researchers registered for an award elsewhere.

Visits may be accommodated under four separate schemes:

  1. Doctoral Researcher Informal Visit: Doctoral Researchers who wish to visit Sussex in order to attend a conference or seminar, to meet students and faculty, to observe specific methodological practice, and/ or to plan a future collaboration or supervised visit, may visit for a maximum of two weeks. Such visits are to be arranged locally within the School and the Head of School is expected to maintain details of any such visits. The visitor would be insured to be in laboratories, but not to work independently. No formal application is required and no fee will be charged. Students who require a visa should apply for a Standard Visitor visa.
  2. Doctoral Researcher Placement: Doctoral Researchers who do not require any academic supervision but who wish to visit the University in order to independently use laboratory equipment or consult archives or other holdings, may visit for a maximum of three months. The fee for a Doctoral Researchers placement in Fee for 2019/20 is £550 and visits may not be extended or repeated. The visitor would be insured to work independently under standard safety guidelines and practices. The application must be made via the online application system PG Apply. Where appropriate the Postgraduate Admissions Office will provide documentation to support the student’s visa application.
  3. Doctoral Researcher Supervised Visit: Doctoral Researchers requiring academic supervision by a member of Sussex faculty may visit for a maximum of 12 months. Visits may not be extended or repeated. These visitors will be charged the full tuition fee for the course pro rata, based on the length of their visit, and will receive the same level of academic supervision as a graduating Doctoral Researcher. The visitor would be insured to work independently under standard safety guidelines and practices. The application must be made via the online application system PG Apply. Where appropriate the Postgraduate Admissions Office will provide the appropriate documentation to support the student’s visa application.
  4. Doctoral Researcher Supervised Visit (Under Partnership MOU): Doctoral Researchers studying at a partner institution who require academic supervision by a member of Sussex faculty may visit for a maximum of 12 months. Visits may not be extended or repeated. Such visitors will not be charged a fee for their visit where a fee arrangement is explicitly agreed in the terms of the partnership, and will receive the same level of academic supervision as a graduating student. The application must be made via the online application system PG Apply. The Postgraduate Admissions Office will provide documentation to support a student in making either a Tier 4 visa application or Short-Term Study visa application. The type of visa required will depend on the length of the visit. A handbook for visiting Doctoral Researchers outlining the application process, the different types of visits available and what visitors may expect in terms of access and supervision while visiting Sussex is available. Please contact PG admissions for further details. For each type of visit, local induction, to include health and safety induction where appropriate, will be the responsibility of the host School.
Table - Visiting researchers

 

Appendix 4 - Policy on the appointment of external supervisors
  1. Regular access to an appropriate supervisor is a basic requirement of successful supervision and is an expectation of the Quality Assurance Agency. This is more difficult to achieve if a supervisor is not an employee of the University.
  2. For each Doctoral Researcher, the University should normally (and always at the point of admission) be in a position to appoint a supervisory team consisting of at least two members of Sussex faculty.
  3. In exceptional circumstances, an external supervisor may be appointed for a short period during which they will be contracted to provide a set number of hours of supervisory support.
  4. An external supervisor may be appointed either for reasons of continuity (where an internal supervisor has left the University and where the student has progressed so substantially in their research that altering the supervision arrangements would be detrimental to the outcome), or in order to access specialist expertise or practitioner guidance that is not currently available within the University (e.g. a supervisor based with an industry partner).
  5. Where the appointment of an external supervisor has been approved, an internal supervisor must be nominated as the lead supervisor (at least 50%). The internal supervisor will take overall responsibility for the supervision, will be available on campus (e.g. office hours) and will manage the annual review, other progress monitoring, the appointment of examiners and the examination.
  6. External supervisors will be expected to familiarise themselves with current Sussex regulations and will be provided with appropriate guidance by the Research Student Administration Office on their appointment. They will also have access to the staff development workshops organised for Sussex supervisors.
  7. Remuneration for external supervisors will be provided by the relevant School. Current rates of pay are available from the Research Student Administration Office.
  8. Approval to appoint external supervisors is granted by the Chair of Doctoral Studies Committee via the Research Student Administration Office, who manage the appointment process.

Appointment process

  1. A request to appoint an external supervisor should be made on the appropriate form and sent to the Research Student Administration Office. The request must include the academic rationale for the appointment, the percentage share of supervision to be held by the external supervisor (up to a maximum of 50%), the period of the appointment (up to a maximum of one year) and the approval of the Head of School (for the financial commitment).
  2. If complete, the request is sent to the Chair of Doctoral Studies Committee for approval.
  3. If the appointment is approved, a letter of appointment and a contract of employment is sent to the external supervisor by the Research Student Administration Office.
  4. The external supervisor signs the contract and returns it to the Research Student Administration Office along with a copy of their right to work in the UK, as required by the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration. Note that proof of right to work in the UK is required from all external supervisors regardless of any previous employment at the University of Sussex. At the earliest opportunity the external supervisor must bring to the Research Student Administration Office the original documents proving their right to work in the UK.
  5. The external supervisor is added to the student’s record by the Research Student Administration Office and an electronic file on the external supervisor is created and maintained so that it may be accessed by colleagues in HR in the event of a UKVI audit.
Appendix 5 - Guidance for academic selectors on the conduct of interviews and on making Doctoral admissions decisions
  • Aim to have the whole proposed supervisory team present at the interview, or at least the main supervisor and one additional faculty member
  • The interview should ideally take place in person but Skype may also be used
  • Introduce the interviewers to the applicant and explain their role in both the School and in the admissions process
  • Discuss the proposed topic with the applicant and suitable supervision arrangements
  • Test the applicant’s background knowledge of the proposed subject area and why they want to research this particular topic
  • Discuss/test the applicant’s fit with the department/ research group/advertised project
  • Describe the Doctoral process. This can seem quite mysterious to applicants so explain the Progression Review to them and mention any activities that you would expect them to participate in, such as School symposia or research group seminars.
  • Discuss the possibility of fieldwork/placements
  • If the applicant is from outside the UK, use the interview to test their language skills and make clear that their final Doctoral thesis must be submitted in publication-standard English. You can also advise candidates that the University runs pre-sessional and in-sessional English language courses: www.sussex.ac.uk/languages/english
  • Inform the applicant about the range of researcher development courses offered by the University.
  • Remember that the interview is as much about the applicant choosing Sussex as it is about Sussex choosing the applicant. Describe the School/ department/research group/research culture amongst current Doctoral Researchers and explain why the applicant should choose to study here.
  • Ask the funding question – if an applicant is not applying for a funded studentship, ask them how they intend to fund their studies and make sure they know the relevant tuition fee for the course.
  • Do not offer the applicant a place at Sussex during the course of the interview. Formal offer letters are issued by the Postgraduate Admissions Office and constitute a legal contact between the University and the applicant. Offers are issued following a number of compliance checks and in some cases is not possible to make the offer recommended by the selectors. Do feel free to tell applicants that you are recommending an offer, but that this is subject to confirmation by the Postgraduate Admissions Office.
Appendix 6 - Expectations questionnaire: to clarify the roles and responsibilities of Doctoral Researchers and Supervisors

Complete the questionnaire below with your supervisee separately, share, and then meet to discuss. For each pair of statements below, estimate your position. For example, for the first statement, if you believe very strongly that it is the supervisor’s responsibility to select a research topic you should circle “1”, if you think both the supervisor and Doctoral Researcher share the responsibility to select a research topic, circle “3”; or if you think it is the Doctoral Researcher’s responsibility, circle “5”.

Supervision Expectations Questionnaire [DOCX 34.29KB]

Appendix 7 - Criteria and guidance for the appointment of research degree examiners

Outline of the examination process

  1. Research Degrees Examination Board appoints examiners
  2. Thesis submitted by student and sent to examiners
  3. Independent report submitted by each examiner within 8 weeks of receipt of thesis
  4. Independent reports exchanged by Research Student Administration Office
  5. Viva voce examination held within 1 month of exchange of reports
  6. Joint report completed by examiners immediately following the viva
  7. Examiners’ recommendation considered by Research Degrees Examination Board
  8. Candidate informed of outcome by Research Student Administration Office
  • Each Research Degree Examination must be conducted by at least one internal and one external examiner.
  • Examiners should have appropriate levels of expertise in the relevant research area.
  • Examiners should be able to demonstrate that they are active in research.
  • Examiners should possess a research degree OR equivalent experience.
  • Examiners should normally have experience in research degree examination. If the proposed internal examiner has not conducted a research degree examination at the University of Sussex, they will need to be briefed on the conduct of the viva and the University’s approved examination procedures by a member of faculty, experienced in research examination at Sussex, who has not played a role in supervising the Doctoral Researcher.
  • The internal examiner would normally have a contract of employment with the University. The chair of the Research Degree Examination Board will have the authority to decide who qualifies as an ‘internal’ examiner.
  • Former members of staff or former students of the University should not be invited to become external examiners until at least five years after their staff appointment has ceased, or the award of their degree, as appropriate.
  • No examiner may have played a role in the supervision of the Doctoral Researcher under examination.
  • Additional examiners may be appointed in appropriate circumstances, such as where the topic of the thesis is such that it cannot be adequately covered by a single internal or external examiner.
  • Where the candidate is a member of staff two external examiners and a chair may be appointed rather than an internal and an external examiner
  • Supervisors are required to identify examiners and complete the Appointment of Examiners form, including the declaration of any perceivable conflict of interest between the proposed internal and external examiners, the supervisors and the Doctoral Researcher.
  • Directors of Doctoral Studies are required to consider and discuss with Supervisors any issues regarding to the appointment of examiners – for DDS approval and return to RSAO.
  • Potential conflicts of interest could include family or close personal relationships, shared publications or research grants, or other academic or professional collaborations. As a benchmark against which to consider perceived conflicts of interest, the Seven Principles of Public Life, or Nolan Principles, established by the Committee on Standards in Public Life: www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7- principles-of-public-life
  • The disclosure of an association between any party does not necessarily preclude those examiners being appointed. As a guide, examiners with shared publications or research grants either between themselves, or with supervisors within the last 5 years would not normally be permitted. However, the questions on conflict of interest are intended to allow those proposing examiners a space to fully disclose the details, nature and context of any association. Following the disclosure of an association, a statement is requested as to why a perceivable conflict of interest is not material, and how it could be mitigated.
  • It is acknowledged that the combination of a small field and Supervisors with large numbers of joint publications can make it problematic to find an examiner without association. In these instances, a statement describing the context is required.
  • In some cases, the potential conflict of interest may be considered to be too significant for an examiner to be approved, however where appropriate, strategies for mitigation can be considered. It is requested that Supervisors/Directors of Doctoral Studies consider the expertise of the examining team as a whole, and if possible look beyond the home department for internal examiners who, coupled with an external subjectexpert, are able together to examine the standard of a thesis.
  • Current CVs of external examiners are required in addition to the Appointment form. These would normally take the form of a traditional academic CV, but can be an online profile. The minimum information required of a CV or online profile must be current, spanning at least the last five years, and include,
    1. publications
    2. research grants and research activity
    3. employment
    4. doctoral supervision and examining experience
  • Where it is school or departmental level policy, or where there are particular circumstances that warrant it, an independent chair may be appointed for the viva voce examination.
  • Please note that the costs of the examination are borne by the school. Please bear this in mind if suggesting an examiner based overseas.
  • Supervisors or Directors of Doctoral Studies are requested to make an informal approach to possible examiners and indicate those who are willing to serve in Section B of the Appointment of Examiners form. However, it should be made clear that these nominations must be approved by the chairperson of the Research Degree Examination Board before formal appointments can be made.
  • Once you have completed the Appointment of Examiners form, please return it to the Research Student Administration Office: researchexams@sussex.ac.uk