For supervisors and doctoral researchers

See Covid-19 advice for PhD supervisors and research students undertaking a PhD.


On 21 February 2022, the Government published its plan for living with Covid-19 and updated its higher education guidance. We will follow this guidance, as we have done throughout the pandemic.

We are currently updating our advice for PhD students, supervisors and researchers, based on these guidelines.

See more guidance for people who work at Sussex.

Travel and fieldwork

In some instances, PhD student travel and fieldwork can be undertaken. See Health and Safety updates regarding fieldwork during the Covid pandemic.

Fieldwork FAQs

Can overseas fieldwork go ahead under the current Covid-19 restrictions?

Only essential international travel is allowed under current government Covid restrictions, the criteria being:

  • the student has exhausted other means of working remotely or changing their study in such a manner that it can be completed remotely
  • a delay will cause either a failure to complete a PhD, the collapse of a research group or severe operational problems for the University of Sussex.

Who approves if overseas fieldwork is ‘essential’ and may go ahead?

International travel is currently at the discretion of Heads of School or Division and requires their approval. Email confirmation of this is acceptable and should be attached to the OTSSRA form.

By approving fieldwork, the Head of School is accepting financial liability for any costs incurred by the student due to local/national Covid restrictions, not covered by their Sussex University travel insurance.

What is the process for an overseas fieldwork application?

The student needs to complete the following in order to travel overseas for fieldwork:

UK restrictions may change, but currently anyone who wishes to leave the UK must complete an outbound declaration of travel form ahead of departure (, to confirm that they have a reasonable excuse to leave the UK.

Does the University travel insurance cover costs incurred by local/national Covid restrictions?

The University travel insurance has a Covid-19 exclusion clause which will not cover the cost of flights or accommodation that arise because of Covid-19 restrictions, including cancellations and repatriation (but does cover repatriation on individual medical grounds).

Insurance must be applied for prior to travel through the University insurance arrangements.

For any queries regarding travel insurance please contact

All flight bookings must be made through Key Travel, the University's preferred provider. This is to reduce the likelihood of Schools and Divisions being exposed to additional costs. Flights should be booked that allow rescheduling or cancellation.

Does the OTSSRA form require any additional information?

The following information should be included in the OTSSRA form:

  • why it is not possible to complete the work remotely (for example sample collection, use of equipment)
  • why it is not possible to delay the travel
  • that the student has read and understood the FCO guidance including the country-specific advice – there is no need to copy this advice into the OTSSRA form, but they must confirm that they will comply with all advice
  • confirmation that the student meets the entry requirements for the country visited and what these are, including the need to self-isolate for a fixed period where applicable; these must be from the relevant government department for the destination
  • a summary of the current controls in the country they are visiting (for instance, face coverings or social distancing measures) and confirmation that the fieldwork can be completed while complying with them
  • confirmation that the student will cancel the trip should they experience any Covid-19 symptoms
  • details of where the student will self-isolate while abroad should they develop symptoms and what their plans are to receive support during this period, for instance from colleagues in the country, or family/friends
  • confirmation that the student understands the current requirements for self-isolation upon return to the UK
  • confirmation that the student will stay up to date with travel advice
  • acknowledgement that permission may be rescinded and that costs already incurred are the responsibility of the research group- to be signed by the Head of School
  • confirmation that the student has considered anything that may mean they are at a higher risk from Covid-19
  • confirmation that, if the student develops symptoms while abroad, they will inform their supervisor/DDS, any local test and trace organisations and the University via the reporting form.

If required to complete Section 2 (needed if the UK government has a travel advisory warning in place), the student must complete a detailed formal risk assessment evidencing mitigation of risks.

Any queries regarding the OTSSRA form should be sent to

Should students be permitted to travel overseas to a region of high Covid alert?

Prior to travelling students should review the Covid-19 alert level for the area they will be visiting and consider if fieldwork can be carried out with the restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 alert level.

What happens when students return to the UK after fieldwork?

The same advice applies for students of any level of study. See Coronavirus international travel information on the Student Hub.

For more PhD student information, see the RSAO web pages and Doctoral School web pages.

You should check the current advice on travel from the University and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) guidance before making any bookings.

Doctoral researchers currently on fieldwork – and their supervisors – can make use of all University support services. If you are a doctoral researcher and an overseas location or the current Coronavirus situation is affecting your health and wellbeing, the Student Life Centre can offer support and guidance. For technical questions regarding travel, risk assessment and insurance, email the University’s insurance team:

There is no need for doctoral researchers already on fieldwork to update OTSSRA forms. Doctoral researchers are encouraged to follow all local advice and ensure that they have a means of accessing medical treatment if required.

Where doctoral researchers cannot return, are in an affected region and do not have access to medical assistance, contact the Health and Safety team.


Insurance remains in place and the University’s insurer (Aviva) will continue to cover you if you are unable to return home.

If you have a medical emergency call Aviva on their emergency medical assistance number: 01243 621066.

To reschedule any travel, please contact the airline or travel provider. With other insurance queries, doctoral researchers can email the who are currently offering triage service to the Insurance team.

If you do not have insurance, the University travel insurance policy does not cover medical expenses in the country you’re living in. All other aspects of cover remain in force.

See more information about Coronavirus travel disruption and insurance claims.

Training and events

The Doctoral School is delivering a blended programme of researcher development activities and workshops. to meet the needs of doctoral researchers whether they're on campus or elsewhere.

The exact mix of online and face-to-face events might change depending on University and government guidance.

The Doctoral Connections blog remains a key place to hear about the PhD community, activities, events and PhD news, such as:

  • The Doctoral Conference Support Fund has re-opened, and applications for online conference registration fees are welcomed

  • The new PhD Online Support group initiative – as developed by PhD Students at Sussex – is launched. Find out more about connecting with other doctoral researchers with similar interests and issues.

The Research Hive Scholars have excelled during pandemic. Their enthusiasm, ideas and events in support of doctoral research are second to none. The Research Hive blog includes information on the many experiences and viewpoints of doctoral researchers at this time and is highly recommended.

You can also keep up to date with news on Twitter by following @SussexDocSchool and @SussexResHive.