The Higher Degrees of MPhil and PhD
- The University undertakes to make satisfactory arrangements for the admission, candidature, supervision and examination of candidates. This Code of Practice sets out guidelines for candidature for MPhil/PhD and other doctoral degrees (including the Integrated PhD and taught 'professional' doctorate) in either the University or the Accredited Institutions. It is intended to amplify and complement the Regulations1 and provide a framework for all supervisory relationships. It is supplemented by School2 or Accredited Institution guidelines which are consistent with this code of practice but specify more detailed procedures operating at local level.
- The Code is intended to promote good practice in research candidature and supervision and ensure a degree of comparability in the student experience. It is essential that a good working relationship is established betwen the supervisor(s) and the student, and that responsibilities on both sides are clearly defined and understood. It is intended to cover the many different types of student and to recognise the diversity of experiences, needs, interests and styles. In considering how best to support research students with disabilities, Schools may find helpful the practical advice and information accessible via the web at www.premia.ac.uk.
- The MPhil and PhD are higher degrees involving a programme of research training and supervision and leading to the production of a thesis or, in the case of candidates in Music or Drama, Dance and the Performing Arts or Art and Design, the production of an original work or recital together with additional material (as specified in Regulation 26, Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy). The MPhil and PhD are two separate, distinct awards with the MPhil differing from the PhD in terms of the scope of study required and the extent of the original personal contribution to knowledge. (Paragraphs 5 to 7 give more details on the levels of attainment required for the MPhil and for the PhD.)
The Difference between MPhil and PhD
- The thesis (or equivalent submission for Music, or for Drama, Dance and the Performing Arts, or for Art and Design) which is the outcome of the research project and the training programme, must be composed clearly and presented in the required format. The subject should be dealt with in an orderly manner using appropriate research methods and techniques and displaying critical discrimination in evaluating the evidence.
- For the award of PhD, candidates must have demonstrated:4
- the creation and interpretation of new knowledge through original research or other advanced scholarship, or of a quality to satisfy a peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline and merit publication;
- a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or an area of professional practice;
- the general ability to conceptualize, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems; and
- a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.
Research Degrees in Art & Design, and in Dance, Drama and Performing Arts
- The MPhil is an award of considerable distinction in its own right and is awarded for the successful completion of a substantial element of research or equivalent enquiry. The MPhil differs from the PhD only in terms of the scope of study required and the extent of the original personal contribution to knowledge.
- More specifically, for the award of MPhil, candidates must have demonstrated:
- a systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice;
- originality in the application of knowledge together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
- conceptual understanding that enables the student to:
- evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline; and
- evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses;
- a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
Doctoral Degrees with a Taught Element
- Where original practical work is submitted in part fulfilment of the MPhil or PhD degree (see Regulation 26 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy), it should take the form of an exhibition or other relevant visual presentation of practical outcomes as befits the professional standards of the discipline. Such work should conform to the guidance set out in paragraphs 3 to 7 above. In addition, the work submitted for examination (practical work and written text taken together) should critically reflect on the research process and clearly set out:3
- the research issues, problems or questions that have been addressed;
- the context in which those issues, problems or questions are located (what is known or understood in the general area of the proposed research already and how addressing or answering the issues, problems or questions specified will enhance the generally-available knowledge and understanding of the area in question); and
- what research methods have been used to address these issues, problems or questions.
- The written documentation that accompanies any submission of original practical work would normally be expected to be between 15,000 and 20,000 words in length.
- University examination procedures will be followed. Students from Art and Design will be required to produce for the external examiner an electronic reproduction of the practical project to accompany the written thesis (details to be agreed with the main supervisor or other member(s) of the supervisory team).
Selection and Admission of Students
- The University offers a number of doctoral degrees with a taught element; for example, taught doctoral programmes or 'professional doctorates' (eg: Doctor of Education [EdD]; Doctor of Engineering [EngD]). It also offers the Integrated PhD programme (eg: Integrated PhD in Economics) in certain disciplines. Both types of programmes are covered by this Code of Practice but have separate Regulations.
- In terms of comparability with the PhD, it is appropriate to regard the taught element of the professional doctorate (usually no more than one third of the programme) as being at master's level and the subsequent research and thesis preparation at doctoral level. According to the Credit and HE Qualifications Guidelines jointly prepared by credit accumulation and transfer agencies (November 2001, p14), this is the rationale behind the guidance that up to 180 credit points (one third) may be achieved at Level 7 of the Higher Education Qualification Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (with a small allowance at Level 6) and the remaining 360 credit points (two thirds) should be achieved at Level 8.
English Language Proficiency
- Only appropriately qualified and prepared students will be admitted to research programmes. Applicants must demonstrate that they have the motivation and potential to complete a sustained piece of research and to produce a thesis. For doctoral research, students will normally be expected to have one or more of the following:
- a degree, normally with at least class 2(i) or equivalent, in a relevant subject;
- a relevant master's qualification or equivalent;
- evidence of prior professional practice or learning that meets the University's or Accredited Institution's criteria and good practice guidelines for accreditation of prior experiential and/or certificated learning. The University's guidance on AP[E/C]L can be found in the Quality Assurance Handbook.
- Students whose first language is not English will also be required to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of English as defined by University Admissions Regulations.
- Two independent academic references must be received for all applicants.
Accepting an Applicant
- Admissions procedures should be clear, consistently applied and always demonstrate equality of opportunity. Schools should also refer to the University's Equal Opportunities Policy, in particular paragraphs (a) and (b) regarding equal treatment in the admissions process.
Schools are also expected to refer to section 3.0 (Recruitment and Admissions) of the University's good practice checklist in considering the impact of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The checklist can be found in the Quality Handbook.
- Admission decisions should involve at least two members of staff who have received instruction, advice and guidance in respect of selection and admissions procedures.
- Interviews by appropriately trained members of staff may be used as part of the admissions process to assess the suitability of an applicant, and adequate steps should be taken where feasible to ensure similar opportunities for applicants who are unable to attend in person, for example by the use of telephone or email interview. Staff interviewing students should be trained in diversity and equality policies and interviewing techniques, and should be aware of the support available for disabled applicants.
- Schools should provide clear, accessible, jargon-free information for potential applicants and staff involved in the admissions process, recognising diversity and different needs. Students should be made aware of opportunities to apply for special funding, and how to apply for such funding. Information should also be provided regarding the support available for disabled students, how to access it within the University, and how to fund it.
- Staff responsible for admissions should be aware of, and understand, the legal requirements of the process. Information about these requirements can be obtained from Registry Services.
- Schools are expected to put in place and maintain monitoring arrangements that show compliance with legal requirements, particularly in relation to Equal Opportunities.
Transferring from Another Institution
- Before recommending the acceptance of an applicant, both Schools/Accredited Institutions and students must be made aware of the costs of the planned research and the financial support available. The School/Accredited Institution must also satisfy itself that the programme:
- is within the applicant's capabilities;
- is capable of sustaining research at this level and being completed within the required length of candidature;
- can be supported by suitable supervisor(s) and adequate facilities within an appropriate research environment as set out in paragraph 51 below, including any additional support strategies, specialist equipment or assistive technology required by disabled students.
- Applicants who meet the University's standard entry requirements may be approved at School level. Applications from candidates with non-standard entry qualifications should be forwarded for approval by the appropriate Faculty. In the case of the Accredited Institutions, applicants with non-standard qualifications must be approved by ERDC. Registry Services can be contacted for guidance on which qualifications are currently regarded as 'standard'.
- Schools are advised that admissions procedures for postgraduate research students should be followed as set out in the 'Direct Admissions process' document which reflects the University's admissions policy. This document is available via the Admissions link from the Registry Services website.
Formal Offer Letter
- Applications from candidates wishing to transfer to the University of Southampton with their supervisor from another institution are subject to the satisfactory provision of the following from the previous institution:
If appropriate, Schools may re-asses the candidate's English language proficiency in order to ensure the University's English language requirements are being met.
- an official release together with details of the duration of the candidate's previous research study;
- a brief progress report approved by an appropriate officer or committee at the previous institution;
- confirmation as to whether the candidate has upgraded from MPhil to PhD or not; and
- details of that process if it has taken place.
- Applications relating to candidates wishing to transfer to Southampton independently of their previous supervisor and institution are subject to the satisfactory provision of the information described above, but also:
- two academic references relating to recent previous study (required of all postgraduate applicants);
- copies of regular progress reports (preferably annual reports) from the previous institution as far as possible;
- a clear recommendation from the selector, following an interview with the candidate, explaining why the candidate wants to transfer institution, and why it is felt that prospects for successful completion will be better at the University of Southampton.
- All such applications are subject to confirmation by the School/Accredited Institution concerned that satisfactory arrangements for supervision have been approved, and that the School/Accredited Institution is satisfied as to the arrangements for financial support for the candidate and facilities for the project (including the provision of any additional support strategies, specialist equipment or assistive technology required by disabled students).
For any candidate accepted for transfer, there would normally be a minimum of 12 months between the date of transfer and submission of the thesis even if the candidate has already upgraded from MPhil to PhD at his or her previous institution.
- Decisions on applications for transfer to the University are made by the Dean or nominee on behalf of the Faculty, or by the External Research Degree Committee (ERDC) in the case of the Accredited Institutions.
Enrolment of Research Students
- The formal offer letter, which may form the basis of the contract between the student and the institution, should define and communicate clearly the terms and conditions relating to the offer and its acceptance, together with the research student's entitlements and responsibilities. The University's standard offer letter and accompanying guidelines can be accessed via the Admissions link from the Registry Services website.
Student Information and Induction
- Candidates are expected to enrol promptly each academic year according to the procedures set out by their School/Accredited Institution. This will normally be through the University's online enrolment process or as otherwise directed if enrolling with an Accredited Institution.
Research Training and Transferable Skills Training
- Schools will provide research students with sufficient information to enable them to begin their studies with an understanding of the academic and social environment within which they will be working. Guidelines on information that may usefully be provided are given in Appendix 1. Appropriate information regarding special arrangements or facilities should also be made available to students with a disability. This should normally have been discussed and agreed individually with the student prior to the commencement of his/her studies. Schools are advised to refer to section 4.0 (Pre-Entry and Induction Activities) of the University's good practice checklist re: the RR(A) Act 2000 which can be found in the Quality Handbook.
Training Needs Analysis
- Candidates must have access to a suitable programme of research and transferable skills training which recognises differing needs arising from student diversity. A range of mechanisms, sufficiently flexible to address individual needs, should be available to support students' learning. Training programmes should support students' research, comply with any Research Council requirements, and help students to prepare themselves for their subsequent career. Training may be provided in-house or by arranging access to external training programmes. In-house training will be offered at School and Faculty level. Schools and Faculty Graduate Schools will work together to co-ordinate their training programmes by mutual agreement.
Research Skills Training - Discipline-Specific and Generic
- Candidates' personal and professional developmental needs, including transferable skills, should be assessed on entry to a research degree programme by means of a training needs analysis. Training needs should be re-assessed on an annual basis. The Joint Statement of the Research Councils (September 2001) provides a framework for needs' analysis. A copy of the Joint Statement may be found at Appendix 2. Progress should be monitored and candidates are required to maintain a record of personal achievement in their acquisition of knowledge of discipline-specific and generic research skills and transferable skills. One example might be by means of a Personal Development Portfolio (PDP).
- Schools/Accredited Institutions should ensure that procedures are in place to collate, on an annual basis, the training needs that have been identified in the needs analysis with individual students so that suitable training can be arranged, whether in-house (at School and Faculty levels) or externally.
Transferable Skills Training
- Research skills training should be provided either by single subject groups or on a multidisciplinary basis, which forms a substantial and compulsory part of the research student's programme and is assessable where appropriate. There should be a clear statement of the compulsory courses. Such training should conform to the best practice recommended by the relevant Research Council and be required of students except in cases where they have already developed sufficient and appropriate skills through a master's degree or other postgraduate work or appropriate work experience.
Training programmes should:
Schools should ensure that all students can access research and skills training sessions and events, and that staff are aware of any particular additional learning needs.
- ensure that students develop so as to become increasingly aware of their own training needs, both discipline-specific and generic;
- enable students to choose between a range of different approaches to their research study;
- achieve a balance between subject-specific and more general material which might relate to future employment needs;
- encompass the basic principles of research design and strategy including techniques (eg: computing and bibliographic) for use in the research study;
- include opportunities for the presentation of research, both oral and written;
- provide access to relevant seminar programmes and learned conferences within and beyond the institution (where resources and opportunities permit);
- where appropriate, utilise the diverse cultural, social and educational backgrounds of students in order to enrich the learning experience of all students.
- Schools/Accredited Institutions should ensure that candidates have access to suitable in-house or external training in transferable skills as appropriate.
Training programmes should enable students:
- to develop good oral and written communications skills enabling them to articulate ideas clearly to a range of audiences;
- to use information technology appropriately for database management, recording and presenting material, etc.;
- to apply effective project management skills including realistic goal setting and prioritization of activities;
- to appreciate the factors which contribute to the success of formal and informal teams;
- to provide effective support to others when involved in teaching, mentoring or demonstrating activities;
- to take ownership of their own career progression.
- Supervisors and students should observe due ethical standards in the design, conduct and reporting of the research. Ethical considerations must be addressed in research involving either human subjects or animals. Consideration should also be given to different racial or cultural perspectives on research ethics. Schools/Accredited Institutions should establish a formal channel to consider and determine any such ethical issues. The University's Ethics Policy and other related documents can be accessed from the Research Support Office website.
Mode of Candidature
- All candidates on MPhil/PhD and Integrated PhD programmes should be registered for an MPhil in the first instance with the possibility of transfer to PhD. Transfer to PhD candidature can occur only where the student has made satisfactory progress and successfully completed the upgrading process described in paragraphs 64 to 69 below.
Duration of Candidature, Suspensions of Candidature and Extensions of Candidature
- Candidature may be full or part-time. Part-time candidates will normally be expected to demonstrate that full-time study is not possible because of employment or other commitments or circumstances including disability. They should also satisfy the School/Accredited Institution that they can commit sufficient time to the project to sustain satisfactory progress.
- See Regulations 15 and 16 and 21 to 24 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy.
- A research assistant may also be registered, normally part-time, as a candidate for a research degree. Performance as an employee and progress as a student should be assessed and treated separately. The candidate's research project would normally be independent of work undertaken for employment.
Responsibilities of the Supervisory Team
- Research students are allocated a supervisory team of at least two members, one of whom will be the 'main supervisor' (see also paragraphs 40 to 45 below).
- The supervisory team should be chosen to provide adequate academic expertise. Where a candidate's project extends beyond the supervisor's expertise, an additional supervisor should be appointed to provide the required specialist advice.
- Schools/Accredited Institutions should ensure that the quality of supervision is not put at risk as a result of an excessive volume and range of responsibilities assigned to individual supervisors. Where relevant, the workload of individual supervisors should reflect the different learning styles of students. There should therefore be a limit on the number of research candidates to be supervised simultaneously unless the School/Accredited Institution has made specific arrangements to allow an individual adequate time to supervise more students.
The following paragraph should be read in conjunction with paragraphs 61 and 62 on Progress Monitoring, and also paragraphs 53 and 54 which cover Arrangements for Students Based at a Distance.
Members of the Supervisory Team
- Schools/Accredited Institutions are responsible for ensuring the appointment of an appropriate supervisory team and for ensuring that individual members of the supervisory team are fully aware of their role and responsibilities, the scope of which includes the following:
- Responsibilities at the outset of supervision
- To meet with the student to identify the initial objectives of the research.
- To assist the student in an analysis of training needs with respect to research skills (discipline-specific and generic) and transferable skills, identifying sources of provision at discipline/School/Faculty level or externally, and a timescale for undertaking training.
- To ensure that the student has access to information about events organised for, or open to, research students in the discipline/School/Faculty/Accredited Institution (including workshops, seminars and conferences).
- For students whose first language is not English, to advise on additional English language support if appropriate (for example, some students may experience difficulties with technical language).
- If the student has disclosed a disability, to identify ways in which he/she may be supported in their studies with help and advice as required by the relevant support service(s); eg: Disability Service, Learning Differences Centre (LDC), Mentor Service, Centre for Enabling and Learning Techologies (CELT). Students should also be asked about the impact, if any, of research activity on their disability.
- To explain the roles of the members of the supervisory team and to discuss and agree the pattern and frequency of contact between members of the supervisory team; (for example, international students may benefit from a higher frequency of meetings during the first year, or, for students with a disability, account may need to be taken of the effects of medication).
- To clarify arrangements for progress monitoring ensuring that the student is fully conversant with the School/Accredited Institution and University procedures from the outset (see paragraphs 63 and 64 below).
- To ensure that the student is cognizant of Intellectual Property (IP) issues that may be/become associated with the project and is aware of their responsibilities in relation to IP (see Section IV of the University Calendar - Intellectual Property Regulations).
- To make clear to the student his/her responsibilities as detailed in paragraph 48 below (Responsibilities of the Student).
- Ongoing responsibilities
- To maintain regular contact with the student in accordance with arrangements established at the outset and in-line with School/Accredited Institution policy. The frequency of meetings will depend upon the stage and nature of the research and the particular needs of the student, but it is anticipated that for full-time students these should be at least once a month, and more frequently at the start of the candidature (see also paragraphs 63 and 64 below).
- To be accessible at other reasonable times when advice is needed, keeping in mind the needs of the individual student.
- To provide advice and guidance as necessary on the planning and development of the research programme and standard of work expected, recognising that some students may require additional support. Such advice and guidance will include reference to literature and sources, techniques, academic integrity including avoidance of plagiarism, issues of copyright, intellectual property, ethical standards and health and safety.
- To ensure that the University's Equal Opportunities Policy is taken into account in all aspects of the student's experience, and to be sensitive to the differing needs of students arising from diversity.
- To ensure that the student conforms to the University's Intellectual Property Regulations.
- To monitor the student's progress (requiring written work as appropriate), providing reports to the School/Accredited Institution as required, and giving constructive and timely feedback which is accessible and useful to the student.
- Where progress is unsatisfactory, or the standard of work unacceptable, to ensure that the student is made aware of this and that steps are taken to develop a constructive plan for improvement.
- To set target dates for successive stages of the work in order to encourage timely submission of the thesis (taking into account any additional disability-related needs or language support arrangements required by the student).
- To ensure that the student is aware of other sources of advice at School/Accredited Institution and University level including safety legislation, equal opportunities policy, intellectual property and careers guidance.
- To provide pastoral support and/or refer the student to other sources of support, pastoral advisors and other student support services.
- To check with any students with regard to the effectiveness of any support they are receiving from the University services, and responding to any on-going or acute difficulties.
- To liaise with external bodies as appropriate and make arrangements with any external supervisors.
- To keep the student informed of events organised for, or open to, research students by the discipline/School/Faculty, encouraging them to participate as appropriate.
- To arrange, as appropriate, for the student to present work to staff or peers at seminars or conferences; to encourage publication of work as appropriate; and to act as a link between the student and the wider academic community.
- To participate in appropriate staff development activities to ensure competence in, and bring enhancement to, all aspects of the supervisory role.
- Responsibilities in the later stage of supervision
- To ensure that, where a student is unable to submit a thesis within the required time, a timely and reasoned application for extension of candidature is made in line with University policy.
- To ensure arrangements are made for examination of the student including the nomination of examiners in accordance with School/Accredited Institution and University policy.
- To ensure appropriate examination arrangements are made for students with a disability (see paragraphs 84 and 89 below).
- To ensure that the student is adequately prepared for the oral examination, arranging a practice viva voce if required.
See also Regulation 12 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy.
Absence of a Supervisor
- At least one member of the supervisory team must have prior experience of supervision which has resulted in a successful PhD. For new supervisors, experience should be gained through working closely with an experienced supervisor and may include a recognised mentorship arrangement. It is the responsibility of the PGR Programme Director, or the 'experienced' member of the supervisory team, to confirm in writing that sufficient experience has been gained. Supervisors must be active researchers in the appropriate discipline, and should normally themselves have a PhD or equivalent substantial research experience, experience of publication, and expertise in the area of the student's research. Staff in formal candidature for a higher degree should not be appointed as a main supervisor.
- Other members of of academically-related staff or an academic member of staff on probation (or senior member of honorary clinical staff in the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences) may be appointed to the supervisory team.
- New supervisors should take, or have taken, appropriate training (including training to ensure awareness of diversity issues which may impact on the supervision process, eg: students wishing to participate in their religious festivals) as determined by the Head of School and be members of a supervisory team that includes an experienced supervisor.
- Each School must designate a named individual from the supervisory team to act in the role of co-ordinator in order to ensure that the required administrative processes for the student are carried out (eg: progress monitoring reports, arrangements for the examination). The role of co-ordinator may be taken by the main supervisor, or by an additional supervisor, or by an advisor. The co-ordinator should normally be a permanent member of academic staff.
- The contact details and responsibilities of all members of the supervisory team should be readily available to students throughout their programme (see paragraph 40 above).
Change of Supervisors
- If one of the supervisors is likely to be absent for a substantial period, normally one month or more, the supervisory team should collectively assist the School/Accredited Institution in designating a temporary or permanent replacement, and make appropriate handover arrangements.
Responsibilities of the Student
- The School/Accredited Institution should establish a procedure whereby a change in main supervisor may be made should circumstances warrant it (also see paragraph 93 below).
Responsibilities of the School/Accredited Institution 2
- The ultimate responsibility for the thesis lies with the student and it is therefore essential that s/he participates fully in planning the research project, considering advice and discussing the work with the main supervisor or supervisory team. Particular responsibilities of the student will include:
In addition, it is the responsibility of the student to conform to the University's Intellectual Property Regulations, consulting as appropriate with a relevant member of the supervisory team.
- showing commitment to the research project and programme of studies;
- discussing with one or more members of the supervisory team the type of guidance and commitment found to be most helpful, and agreeing and adhering to a schedule of meetings;
- agreeing with one or more members of the supervisory team the amount of time to be devoted to the research and the timing and duration of any holiday periods;
- analysing, with assistance from one or more members of the supervisory team, any initial or on-going training needs with respect to research and generic/transferable skills, and participating in appropriate training activities as advised by one or more members of the supervisory team in order to meet these needs;
- maintaining the progress of the work in accordance with the research plan agreed with one or more members of the supervisory team, including submission of written material in sufficient time to allow for comment and discussion before proceeding to the next stage;
- providing regular statements on progress to the School/Accredited Institution as part of the annual monitoring and review procedures (see paragraphs 63 and 64 below);
- taking the initiative in raising problems or difficulties however trivial they may seem (this is a recognised aspect of the relationship between a student and the supervisory team); where difficulties are perceived (by the student) to stem from inadequate supervision, this should be raised with the appropriate School/Accredited Institution authority (see paragraph 95 below);
- where applicable, discussing with one or more members of the supervisory team any changes in learning support needs which may arise during the period of study;
- attending conferences and participating in staff and student seminars, presenting work where appropriate and as guided by the supervisory team;
- being aware of the diverse cultural, social and educational backgrounds of fellow students, recognising the real and potential benefits brought to the learning experience;
- preparing papers for publication or presentation at conferences, as guided by the supervisory team;
- abiding by the institutional safety policy, observing safe working practices at all times, and following procedures prescribed by the supervisor;
- deciding when the thesis is to be submitted after taking due account of advice from one or more members of the supervisory team as appropriate.
- Although much of the responsibility for ensuring that student's research reaches a successful completion is shared between the student and the supervisor(s), the School/Accredited Institution (under the aegis of the ERDC) has overall responsibility for the process. The School/Accredited Institution should satisfy itself that the appropriate requirements of the Regulations and this Code of Practice are met.
- In addition, and as set out in paragraphs 51 to 54 below, Schools/Accredited Institutions should ensure that students are accepted into an environment which provides support and facilities for their overall learning and for their development as researchers.
Facilities and Equipment
- The research environment should be regarded as both a place of learning as well as of research productivity. To satisfy these aims, there should be a clear commitment to research in the School/Accredited Institution or unit in which students are to be supervised, as well as commitment to encouraging the integration of students into the research activity of the School/Accredited Institution or unit. Evidence of such commitment would normally include:
- at least five research-active staff and six research students;
- the existence of a sound staff programme of research;
- the expectation that students' proposed topics of research will relate substantially to the School/Accredited Institution's or unit's research programme to enable students to relate current research and issues arising from it to their own research (eg: through debate with professional researchers);
- the provision of opportunities for research students to interact with their peers such that interests and concerns can be freely expressed and academic arguments rehearsed;
- the provision of opportunities within the unit/School/Faculty Graduate School/Accredited Institution for contact between research students from the same or other related disciplines (this may occur during broadly-based training);
- a programme of activities (including seminars) for, and open to, research students within the unit/School/Faculty Graduate School/Accredited Institution.
Arrangements for Students based at a Distance
- Appropriate facilities and equipment to support students' research should be made available and explained in a clear statement to students. These facilities should meet in full the expectations of the relevant Research Council(s), and for full-time students will include as a minimum:
Advice should be sought from the relevant services (eg: LDC, Disability Service, CELT, Mentor Service) with regard to accessing any specialist equipment or assistive technology for students who may need such support.
- a permanently allocated individual workplace/desk in suitable laboratory or office space, where appropriate, taking account of cultural aspects in relation to the sharing of laboratory or office space, at the same time recognising the value of student interactions in a wider context;
- allocation of an individual PC with appropriate capacity and internet access, plus advanced computing facilities as necessary for the completion of the research;
- appropriate access to telephone, fax and photocopying facilities;
- laboratory and technical support where appropriate;
- appropriate library and other academic support services.
Part-time students would normally be allocated space and computer facilities on a shared basis, but should also have access to other facilities and services mentioned above.
- Where a School/Accredited Institution admits students based at a distance from the University, satisfactory arrangements must be put in place to ensure an equivalent experience to locally-based students. See also paragraph 40 above on Responsibilities of the Supervisory Team. Such arrangements will include:
- a specified number of face-to-face meetings with members of the supervisory team as appropriate which may be supplemented by email, video-conferencing and other means of communication;
- access to appropriate training and personal development activities by means of existing training opportunities or, alternatively, equivalent training which may include web-based training or other distance means;
- opportunities to network and interact with staff and fellow students, either face-to-face or through a virtual environment.
- Arrangements should be agreed on an individual basis for each student, and should be approved by the School/Approved College and kept under review as part of the annual quality assurance process. In some cases, it may be appropriate to consider agreeing joint supervision arrangements with another institution (see Regulation 9 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy).
Submission and Completion Rates
- Schools/Accredited Institutions must have in place mechanisms to collect, review and, where appropriate, respond to feedback from candidates, supervisors, examiners, external parties and others concerned with postgraduate research programmes. Separate arrangements should exist for obtaining individual and collective feedback. The feedback and review cycle should normally occur at least annually. Faculty Graduate Schools should also collect, review and, where appropriate, respond to student feedback on their training activities.
Teaching and Demonstrating Duties
- Schools/Accredited Institutions should monitor submission and completion rates for both full-time and part-time students, and report on these in their Annual Operating Statements. Submission rates for full-time research students should be at least as good as the minimum thresholds laid down by the various Research Councils. Completion rates for full-time and part-time students are monitored by HEFCE through their annual HESA return, and Schools/Accredited Institutions should be aware of the sector average against which HEFCE benchmarks institutions.
- Research students may be asked to undertake teaching or demonstrating duties, after appropriate training. Schools/Accredited Institutions should ensure that such activities, including preparation for marking, do not make excessive demands on the student's time and so detract from the research. As far as possible, Schools/Accredited Institutions should comply with guidelines laid down by the relevant Research Council on working hours and with the University's Code of Practice for Part-time Tutors which can be found in the Quality Handbook.
Health and Safety
- Where appropriate, students will be encouraged by their supervisor(s) to produce articles and papers for publication during candidature. This work should not take precedence over the writing of the thesis and supervisors should give advice about an appropriate balance.
- It is the supervisor(s)' responsibility to advise the student on safety procedures, especially if the research project entails working with dangerous equipment and materials or is being carried out in a laboratory environment. It is the student's responsibility to abide by the University's Safety Policy, to comply with safe working practices at all times and to follow those procedures prescribed by the supervisor(s).
Holidays and Absence due to Ill Health
- It is the supervisory team's responsibility to ensure that the University's Equal Opportunities Policy is taken into account in all aspects of the candidate's experience as a research student.
Absence due to Ill Health
- Full-time research students may, with the prior agreement of their supervisory team (in practice this will normally be the main supervisor), take up to eight weeks holiday for each year of their candidature including public holidays. For part-time students this is applicable on a pro-rata basis. Holidays should not normally be taken during the academic term.
- For periods of illness longer than five days, and for students in receipt of a medical certificate confirming that they are unable to pursue their studies for medical reasons, students must discuss the impact of the illness on their studies with their main supervisor or designated co-ordinator of their supervisory team (see UoS General Regulation 8 in Section IV of the University Calendar). This also applies to part-time students on a pro-rata basis. Research Council funded students should check the terms of their studentship with regard to advising the Council of any absence due to illness and the provision of a medical certificate. It is good practice for students to keep their main supervisor or co-ordinator advised of any short periods of illness, particularly if these are frequent, so that any potential impact on progress can be identified and any additional support provided if thought necessary.
Monitoring and Supporting Student Progress
Formal Progress Reviews
- Schools/Accredited Institutions will have in place, and bring to the attention of students and relevant staff, clearly defined mechanisms for monitoring and supporting student progress.
- Supervisory teams and students should establish a mutually agreed series of meetings, both formal and informal, to discuss progress and any problems arising.
- Schools/Accredited Institutions should have clear mechanisms for feeding back to the student information on progress and on actions that are taken in response to any problems encountered.
- When reviewing progress, supervisors should routinely assess whether the support needs of their students are being effectively met.
- Schools/Accredited Institutions will provide guidance on keeping appropriate records of the outcomes of meetings and related activities to students, supervisors and others involved in progress monitoring and review processes. Personal Development Portfolios (PDPs) may provide a suitable framework for keeping records.
- Schools/Accredited Institutions will have in place, and bring to the attention of students and relevant staff, clearly defined mechanisms for formal reviews of student progress including explicit review stages. The student and supervisor(s) must submit a written report which will be used to monitor the student's progress and to identify any general issues arising. The report by the student should summarise progress made since the last report, if applicable. The report by the supervisor(s) should include a statement on the likelihood of the student completing the thesis within the required time limit. Any particular problems encountered by the student, (eg: access to resources or facilities or other additional disability-related or language support requirements) should be indicated in this report and appropriate action taken. The report should also indicate whether any additional support requirements or facilities already being provided for a particular student are continuing to meet that student's needs, or if any adjustments for the coming period are required.
- There should be formal monitoring and consideration of progress reports at key points during a student's candidature by an appropriate panel (as specified by the School/Accredited Institution). The target dates of these formal review points should be made clear to both students and supervisors by the School/Accredited Institution but, as a minimum, they should occur on an annual basis. Upgrade from MPhil to PhD, or submission of the thesis, are considered sufficient evidence of progress and can, where appropriate, replace a formal review.
- Schools/Accredited Institutions should ensure that the following are clear to students and supervisors from the beginning of the programme:
- the implications of the possible outcomes of the review meetings;
- the criteria to be used for making decisions about the extension, suspension or termination of a student's registration;
- the circumstances in which student appeal mechanisms may be used.
Upgrade from MPhil to PhD
- It is the responsibility of the main supervisor to inform the student of unsatisfactory progress as soon as this becomes apparent. If discussion between the student and appropriate members of the supervisory team fails to resolve the issue, the School/Accredited Institution may issue a warning to the student and recommend termination of candidature if no improvement is forthcoming.
The Upgrade Panel/Committee
- All students are registered initially for the degree of MPhil and must apply to upgrade their candidature if they wish to submit for a PhD. This must occur at least six months before submission; in practice it often takes place during the second year of full-time candidature. Candidates transferring in from another institution may not normally submit the thesis earlier than 12 months from the date of transfer to the School/Accredited Institution (see Regulation 11 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy and also paragraph 22 above). Upgrade from MPhil to PhD should be recommended only after a formal review of the research topic, of its suitability for development into a PhD thesis, and of the candidate's ability and progress. The procedure will vary according to the discipline and should involve the practice and criteria set out in paragraphs 65 to 69 below.
Criteria for Transfer
- The recommendation to upgrade from MPhil to PhD will be made by an upgrade panel or committee constituted for the purpose. The upgrade panel/committee will consist of at least the main supervisor and a member of academic staff who has had no direct involvement in the research and who will act as 'assessor'; in addition, a second member of the supervisory team will normally be included.
- In order to be upgraded, the following criteria must be met:
- that the student has demonstrated the ability to manage the research project, to become proficient in the special field of research involved, and to achieve success at PhD level given adequate motivation and perseverance;
- that the project being undertaken is of sufficient scope, originality and theoretical interest to constitute a genuine contribution to the subject in the form of the understanding of a problem, the advancement of knowledge or the generation of new ideas.
- The upgrade panel/committee making the recommendation must have reviewed a sufficient body of written work in order to make a judgement on the criteria noted in paragraph 66 above. This body of work should include:
- an overview of the research problem and rationale for the project;
- a substantial literature review;
- well-developed plans for fieldwork and data analysis.
- In addition there should also be some form of viva voce examination, based on the written submission for transfer. In conducting the oral examination, arrangements will be made, where necessary, to accommodate the requirements of students with special communication needs. The viva voce examination should be led by the 'assessor' (as defined in The Upgrade Panel/Committee - see paragraph 65 above). At least one other member of the upgrade panel/committee should be present, but it is not expected that the main supervisor will play an active role. Any evidence of capability in some public arena, eg: through a seminar presentation or published work, may also be considered.
Transfer of PhD to MPhil
- A recommendation from the upgrade panel/committee must be made to the appropriate School/Accredited Institution committee which is charged with responsibility for approving transfers of candidature from MPhil to PhD. The recommendation should be supported by the supervisor(s), advisor(s) and at least one member of academic staff who has had no direct involvement in the research. If the recommendation is not to allow transfer, the candidate must be given a written report giving a statement of the reasons, guidance regarding any ways in which s/he might reach the required standard, and a date when the recommendation might be reviewed. Students who have been successful in their upgrade should receive written feedback on the upgrade process highlighting, where appropriate, any potential areas of concern.
Transfer to Nominal Registration
- Transfer from PhD to MPhil may be permitted at any time prior to the submission of the theses.
Production and Submission of the Thesis
- Candidates may be allowed to transfer to nominal registration when the main supervisor can confirm that: the minimum period of candidature has been completed; upgrade has taken place (in the case of a PhD candidate); research is substantially complete as determined by School Board/Accredited Institution (under the aegis of ERDC); and the thesis is being written up. See Regulations 17 - 20 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy for requirements in relation to nominal registration. Normally the supervisor(s) will be able to predict the likely completion date before agreeing to transfer of the candidate to nominal registration. Applications to transfer to nominal registration must be submitted through the School Office/Accredited Institution.
- A candidate may remain in nominal registration for up to one year initially at which point the position should be reviewed by the School or Accredited Institution. Time spent in nominal registration will count towards the total period of candidature.
Decision to Submit
- The requirements for the production of the thesis for submission laid down in the booklet Completion of Research Degree Candidature should be followed. The booklet is available through the School Office/Accredited Institution or via the University's website. Attention is drawn to the following.
Notification of Intention to Submit
- The decision to submit the thesis must be the candidate's own. The candidate should take note of supervision advice but this advice should not be taken as an indication that the final thesis will fulfil the requirements of the examiners. A supervisor may inform the School/Accredited Institution office in writing if the candidate submits without his/her agreement; this information will not be made known to the examiners but may be referred to in any subsequent discussions about the outcome of the examination, particularly where failure leads to an appeal.
Maximum Length of Thesis
- Candidates must inform the appropriate School/Accredited Institution Office of the intention to submit no later than two months prior to the date of submission in order to allow adequate time for examination arrangements to be made.
Thesis Written in a Language other than English
- The maximum length of a thesis is normally 75,000 words for a PhD or 50,000 words for an MPhil, excluding references and bibliography, or equivalent in the case of non-text based submissions (also see Regulations, 25, 26 and 32 of the Regulations for the Degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy, and paragraphs 8 to 10 above). Supporting factual information may be submitted in an appended volume to the examiners for reference in addition to the thesis and will form part of the record. Candidates who exceed the stipulated length will normally be required by the examiners to re-submit in a form which does not exceed the maximum length. A student may present a statement to the supervisory team indicating that the thesis cannot be contained within the stipulated length for reasons relating to the subject material. The supervisory team may then recommend, before notice of submission, to the relevant School or Accredited Institution committee, that a longer thesis be permitted.
Declaration of Authorship
- A thesis may be written in a language other than English with the approval of the School Board. When considering such a recommendation, the School or Accredited Institution graduate committee will take into account the nature of the research and discipline. It will require assurances that there will be no problems in examining the thesis and that the subsequent published work will be accessible to subject specialists.
- Theses at the time of submission should be accompanied by a signed declaration from the student that the material presented for examination is his/her own work and has not been submitted for any other award (and, where relevant, how it relates to a group project).
- The University's General Regulations (paragraphs 17-19) state that students are required to complete their work, and where relevant their professional practice, in accordance with the principles and practices set out in the Academic Integrity Statement for Students (see Appendix 3). In particular, students should avoid breaches of academic integrity such as plagiarism, cheating, falsification and recycling (definitions are set out in Appendix 1 of the Statement).
Details setting out the University's procedures for handling suspected breaches of academic integrity by postgraduate research students are available on the University's website in Section IV of the Calendar. Students of the Accredited Institutions should refer to the equivalent procedures as prescribed by their institution.
- Once a candidate has given notice of intention to submit, appropriate examiners must be appointed and arrangements made for the examination. The examination, including the oral, should be completed normally within three months of submission. See the Quality Handbook for information on nomination of external examiners and examiners' nomination form.
- In order to ensure some externality and quality assurance of choices made and justifications provided, examiners' nomination forms should be approved at faculty level by the Associate Dean or nominee.
- It is the responsibility of the member of the supervisory team acting as co-ordinator to ensure that the arrangements for the examination are made, including any arrangements for students with disability-related communication needs (see also paragraph 89 below).
- The candidate will be examined normally by an external and an internal examiner; in exceptional circumstances, one additional external examiner may be appointed. Members of the supervisory team, and other researchers, who have had a substantial involvement in the student's work such that there would be a conflict of interest or potential lack of objectivity, may not be appointed as internal examiners. One examiner, either the internal or the external, may be drawn from the upgrade panel/committee (eg: the internal member of staff who acted in the role of independent 'assessor' or an external 'assessor' if used) provided that he/she has had no further material contact with the research project since the upgrade, and that the other examiner is entirely new to the project. Examiners, both internal and external, should have sufficient experience and appropriate subject expertise to be able to examine effectively. They should also be sensitive to, and take into account in the examining process, individual student differences and diversity. Collectively, the examiners should have participated in at least three doctoral examinations.
Role of the Main Supervisor in the Examination Process
- External examiners should normally hold academic posts in another higher education institution. Recommendations for examiners who do not hold such positions should be accompanied by a statement outlining their suitability and ability to examine, and there should be sufficient evidence of their research experience and expertise in the subject. External examiners should be independent and the criteria for appointing external examiners for research degrees should be followed as set out in the guidance in the Quality Handbook.
- Former employees and graduates of the University are not eligible to be external examiners until an interval of at least three years has elapsed. The external examiner should have had no formal academic contact with the candidate during the period of research candidature and, although reciprocity may be more difficult to avoid than for taught courses, examiners should not normally be appointed from Schools where University members of staff have recently examined for the same subject if at all possible. Staff in the University or the Accredited Institutions are ineligible to act as external examiners for University of Southampton awards. University/Accredited Institution staff with appropriate expertise may however be appointed as internal examiners for University candidates provided they have not been involved in the supervision of the candidate, and vice-versa.
The viva voce Examination
- A supervisor should be available to provide clarification at the oral examination if requested by the examiners. At the request of the candidate, one or more members of the supervisory team may be invited. A main (or other) supervisor who is requested to attend by the candidate will not play an active role in the examination, neither will supervisors be appointed as examiners nor take part in the judgement of the thesis under consideration.
Recommendations of Examiners
- The viva voce (oral) examination will be chaired by either the internal or external examiner, by agreement between them, taking account of School/Accredited Institution custom and practice. In response to a request from either examiner, the School/Accredited Institution must appoint an independent chair who is a member of the School/Accredited Institution Board but not an examiner.
In preparing for and conducting the oral examination, arrangements will be made, where necessary, to accommodate the requirements of students with special communication needs. In particular, examiners should be informed of any measures or adjustments needed in conducting the examination. For example, it is important that the room in which the viva is to be held is appropriately arranged to ensure accessibility and clear communication.
Consideration of Examiners' Recommendations
- Each examiner will prepare an independent written report on the thesis and make this available to the other examiner(s) prior to the oral examination. After an oral examination the examiners will prepare a joint report on the conduct of the viva and including, where appropriate, an agreed recommendation. The University's Examiners' Joint Report and Recommendations form, which lists criteria for assessing the candidate, should be used (see the Quality Handbook for a template form). The candidate should be given a copy of the completed joint report. In cases where the examiners are unable to reach agreement, a further external examiner should be appointed to assess the thesis and the other examiners' reports (see also paragraph 93, Consideration of Examiners' Recommendations). The examiners' recommendations must take one of the following forms.
- That the degree for which the candidate has submitted a thesis be awarded.
- That the degree for which the candidate has submitted a theses be awarded subject to minor amendments to the thesis being made by a date specified (minor amendments include: minor errors/omissions of substance, typographical errors, occasional stylistic or grammatical flaws, corrections to references, addition/modification to one or two figures, and minor changes to layout, and require no new research; these changes need only be certified by the internal examiner). The date specified for the submission of such minor amendments should normally be no later than one month after the formal notification to the candidate.
- That the degree for which the candidate has submitted a thesis be awarded subject to the correction of modest errors/omissions of substance being made by a date specified (the procedure for re-examination of the thesis should be clearly specified in the report). Such amendments may require limited further analysis but will not affect the originality of the central thesis. They will be of a scale to require certification by both the internal and external examiners, though normally not so extensive that an oral is required. The date specified for the submission of such intermediate amendments should normally be no later than six months after the formal notification to the candidate.
- That the candidate be required to attend for a further oral examination,
- That the candidate be permitted to resubmit by a date specified a revised thesis for the same degree for re-examination on one subsequent occasion. The date specified for submission of the revised thesis should normally be no later than twelve months after the formal notification to the candidate.
- That, in the case only of a PhD candidate who has failed to satisfy the examiners, permission may be given to the candidate to apply within a specified time for the award of the degree of MPhil. This may be allowed without re-examination, subject to any minor amendment of the thesis which may be required by the examiners, or may be subject to re-examination of a revised thesis. In such circumstances, the work must meet the normal criteria for the award of the MPhil degree.
- That the degree be not awarded and that re-submission of the thesis be not permitted.
- A candidate must satisfy the examiners in both the thesis and the oral examination. A candidate may fail either the thesis or the oral or both and the examiners may recommend re-examination only in that part in which the candidate failed. This may not apply if additional work required substantially modifies the submission; on the other hand, where a thesis has demonstrated adequate practical work but insufficient theoretical knowledge, then oral re-examination only may be required.
- Candidates required to make minor or modest amendments, or to submit a revised thesis for re-examination, should be given a clear and prompt statement by the examiners of what is required and by what date. The timescale should be agreed by all parties. When minor corrections have been submitted, the candidate should normally be informed whether they have been approved within three weeks of their submission. In the case of modest corrections/amendments, the candidate should normally be informed whether they have been approved within six weeks of their submission, or sooner if possible. It is the responsibility of the main supervisor to ensure that the corrections are approved promptly (although in practice this may be delegated to an administrative member of staff) so that the candidate's degree can be awarded as soon as possible.
Access to the Thesis
- The reports of the examiners and their recommendations should be scrutinised and approved within the School/Accredited Institution. The outcome of each examination should be formally reported to the School Board or School Committee with delegated authority in this respect and, for Accredited Institution candidates, the resulting recommendations should be submitted to the External Research Degrees Committee (ERDC).
Under the exceptional circumstances that the appointed examiners are unable to reach agreement, the examiners shall submit independent reports, and the appropriate School/Accredited Institution shall recommend to the Faculty Graduate School/ERDC the appointment of an additional external examiner. The additional examiner shall be provided by the School Office/Accredited Institution with a copy of the thesis/dissertation and the separate reports of the two original examiners, and shall be permitted to interview the candidate before submitting a final report and recommendation to the Head of School/Chair of ERDC. The Head of School/Chair of ERDC shall consider all three reports before reporting to the School/Accredited Institution Board.
Complaints and Appeals
- The results of research should be freely available. Theses are accessible in the University library, and through the British Library doctoral thesis scheme on a microfiche system. Research which is subject to security classification is not therefore appropriate for a higher degree, and theses may be subject to restriction only in exceptional circumstances when the relevant School Board/ERDC, on behalf of Senate, agrees to restricted access for a period not exceeding three years from the date of examination. Although this decision may be taken by the relevant School Board/ERDC on behalf of Senate, each instance of School Board/ERDC approval of restriction of access should be reported to the next meeting of Senate and the Library should also be informed.
- If, during the period of study, the student feels that the research project is not proceeding satisfactorily for reasons outside his/her control or that an effective working relationship with a supervisor is not being established or maintained, s/he should first consult another member of the supervisory team about the situation. If necessary a change of supervisor or recommendations to improve supervisory arrangements may be necessary. If such discussions do not improve matters, students should take up the issue with the Head of School or nominee. If matters cannot be resolved at School level, students should refer to the University's Regulations Governing Student Complaints. A hard copy of the Regulations should be provided by the School, or they can be accessed in Section IV of the University Calendar on the web. Students of Accredited Institutions should refer to the procedures for complaints as set out and provided by their College.
- Following any recommendation by the Board of Examiners not to award a degree, the student may appeal against this decision using the University's Regulations Governing Academic Appeals by Students. These can be accessed in Section IV the University Calendar on the web. Students of Accredited Institutions should refer to the procedures for appeals as set out and provided by their College.
- 1 Regulations for MPhil/PhD Degrees, Research Degrees with a Major Taught Component and the Integrated PhD may be found in the University Calendar Section V and under particular Academic Regulations.
- 2 Where the School role is taken by another body, eg: Graduate School or College Committee, locally produced guidelines should make this clear.
- 3 Based on the AHRB's Policy Paper on 'Research in the Creative and Performing Arts', September 2003.
- 4 The outcomes cited here for both PhD and MPhil are taken from the National Qualifications Framework published in its final form by the Quality Assurance Agency in January 2001.
Approved by AQSC on 27 April 2005 and by Senate on 22 June 2005
Approved by AQSC on 31 May 2006 and 11 July and by Senate in July 2006 [Chair's Action]
Amendments approved by AQSC on 6 June/11 July 2007, by Senate on 20 June 2007 and by Chair's Action for Senate July 2007