The PGR Progress Procedure performs the function equivalent to an examination board for taught students. It is the process through which a formal assessment of a PGR student’s progress with their research and personal and professional development is made.
The main components of the PGR Progress Procedure are the Supervisory Panel (SP) and Research Students’ Progress Board (RSPB). These are the formal committee meetings at which an individual student’s work, training and skills development, and progress are reviewed against the published milestones. Progress decisions are considered by the SP with a recommendation being made to the RSPB. This includes Confirmation of Status and entry to the next stage of study. The final RSPB decisions and/or recommendations are reported to the relevant Faculty Dean (Postgraduate). This done via the Progress List sent out by and back to the PGRE Team.
You are in attendance at your SP meetings and discussions should be individual to you and your progress. These meetings are designed to support you through your research journey. They ensure you’re meeting the required milestones. However, RSPB meetings can consider all students within a department. Multiple RSPB meetings can also be held to consider sub-groups of students within a department. You probably won’t be invited to attend these meetings.
A formal progress decision is required for you and all other PGR students in June/July. This is the end of (academic) year assessment of all students. After this the new registration record is set up for you to register (on the appropriate stage of study) for the next academic year. It may be the case that SP and RSPB meetings need to be held at other points in the year for many students. Full-time students are expected to have at least two SP and RSPB meetings each year, for example. This is especially the case if a formal progress decision is required ahead of the next term of study. This could include the decision to confirm a student’s status in January (rather than June) if they began their studies in the previous January, or had a period of intermission.
You are expected to submit the work requested by your SP together with the student section of the SP report. Failure to submit work to the Supervisory Panel and/or RSPB would be considered to be a failure to meet the progression criteria (unless a judgement can be made on previously submitted work). This would likely result in a recommendation for discontinuation of your studies unless you notify the SP of extenuating circumstances. The circumstances need to detail how they have affected your ability to meet the progression criteria and/or submit the required work. They also need to be accepted.
We recommend notifying your supervisor of any extenuating circumstances and discussing how these have impacted your research and/or studies as early as possible. This will enable you to receive timely support. Further information about how to submit extenuating circumstances, and how these are considered by your SP and RSPB, can be found in the extenuating circumstances and extensions sections below.
All intending PhD students are initially registered under a dual MPhil/PhD registration. This is until your SP and RSPB considers your progress and recommends whether to confirm your status as a PhD candidate or confirm your status as an MPhil candidate. Your supervisor will talk you through the work and documentation that’s required for you to undertake the confirmation process. However, if you have any concerns or questions, please discuss these with your supervisor. Confirmation of Status only applies to PhD courses. It does not apply to Professional Doctorate, Masters by Dissertation or standalone MPhils, for example.
MPhD students from academic departments in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Arts and Humanities must have their PhD status considered during their third active term of study (or equivalent for part-time students).
MPhD students from academic departments in the Faculty of Science and Health must have their PhD status considered in the fourth active term of full-time study (or equivalent for part-time students). In exceptional cases, a student’s status can be confirmed at the end of their first year of study, if milestones for confirmation have been met.
Your Supervisory Panel is composed of you, at least one of your supervisors and one other academic who acts as Chair. In exceptional circumstances where the sole supervisor is on study leave, an acting supervisor may attend.
The Chair of the Supervisory Panel should not:
The meeting should take place face-to-face (via Zoom or in-person) and you must be in attendance. Although virtual meetings can take place via video or telephone conferencing (such as Zoom) or email, this must not breach progress monitoring requirements for students subject to immigration control.
Distance Learning students are not required to come to campus and their Supervisory Panel can be held virtually.
You must submit work by agreed deadlines and meet your departmental ‘milestone’ criteria for your stage and form of research (as published in departmental handbooks). You must also submit a student SP report and take part in each of your SP meetings. SPs may proceed without student participation in exceptional cases (discussed with the relevant Faculty Dean (Postgraduate)).
The SP report form template will be provided by your department. It offers you and your supervisory team the opportunity to reflect on your progression, achievements and challenges since your last Panel meeting. The form also gives opportunity for you to inform the Panel of any extenuating circumstances which you may have faced.
The SP makes progression recommendations to the RSPB for you, including recommendations relating to confirmation of status. Depending upon your stage of study and the discussions about your progress, they may recommend one of the following progress decisions:
For extensions to the standard period, you would be liable for the relevant fees. This means full- or part-time fees, depending on your status. For extensions to the maximum period, the fee is normally £500 per term. Extensions and changes to status have different fee implications, so we recommend you review the fee information in advance of your registration status changing.
You would not ordinarily attend the RSPB meeting. The Chair should be either the Graduate Director/Director of Research Students or the Head of Department. Other members should include at least two other senior academic staff. In cases where the Chair supervises a student under consideration, one of the other RSPB members would assume the role of Chair when considering those student cases.
Where the RSPB is considering a recommendation from the Supervisory Panel of discontinuation or downgrading, or to confirm a student's status as MPhil instead of PhD, the RSPB membership must include at least two members who were not on the student's last Supervisory Panel.
The scheduled meetings should take place face-to-face (via Zoom or in-person). In exceptional cases, virtual meetings can take place via email.
You may be asked to provide additional information by the RSPB by a set deadline. In some cases, you may be asked to attend the RSPB meeting where invited.
The RSPB considers the recommendations of the Supervisory Panels. It has authority to report the following decisions to the relevant Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) via the PGRE Team:
The RSPB will make recommendations regarding unsatisfactory progress to the relevant Faculty Dean (Postgraduate):
And recommendations regarding satisfactory or exceptional progress to include:
There are specific supporting guidelines on how to make a formal submission of an extenuating circumstances claim to your Supervisory Panel and Research Students’ Progress Board. You can also inform your supervisor about any extenuating circumstances you experience at any point during the course of your studies. Early notification and discussions can enable timely support and advice.
With regards to the provision of evidence in support of your extenuating circumstances, it is important that details of any impact are clearly documented and kept on your SP and RSPB record. We understand that circumstances may change month to month as the situation changes. However, the impact always needs to be well-documented. For COVID-related extenuating circumstances, SPs and RSPBs are not expecting the same level of evidence that would normally be required. It is also acknowledged that you may not be able to obtain medical evidence. For example, if you were unable to provide a medical letter, we would expect to see a clear explanation of how you have been affected and for what period of time. This should be either on your SP report or on an extenuating circumstances form.
The PGRE Team does not stipulate that students have to complete a separate extenuating circumstances form. Normally, we would expect there to be a section on the SP report and the RSPB report to record ECs and the decisions taken regarding them. However, if not then a separate EC form should be completed and should accompany the reports.
If your SP and RSPB are recommending entry into a period of completion or an extension to the standard or maximum period, the key information and evidence required within the SP and RSPB reports should include:
Any recommendation for a period of completion or extension must be accompanied by the above information in order for the Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) to consider the request.
We acknowledge that, despite adjustments and mitigations being put in place, many students will have had their progress impacted, in varying levels, due to the pandemic. RSPBs will consider all impacts on a case by case basis.
As a result of the pandemic on our PGR students, it is acknowledged that many students may require a (previously unplanned) period of completion. Alternatively, our students may require an extension to their standard period or an extension to their maximum period.
We have taken the approach of considering such impact, and any subsequent need for periods of completion or extension, on a case-by-case basis. This enables us to consider individual impacts. We have advised supervisors to work with their students on mitigation methods, such as:
Notwithstanding these mitigation strategies, there may still be students whose progress is such that it is suitable for the RSPB to recommend to the Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) that the student be permitted a period of completion or extension.
The SP and RSPB should ensure they discuss with you any implications of an extended period of time. For example, implications relating to funding and sponsorship and/or Student Visa. They should also refer you to the relevant support services for further advice.
You may require only a couple of weeks’ extension to your submission deadline – often to accommodate unexpected short periods of delay. An extension of up to 4 weeks can be sought via our standard short-term extension request process. The Extension to Submission Deadline Request form can be accessed by your departmental Graduate Administrator (via the PGRE Team Moodle site). You and your supervisor(s) should complete the form and submit it, via email, to the PGRE Team for approval. Wherever possible, please complete and submit this request at least 7 days ahead of your original expected submission date. This will ensure you receive a decision before your submission is due.
In response to COVID-19, the University introduced the Extended Tuition Fee Stipend (ETFS). All PGR students who are expected to submit their thesis before 04 October 2023 (the end of the Summer term 2023) could be eligible for the stipend.
If you are granted an extension due to the impact of COVID-19, you will be awarded a University of Essex Extended Tuition Fee Stipend. This will directly pay your University fees for the period of extension or completion. You do not need to apply separately for the ETFS. It should be included as part of the RSPB recommendation and will be applied following Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) approval.
The arrangements relating to extensions and the Extended Tuition Fee Stipend relate to students in the categories outlined in the section above. Students in years 1 and 2 (or part-time equivalent) are not eligible for extensions or the Extended Tuition Fee Stipend at present, unless exceptional circumstances apply.
We would not expect to receive extension requests from departments concerning students in years 1 or 2 (or part-time equivalent). It is too early to judge what the overall impact will be on their studies and whether a student is able to subsequently progress such that any “lost time”, due to adjusting their research and/or changing their timeline, is redeemed. However, we would strongly encourage you and your SPs to document any impact on your studies that has been caused by the pandemic and/or the move between the University’s Protection Measures. It is important that any impact is clearly documented and kept on subsequent SP reports. This includes assessments of the success of any mitigating factors implemented in subsequent months (and years). This is so that this account can be considered if an extension request were to be submitted when the student approaches the end of their standard period.
We would expect that many of you will have been included on the Category 3 list. Mitigation efforts should have been made (including: adjusting the research plans and timeline, the student changing to part-time status, or the student taking a period of intermission). This can be documented and considered at subsequent SP and RSPBs.
Notwithstanding the above guidance, if you are in year 1 or 2 of your studies and experience extenuating circumstances, you should report those and consideration of appropriate action (including a recommendation for an extension). This can be made in cases where it is deemed to be the only justifiable option – for example, in cases of long-term illness or the effects of bereavement.
If, following examination, you have been referred for re-examination but you have reported extenuating circumstances (whether Covid-19 related or not) that have impacted your referral period, you may ask for an extension to your referral period through the normal route of contacting the PGRE Team.
You will be asked to complete the Extension to Resubmission Deadline form. This is for use in cases where a student seeks an extension to the deadline by which they are expected to resubmit their corrected thesis (following minor or major corrections) to their Internal Examiner, or the deadline for resubmission of their thesis following a referral for re-examination.
Extensions to resubmission deadlines are granted in exceptional cases only. This means following exceptional events which were unforeseen and beyond the student’s control; for example, medical/health issues; personal life events; and exceptional pressures of work. They may also be appropriate if your progress has been affected by the pandemic. As with all claims for an extension, you will need to provide details of any impact on your studies and ability to submit by the deadline. We would not expect to grant an extension for a period of time that is more than the original length of time given for the corrections or referral period.
As always, students whose visa is sponsored by the University should contact the International Services Team. They will provide advice about any changes to your study which may have implications for your visa. Provided that you continue to engage and progress academically and remain in contact with your supervisor monthly via Zoom/Skype, the University should not need to take any action to withdraw our sponsorship and your immigration status should remain valid.
See our advice on immigration concerns related to COVID-19.
Postgraduate Research milestones are used to ensure you're making sufficient progress during your studies. They also keep you on track to submit within the appropriate period. PGR supervisors will talk through the relevant milestones during supervisory meetings. You should refer to them on a regular basis.
If you first registered prior to October 2017, you should discuss appropriate milestones with your supervisor.
Select the relevant milestone by choosing the year you started your course, your course subject and qualification level.
To request an accessible copy of the milestone pdfs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org