Postgraduate research students

Specific advice for University of Surrey postgraduate research students. Please check back regularly for any updates and read our general advice for health information and travel guidance.

General FAQs

You should discuss your need to access research laboratories and facilities with your Supervisor and, if necessary, your Head of Department. You are required to follow all Covid Secure protocols when accessing campus facilities.

In the case of another lockdown of campus buildings you will be communicated with about what to do.

The University of Surrey has set up a Disruption Fund and fee-free extensions for PGRs meeting the necessary criteria. Please see the Disruption Fund FAQs for more details. You may also apply for the Hardship Fund to address any immediate financial difficulties you are facing.

Please contact the Rapid Response Team here.

Currently all viva voce examinations are taking place virtually. The Doctoral College Research Degrees Office will require the following information from your supervisor ahead of the examination:

  • the reason for the request
  • date/time of the viva
  • has the time difference between locations been considered
  • how will the viva outcome be communicated to the PGR following the examination (called to rejoin link, waiting room…)
  • which video platform will be used and has a dry run to test the link taken place
  • are all parties happy with the above arrangements (this will need to be documented in writing)

View the Preparing for Virtual Viva Voce Examinations Guide (PDF).

As of Monday 23 March 2020, we require an electronic copy of your thesis. Please submit your electronic copy to researchdegrees@surrey.ac.uk and copy in your supervisors and your faculty contact within the Research Degrees Office.

All vivas are currently taking place remotely. Please see the guidance above.

You can submit your confirmation document electronically using the standard process. Arrangements will be made for your confirmation viva to be held remotely. Please liaise directly with your supervisor to make these arrangements.

Your progress review meeting can be held remotely using, for example, Skype, Zoom or videocall. The associated forms can be completed and submitted remotely, too, using the standard process.

If you do not need to be on campus to continue with your research, and your supervisor agrees, we will support your decision to work remotely.

Meetings with your supervisors can take place using, for example, Skype, Zoom or video call. The outcome of the meeting can be recorded on your Surrey Self Service monthly meeting record in the usual way.

UK Research and Innovation’s terms and conditions regarding sick pay apply to students who are funded by a research council.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has issued additional guidance for students it funds, as follows:

  • Where a student is ill, you should follow the standard T&Cs. Please follow guidance from Government regarding medical certificates.
  • Where students are not ill, but self-isolating, studentships should not be suspended.
    • In many cases students will be able to work from home even if the activities undertaken change. For short periods of self-isolation, even if they can’t work, many students will have sufficient time left that they can make this up over the remainder of their doctorate. In these cases, extensions to funded periods should not be applied.
    • Where self-isolating undermines a student’s ability to finish their doctorate within the funded period, an extension should be considered. Examples (not exhaustive) of when an extension may need to be applied include:
      • A significant period of self-isolation (we do not define significant as this is likely to be proportional to the time left in the funded period)
      • Postponement of critical activities where alternatives aren’t available. An example would be experiments due to take place at a national/international facility which will delay the research for a significant amount of time.

The default position for University-funded students is that your stipend will continue to be paid unless you choose to suspend it.

Due to the current situation with coronavirus, additional funding has been made available to help support you with the financial impact of sickness. If you become unwell due to coronavirus, funding for your period of illness can be covered without a GP note.

To claim an extension of funding due to sickness, please complete this sickness form (Docx) and return it to doctoralcollege@surrey.ac.uk. Up to 13 weeks sickness can be paid, in line of with UKRI terms and conditions.

Guildford is currently in Tier 2 and the Government is advising everyone to work from home if they possibly can. This includes PGRs who do not need access to research laboratories or university buildings.

We understand that this is disruptive for your research and will do everything we can to keep research alive while we all manage the crisis. The University and your supervisors have a responsibility for ensuring your safety. They will not want you to return to the campus until it is safe for you to do so. We will keep you updated throughout and will let you know when we are able to provide access.

  • You should keep in contact with your supervisors to discuss any immediate questions or concerns.
  • Supervisors and PGRs should agree working arrangements taking into account any exceptional circumstances such as caring responsibilities.
  • If you have additional caring responsibilities or other issues, it is important that your supervisor understands these so that they can provide appropriate support and guidance.  This may also apply to your supervisor so that their availability may be different to normal.
  • You may need to utilise additional support from your co-supervisor if your primary supervisor has specific caring responsibilities which they have to attend to during this period.
  • Clear communication of expectations is critical so that you and your supervisor are able to adapt to any temporary way of working.
  • Agree which way of communication will work best between you and your supervisor and consider your research group for larger virtual team meetings.
  • Do communicate your preferences and any concerns you have. Your supervisors can’t help you if you don’t let them know what you need.
  • Supervisors understand that you may need more support than normal during this period. It is OK to ask for more meetings, or to communicate by email more frequently.
  • The Doctoral College will be working remotely when staff and students are required to remain off campus. We will continue to offer all normal support including frontline support for email queries, as well as one-to-one skills, writing and career development virtual meetings. If you are registered for a workshop during this period, we will endeavour to offer you an opportunity to take the workshop in virtual form at its scheduled time, or to register for a future face-to-face session. If you have any questions, concerns or would just like to discuss with a member of the Researcher Development team, email RDP@surrey.ac.uk.
  • The University recognises that there may be individual circumstances that make your situation more challenging than for others. If you have specific concerns, discuss these with your supervisor who can liaise with other members of the University to make sure you are supported. If there are specific concerns about your progress, specific course/completion deadlines or milestones (including a viva voce examination coming in the near future) or requirements for your doctorate which you feel are being negatively impacted by this disruption, please contact your supervisor, your departmental PGRD or your faculty's Associate Dean for Doctoral College. It is important that you contact your most local support first, and of course the Doctoral College is here to help and can be contacted  for further advice and support - researchdegrees@surrey.ac.uk),
  • If you feel particularly stressed or that your wellbeing is being negatively impacted and you need support for this, please email the Centre for Wellbeing (centreforwellbeing@surrey.ac.uk)

The following inboxes will be monitored as usual other than during University closure days and bank holidays:

  • Doctoral College: for any general queries related to Doctoral College operations, including studentships.
  • Researcher Development: for training, skills, writing and career development queries; general support and advice related to project planning or organising effective virtual working, or if you feel you just need to talk with someone about how to manage your doctorate during this challenging time.
  • Research Degrees Office: for all queries regarding regulations, policy and procedures. Including but not limited to thesis submission, examiner queries, temporary withdrawal, progress, and APESC-related queries. If you wish to discuss any procedure related options with someone, staff will be available for virtual meetings, just request this through email.
  • Centre for Wellbeing: for support for stress or wellbeing-related issues.

The Doctoral College is supportive of students who might need to temporarily withdraw from their doctorate. Grounds for temporarily withdrawing might include: self-isolation or inability to progress with experimental or fieldwork because of the impact of the virus.

The Doctoral College will look favourably on any requests submitted because of the impact of this virus.

If you would like more information, please contact the Research Degrees Office: researchdegrees@surrey.ac.uk.

If you are required to self-isolate

  • Ensure you contact your supervisor and let them know the situation. The University is prepared for such cases and will support you. However, it is important for your supervisor to know right away so they can make sure that you are well taken care through this challenging time.
    • If you are not ill, your supervisor should work with you to determine what progress you can make from home. This may mean re-prioritising your work such that instead of data collection you concentrate on reading/writing tasks. There is always something to do in a doctorate!
    • If you are ill, rest and get better. Illness happens during a doctorate and your supervisor will know how to make sure this does not negatively affect your progress.

If your supervisor is required to self-isolate

  • They should contact you and let you know how your supervisory team plan on continuing support during this time.
    • This may mean that your co-supervisor steps in or that your supervisor supports you ‘virtually’ instead of face to face.
    • In either case we will always try to ensure that you are able to contact a supervisor if needed. If you are unable to contact a supervisor you should email your School or departmental Postgraduate Director or your Associate Dean for Doctoral College (AD-DC).
    • FEPS: Jeremy Allam
    • FHMS: Ruan Elliot
    • FASS: Allan Kilner-Johnson

Updated Thursday 25 June 2020

This is an evolving situation and UKCISA continues to work with the UK Government and local public health authorities to distribute appropriate guidance to UK international students. Please check the UKCISA website for up to date news.

We realise that people had to move into home working very quickly and some of us were not well equipped to do this. While we are being asked to avoid social contact to manage the impact of the virus, you will not necessarily be able to work in your office. If this is particularly difficult for you please discuss your options with your Supervisor.

Covid-19 research and innovation PGR disruption fund

Due to changes put in place by UKRI, as of the 1st January 2020 the Research and Innovation Disruption Fund will be operating under a different policy. Information about this scheme will be announced in the new year. Please bear with us as we adapt to the new policy and procedure.

During the present extraordinary disruption, PGRs may be concerned about the financial implications of not being able to complete their research for reasons outside their control caused from Covid-19. Some are worried that the prolonged duration of their studies will exceed the maximum period of registration for doctoral research, or that they will run out of money to support their living costs. The Disruption Fund addresses these concerns.

Many PGRs are understandably concerned about their research and funding. During this period of remote working due to Covid-19, all PGRs who are still within their funded period and in receipt of a studentship or funding managed by the University, will continue to receive their stipend payments up to the end of their current funded period. The Student Hardship Fund is also available to assist in overcoming financial hardship such as helping with rent payments, but cannot pay an equivalent of a stipend.

Yes, PGRs are always able to apply for an extension to their research when circumstances require it. The Doctoral College is encouraging people to adapt their plans to continue to make progress where possible. However, this is more difficult for some. Where a PGR is clearly able to show how their research has been impacted and their supervisor supports their request, they can apply for an extension to their programme.

To make this as simple as possible we have combined the application process for stipend and fee-free extensions with the APESC request system so that you do not need to make a separate request to APESC through your Surrey Self Service research programme record if you have already applied to the disruption fund.

We are asking PGRs to apply for any extension they need when they are no more than six months away from their end-date. To avoid gaps in funding or a lapse in registration, applications should be made no less than two months from the end-date.

To make the application process as simple as possible, we are combining the application for funding extensions with the application for an extension to registration, as the evidence and criteria for both are the same.

If you apply to the Disruption Fund this also includes an extension to your registration.

Any PGRs in the final year of study who receive a stipend through the University and whose funded period or programme ends between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 are eligible.  Self-funded PGRs are also eligible to apply for a fee-free extension. We will consider applications for extensions for up to six months where additional time is needed as a result of any kind of disruption from Covid-19, with the highest priority given to those whose progress or personal circumstances are most disadvantaged. Allocation of funds will be determined by priority of needs.

The Disruption Fund is targeted at PGRs who are close to completion and who are most immediately affected by the disruption. Any PGR whose end-date lies between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 can apply for no-cost extension of registration. Here, end-date means end of the funded period for funded students, end of programme for those on PhD programmes of fixed duration, or end of registration for self-funded students or those on Completing Status.

In addition, funded students who receive a stipend payment through the University of Surrey, can apply for an extension of this funding to support their living costs. This includes eligible PGRs funded by UKRI, who will apply for the additional resources that the Research Councils have provided via the Disruption Fund.

Any support awarded to part-time students will be made on a pro-rata basis.

Applications for support due to any kind of disruption from Covid-19 will be considered, with the highest priority given to those whose progress or personal circumstances are most disadvantaged. We understand the disruption may have long-lasting consequences for PGRs at all stages of research. However, the focus of the Disruption Fund is to ensure those PGRs who are nearest to completion are able to complete their valuable research.

Download the application form (docx) here. Once completed, please send it to your supervisor to add comments. Once complete, your supervisor can forward the form to ridisruptionfund@surrey.ac.uk.

You should apply for additional time equivalent to the overall impact of the disruption on the completion of your PhD. So, in this case, you would apply for 2 months of additional support as you were able to perform the equivalent of one month of full-time work. You will need to present evidence for why you were not able to work at full capacity.

The impact of the Covid-19 on all categories of students, researchers and staff across the University is well understood, and the University is working hard to support all of its members through its limited financial resources.  It is therefore important that we provide resources in a way that is consistent, transparent and fair, and is based on a combination of evidence and reasonable judgement. The evidence asked from PGRs has been kept to the minimum possible to achieve this end, and is aligned with what is required by, for example, the UK funding councils for the additional funds they are contributing for research students.

If you are funded by SeNSS or TECHNE then you need to apply directly.

For other Research Councils the University applies for additional funds based on its estimate of the overall disruption to UKRI-funded students. At Surrey, PGRs apply for additional support through the Disruption Fund, and the University will charge these costs to the appropriate source.

We have sought to make the process as simple as possible, so that PGRs make a single application whatever their funding source, and which makes appropriate adjustments to tuition fees, registration period and stipends via a single application.

PGRs who as a result of Covid-19 face financial difficulties beyond what can be supported through the Disruption Fund may also apply to the University’s Student Hardship Fund.

We strongly recommend that applicants discuss the current position with their supervisor as they are required to add a supporting statement. Should you wish to discuss your situation with someone outside your immediate research team and are not sure who to approach, please contact your Postgraduate Research Director or Associate Dean for the Doctoral College. Alternatively, please email ridisruptionfund@surrey.ac.uk and you will be put in contact with a relevant independent person to assist you.    

This initial phase of the Disruption Fund is targeted at PGRs who are close to completion and who are most immediately affected by the disruption. Any PGR whose end-date lies between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 can apply for a no-cost extension, or where eligible for an extension to funding.

You do not need to make an application immediately if you are unsure about the impact on your ability to continue your research. The timing of an application will depend on your circumstances (e.g. the date on which funding expires or the expected completion date of your doctorate).

We encourage students to make an application within 6 months of their expected end-date, and not less than 2 months before their end-date in order to avoid gaps in funding or lapse of registration status.

All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

We understand that the current situation is impacting everyone across the research and innovation landscape but recognise that PGRS in their final year will have a more urgent need for support.

For PGRs whose end date is after 31st March 2021, we will continue to review the situation. 

If you have been disrupted but your registration expires after 31 March 2021, please keep records of your disruption so that you may apply to future rounds of the Disruption Fund if needed at that time.

You do not need to apply immediately for additional time to complete your Doctorate; applying at a later time will not affect the decision made about your application. The important thing is to discuss your application with your supervisor and they will help you to make a decision about when and if you should apply.

We are advising all PGRs to plan carefully to alter their research where possible to enable them to keep making progress through the disruption. This may be more difficult for some kinds of research and individual circumstances may make this more difficult for some than for others. We do anticipate that many people will be able to change the order of tasks or the ways in which they complete them to make good progress. Do make detailed plans with your Supervisor and modify them as the situation unfolds and the issues become clearer.

If you have been disrupted but your registration expires after 31 March 2021, please keep records of your disruption so that you may apply to future rounds of the three-year Disruption Fund if needed at that time.

Any additional funding granted from the Disruption Fund is to cover your stipend at a rate equivalent to the standard UKRI rate. It is not covering other costs such as Research Training Support Grants (RTSG) or other research costs that may have arisen as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Yes, we will consider the range of impacts PGRs are experiencing now, including personal circumstances and caring responsibilities.

We have re-apportioned some budgets to create sick leave provisions so that all Surrey PGRs can now enjoy the same terms and conditions for sick pay as UKRI-funded students.

If you become unwell due to coronavirus, funding for your period of illness can be covered without a GP note.

To claim an extension of funding due to sickness, please complete this sickness form (docx) and return it to doctoralcollege@surrey.ac.uk. Up to 13 weeks sick pay can be claimed, in line of with UKRI terms and conditions.

Where a studentship is co-funded by partners in the public, private and voluntary sector we hope that the funding partner will be able to offer the remainder of the additional funding required. We do not expect the PGR to address this with the funding partner, but if you are concerned that funding may not be available, do discuss this with your supervisor who will inform your Associate Dean for the Doctoral College.

Many of our PGRs are practitioners and scientists who either work for the NHS or have done so before taking up their doctorate. We understand that you may wish to do your part in the effort to manage the pandemic. Surrey is very supportive of any decision you wish to make to reduce time on your doctorate for this reason. We will be flexible and supportive to make any changes as simple as possible.

You may either take a temporary withdrawal by applying through the online system or apply to change your mode of registration to part-time through the online system to ensure you have sufficient time in your registration period to be able to complete your doctorate. We advise you to discuss this with your supervisor. If you need any advice about a temporary withdrawal or change of mode of study please contact the Research Degrees Office at researchdegrees@surrey.ac.uk. Our team are all working remotely and can advise you by phone or email.