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.
We recognise that all PGRs will have been affected by the pandemic and know that most have worked hard to adapt and adjust their plans to ensure they complete their doctorate. However, adapting and changing a project plan is more difficult for some projects and in some circumstances.
We have a limited resource to provide some PGRs with additional time to complete their research. The purpose of the Disruption Fund Phase 3 is to ensure that we identify those PGRs who have been most significantly disadvantaged by the pandemic so that they have the best possible chance of completing. We are confident that you understand that it is not possible to undo the impact of the pandemic on your research, but we can do our best to ensure that everyone completes.
We regret that the pandemic has made research so much harder for everyone. While we would like you to enjoy the ideal circumstances, opportunities and best research outcomes, the pandemic has meant that we need to focus on helping you do enough to get you over the line to complete, rather than delivering the doctorate that you had originally planned at its outset. We still encourage you to keep to your ambitious goals as far as you can. However, the purpose of this Disruption Fund is to help ensure no one gets left behind and, sadly, we do not have the resource to ensure that each project reaches the pinnacle of its potential.
The Disruption Fund has been designed to enable a panel look at how well you were able to modify your research to ensure completion. This is not a judgement of your effort to do this, but in recognition that some tasks are more difficult to redesign or modify, and some factors (for example, school closures) are not within your control.
We will endeavour to make the best and fairest decisions we can to allocate a limited resource, ensuring those most affected and least able to reduce the impact are given priority. If you feel we have not made the right decision, please do discuss this with your supervisor and come back to show us where you think we are in error and to raise any additional information or evidence you think we need to know about.
We do understand that it is not easy to describe disruption caused by the pandemic. Our questions are there to help you focus your answer. If you find that the questions do not help you to capture the key issues in a clear way, please add additional comments, but please keep them as brief as possible.
We appreciate that you might disclose some personal information on the form. Please be reassured that your application will be treated in confidence and access to it is limited to those involved in the decision-making process.
Please note: there are two types of support provided by the Disruption Fund. Applicants who are funded by a package that is managed through the University can receive an extension to their existing funding package. Self-funded PGRs, including those whose funding has expired, can receive a fee-free extension.
Doctoral students who are eligible to make an application to Phase 3 of the Disruption Fund are those:
- Who started their Doctorate on or before 31 March 2020
- exceptions will be considered for those who started after 31 March 2020 on a case-by-case basis if they are in a priority group (that is, disabled and/or neurodivergent students and/or students with a long-term illness who have encountered additional barriers to completion due to the pandemic and/or those with caring responsibilities)
- Further requests from students who had an earlier request turned down or who have already received an extension under Phase 1 or Phase 2 will only be considered where there is a strong case for a pandemic-related change of circumstance since the original application beyond their control leading to unavoidable delay
The procedure for allocating support during Phase 2 of the Disruption Fund is no longer in use and the new eligibility criteria replace previous versions.
If you are not yet eligible
If you are not yet eligible because of your registration or funding end date, please be reassured that the University is committed to making financial support available to PGRs affected by the pandemic, on a needs-priority basis, at least until March 2023. In the meantime, you are advised to work on adaptation of project plans to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
The criteria used to allocate your application to a band are:
- the extent of the disruption caused;
- how essential the disrupted activity is to the completion of your doctorate;
- that any reasonable modifications and adjustments have been attempted and a compelling explanation given about why those adjustments were not wholly successful;
- being in a priority group for support (disabled and/or neurodivergent students and/or students with a long-term illness who have encountered additional barriers to completion due to the pandemic and/or those with caring responsibilities);
- the disruption to the activity was directly caused by the pandemic, is out of the control of supervisors and students, and is not due to any other causes for delay.
Disrupting factors relating to the pandemic can include:
- physical or mental wellbeing;
- additional caring responsibilities as a result of the pandemic;
- loss of access to essential resources/facilities, for example, labs, archives, fieldwork locations, participant recruitment;
- absence of a supervisor due to Covid-19 related disruption.
Factors that will not be considered relevant to the application include:
- the general difficulties of working remotely;
- the general social and emotional impact of having to work differently and without the usual support of colleagues;
- Disruption caused by other factors not directly impacted by Covid-19.
- support to complete additional research papers, which are not linked to the completion of your PhD.
Download the Disruption Fund application form (docx). Please complete sections 4 and 5 of the application form, after discussing it with your supervisor, and then send it to your supervisor who will be required to complete section 6.
The completed form must be sent to email@example.com to be considered.
There will be five times throughout this year when applications can be considered. You can apply to any panel listed regardless of your funding/registration end date, as long as your funding/registration commenced before 31 March 2020 and you meet the eligibility criteria for Disruption Fund 3.
The deadlines for submission of an application to each panel are:
- 25 October 2021 (all outcomes will be communicated as soon as possible).
- 15 November 2021 (all outcomes will be communicated by 10 December 2021).
- 1 March 2022 (all outcomes will be communicated by 25 March 2022).
- 16 May 2022 (all outcomes will be communicated by 6 June 2022).
- 4 July 2022 (all outcomes will be communicated by 25 July 2022).
Please note: If you have a student visa and you are granted an extension, you will also need to make an application to extend your visa and the University will support you to do this. See further useful documents under International postgraduate research students.
Please read our privacy notice before applying.
Doctoral students who are not eligible for support from the Disruption Fund might benefit from other sources of support.
The Hardship Fund is a means-tested fund that aims to help students complete their studies whilst in financial difficulty. Students who are struggling with the cost of living or who have been unexpectedly affected financially can apply.
The Fund can only help with your living costs and we are not able to include tuition fees in our assessments.
APESC registration changes
Doctoral students can apply for a temporary withdrawal or extension to registration at any time during their doctorate. Applications are made using the Surrey Self-Service system.
If you would like to discuss these options, please contact the Doctoral College on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Centre for Wellbeing
The Research and Innovation Disruption Fund process is focussed on allocating financial support to doctoral researchers where progress has been impacted by the global pandemic. We understand that in addition to project progress issues, many students are also experiencing health and wellbeing concerns. We advise all students to discuss health and wellbeing with your supervisors, if you feel comfortable doing so, and also to refer to the excellent resources and sources of support available from the Centre for Wellbeing.
In line with current university guidance to staff, all PGRs are advised to work or carry out part of their research from home if at all possible.
If you do need to be on campus for any reason, then please discuss this with your supervisor, and make sure a full risk assessment has been carried out for the area in which you are due to work. You will also need to have completed the updated Covid-19 Health & Safety Induction and remember to take a lateral flow test twice a week.
Please Note: You should also check any agreements you have made with campus services such as accommodation to ensure your plans are compatible with their terms and conditions.
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.
From 19 July 2021 most viva voce examinations will continue to take place virtually. The Doctoral College Research Degrees Office will require the following information from your supervisor ahead of examinations taking place entirely online:
- 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).
From 19 July 2021, if all parties involved in your viva, including you, confirm in writing that you wish to hold the viva either entirely face to face or hybrid (some physically together, some participants online), then this is permitted. If there is any face-to-face contact for the viva then all health and safety measures must be followed in line with the University’s latest advice. If the viva is to go ahead on campus then your principal supervisor will book a room and make suitable arrangements, such as ensuring IT equipment is in place should any of the participants be joining remotely. Guidance on preparing for your viva can be found on MySurrey.
As of Monday 23 March 2020, we require an electronic copy of your thesis. Please submit your electronic copy to email@example.com 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Up to 13 weeks sickness can be paid, in line of with UKRI terms and conditions.
Guildford is currently in Tier 5 Lockdown 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 - email@example.com),
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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: email@example.com.
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.