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.
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. 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.
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, then can apply for an extension to their programme.
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. Students whose end-date is between 1 March and 31 July 2020 can apply immediately and their applications will be prioritised.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Please refer to sections below, as well as the guidance on the application form.
PGRs who receive a stipend through the University (including those funded by Research Councils), and who can demonstrate that they need additional time to complete their research due to factors beyond their control, can apply for help. Other categories of PGR who experience financial hardship can apply to the University’s Student Hardship Fund.
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 two 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.
No. The University applies to the Research Councils 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.
PGRs who are unable to progress their research due to sickness can apply for the PGR Sickness Fund (docx) which needs to be emailed to the Doctoral College team. Further information about this fund can be found in the FAQ further down the page titled 'Can I claim sick pay if I become ill and cannot continue to work as usual?'
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 you PhD). We strongly suggest you discuss your position with your supervisor as there may be options available. All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
In general we encourage students to make an application within six months of their expected end date, and not less than two 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 31 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 three-year 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.
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.
All students in their final year and impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic are eligible to apply for an extension. Any support awarded to part-time students will be made on a pro-rata basis.
If an extension of your doctoral studies is supported from the Disruption Fund, this will automatically include an extension of your registration. If it isn’t clear to you at the moment what the impact will be, you will have an opportunity to apply at a later date. Do discuss this with your supervisor and with the team in the Research Degrees Office.
While we believe that many PGRs will be able to adapt their research and continue to make progress during the disruption, some will find this more difficult than others. While we want you to keep going as well as you can, we are aware that some of you may eventually need to extend the duration of your doctoral studies, and you may be concerned about being charged additional tuition fees, incurring additional living costs, or needing to extend your registration period.
We advise you to do all you can to continue with your research even if things are done in a different order or in a different way. It is important that you discuss your research with your supervisors; with your Doctoral College team, and with your other research colleagues and consider ways in which you might change the order of tasks you have planned or find creative alternative ways of conducting your research.
To help you do this, we have adapted your usual six-month review to focus on managing the Covid-19 disruption. We ask you to consider how to adapt your research plans to allow for a 12-week disruption during which you may need to continue to work from home.
Some researchers may find this more difficult than others, for a range of reasons including the nature of their research, their caring responsibilities, or they may become ill or need to care for loved ones who become ill.
The University of Surrey has committed to providing a Contingency (Disruption) Fund which will enable those most affected by the disruption to complete their doctorates. We have a commitment to a now and future three-year fund that allows for extension of training stipends for those who need it at the point where they need their doctorate extended. This fund is in addition to the existing Student Hardship Fund. If you have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 already we have increased our Hardship Fund to respond to this crisis.
We are at an early stage in this crisis and for most PGRs it is too early to tell what the eventual impact will be. While we want you to keep going as well as you can, we are aware that you may need to apply for some help to extend your doctorate and possibly your registration period at some point. We would like you to use the six-month review to tell us how you think you may be affected, and what the critical issues are that are likely to delay your progress.
We advise you to keep a careful record of the impact of Covid-19 crisis on your research progress, discuss it with your supervisor and keep copies of any evidence that may help to support a future claim for a temporary withdrawal to extend your registration, or additional funding to extend the term of your doctorate.
We realise that it is too soon for you to have a clear idea of how little or how badly you will be affected. There is no need to apply for either a temporary withdrawal or for additional funding immediately. You will be able to do this when things become clearer and we are in a position to make a judgement of the effect of the crisis on your progress. The contingency fund will help those who are most seriously affected to ensure they complete their doctorate.
Whilst it has been necessary for the University to take the appropriate actions it has so far, we remain committed to ongoing review of the situation, and will reconsider working conditions and access arrangements post-Easter.
The University is currently planning for a scenario where laboratory access is closed for a three-month period, although there is no guarantee that this will be the final timescale. During this initial three-month period students should discuss with their supervisor how to best re-arrange their project when the labs are closed, e.g. through analysis of existing data, background reading, preparation of papers etc. If laboratories remain closed for longer than three months, the University will discuss with departments what additional financial support or project extensions are required.
The University of Surrey has also committed to exempt or reduce the fees of those PGRs who are disrupted and need financial help, regardless of whether they are University/ self/ industry/ or charity funded. You may also apply for the Hardship Fund to address any immediate financial difficulties you are facing.
In line with current government requirements, from 24 March 2020 no PGRs should come on to campus to undertake work of any kind in any of the facilities unless they have written authorisation, via their Head of School, Department, or Research Centre (as appropriate), to do so for research classified as critical under government definitions.
Please keep in contact with your supervisory team, and if for any reason you are unable to contact them you should email your School or Departmental Postgraduate Director or your Associate Dean for Doctoral College (ADDC):
Follow the advice you have received from NHS 111.
Please contact Security on +44 (0)1483 683333 who will then make the appropriate contact with your faculty.
Updated Thursday 23 April 2020
We want to minimise disruption to viva voce examinations caused by the corona virus and we will support them taking place virtually. To have a virtual viva voce examination approved, your supervisor will need to contact email@example.com and provide the following information:
- The reason for the request
- Independent chair: it is recommended that a chair is appointed to ensure that the PGR is not disadvantaged by any technical difficulties and to ensure that the examiners can focus on examining. The chair can also attend remotely. We recommend the chair has the phone numbers of all participants in case of a technical difficulty
- Timing: has the time difference between locations been considered?
- How will the viva outcome be communicated to the PGR following the examination?
- Dry run: We recommend testing the set up prior to the examination to minimise any technical difficulties.
- 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 are waiving the requirement for a physical copy of the thesis to be submitted. Electronic copies will be accepted instead. Please submit your electronic copy to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 below.
You can submit your confirmation document electronically using the standard process. You may be able to arrange to hold your confirmation examination 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 MySurrey 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 email@example.com. Up to 13 weeks sickness can be paid, in line of with UKRI terms and conditions.
The Government is advising everyone to work from home if they possibly can and to avoid all social contact. While these measures are in operation almost all PGRs will be working at home. 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org),
- 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 (email@example.com)
The following inboxes will be monitored throughout:
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
- Ensure you keep updated on official University advice and guidance. Ensure you are checking your University email account regularly and are reading all alerts carefully.
- Discuss any concerns you may have with your supervisor(s). Your supervisory team is there to support you and they should help you come up with a contingency plan to ensure you are able to re-prioritise and continue to be productive in the event of various types of disruption. Complete your six-month progress review to plan changes to your research and to record your need for equipment to enable you to work safely at home, and to identify any training that might help you to keep your research on track.
- Check to see if you have all the resources you need to work from home if necessary e.g. laptop, suitable place to work etc and remote access to the S drive/OneDrive/ Zoom/ Skype/Microsoft Teams/specific analysis software (as appropriate). You may need to learn how to use a certain programme or platform to get the most out of it while working remotely.
- Think carefully about the place where you will be working, and undertake a workplace assessment just as you would if you were working in an office at the University. Make sure your monitor is at the correct height.
- Make sure arrangements are in place for how you may be contacted by your supervisory team, i.e., email/text/phone call/WhatsApp groups/Zoom/ Skype/Microsoft Teams.
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.
Updated Thursday 23 April 2020
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded doctoral students in their final year will receive an extension to their research with additional grants, known as a costed extension, of up to six months if the student has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Find out more and read the full UKRI funding FAQs.
Students unable to work or their progress is impeded by closure of their Research Organisation/COVID-19 restrictions and or caring responsibilities
In these circumstances, extensions can be approved. Students should contact the programme director of their DTP/CDT or equivalent training programme to discuss the specific nature of this extension.
Evidence required to provide extensions
UKRI has a strong working relationship with its training partnerships and expect ROs to manage any requested extension. ROs should ensure they have sufficient information/evidence to justify any extension. DTP/CDTs should keep clear records of the length and reasons for the extension and keep JES records up to date giving Covid-19 as the reason. This is important in understanding the scale of the extensions granted and cost implications.
How extensions will be covered
At the moment we have indicated that costs in the first instance should be met by grant underspend. UKRI will work closely with DTP/CDTs – who will have an excellent understanding of the magnitude of extensions - to understand the impact of these extensions, including the costs associated with the extensions (in terms of stipends and research costs). Further guidance will be provided to DTP/CDT directors in due course.
We are aware that due to the coronavirus outbreak that there is an increase in demand on the clinical service and that students may be asked to undertake additional clinical sessions. Although we expect clinical PhD fellows to fully concentrate on their research, we understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are fully supportive of any decision to reduce the time spent on research during the outbreak.
If students do decide to reduce the time spent on research, then we will agree an extension to the studentship. We will also consider supporting some modest consumable/running costs, e.g. maintaining animal colonies during the absence period. As the situation is currently uncertain please do not extend a studentship or request a grant extension (if needed) until the student returns to research full-time. However, students may wish to consider whether a suspension would be appropriate. If there will be any ongoing expenditure for the student (e.g. animal maintenance, staff costs other than yourself etc.) then an extension would be required.
As a reminder, in the specific case of research with human participants the research organisation must ensure the requirements of the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research are met e.g. the participants’ safety and well-being and the ongoing suitability of the approved proposal or protocol in light of adverse events or other developments.
Offers for October 2020 starts
UKRI acknowledges the need for flexibility for students due to start their doctoral studies in October 2020. This situation will be informed by information nearer the time, but would encourage ROs to indicate the potential for late starts in offer letters.
UKRI recognizes that some of our funded students will currently be overseas as part of their studies (e.g. at facilities, in collaborating institutions or undertaking fieldwork). DTP/CDTs and equivalent should be in regular contact with their students on such placements. Students and their supervisors should check their insurance cover for any repatriation to the UK in cases of pandemic. Any additional costs associated with returning to the UK should be met by the training grant.
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 email@example.com. Our team are all working remotely and can advise you by phone or email.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Up to 13 weeks sick pay can be claimed, in line of with UKRI terms and conditions.
While we are being asked to avoid social contact to manage the impact of the virus, you will not be able to work in your office. Silver command are exploring the feasibility of making unused accommodation available free of charge to PGRs, if and when it becomes free. We will update you when we know more.
We realise that people had to move into home working very quickly and some of us were not well equipped to do this. We are looking into ways of helping people with equipment if their working from home arrangements are not suitable. Your Silver team is planning a way of enabling people to access desk top computers, tables and chairs from the University.
Please complete your progress review form as soon as possible, telling us about your needs and we will do our best to ensure you have what you need when moving equipment and furniture can be done safely.
At the moment the government has a travel restriction in place, and only essential travel is permitted. If you are still in University accommodation we ask you to remain until the restriction is lifted.
If you have already left your accommodation and removed your belongings then you will not be responsible for the third and fourth rent periods.
If you intend to leave, but cannot do so because of the travel restrictions, you will need to continue to pay your rent until the restrictions have changed and you can travel safely. If you do leave at that point then you need to remove your belongings to be released from your rent liability.
When you return at a later date, contact accommodation services and they will re-allocate a room.
If you left when the crisis started and had not cleared your room, you will not be charged after the 11 April but you are expected to return to clear your room as soon as the travel restrictions change. This will enable us to allocate unused rooms for other purposes.