FASS ethics process

Welcome to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Ethics Committee (FASS EC) webpages. The remit of the FASS EC is to ensure the ethical robustness of the Faculty’s undergraduate and postgraduate taught research projects.  Accordingly, these webpages have been designed to assist Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught students in the Faculty, and their supervisors, to ascertain whether their research requires the seeking of a FASS EC Favourable Ethical Opinion (FEO) before it is undertaken.

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught students

The accordions below will take you to various pages which explain the necessity and requirements of our Ethical Policy and the process of applying for Ethical Approval for your research.  They also give details of our Committee Members and links to further useful information.

If you experience any difficulties in processing your research proposal application, or you have questions about any aspect of the process, please do let the FASS Ethics Committee know by means of an email to fassethics@surrey.ac.uk.

Staff and postgraduate research students

Staff and postgraduate research students’ research projects are overseen by the University Ethics Committee (UEC), rather than the Faculty Ethics Committee.

For more information regarding the ethical approval process for Staff and Postgraduate Research students’ projects, please refer to the University Ethics pages.

Originating with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, researchers have had their procedures guided by set principles in order to protect all those involved in the research process, including the research participants and the researchers themselves. These principles are laid out in the following declarations, agreements, regulations and acts.

  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Mental Capacity Act 2005
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Human Tissue Act 2004
  • Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (amended 2012)

Members of the University Community need also to act in accordance with laws, policies and declarations governing university activities in an international context, for example:

Research in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences falls under the remit of the University’s Ethics Policy. The Policy details the principles and procedures underpinning the promotion and maintenance of an ethical research culture throughout the University. 

The Policy also emphasises and encourages our core values of Respect, Ambition, Excellence, Integrity and Collaboration. It also highlights the core elements of the concordat to support research integrity: Honesty, Rigour, Transparency and Open Communication, and Care and Respect.

FASS and the University of Surrey aim to safeguard and promote respect for the rights, interests and well-being of:

  • Students
  • Staff
  • Research participants and subjects (both human and animal)
  • Fellow citizens and communities, in local and global contexts

FASS and the University also aim to preserve the physical environment and social and historical artefacts engaged with by University staff and students.

All activities undertaken by staff and students as members of the University must comply with the University’s and the Faculty’s ethical standards.

The ethical standards which apply to academic activities (including research, teaching, consultancy and outreach work) arise from the basic principle that such activities should neither include practices which directly impose a risk of serious harm nor be indirectly dependent upon such practices.

Serious harms include (but are not limited to), for example, failure to respect the interests of people; and, damage to items of cultural value or the natural environment.

For more information on this, please visit the University’s main research and ethics page and scroll down to the ‘Does my project require ethical review?’ and ‘Applying for ethical and governance review’ sections.

All projects require some form of ethical review, whether that’s a self-assessment, full review or proportionate review, although the process differs depending on whether you are a member of staff, postgraduate research student, undergraduate student or postgraduate taught student. 

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught students must complete the ethical review self-assessment form. This is the first step for both the student and supervisor to establish whether the research project requires ethical approval. 

View our undergraduate and postgraduate taught ethical approval process diagram for a complete explanation of the process.

Academic research is based on undertaking research of merit, as well as maintaining the integrity of the academic discipline. It is important that there is a clear line of accountability if there are breaches of ethical requirements or the research protocol has not conformed to required ethical standards. As such, the designated authority for granting a favourable ethical opinion (FEO) must be clear.

Specific requirements are:

  • Protection of participants - i.e. to eliminate, mitigate, reduce any potential harm as a consequence of their involvement in research
  • Competent supervision
  • Protection of students and researchers from possible harm
  • Obligation to obtain and record appropriate informed consent from research participants or appropriate other (parent or guardian in the case of a minor)
  • Maintenance and preservation of confidentiality
  • Volunteered participation
  • Identification and remit of levels of authority in granting a FEO
  • Protection of the reputation of the academic institution.

FASS EC guiding principles are:

  • Reasonableness (a lay person would judge the procedure sufficient for purpose)
  • Manageability (limit administrative record-keeping to its practicable minimum)
  • Robustness (provides a sufficiently thorough and workable system fit for purpose)
  • Accountability (places the responsibility for ethical conduct of the proposed research with the supervisors and student researchers).

If the proposal carries any risk and/or the research involves any of the following, then a formal ethical opinion is required:

  • Any risk to volunteer’s health or well being
  • Items included within a survey/questionnaire which may be potentially offensive, distressing, sensitive or personal to a particular target group
  • Payment or benefits in kind given to participants or prize draws
  • Participants associated with students’ profession or place of work.

Research soundness and methodological integrity

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to guide the student appropriately, and ensure the research design is sound and within a well generated research topic. In consultation with the supervisor, the student will complete the ethical review self-assessment form. Supervisors should advise on the ethical integrity of a research project, as well as the reliability and integrity of its methodology.

Risk loading

In accordance with the University guidelines, the dissertation supervisor carries a further responsibility to establish any risk factors attaching to the proposal, the participant or the researcher e.g.

  • Location of the data collection
  • Vulnerability of the potential participants
  • Sensitivity of the subject matter
  • Payments to participants

Supervisor approval

The student’s submitted self-assessment form is automatically directed to their supervisor. The supervisor must check the responses and ensure that they match the research proposal, and accordingly take one of the following courses of action: 

  • If the supervisor is happy and the responses are all ‘nos’
    The supervisor should print out the form, sign and date it for the student to include in their appendices.
  • If the supervisor is happy but at least one of the responses is ‘yes’
    The supervisor should forward the responses to the FASS Ethics Committee at fassethics@surrey.co.uk, for a full ethical review to be organised.  (Information regarding how to submit for full ethical review can be found under the heading ‘How do I Submit a Formal Ethics Request?’ on this website.)
  • If, the supervisor is unhappy with the responses
    They should contact the FASS Ethics Committee at fassethics@surrey.co.uk. The application can then be removed by the FASS Ethics team and the supervisor should consult with the student and advise re-submission.

Guidelines for the preparation of a submission to the FASS Ethics Committee for approval of study

General instructions

  1. All investigators should read the University of Surrey ethical guidelines for teaching and research before submitting a proposal to the Committee, and where appropriate, refer to the Human Tissue Act for all trials involving blood or other human specimens. Researchers undertaking clinical trials should also refer to the University of Surrey ethics and RIGO guidelines.
  2. The ethics application form should be completed and returned with all other relevant documents, to the Ethics Committee. No research should be undertaken until a FASS EC favourable ethical opinion has been obtained. The completed application form and supporting documents should be submitted via email to fassethics@surrey.ac.uk. Guidance for the completion of the ethics application form can be found here.
  3. The FASS Ethics Committee Approval Certificate relates to your specified research proposal, as described in you Ethics Application Form; the Committee should be notified of any changes to the proposal, any adverse reactions, or if the study is to be repeated using a different group of research participants. 

Accompanying documents

All submissions should include the following documents:

  • A completed ethics application form for the project encompassing a summary of the project (of approximately 500 words) and including its principal aims and objectives
  • A completed risk assessment where appropriate (guidance for what should this include) - Template
  • An information sheet for participants - Template
  • A copy of the consent form for participants - Template
  • A completed insurance pro-forma - Template
    All sections should be completed; sections not appropriate to your submission should be identified by ‘N/A’
  • A copy of questionnaires and interview guidance (guidance for what should this include)
  • A copy of proposed correspondence (guidance for what should this include)
  • A completed protocol document - Template
  • In instances where a proposal has received the prior approval of another Research Ethics Committee (REC), the Faculty Committee will accept the submission in the form of a completed Ethics Application Form, together with the documentation submitted to the REC, and written confirmation of their approval.

All paperwork should be kept by the student researcher and be available for auditing purposes.

If applicants require further information or advice, they should contact the Faculty Ethics Committee: fassethics@surrey.ac.uk.

The FASS Ethics Committee is guided by the following terms of reference:

  • To consider general issues arising within the Faculty which involve considerations of an ethical nature
  • To consider, respond to and, when appropriate, grant a Favourable Ethical Opinion for specific research proposals submitted to the Ethics Committee by undergraduate and postgraduate taught students of the Faculty
  • To report on the process and procedures of the Committee and make recommendations to the University of Surrey Ethics Committee on key matters of policy and strategy
  • To be available for consultation and advice on such ethical issues and best practice by individual members of staff, students or trainees of the Faculty
  • To implement guidelines in relation to ethical issues which may arise from research activities within the Faculty
  • To monitor accordance of research activities with current best practice and Committee stipulations.

Committee members

  • FASS Ethics Chair - Dr Robert Kreuzbauer
  • Faculty Office Administrator - Paddi Clark

Schools and departments

Committee members

Department of Music and Media

No representative required

Department of Sociology

Dr Giulia Berlusconi

Dr Ralf Lottmann

Department of Politics

Dr Alia Middleton

Dr Ciaran Gillespie

Guildford School of Acting

Dr Jacqueline Bessell

Mr Nicholas Scrivens

School of Economics

Prof Neil Rickman

Prof Mario Pascoa

School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

Dr Jason Stienmetz

School of Law

Dr Arman Sarvarian

Dr Ken Ehrenberg

School of Literature and Languages

Dr Neema Parvini

Dr Rosina Marquez Reiter

Surrey Business School

Dr Robert Kreuzbauer

Dr Tara Reich

Please note: Research projects that involve the NHS’s patients and/or staff will require legal sponsorship in accordance to the UK Research Governance Framework. Please contact RIGO (ethics@surrey.ac.uk) at your earliest convenience to discuss the requirements. 

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Surrey