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Guidance for Postgraduate Research Students

We are committed to enabling our postgraduate researchers to undertake sustainable, meaningful research, whilst recognising and adhering to Government guidance. 

We are supporting all our postgraduate researchers to undertake their research effectively and ensuring everyone has the flexibility to undertake their research at the most convenient and appropriate location, and that they have the facilities required to deliver that research.

Wherever possible you should conduct your research activity remotely from home. However, you will be able to access research laboratories (experimental and computational), clinics and other facilities on campus where these facilities are required and you are not able to undertake this research from home. In addition, PGR students who do not have access to suitable study space in their accommodation may access the PGR Lounge on campus, if required.

The following guidance has been prepared for postgraduate research students at the University – that is, any student registered for a research degree programme (e.g. MPhil, PhD, MRes, DBA, MD or Professional Doctorate).  It should be read alongside the University’s advice and guidance for staff and students.

Research activity on campus

Our campus will be open to those that need it, offering high quality laboratory and computer facilities and a safe environment in which to learn and reflect, including the library, academic support, advice and skills development, and student welfare and wellbeing services.

We are using a phased approach to enable access to research laboratories and other facilities at the University. Access to laboratories and facilities follow a set of principles, including:

  • You should remain working from home unless it is not possible to do so
  • You need to ensure that risk assessments have been completed with your supervisor, and that your research can be carried out safely without risk to yourself or others in alignment with University guidance
  • If allowed to access University research facilities and laboratories and resources such as the library, you should only stay on University premises for the time required to undertake data collection and experiments.

Working remotely

Postgraduate researchers working off campus will be supported with services available remotely and online, including library services and resources, individual support and advice, and student welfare and wellbeing services. Regular, high quality supervision will continue to be available to all postgraduate researchers.

Returning to campus

All postgraduate researchers

As part of our phased approach to returning to campus, you will be required to complete a PGR return to campus toolkit and to undertake a one-to-one discussion with your principal supervisor. The focus of this activity is to ensure your health, safety and wellbeing and understand the personal impact of a phased return to campus on you and your research.

This will enable your supervisory team and Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research to understand your personal circumstances so that any support and adjustments needed to help with returning to campus can be addressed. This discussion will include an assessment of your technology needs and reference to your current location and any quarantining needs if you are currently overseas.

You will also be required to undertake our e-learning return to campus training module.  Where you are unable to access the online training, faculties will design a process where you will be able to confirm that you have read the slides and correctly answered the questions. 

Your Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research or Business Manager will then consult with the Health and Safety team to ensure that multi-occupancy rooms (i.e. computer laboratories and those rooms containing PGR workstations) are arranged appropriately and that risk assessments and expectations of behaviour in rooms are prominently displayed. 

Faculties will arrange for attendance schedules to be developed and implemented for postgraduate researchers who will require access to these rooms when not in their laboratory. Access to rooms and laboratories will follow a similar process to that for research staff: completion of all toolkit elements;  one-to-one discussion with principal supervisor; completion of online training; security to reactivate ID card on receipt of approval to access specific locations given by Dean, Associate Dean (Research & Knowledge Transfer) or Business Manager.

Desk-based postgraduate researchers

If you are able to undertake your research using standard office equipment and computing hardware and software using a dedicated workstation, you should continue to work at home. This group includes any postgraduate researchers who are in the writing-up phase of their programme. You should remain in close contact with your supervisory team and Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research. Supervision meetings should continue to be recorded in the usual manner.

Laboratory-based postgraduate researchers

If you undertake experimental research in a laboratory or clinic located on the University campus, you should follow these procedures:

  • Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will contact you once your laboratory or clinic and workstation are available for reoccupation
  • Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will discuss your personal circumstances with you so that your work can be planned to ensure that it will be carried out safely and any support and adjustments needed to help with this can be provided
  • You will be asked to confirm via the toolkit form that you have complied with Government guidelines regarding travel and quarantine. You will be asked to undertake the mandatory return to campus training module and will be asked to confirm via an online form that this has been completed
  • Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will confirm to you that building and laboratory or clinic access risk assessments are in place and will establish with you protocols for access and working hours. For example, where laboratory occupancy has been reduced, Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will develop a schedule of working hours for you in the laboratory to ensure that social distancing requirements are observed and occupancy limits are not breached
  • Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will confirm with you that project-specific risk assessments comply with any COVID-19-related restrictions and / or requirements
  • You will then be granted access to your laboratory/ies or clinc(s) and workstation.

Computational postgraduate researchers

If your research requires access to high specification computing hardware currently located on campus and / or specific software to which access is restricted, you will be asked to complete a computing needs assessment as part of the toolkit. This assessment should cover both hardware and software needs.

Where possible, the University will seek to meet hardware and software needs to enable you to continue to work off campus until the campus has fully re-opened. For example, an additional software license may be purchased. In cases where it is more pragmatic for you to work on campus (for example, if data transmission or hardware restrictions preclude a route to the High Performance Computing that is fit for purpose), the Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will assess how facilities might be accessed safely on campus. Computer laboratories will be treated in the same way as experimental laboratories. You should then follow the procedures set out for laboratory-based postgraduate researchers.

Off-campus postgraduate researchers

If you are undertaking a programme of research where data acquisition takes place at a third-party location (for example a commercial laboratory or NHS clinic), access to third-party facilities will be dependent upon liaison and agreement with the third party/ies concerned. Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will engage with third parties and enter discussions regarding operation of those facilities.

By their very nature, these instances will need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. In cases where third parties are making their facilities available to you, Principal Investigators / supervisory teams will assure themselves that the access and operational activities being offered by the third party are in line with Government guidance.

Extra-mural postgraduate researchers

Extra-mural PGR students are employed and based outside the University and are therefore subject to the access and operational requirements of their own employers.

Fieldwork, conferences and visits

Requests for field work activities, conferences and visits to other universities will be considered on a case-by-case basis by your Faculty Dean or their appointed delegate and will be subject to a full risk assessment in line with University guidance.

Conducting human participant research

Our overriding priority is the safety of our staff, students and participants.

Where possible, human participant research should be conducted remotely, where it is feasible to do so, and for as long as there are social distancing restrictions in place.

Where conducting research remotely is not possible, a risk assessment must be undertaken to identify risks to participant involved in the research and ensure application of appropriate mitigation measures.