COVID-19 Statement on Disruption to Research

Postgraduate Research Degrees, University of Birmingham COVID-19 statement on disruption to research

All University of Birmingham (UoB) PGR students have been asked to do their best to engage with their studies during the period affected by COVID-19.

If the PGR and their supervisory team feel that the PGRs studies have been seriously delayed by COVID-19, PGRs are able to apply for an extension. This extension may be applied to the minimum registration (normally registered) or maximum registration (thesis awaited) dependent upon individual circumstances. A summary of these processes are given here below, and more information can be found on our webpages.

Under some circumstances the disruption to a PGR’s planned research caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may need to be taken into account in milestone and thesis assessments. Some PGRs may need or wish to complete their milestone or thesis examination on time, but have not been able to conduct all of the work they intended. Information on the process for declaration of disruption at milestone and thesis examination is given below.

Extensions to PGR registration due to disruption by COVID-19

Applications for all COVID-19 extensions (minimum registration (normally registered) or maximum registration (thesis awaited)) are assessed at UoB, on a case-by-case basis, by considering the extent of disruption and the corresponding need for additional time for the PGR to complete their research.  The following list illustrates typical issues that have been experienced and is provided as an example of some of the reasons given in extension applications. It is not exhaustive.

a)       Additional caring responsibilities.

b)      Redeployment to work on COVID-19 related research.

c)       Lack of access to research resources and facilities (e.g. lab or library closure – please include dates when these research resources and facilities were not available)

d)      Interruption of data collection and/or fieldwork.

e)      Affected health and well-being, or because you are part of a particularly vulnerable group.

f)        Where quarantine or self-isolation has undermined your ability to finish your doctorate within the registration period.

g)       Considering the additional impact COVID-19 may have had, for example but not limited to, those postgraduate researchers living with disability, chronic illness, mental ill-health and neurodivergence.

A COVID-19 extension to the minimum period of study will also extend the maximum period of study by the same period of time.

Timing of applications 

Following the initial round of COVID-19 extension applications in June 2020, applications for extension to minimum registration are now considered four times a year, with deadlines of 1st March, 1st July, 1st September, 1st December. (Applications for extension to maximum registration are considered via a separate process, and details are available on the Research Student Administration webpage).

UoB PGRs are being asked to make their application to the appropriate deadline based on their end of minimum registration date. More information on the specific timing of application can be found on the UGS COVID-19 Extensions Policy and Criteria webpage. PGRs are being asked to wait to make these applications in order that the full extent of disruption be known in each case.

 

Consideration of disruption to research at progression and thesis examination

Some PGRs are nearing the end of their normally registered period of study whilst still experiencing disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite best efforts in re-directing research, altering methodologies, working on new or amended research questions or having received an extension to their minimum registration period. Comparable issues may affect first, or second year students approaching their end of year progression milestones (annual review/GRS3). In these cases, it may be necessary to consider the disruption to research at progression and thesis examination. 

Some PGRs may need or wish to complete their milestone or thesis examination on time, but have not been able to conduct all of the work they intended. It is crucial in all cases that the assessment of PGRs assures that research is on target to meet (for milestones), or has met (for thesis examinations), the standards required of a research degree as set out in the Regulations of the University of Birmingham. Thus, in line with the Regulations of the University of Birmingham, the academic standards for each milestone and the thesis examination itself should remain in place. However, there can be some flexibility in consideration of the quantity and scope of work produced.

Process for declaring COVID-19 disruption to planned research at milestones

PGRs have been advised to document disruption to their research at monthly supervision meetings via the GRS2 form. At milestones such as progress or annual review (via the GRS3 form), PGRs may wish to include a statement summarising the research that had originally been planned during the previous year and how disruption to their research, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has altered those plans. This statement should form part of Section 7, part B of the GRS3 form.  The statement must include a summary of the work that has been undertaken in an attempt to mitigate the disruption to the PGRs planned research.

Process for declaring COVID-19 disruption to planned research at submission of thesis

At submission of thesis, PGRs may wish to include a statement summarising the research that had originally been planned and how disruption to their research, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has altered those plans. PGRs may seek guidance and support in writing this statement from their supervisory team, or their local PGR lead. This statement should set the context of the submitted research within the assessment requirements for the research degree. The statement may include a timeline of planned research that has no longer been possible together with a timeline of work successfully undertaken. It must include a statement outlining the work that has been undertaken in an attempt to mitigate the disruption to the PGRs planned research. PGRs should use the Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research form (Word - 16KB) if they wish to submit a statement of disruption to planned research at thesis submission.  

Guidance for examiners has been provided to assist examiners access which allowances may be made when considering the work contained within the thesis. Such allowances must not compromise the integrity of the award and as stated above, academic standards must be maintained in all cases and  the work produced by PGRs must meet the requirements for the award of the degree for which the thesis was submitted, as set out in Regulations of the University of Birmingham. (Section 7.4.1 c for masters by research; 7.4.1 c and d for MPhils and 7.4.1 c, d and e for doctoral research degrees)

FAQs

 

Can I submit a “Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research” form if I have already been granted an extension to my PhD?

Yes. If you have been granted an extension, you may have been able to undertake research activity, but this still may not have been the research you planned when you started your degree. You are able to declare this at the time of thesis submission using the Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research form (Word - 16KB). 

I am due to finish my PhD in 2021. My research has been disrupted. Should I apply for an extension or just submit the “Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research” form and finish on time?

This will depend on your personal circumstances and on the work you have already completed. If you and your supervisory team feel you have met the requirements for the research degree that you are undertaking then you should submit on time. More information on the requirements can be found in the Regulations of the University of Birmingham. (Section 7.4.1 c for masters by research; 7.4.1 c and d for MPhils and 7.4.1 c, d and e for doctoral research degrees)

I’m a first year PhD student and my research has been disrupted, how can I document the disruption?

You should document the disruption in your monthly GRS2 forms and in your annual review GRS3 form as appropriate. 

I’m a first year PhD student and my research has been disrupted, but I should be able to complete my PhD on time, albeit with a slightly altered plan. Should I still submit a “Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research” form when I submit my thesis?

It depends. If you feel you want to make your examiners aware of the changes to your planned research, then you can submit a Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research form (Word - 16KB) when you submit your thesis. If you feel that your project has changed and developed across the normal period of your PhD, and that the quantity and scope of your research has not been affected, then there is no need to add this form.

If I submit the “Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research” form, will it affect the outcome of my research degree?

All examiners of research degrees receive our guidance about the “Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research” form and understand the requirements for the research degree that you are undertaking. The use of the “Declaration of COVID-19 disruption to planned research” form is intended to ensure that disruption caused by COVID-19 does not disadvantage you.

 

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