Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)- Coronavirus (COVID-19)
This webpage contains a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) you may have with regards to your research degree study during the 2020/21 academic year. General information and advice on studying safely on our campuses is available on the University’s Covid-19 information and advice pages. Detailed guidance for students on what you need to know and do when coming to campus is also available. If you also hold a role as a member of staff – for example as a PTA – you should also read the guidance for staff.
Last updated: 05/01/21*
*Please note that not all FAQs have been updated, and due to the current national lockdown there may be some slight changes to the below. Further details about the national lockdown and what the University is doing will be made available on the Univerties main COVID page.
For current available information about the implications for our research activities of the new national restrictions in relation to COVID-19, which came into effect on 5th January, please do refer to the Doctoral College newsletter.*
Carrying out your research project
You can request access to laboratories or other types of research facilities on our campuses through your College’s Research Restart process. This is the process that has been put in place to manage the safe restart of research activities. Your supervisor or Discipline Director of PGR Studies will be able to advise on the process (which is overseen by the Director of College Operations (DCO) for each College).
You will needapproval to start or resume fieldwork or other types of off-campus research activity so that we can conduct a risk assessment to ensure that the proposed activity, travel and destination is safe for you and is covered by the University’s insurance. Approval is required for any type of off-campus research, such as fieldwork, visits to external research facilities or other organisations, or work that is undertaken in archives (even if these facilities or organisations are open to the public).
If you are planning to begin or restart fieldwork or other research activities at non-University facilities, please fill in the Fieldwork Application Form with your project details and send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Fieldwork requests are assessed on a bi-weekly basis by a panel chaired by the DVC (Research and Impact).
Postgraduate students and members of staff are being instructed not to travel, or to book any international travel for work or study reasons (however far into the future) until further notice. This is because insurance cannot currently be arranged without proof of exceptional circumstances, and evidence that the travel is essential and unavoidable.
When the University international travel restrictions are lifted, this will be communicated. The latest information is available within the University's FAQs on Covid-19.
If there are exceptional circumstances meaning that international travel is essential and unavoidable, the following steps must be taken:
- If research related, refer to the DVC Research for approval of the trip as essential and unavoidable. If not related to research, refer to your manager for this approval. This must include a completed coronavirus travel risk assessment form, which should also consider quarantine arrangements on your return.
- Should the DVC Research (or your manager if not research related) approve the trip as such, a referral will be made to the Registrar and Secretary for formal University approval.
- Following formal University approval, details will be passed to the insurer, who will make the ultimate decision on whether cover can be provided.
- The trip must be booked via the University travel partners Click Travel or Key Travel, who will require confirmation of the University and Insurer approval.
Please note – if cover cannot be provided, the trip must not go ahead. For this reason, please do not book any travel or accommodation until final approval has been confirmed.
If you make your travel arrangements now without following the above process and incur costs for a trip in the future, we will be unable to arrange any travel insurance as it is foreseeable the trip may be cancelled due to the coronavirus. Therefore any losses will need to be absorbed within your College or service. Insurance can only be purchased where an event or incident is unforeseeable.
The University is now considering restarting research projects that involve in-person human participation, provided they can be undertaken under the current government guidance. Projects that require human participation, either on campus, or as fieldwork, by staff or where carried out by partner organisations, will need to undertake either the current process to request a change to on-campus research and/or the process to request fieldwork to be undertaken. Please speak initially to you supervisor (who may seek guidance from their Director of College Operations on the research restart approval process).
All our ethics committees continue to operate and are carrying out expedited reviews for amendments where researchers are either changing their methods or undertaking new COVID-19 related research. Some information is available on the Research FAQs page and committees are sending out guidance within their own departments, although in a changing situation it is not always easy to give definitive or generic advice, and we would prefer to give case by case guidance on more complex projects such as those involving sensitive personal data or participants in a potentially vulnerable situation.
The Research Ethics and Governance team can help with all issues relating to good practice in research, research ethics and governance/regulatory requirements. They are working remotely and providing their services via Microsoft Teams, by email and by phone.
Returning to campus
To ensure we follow current UK government Covid-19 rules we need to manage carefully the number of people on our campuses. Access to the majority of buildings on our campuses remains limited in line with Covid-19-secure occupancy plans, and where possible you should continue to work from home. You should only come onto one of our campuses when you have a specific reason to do so – for example where you have been given access to a lab or other research facility or you have a booked study space, to visit the Library, deliver teaching or for a pre-arranged activity such as a sport or society.
You can request access– via your College research restart process (your supervisor can liaise with the College Director of Operations on this) – to work in labs or other specialist research spaces. Booking is required for general study spaces – further information on accessing and using study spaces can be found on Streatham & St Luke’s and Penryn library web pages. Access to PGR offices within Colleges and research groups is subject to local arrangements (see our separate FAQ on this). Information about library opening hours and access is available on the Library web pages.
Approved on-site research can continue provided that the essential research principles, research prioritisation and the essential research criteria outlined above are adhered to.The only exception is for those working with human participants and for those working under 2m where additional approval will need to be sought.
PGR students working on campus should get tested twice a week; and log into SafeZone when on campus.
Where staff and PGR students have approved access (in December 2020) to allocated desk spaces and offices within colleges they can continue to use them provided the access is considered essential (this includes any individual circumstances which mean it is not reasonably possible to work or make progress in research studies from home) and has approval from their supervisor.
Where buildings have been made COVID-19 secure (this means that we have established safe workflows and occupancy levels for the building and each of the spaces within it), this has provided an opportunity for more staff and research students to work on campus. There are limits on the occupancy levels for each space to enable us to maintain the required social distancing measures. This means that few staff and students will have daily access to workspace, and a mixture of on-campus and home-working is in operation.
If you are experiencing significant difficulties with working at home, then we advise you to speak to your supervisor in the first instance. This will ensure that they are aware of your need for space, and can support a return to your normal work area (or an alternative workspace if this is not possible) once all the relevant safety assessments have been made. Campus study spaces in the Streatham, St Luke’s and Penryn Libraries and other locations can be booked online.
Given that social-distancing measures will mean that capacity of most work spaces is reduced, it is likely that access to a limited number of desk spaces will need to be managed on a rota basis to support fair and prioritised access for all occupants of each room. This means that you may be asked to share a desk with another person (even if you previously had your own desk). You may also be asked to clean shared desks and any other touch points (phones / screens etc) before and after you use them, and to keep a local record of who has used the space and on what day (to help support Test, Track and Trace).
If you do not normally have a designated desk space or use of a shared study space within your College or research group, or if this space is not available yet, then you will be able to access one of the bookable study spaces on campus – see the Streatham, St Luke’s and Penryn library web pages on how to book a space.
Outside of the study spaces mentioned above, there is also a dedicated PGR study space on the Streatham Campus in the Old Library and LSI where you can book a desk all day (8am-7pm) and up to twice a week. To book one of these desks please go via this dedicated PGR study space booking page.
For information about Click at Exeter, which can be used by PGR students, visit Click at Exeter. This system is for booking a slot in a room on campus to record a lecture, a work space during your teaching day, a slot to collect equipment or parcels, a location to broadcast a seminar/lecture from or a specialist space.
If you require access to library or archive resources that are unavailable due to COVID-19, your subject library reps may be able to offer advice about accessing these or alternative resources online. Disciplines also have policies around the purchase of library resources so you can contact your discipline library rep or Director of PGR to check whether this avenue can be pursued.
Before you return to campus you should familiarise yourself with the measures that have been put in place to ensure our teaching, study and social spaces are COVID-19 secure for students and staff.
The University recommends that students take two lateral flow device COVID-19 tests, three days apart, before coming to campus to use any shared spaces or attend any teaching.
Please read the Information for students coming to campus on the University web pages.
As a PGR student, you will also need to complete a mandatory training course which our Health and Safety team have designed to prepare you for working safely on our campuses (more details on this are available in the separate FAQ on this).
As part of our commitment to making the campuses safe for your return, our Health and Safety team have created some online training that PGR students must complete before you return to campus.
This is mandatory training and you should not return to campus until this training has been completed. The training can be accessed here and is hosted on ELE. If you also hold a staff role – for example as a PTA – you can also access the training via LearnUpon. You only need to do the training once, either on ELE or LearnUpon (we recommend using LearnUpon if you have a staff role).
Once completed, you will be able to refer back to any of the information within the training if you wish to do so. We also encourage you to read the guidance on studying safely on campus which may assist you further with any particular concerns or difficulties you may be experiencing.
Access to research spaces and other facilities on campus is now possible (through booking systems in a number of cases, to enable the safe management of occupancy levels). Where you require the use of campus facilities (e.g. labs, libraries, archives, study spaces) in order to progress your research, you should now make arrangements to access those areas.
If you are currently unable to return to campus (or your normal place of study if you are usually based at an off-campus research site), it may be possible to continue to work remotely for a further period of time. You should discuss this with your supervisor to plan how you will continue to engage with your programme and whether it will be possible for you to make progress in your research at a distance. Please refer to our FAQ on remote study for further information.
We are aware that some students may wish to continue their current remote working arrangements, for a variety of different reasons. In some circumstances, it may be feasible for students to continue with remote working (i.e. not attending your normal place of study, whether that is our campuses or an off-campus research site) without impacting progress in their studies.
It is important that you discuss your plans with your supervisory team – even if this will be a temporary arrangement and not a permanent change to your mode of attendance – in order to assess whether studying remotely will impact upon your ability to make progress with your research and ensure you are appropriately supported. This is especially important where your research requires you to undertake e.g. lab or field work, or access physical resources, such as archives, or where there is training you need to access that is not available remotely, or where there are professional, statutory or regulatory requirements on certain programmes.
Students may also need to discuss the implication of any changes to mode of study on their funding or visa status. Students who receive support from Wellbeing Services (e.g. those who have an ILP in place) may need to discuss with Wellbeing Services their support needs and what adjustments might be needed if continuing to study remotely.
If you are unable to attend your normal place of study and it isn't feasible to continue with your studies whilst working remotely, you may need to consider applying for an interruption to your programme of studies. The implications of interrupting will vary depending upon each student’s individual circumstances. As such, students should be advised to carefully consider their circumstances. This may include reviewing any terms and conditions attached to any studentship funding, and any visa implications. Please contact your PGR Support Team to discuss this.
We are aware that, whilst some students are keen to return to campus, others may have concerns or difficulties in respect to returning to campus, for example due to personal circumstances or medical conditions. If you are concerned about returning to campus, you can find links to further information on how are campuses are being made safe and support for clinically vulnerable students in our FAQs on Health and Wellbeing.
Health and Wellbeing
The University is working hard to meet the COVID Health and Safety Requirements and ensure that all students feel safe, supported and connected, however we do understand that whilst some students may be looking forward to returning to on-campus working, there may be others who are anxious about returning.
For more information on how our campuses have been made safe see the information on Studying safely on our campuses. Please also see the supportive information available on our ‘coming to campus’ pages - which specifically addresses steps which we recommend Covid-19 Clinically Vulnerable Students (physical and/or mental health vulnerabilities) take in preparation for starting on/returning to campus.
If you are experiencing anxiety about returning to on-campus working, then you should discuss this with your supervisor or pastoral tutor. They will be able to provide support and – depending on the nature of your research project –may be able to offer flexibility of work times, or other reasonable adjustments to your working arrangements. You can also get further advice from the PGR Support Team, Occupational Health (only if you are also a member of staff) and the University Wellbeing Service.
Some students may wish to know whether it is possible to continue to study remotely from their normal place of study. In most cases this would be expected to be a temporary arrangement. Please see the FAQ on remote study for further guidance.
PGR students may need to complete a COVID-19 risk assessment according to the activity being undertaken, or their personal circumstances, as follows:
General attendance on campus (including use of study spaces)
PGRs who have health and wellbeing concerns about returning to campus should complete the COVID-19 Age Individual Vulnerability Risk Assessment and follow the advice linked to this process.
Where concerns about returning to campus remain after following the steps outlined, it may be helpful to consider the following:
- whether remote study is possible (see our FAQ on this for further guidance)
- whether adjustments to your working arrangements could be made to support you in coming to campus (please speak to your supervisor in the first instance; if you have an ILP, contact Wellbeing Services to review this if you haven’t already done so)
- whether an interruption of study may be appropriate (if making adjustments and/or remote study are not feasible; the PGR Support team can advise).
Labs and fieldwork
Risk assessments are required (for all staff and PGRs) as part of the process for approval of access to labs and any off campus research activity (fieldwork, archive visits etc). This is because the specific nature of these activities needs to be considered, and these spaces/locations may operate differently to general campus and study space.
PGRs who also have a staff role
If you have a staff role, you will need to complete the COVID-19 Age Individual Vulnerability Risk Assessment and let your line manager know your COVID age, as per the process for all members of staff. This enables line managers to make any appropriate adjustments in relation to the particular role and activities required (e.g. teaching).
Short term absences should be recorded in line with the Student Absence Policy and your supervisor should be kept updated in order that they are able to work with you to manage impact on your study.
Self-Isolation but not unwell
If you are self-isolating, but you are not unwell, it may be feasible to continue your studies by working at home. Please contact your supervisor to discuss this in the first instance. If you have booked to be on campus (lab or study space) during your self-isolation can you please notify the relevant people and cancel your booking.
Self-Isolation and Unwell
If you are self-isolating and you are unwell for a significant period of time (usually one month or more), it may be appropriate to take an interruption of study. Please see the sickness FAQs below.
The University has created a self-isolation webpage, which contains all the key information about what to do if you have been told to self-isolate.
Full details can be found on the self-isolation webpage.
Working from Home
Social distancing measures mean that desk and office space are more limited at present, and therefore most members of staff and research students will continue to work from home for at least part of their time whilst the current restrictions are in place. It is good practice for those working at home to follow the Covid-19 homeworking DSE guidance and also complete a DSE (display screen equipment) self-assessment.
We have pulled together some helpful tips on the Doctoral College website to help you manage this new way of working. Some of the top tips include, creating a routine, having regular breaks and staying connected to others. It will also be important to plan time carefully, to get the most out of time on campus and to enable productive working in this blended on/off campus model.
If IT equipment is not provided by your College for your programme of study, and obtaining your own computer is financially difficult, you can apply for funds to buy computer equipment through the University's Success for All Fund. If you are disabled and need help to buy specialist equipment, you may also be able to get help from the fund. You can find out more and apply online on our website. If you have a weak or unstable internet connection at home you may be able to book a space on campus through click and work via click at Exeter. This can be used by Postgraduate Research students to book a desk in a quiet office for single occupancy only for either Teams meetings, or for those who are PTAs only live teaching or to record a lecture, in all cases using your own laptop.
Please check with your supervisor first whether IT equipment may be provided by your College for your programme of study.
Programme, progression and academic matters
The University keeps teaching, learning, research and many other activities under regular review in order to respond to any changes in government COVID-19 alert levels and guidance. Changing our activities and service provision in response may take time. We will keep you informed of any changes through the Doctoral College newsletter, and the Registrar’s updates to students and staff, so please do read these.
As per usual, as you start a new academic year, you will review your research plan and supervision agreement and complete or update a training needs analysis.
This year, it will be important to consider how you will approach your research degree study within the new ways of working that the pandemic situation has created. For example, you may wish to discuss with your supervisory team how to get the most out of a blended on/off campus study experience by planning your time in the office or lab carefully in order to be able maintain productive research study during periods spent working both on campus and from home. If you currently working remotely and do not plan to return to your normal place of study (see the FAQ on remote study for further guidance), you should consider how you will maintain progress in your research at distance.
Many students have already made adaptations and adjustments to their programme of work to enable them to continue their studies in the current circumstances. It will be important to continue to regularly review progress with your supervisory team, which should include assessing revisions to your planned research schedule as circumstances change.
Whilst measures are in place to minimise social contact, we will maintain a “digital first” approach and therefore supervisory meetings will continue to take place online.
In some circumstances – by exception and where there is a specific need – a face-to-face supervisory meeting may be possible. This would be subject to suitable, socially-distanced, meeting space being available on campus and both you and your supervisor being able to attend an in-person meeting.
Whilst measures are in place to minimise social contact, we will maintain a “digital first” approach, in which thesis submission, upgrade meetings and vivas will continue to take place online. Our policies and processes for electronic thesis submission, and virtual vivas and upgrades can be found on our Covid-19 temporary policies page.
Vivas and upgrade meetings have been taking place successfully online since March with positive feedback from both students and examiners. You can read about the experience of 2nd year PhD student Isabel Sawkins, for example, on her blog post about her virtual upgrade.
In some circumstances – by exception and where there is a specific need – face-to-face (or blended, in which some participants such as the external examiner remain remote) upgrade and viva meetings may be possible. This will be subject to identifying suitable space and safety protocols (whilst some activities are resuming on campus, the safety measures in place to enable them – such as front-facing seating arrangements in teaching spaces and the wearing of face coverings inside office areas – are not conducive performing a viva examination). We are currently investigating this further.
For students registered on Professional Doctorate programmes, there are in some cases additional requirements in respect of the Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) which accredit our programmes. Professional Doctorate students should contact their programme administrator or director in the first instance for information about how the impact of COVID-19 on any assessment processes will be managed.
We recognise that the progress of your research during the 2019/20 academic year may have been impacted due to the period of lockdown, school closures, shielding or other pressures caused by the pandemic situation.
During the period of campus closure, we encouraged students to keep their research going as far as possible through working at home. This may mean that your planned activities changed in the short term in order to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, for example through:
adapting to the programme of work to enable the continuation of study in a home-working scenario
adjusting any time-critical aspects of your research project (e.g. planned fieldwork, data collection)
carrying out desk-base activities (publications, report writing, analysis) where lab or fieldwork was temporarily interrupted.
We also recognise that many students in registration during 2019/20 when the pandemic situation arose may not have been able to fully mitigate the unforeseen disruption due to Covid-19, and that some students may not have been able to continue their studies (in part or in full) over the period of lockdown (March-June 2020) and associated restrictions. We recommended to PGR students to keep a simple impact log to record any disruption to their research degree programme due to Covid-19.
Where there were immitigable impacts, students who were registered on research degree programmes on 01 March 2020 will be able to seek an extension to their period of study (more time to submit your thesis) due to the impacts of Covid-19, and may also be eligible for extended studentship funding or a fees scholarship to cover an extension period due to Covid-19 (see separate FAQs on funding).
For students starting their research degree programme in the 2020/21 academic year, we do not anticipate that extensions or additional studentship or fees scholarship funding will be available due to Covid-19 impacts.
We have worked with supervisors to ensure that projects staring in 2020/21 are viable within the restrictions of the current research environment, and that any foreseeable risks of impact due to the pandemic situation can be mitigated within the overall timeframe for the programme of study.
When planning your research, you should continue to be mindful of the pandemic situation, to consider the foreseeable risks of impact to your particular researchprogramme, and build in flexibility and contingencies to address these.
Please also note that the above may also apply to internal programme deadlines: deferrals to these deadlines on the basis of impediments to your research (as opposed to your own personal circumstances, such as illness) are only applicable where these impacts were not reasonably possible for you to mitigate or plan for, and are corroborated by a member of your supervisory team. See also the FAQ 'Can I apply for a deferral to a programme milestone, e.g. to upgrade, as a results of COVID-19 impacts on my research?'
See also the other FAQs under 'Programme, progression and academic matters '.
The University wishes to support the continued engagement of students, and as such students should discuss with their supervisors in the first instance how best they might progress with their research and any impediments to so doing.
Programme deadlines are important milestones in a PGR student’s journey. As such deferral of these milestones should only take place with good reason, in order to avoid unnecessary delays, which might impact on a student’s overall progress on their programme.
You may be able to apply for a deferral to an internal programme deadline on the ground of unforeseen impediments. Unforeseen impediments constitute circumstances that affect your ability to conduct or pursue your research in the last 4 months (and ongoing) that it was not reasonably possible for you to mitigate or plan for. This must be corroborated by a member of your supervisory team. As such it is advisable to use MyPGR to keep a record of issues at the time they arose, along with information about the ways in which you have been proactively working to manage your research and mitigate any impact on your research. For 2020-21 starters see also the FAQ 'I am starting my research degree in 2020-21. Will I be eligible to apply for extensions if my project is delayed due to the current COVID-19 restrictions?'.
If you have concerns about your ability to engage with a key programme milestone, such as a final or upgrade viva you should contact your PGR Support team for advice first.
An Interruption of Study is usually sought when a student needs to take a complete break from their programme of study due to personal, financial or medical circumstances.
Many students were unable to progress on their studies (in part or in full) during 2019/20 due to specific setbacks such as loss of access to facilities, cancelled fieldwork or delayed data collection, or due to unforeseen caring/childcare responsibilities linked to COVID-19. We advised that students would be able to seek an extension to their period of study, and did not need to take an interruption of study during 2019/20 on these grounds (unless they wished to do so).
It should now be possible for most students to resume/have resumed their research activities (please also see FAQs on carrying out research, returning to campus, and health and wellbeing). However, if you are experiencing ongoing personal, financial or medical difficulties, whether or not these are linked to COVID-19,it may be appropriate for you to apply to take an interruption of studies. We can advise you on whether this is the right option for you.
If you do have any concerns about being able to engage with your programme of study (for any reason), it is important that you raise them at the time. This will help ensure that, where appropriate, you are directed towards any support and advice needed. An interruption of study should be applied for at the time it is needed: the start date of a period of interruption should not be retrospective to the date of application. During an interruption of study, a student’s registration is suspended and usually stipend payments would be suspended accordingly (though sickness pay may apply in some cases).
If you are unsure whether it is appropriate for you to take an interruption of study, the following will be able to provide you with advice:
- Your supervisory team and PGR Pastoral Tutor
PGR Support Team
For students with a Tier 4 visa – International Student Support Office
General advice: Students’ Guild Advice Unit - or the SU Advice Service
Financial / Accommodation advice: Student Information Desk: email@example.com (Exeter Campuses); or Cornwallfirstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com (Cornwall Campuses)
More information on interruptions is available within the TQA manual. Students who feel that their circumstances might mean that a change to their mode of attendance, e.g. between full-time and part-time hours, may be helpful should refer to information in the TQA manual.
And for those who need a short break from your studies, remember that you are able to take annual leave, and this may be used to help you balance your studies with other commitments in your life.
Whilst the information on these FAQ pages sets out information in response to the impact of Covid-19 on PGR students, please do be aware that the Doctoral College recognises that your progress may be impacted by a wide variety of circumstances. It isn’t possible to provide specific information about every set of circumstances that might arise and as such if you have concerns about anything impacting upon your studies please be mindful of the information available to you on the Doctoral College webpages and in your College Handbook.
Wherever possible you should get in touch with your supervisory team and/or PGR Pastoral Tutor as appropriate if you have personal problems affecting your ability to study. Should you have any concerns about so doing you may also contact your PGR Support team and other support services as appropriate. These services will also be able to provide further advice and guidance more generally.
Some of the options that might be available to you are set out below. Please note that the implications of some of these options vary considerably depending on, for example, your funding and visa status. As such it is important that you read the procedures and seek advice as appropriate.
- Annual Leave: PGR programmes of study allows for periods of annual leave. Annual leave does not automatically shift deadlines but you may wish to discuss with their supervisory team how best to use your annual leave during this period to support your studies and manage your work/life balance;
- Full-time/part-time study changes: In some circumstances changing your mode of study may be helpful
- An interruption of your studies allows you to take a break from your studies and should be applied for at the time it is needed: the start date of a period of interruption should not be retrospective to the date of application. Please read the FAQ 'I am unable to resume work on my research degree due to Covid-19 - should I take an interruption of study?' and consult the procedure carefully before considering applying for an interruption;
- You may be able to apply for a deferral to an internal programme deadline. If you have concerns about your ability to engage with a key programme milestone, such as a final or upgrade viva you should contact your PGR Support team for advice first. The temporary deferral policy responds to the impact of Covid-19; however, Colleges will be prepared to consider other exceptional impacts. It is possible to apply for a deferral in response to circumstances that include single occasions of illness; adverse personal circumstances & relapses/ exacerbations of long term fluctuating conditions/ disabilities. If you have experienced mitigating circumstances that do not fit neatly into one of the categories listed you may, nevertheless, make an application for a period of deferral;
- If your programme of study is a professional doctorate you may be able to apply for mitigation with regards to internal programme deadlines. Please consult your Programme Director/Administrator for any local requirements with regard to mitigation before proceeding;
- If you have concerns about the amount of time you have left for your studies and have experienced very exceptional circumstances normally lasting for a month or more you may be able to apply for an extension to your programme end date (maximum period of study).
If you feel that you have been impacted by exceptional circumstances which the mechanisms listed above do not appear to cover please still feel able to raise them: very exceptional circumstances will be considered on an individual basis, in accordance with University regulations, to determine what steps it is possible to take in response.
For students funded through doctoral training entities (DTPs/CDTs), UKRI has a policy on funded extensions.
Final-year UKRI-funded students (whose funding period ends between 01/03/2020 and 31/03/2021) were able to apply for an extension of up to six months. The process for awarding funding extensions to students in this cohort has now taken place via DTPs/CDTs in collaboration with the HEIs within which students are registered, and outcomes communicated to students.
Non-final-year UKRI-funded students (in post on 01/03/2020 and whose funding period ends after 01/04/2021 and whose progress has been impacted by COVID-19) were able to apply for a funded extension on a case-by-case basis and awards will be made on a needs-priority basis. Please see the temporary policies page for more information.
We collaborate with over 100 different organisations to fund PGR studentships across our Colleges. We are working with our wide and diverse range of research partners to understand how COVID-19 has impacted them, and how they may be able to support funded extensions to studentships, where necessary. Some of the larger funding bodies have published their response to COVID-19 – links to further information can be found via the Research Toolkit.
Exeter has committed to support funding extensions for University-funded students of between 1-6 months (for those who meet the eligibility criteria; see Temporary Policies page for details of the policy). If you are funded by the University in collaboration with an external partner (e.g. industry or charity), you will be able to apply for an extension, and we will seek a contribution from the partner organisation in line with the proportion of the studentship which they support.
If the partner is unable to commit to additional costs, you will still be eligible to apply for a funded extension commensurate with the University’s contribution to the studentship (for example, if you are funded on a 50-50 basis between the University and an industry partner, where the partner is unable to provide additional funding, you would still be eligible to apply for a funded extension of between 1-3 months).
We announced (May 2020) Exeter’s policy on extensions to studentship funding to support PGR students impacted by COVID-19 during 2019/20 to complete their research.
In addition to our commitment to match the UKRI and Wellcome Trust policy for students who are jointly funded by UKRI/Wellcome and University monies, Exeter has made provision for funding extensions for PGRs in receipt of studentships supported from University funds. This includes studentships supported from institutional or College funds (including those funded from philanthropic donations).
Where studentships are funded in collaboration between the University and external partners (for example industry or charities), we are committed to working with our partners to co-fund studentship extensions (Exeter will only be able to cover the University’s contribution to costs).
Our policy includes provision for PGR students in any year of their funding period who are in receipt of studentship funding from the University which ends/ended after 01 March 2020 (and started prior to 01 March 2020).
Applications for funding extensions of between 1-6 months are being considered on a case-by-case basis. Specially convened College panels are receiving applications on a phased basis, prioritising those with the closest funding end dates, or where the studentship is fully/partially funded from external sources and will require subsequent discussion with partners regarding their contribution.
Full details on this policy can be found on the Temporary Policies webpage.
For self-funded PGR students – those who are not in receipt of a studentship or other external sponsorship – Exeter will award a fees scholarship in respect of any approved extension to the period of study (up to 6 months) due to COVID-19 impacts arising during 2019/20.
This means that self-funded students who were in post on 01/03/2020, who remained registered throughout the period of COVID-19 restrictions which arose during 2019/20, and who need to seek an extension to their period of study because their progress was impacted, will not be expected to pay fees for the extension period; the University will provide a fees scholarship.
Applications from self-funded students for these fees scholarships will be invited on a phased basis, prioritising those in later stages of study, and decisions will be made by the specially convened College panels which will review and award funding extensions.
The fees scholarship will be applied at the start of the fourth year of registration for PhD/DClinPsy candidates, the start of the second year for MbyRes candidates, and the start of the 5th year for DClinPrace/DClinRes candidates (for FT students; or equivalent point for PT registration). Students will become liable for fees again at the end of the period of the fees scholarship, and must then meet the normal criteria in order to move to continuation status.
Students will not necessarily be ready to move into continuation at end of the fees scholarship period, since the scholarship is applied at a common point of registration for all students, whereas the timing of the move to continuations status varies according to when individual students reach this milestone.
For self-funded students who chose to take an interruption of study due to COVID-19-related impacts, tuition fee payments would (as per usual practice) have been suspended during the period of interruption and would resume on re-registration for the remaining duration of candidature. Students would therefore not be eligible for a fees scholarship in this instance (as fees were not paid during the Covid-impacted period).
Full details on our funding extensions policy can be found on our Temporary Policies webpage. We have also answered some specific frequently asked questions on the policy below:
When can I apply for extended studentship funding?
Specially convened College panels are receiving applications on a phased basis, prioritising those with the closest funding end dates, or where the studentship is fully/partially funded from external sources and will require subsequent discussion with partners (which may take some time).
All eligible students have now (as of January 2021) had an opportunity to apply. It is anticipated that there will be at least one further round for those students who may not previously have been able to make an application.
Why are there different timelines for those with different funding sources?
The timelines reflect a number of factors which determine timely outcomes for students according to how they are funded.
For self-funders, the timelines are linked to programme end dates and are intended to allow us to award fees scholarships on timescales commensurate with Exeter-funded students. For example, if your funding extension would apply from 01 Jan 21, or your fees scholarship would apply from Jan 2021, we are aiming to look at those applications at the same panel.
For those whose studentship is fully or partially funded from an external source (other than UKRI, Wellcome Trust, or other major funding bodies who have put in place their own policies and processes for extended funding), there is no guarantee that the external sponsor will be able to support a period of extended funding. In order to provide clarity for students in this group as soon as possible, we have invited applications in the first round, regardless of funding end date, because it is important that we can begin conversations with external partners.
Timelines also vary because some funding bodies – such as UKRI – have set out their own timescales to which we must adhere for their studentship schemes. It is not possible, given the range of different funding sources, to align the timescales for all funding bodies and University schemes.
I am fully externally funded – why does my application go through the internal panel first?
Applications from students whose funding is fully or partially supported from external sources (other than UKRI, Wellcome Trust, or other major funding bodies who have put in place their own policies and processes for extended funding), are being reviewed by the academic College panels before we approach external partners. This is so that we can give partners the assurance that we consider the period of extension requested to be necessary and justified, and that the funding requested is consistent with awards that we are making to UoE-funded students.
College Directors of PGR are also reviewing the applications considered by DTP/CDT panels, to ensure consistency of approach to extension cases within Exeter and across different DTPs/CDTs.
I am funded from both UoE and external sources – when will my extension be confirmed?
After your application has been reviewed by the relevant College panel, we will be able to confirm that the case for extension is supported (or advise of any recommended change to the extension period).
We will then work with colleagues in Research Services and IIB to approach partners. This process may take some time as partners may not be in a position to make decisions just yet, and because, where funding is confirmed, we will then need to work with our Legal Services team to update the studentship agreement.
For students who are in receipt of direct funding support from an external sponsor – for example, through their government or a national or international scholarship scheme – we will work with students and sponsors to understand how sponsors propose to support students during any extended period of study.
For sponsored students who choose to take an interruption of study due to COVID-19 related impacts, tuition fee payments will (as per usual practice) be suspended during the period of interruption and resume on re-registration for the remaining duration of candidature.
This will depend on the terms and conditions of your particular sponsorship. Please contact the PGR Support Team for advice: Doctoral.College@exeter.ac.uk.
If you are in receipt of studentship funding through the University, stipend payments are not normally suspended during short-term periods of sickness or other authorised absences of less than one month.
If you are absent from your studies for one month or more, you may be advised to take an Interruption of Study which may affect your funding. We will advise you based on your particular sponsorship arrangements if this situation arises.
If you are in receipt of studentship funding through the University, your stipend payment will not normally be suspended or adjusted during short-term periods of sickness or other authorised absences of less than one month.
If you are absent from your studies for one month or more due to illness, you may be advised to take an Interruption of Study. We will advise you on your eligibility for sickness pay according to your particular sponsorship arrangements.
Finance Services have created a form to be completed by all staff members or students in this situation. The link can be found here. Once this form has been completed and submitted, someone from Accounts Payable will contact the end user to confirm receipt and advise on how to transfer the funds back.
The University, in partnership with its alumni community, has created the Success for All Fund to help you if you are experiencing unexpected financial challenges affecting your ability to study.
You may be facing financial hardship; be struggling to pay for IT or a learning disability assessment; or have bills to pay while waiting for your first grant payment to arrive. All registered undergraduate and postgraduate University of Exeter students are eligible to apply, irrespective of fee-status.
Find out more on our Student Funding webpages.
The student loans company has set up a FAQ webpage for any of those with a doctoral student loan and who have any questions surrounding there funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are not in the UK you will need to contact the PGR Support Manager for your College for further advice. Contact details for the PGR Support Team can be found below under “Further Advice”.
We also recommend that you read your guidance about studying remotely, under the returning to campus section.
Support for International Students
If you are granted a studentship extension or fees scholarship extension that cannot be accommodated within the length of your current visa then you will need to consider the cost implications of applying for a visa extension. You will need to pay the visa application fee and also Immigration Health Surcharge. You will also need to ensure that you have sufficient funds to meet the Student visa financial requirements. For further advice on the immigration implications of a period of extension please contact International Student Support, and you should do so if you are required to extend your visa.
The University, in partnership with its alumni community, has created the Success for All Fund to help you if you are experiencing unexpected financial challenges affecting your ability to study. Further information and details on how to make an application can be found on the financial help web pages.
The PGR Support team is your first point of call for all PGR enquiries.
PGR Support will continue to offer a digital-only service through Term 2 as a result of COVID-19 while we continue to work on identifying appropriate reception spaces. However, you can meet with members of the team through video conferencing via MS Teams or Zoom if needed. Please email the appropriate team below in the first instance to book an appointment.
- All Cornwall Students - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Business School - email@example.com
- College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences - firstname.lastname@example.org
- College of Humanities - email@example.com
- College of Life and Environmental Sciences - firstname.lastname@example.org
- College of Social Sciences and International Studies (Streatham) - email@example.com
- College of Social Sciences and International Studies (St Luke's) - firstname.lastname@example.org
- College of Medicine and Health - UEMSemail@example.com
If you are uncertain which team to contact, please email Doctoral.College@exeter.ac.uk
If you wish to speak to someone about wellbeing/welfare issues you can speak to Cathryn Baker our PGR Welfare advisor on: Welfare.PGR@exeter.ac.uk
Other sources of support are listed on the Doctoral College Support page.