Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This webpage contains a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) you may have with regards to coronavirus (COVID-19) and your research degree. 

As a student you should read through the Universities Student guidance surrounding Coronavirus. 

You may also be a member of staff at the University and therefore it might be helpful for you to read the Staff guidance surrounding Coronavirus.

Updated: 02/07/2020

Academic Concerns

Whilst all on-site research activity (except COVID-19-related research) and fieldwork is currently suspended, we encourage you, wherever possible, to keep your research going through working at home.  This may mean that your planned activities need to change in the short term.  We recommend that you review your research plan with your supervisor, to identify any challenges which will arise and how these might realistically be mitigated – for example, it may be helpful to consider:

  • adaptations and adjustments to the programme of work to enable the continuation of study in a home-working scenario
  • any time-critical aspects of your research project in the coming weeks (e.g. planned fieldwork, data collection), and how delays to these might be mitigated or alternatives put in place
  • if you can’t access the facilities you need at present, whether there are desk-base activities that you can pursue in the meantime (publications, report writing, analysis).

We recognise that many students will not be able to continue their studies (in part or in full) at this time. Further guidance is provided on what to do if this is the case for you. 

We recommend that if at any point your research is effected by the Coronavirus to keep a impact log, we have example verison for you to use below.

PGR Impact Log 2020

Whilst many PGR students will be able to continue their research in a home-working environment, we fully recognise that there will be wide range of challenges for some of our students in maintaining (in full or in part) the progress of their projects at this time. We recognise that your ability to study remotely may be impacted by personal circumstances such as illness (physical or mental health issues), or caring or childcare responsibilities, as well as project-specific issues such as access to facilities or the inability to conduct fieldwork or data collection.

Where your progress is impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and associated restrictions, it will be possible to apply for an extension to your period of study (i.e. for more time to complete your research degree, if needed), or a deferral of particular programme deadlines. 

We will be developing a specific process to manage COVID-19-related requests for extension to your period of study. In the meantime, if your progress is affected in any way, please continue to liaise with your supervisor to develop manageable plans where possible.  We encourage you to keep a record of the impact on your research – this is not intended to be onerous or intrusive, but to help you in due course in reviewing the extent of the impact on your progress. 

If your thesis submission deadline is imminent and you may need to request an extension due to COVID-19 impacts, please contact the PGR Support team (we will use our existing extension procedures until the COVID-19 extension process is in place).

If you are supported through a studentship, please note that an extension to your studentship (additional funding) is separate matter from an extension to your period of study (more time).  See our FAQs on funding.

For some students, an interruption of study during the period of COVID-19 disruption may be appropriate (please see our FAQ on this).

An Interruption of Study is usually sought when a student needs to take a complete break from their programme of study due personal, financial or medical circumstances. 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 experiencing personal, financial or medical difficulties linked to COVID-19, it may be appropriate for you to take an interruption of study. We can advise you on whether this is the right option for you.

If you are unable to progress on your studies (in part or in full) at present due to project-specific setbacks such as loss of access to facilities, cancelled fieldwork or delayed data collection, or if you are unable to work on your research degree due to unforeseen caring/childcare responsibilities linked to COVID-19, you will be able to seek an extension to your period of study, and do not need to take an interruption of study (unless, as above, you wish to do so). 

In most cases, supervisory meetings will continue, although this will most likely be delivered online or remotely, using Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams or other platforms. Please discuss with your supervisor what format you will both be comfortable with adopting. Please bear in mind that supervisors will also be adapting to new ways of working at this time, and may also have limitations on their time or availability.

Our priority in human participant research is to protect the safety and wellbeing of participants and research teams. If you are actively carrying out recruitment and data collection which involves any face to face interaction with participants at the moment, you must now either implement alternative ways of working, such as moving from face to face interviews to phone calls or online, or delay/suspend participant recruitment where alternative options cannot be used. Please do contact the Research Ethics and Governance Office for further advice.

PGRs need to seek approval for re-starting any type of off-campus research activity via the Research Restart fieldwork approval process.

If you would like to restart fieldwork activities, please fill in the Fieldwork Application Form with your project details and send to researchrestart@exeter.ac.uk. Fieldwork requests are assessed on a bi-weekly basis by a panel chaired by the DVC (Research and Impact). Please also use this email to contact the panel with any queries around research restart.

We recognise that this is an important milestone in your PGR programme and we are mindful of the effort you will have made in preparing for this assessment and therefore want to ensure that you see the benefit of the work you have done. We are also mindful that the disruption we are all experiencing due to the COVID-19 outbreak and associated restrictions may mean that students are unable to meet planned timelines.

Colleges/disciplines are reviewing their upgrade timetables will make an assessment on any adjustment required. Depending on the particular College/discipline timetable set, this may be an adjustment to the overall timelines, or it may be a deferral of deadlines for individual students who have been/continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.  

If you are unable to meet your (original or revised) upgrade deadline due to COVID-19 impacts, you can request a deferral.  We have put in place a temporary policy and deferral request form to support this. We encourage you to discuss a deferral with your supervisor, and to make any request for a deferral as far as possible in advance of the deadline.  

We are mindful that 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.

Worried about undertaking your upgrade virtually- why not read 2nd year PhD student Isabel Sawkins blog post on her experience. 

The requirement to submit 2 hard copies of a thesis for the examination and a hard copy after corrections has been suspended until further notice. Please do not come onto campus to submit your thesis until further notice or send in physical copies of your thesis; our offices are currently closed and staff working from home. Electronic copies may now be submitted to PGR admin team who will be able advise on the process.
 
Email address: pgradmin@exeter.ac.uk.

We have put in place a policy to enable vivas to go ahead through video conferencing (e.g. Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams).  Please do not travel to our campuses for a viva examination until further notice.  If your viva is scheduled, the Doctoral College team will be in touch with you to discuss the option of a virtual viva.  Please be assured you will always be consulted about alternative viva plans, and you will have the option to defer the process until we can resume our normal practices. If your viva is scheduled to take place soon and you haven’t heard from us yet, please get in touch at Doctoral.College@exeter.ac.uk. 

All our ethics committees continue to operate and are carrying out expedited reviews for amendments where researchers are changing their methods and on 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.

The impact of the current situation will vary depending on a PGR student’s stage of study and their individual circumstances. Applying for an extension to the individual’s period of study is one way of managing this, however, in keeping with UKRI advice, students and their supervisors should also explore whether changes to the research project are possible and would reduce the length or need for an extension. This could mean adapting the research question, approach, or methodology providing that this still enables the student to conduct a masters-level or doctoral level research project (depending on the programme of study for which the student is registered).  We appreciate, however, that these options may not be suitable for some students, so we have begun a process of considering whether other forms of mitigation might be possible. As we pursue these questions we are in discussion with other universities and Exeter PGR student leaders. But this is a highly sensitive area of policy, given the need to maintain the quality of our awards, and so needs to be considered very carefully before any decisions can be made. Work is ongoing.

Attendance on campus

The safety of our staff and students is our first priority, and in light of the latest advice from the UK Government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, all on-site research activity (except COVID-19 related research activity) at the University has been suspended for the time being. PGR students should not come onto campus until further notice and are advised to work from home (see our FAQ on what to do if home-working is not feasible for you).  

Research that exceptionally will need to continue in our laboratories and specialist facilities (generally, only COVID-19-related research) will be required to be authorised by Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research.

For those of you who are normally resident outside of the UK, or even if you are normally resident in another part of the UK, we fully understand that you may have taken the decision to return to your home/home country at present. We will work with you and your supervisor to assess whether it is feasible for you to continue all or part of your studies by working remotely (off-campus) on a temporary basis until you are able to resume attendance.

If working remotely is not feasible, we will advise whether an extension to your period of study, and an interruption of study, will be appropriate, depending on your circumstances.

Funding questions

For students funded through doctoral training entities (DTPs/CDTs), UKRI has confirmed proposals to support funded extensions to studentships where necessary. 

Non-final-year UKRI-funded students (whose funding period ends after 01/03/2021 and whose progress has been impacted by COVID-19) will be able to apply for a funded extension on a case-by-case basis.  

Final-year UKRI-funded students (whose funding period ends between 01 March 2020 and 31 March 2021) will be offered an extension of up to six-months. 

Exeter will meet the expectations of the UKRI policy where DTP/CDT students are supported through a mixed funding model which includes both UKRI and other funding. 

Further details will be published shortly regarding our COVID-19 policy and process for managing requests for extensions to periods of study and any associated extension to studentship funding.

We collaborate with over 100 different organisations to fund PGR studentships across our Colleges. We will be 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 given an indication of 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). 

There is ongoing discussion across the sector on support to fund the cost of extensions to PGR studentships. The support package announced by Government in May brings forward existing income streams for universities, but does not contain new funds. However, lobbying within the sector for longer term financial support continues. In addition, a ministerial task force on University Research Sustainability – with membership including University of Exeter Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith, and also Clare Viney, Chief Executive of the Careers Research & Advisory Centre, which runs Vitae and supports researchers and post graduate students – has been formed to address funding issues in universities caused by the pandemic. We are of course monitoring outcomes and will review in due course whether any settlement provides flexibility for us to revisit our funding extensions policy.

We are pleased to have announced (May 2020) a new policy on extensions to studentship funding to support PGR students impacted by COVID-19 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, we have now confirmed Exeter’s provision 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 will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We are currently finalising our process for applications and will provide further details in due course. We expect to roll out this process in phases, prioritising students in their final year of funding in the first phase.

Full details on this policy can be found on the Temporary Policies webpage.

We are monitoring key funding body responses to COVID-19 as they emerge – updates can be found via the Research Toolkit.

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 due to COVID-19 impacts. 

This means that self-funded students who remain registered throughout the period of COVID-19 restrictions, and who later seek an extension to their period of study because their progress is impacted by COVID-19, will not be expected to pay fees for the extension period; the University will provide a fees scholarship. We will provide further information in due course on how you can apply for this.

For self-funded 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.

PGR students are also able to access the University’s Emergency Assistance Fund – this fund will provide up to £1,000 (per applicant) for all students, including PGRs, for those facing unanticipated financial challenges due to COVID-19.

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.

Emergency Assistance Fund for Students

The University in partnership with its alumni community has created an Emergency Assistance Fund to help you if you are experiencing unexpected financial difficulties due to the Coronavirus outbreak.  All registered undergraduate and postgraduate University of Exeter students facing financial difficulty because of the crisis are eligible to apply, irrespective of fee-status.

Depending on your circumstances, payment may be made as

-          An emergency loan with 0% interest (e.g. if you have financial means but are unable to access them)

-          A non-repayment grant (e.g. for additional expenses which you don’t have the means to repay)

-          A combination of both

All current students who are registered at the University on a degree-awarding programme (undergraduate, post-graduate teaching or post-graduate research, full, or part-time) facing financial difficulty because of the crisis will be eligible to apply. Depending on individual circumstances payment may be made as either a non-repayable grant, or as an emergency loan (e.g. for cases where hardship is arising from cash flow issues such as difficulties in accessing usual finances or waiting for insurance payments etc.)

Full details can be found on the Emergency Assistance Fund webpage. 

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. 

General advice/ updates on Coronavirus

For the best and most update information regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), it's symptoms and what it is, please visit the NHS website.

The PGR team is still your first point of call for all PGR enquiries however the team is currently dealing with a high volume of queries and your patience will be much appreciated. A reminder of your PGR contact details can be found below:

Business School- uebs-pgradmin@exeter.ac.uk

College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences- emps-pgr@exeter.ac.uk

College of Humanities-humanities-gradschool@exeter.ac.uk

College of Life and Environmental Sciences-
cles-pgr-support@exeter.ac.uk

College of Social Sciences and International Studies (Stretham)- ssis-grs-streatham@exeter.ac.uk

College of Social Sciences and International Studies (St Luke's)- ssis-grs-stlukes@exeter.ac.uk

College of Medicine and Health- UEMS-graduateresearch@exeter.ac.uk

All Cornwall Students- cornwall-pgr@exeter.ac.uk

If you are uncertain which team to contact, please email Doctoral.College@exeter.ac.uk

The University's main FAQ page has a range of answers which may help you if you have any concerns surrounding your private accomodation, from do I still need to pay rent if I am leaving Exeter to someone I live with has confirmed or suspected coronavirus.  

Losing my accomodation

For any student who might be at risk at losing their accomodation, we recommend that you contact the accomodation team as soon as possible via SiD. 

For students who need accommodation in Exeter you will need to complete an online application with as much details as possible in the notes section. These applications are monitored throughout the day. Once your application has been reviewed you will be contacted by the team via SiD. 

For students needing accomodation in Cornwall please email the coronavirus helpdesk who will be able to give help and advice. For students in Cornwall you can also access support via FXPlus living support team as well (available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)- livingsupport@fxplus.ac.uk or 01326 255341. 

The library buildings in both Exeter and Penryn are now closed until further notice.

The library has created a helpful FAQs about the services available to all during this closure. We highly recommend that you read this, as many services such as book suggestions and electronic resources are still available.

Postgraduate Teaching Assistants will continue to be paid if their work is cancelled or rescheduled, and should claim for their hours in the usual way via Trent. Please contact the manager who normally assigns work to you to clarify the expectations of your role and whether you can undertake work from home.

Full details and advice can be found on the University's Coronavirus webpage. 

We are extremely aware that for some students the transition to online learning and assessment, or working from home, has introduced particular challenges due to the requirement for a suitable computer and internet connection. To address this issue, the Emergency IT Loan Scheme has been set up to mobilise a response to students who, without such help, are unable to access online learning and assessments, or continue work on research degree programmes in a home-working environment.

From Monday 30th March, a newly established team of colleagues will contact students who have reported serious difficulty or inability to access online learning to discuss solutions including the offer of funds to purchase a laptop and/or 4G mobile internet device. This would be loan equipment to be returned to the university (or costs repaid) at a later date. We recognise that this solution may not work in all cases, and continue to work hard to devise ways to support our students in these unprecedented times. We continue to encourage students who have difficulties with IT hardware or internet connectivity to contact us on 01392 725000 (international: +44 300 555 0225), or on coronavirusenquiries@exeter.ac.uk.

Health and Wellbeing

We are all having to adapt to new ways of working, the biggest being working from home. For some, this will be the first time working from home, while for others this is part of their normal routine. We have pulled together some helpful tips to help you to settle into this new way of working on the Doctoral College website. Some of the top tips include, creating a routine, having regular breaks and staying connected to others. 

Managing self-isolation or illness

Please do not worry about being absent from your studies for short period of time due to self-isolating or illness. Your supervisor and the PGR Support Team (Doctoral.College@exeter.ac.uk) will work with you to manage any impact on your study (e.g. mitigating any deadlines which fall in this period). 

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 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. 

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 due to illness, you may be advised to take an Interruption of Study. We will advise you based on your particular sponsorship arrangements of any impact on your funding and on your eligibility for sickness pay.

Tier 4 visa questions

In line with recent advice from UK Visas and Immigration, the University will not withdraw immigration sponsorship if you and your supervisor agree that you are able to continue your studies from your home country.  Your Tier 4 visa will not be cancelled and you will be able to use it to return to the UK when this becomes possible.

This policy is in place for requests up to 31/July when it will then be reviewed.

If you need advice about your individual circumstances, contact our International Student Support team.

In line with recent advice from UK Visas and Immigration, the University will not withdraw immigration sponsorship if you are required to take a period of interruption of more than 60 days due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  If you are advised that you should take an Interruption of Study (minimum period of one month) – for example, because you are absent due to illness for an extended period, or you wish to pause your studies – your Tier 4 visa will therefore not be cancelled and you will be able to use it to return to the UK when this becomes possible.

This policy is in place for requests up to 31/July when it will then be reviewed.

If you need advice about your individual circumstances, contact our International Student Support team.