All staff, students and PhD Researchers are asked to consult the University advice which will be regularly updated regularly on this site.
As it is possible that issues relating to Covid-19 could cause setbacks to research, this section is intended to highlight specific factors that occur more frequently in a research context and to aid planning as an individual PhD researcher.
Setbacks could range from minor delays through to the irrecoverable loss of significant work. It is recommended that you proactively consider the likely impacts with your supervisory team and develop contingency plans.
All researchers are reminded that there may be a delay in accessing the emergency services in the event of an incident or accident at work, as such, essential research must be of a low risk basis.
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Continuing your research work and extensions of time
Return to Campus
If progressing your PhD project requires you to be on campus, please contact your Supervisor and Postgraduate Tutor in the first instance to let them know that you wish to return. Your request will be considered by the relevant Research Director and Head of School based on feasibility, risk assessment and the overall return to campus plans.
You will also be aware of the possibility of seeking approval for one-off visits to campus to collect belongings to assist you with working from home. We know some of you have availed of this already. This is a separate to process to the ‘return to campus’ one mentioned above.
As the University is closed should I continue my PhD work from home and will supervision be available?
You should continue with any work that you can (this could include literature reviews, writing, etc.) and supervisory meetings can be held via telephone, MS Teams, Skype or another online platform.
I plan to continue to work on my PhD from home, but my rate of progress may be delayed as I will have additional caring responsibilities and/or will not have adequate workspace.
We understand that your ability to work remotely and progress your PhD may vary according to your individual circumstances (including the health of you and your family members and any additional caring responsibilities due to school and childcare closures) and your particular PhD (topic, stage of progress etc).
Please continue to communicate with your supervisors, and where appropriate, let them know your circumstances so that the plans you develop as a team are realistic for you and do not add additional stress at this challenging time.
Please remember that supervisors (and Doctoral College staff) will be facing similar challenges as we all adjust to a new temporary way of working.
What if my supervisors fall ill during this period or are unable to respond or attend meetings remotely?
With all PhD researchers having a minimum of two supervisors on their team we hope that at least one will be able to guide you. If however no-one on your supervisory team is available please contact your Postgraduate Tutor or the Research Director for your area.
Will I be given any extension to my period of study without incurring additional tuition fees?
If required, you will be given an extension to your period of study and you would not incur additional tuition fees for this period of time. We will review these extensions on a case by case basis.
While the University is closed will PhD Manager, the library resources and other online resources still be available to me?
Most online resources, including PhD manager are available remotely. In some instances software used in your subject area (Unit of Assessment) may need to be installed on your personal computer or arrangements made for us to access these remotely.
Please contact your supervisors, postgraduate tutor or research director in relation to remote access.
I am in the middle of data collection or about to start data collection on my project – what should I do?I am in the middle of data collection or about to start data collection on my project – what should I do?
What you do will depend on the nature of the data collection being undertaken and it is difficult to advise on each PhD researcher's situation.
For some PhD researchers whose data collection involves experiments within University labs, bringing volunteers into the University or travelling out to collect data in schools, clinics, hospitals or other community locations, it is likely that this research will have ceased by now.
Please contact your supervisors to discuss how best to approach your particular situation.
I am about to seek ethical approval for my project – if the university closes, will filter committees and UUREC operate as normal in terms of ethical approval for my project?
Research Governance intend to continue to process applications normally as far as possible.
You should submit your application to Filter Committee or UREC as appropriate.
Please contact the chair of your local Filter Committee or Nick Curry (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Research Governance.
My research is collaborative with another institution – is there anything specifically I need to do?
You should consult with key collaborators in relation to their contingency plans as they will affect your joint research.
Due to my personal circumstances it is not possible for me to engage with my PhD study during the current COVID-19 situation, what can I do?
We understand that most PhD researchers may be having difficulty in progressing normally at this time, however if you are finding it impossible to progress any aspect of your PhD then you might want to consider the option of applying for a Leave of Absence (LOA).
This would extend your period of PhD registration by the equivalent length of time as your LOA. If you are in receipt of a studentship then your stipend will not be paid during the LOA but you will still receive the full 36 months' of stipend payments over the period of your PhD registration.
We would ask that you discuss this option with your supervisors and if you wish to request an LOA, that you initiate this through PhD Manager.
Is there any guidance on using technology to set up online interviews/focus groups for data collection?Is there any guidance on using technology to set up online interviews/focus groups for data collection?
Guidance from ISD can be found on the Doctoral College website.
How will the Researcher Development Programme be delivered?
In response to the new ways of working, the Doctoral College is delivering the Researcher Development Programme online.
A full online and live-taught programme of workshops, in partnership with the University of Anglia, is ongoing until the end of June. Further workshops hosted by the Doctoral College are being added each week including Preparing for Submission and Your Viva.
All forthcoming workshops appear on PhD Manager under ‘Events/Workshops’.
The Weekly Update on the Researcher Development Programme continues to be sent to each PhD Researcher every Wednesday afternoon.
Questions and suggestions relating to the Researcher Development Programme can be sent to Lisa Thompson, Doctoral Development Manager, email@example.com.
What will be the impact to other Doctoral College events planned for the coming months?
If you have registered for these, you will kept informed of new arrangements in due course.
All campuses closed for teaching and social activities
All Campuses are closed for teaching and social activities
Following the clear imperative in the latest government advice to avoid all non-essential contact with others and avoid unnecessary travel, the decision has been made to suspend all teaching and social activities on campus and to close all libraries, theatres, catering facilities and cancel events.
We have further advice and guidance for our staff and students on our Covid-19 Corona Virus site
Join us on Saturday 5 September for a unique view of Ulster University, from the comfort of your own home.
International PhD researchers on Tier 4 Visa
I am an International PhD researcher here on a Tier 4 visa, should I (and my family members where applicable) stay in Northern Ireland while the University is closed or return to my country and work from there? How will this impact on my visa (and that of my family members)?
Following UKVI guidance, PhD researchers with a Tier 4 visa will be permitted to leave the UK with no detrimental effect on their Tier 4 visa nor their University attendance record.
Requests to leave the UK should be directed to the University’s Compliance team at firstname.lastname@example.org. PhD researchers should also complete a Change Request for a Study Away period via PhD Manager. Tier 4 researchers may study via distance learning (online) during the pandemic.
Monthly engagement with supervisors must continue as normal and be recorded on PhD Manager.
Is there specific advice for international PhD researchers?
Coronavirus webinar for international students
We will be running a webinar for international students every Monday at 1530hrs (BST) where International Student Experience staff will be available to answer any questions you may have
You can also submit your questions in advance of the webinar.
PhD submission and examination
The University is closed and I am due to submit my thesis over the coming weeks, what will happen?
You may submit your thesis electronically (in lieu of a soft copy submission).
Please submit your e-version along with the Turnitin output report to Kate McMorris (email@example.com) for Jordanstown / Belfast based PhD researchers and Suzanne O'Kane (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Coleraine / Magee based PhD researchers.
Please copy email@example.com into this email submission.
I am due to have my viva in the near future - will it go ahead as planned?
We have issued guidance to all Units of Assessment (UoAs) on the possibility of an external examiner, internal examiner, chair and candidate joining the exam remotely by Skype or a similar videoconferencing platform.
If all parties consent, then a remote viva may be available.
If your scheduled PhD oral examination cannot take place remotely, then we may need to postpone until the next date that the panel can be convened.
Please contact your supervisor and postgraduate tutor to discuss.
The University is closed and submission of my final thesis is due – what should I do?
Please submit an electronic version of your final thesis to Kate McMorris (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Jordanstown and Belfast based PhD researchers and to Suzanne O’Kane (email@example.com) for Coleraine and Magee based PhD researchers. Please also copy in firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also submit the following three forms by email:
- e-Thesis Deposit agreement form
- RS16 form (Deposit of Samples and Data Form)
- RS17 form (Reassignment of Student Intellectual Property Rights)
These forms can be found at https://www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/current/forms.
When campuses re-open the Doctoral College will be in contact with you about accepting your hard copy to provide to your first supervisor.
I have an assessment coming up within the next few months, will this go ahead as planned?
The Doctoral College has discussed assessments with the Associate Deans (Research & Impact) and while we hope it will be possible to proceed remotely with initial, confirmation and final assessments, it will be up to individual Research Directors and Postgraduate Tutors to decide if this is possible and when it is appropriate.
I am funded by a VCRS award, will my Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) allocation (£900 per year allocated to my Research Unit, to support me in each year of my 3-year PhD studentship) roll-over into next year’s allocation as it does for those holding a DfE studentship?
Roll-over of any unspent VCRS RTSG money will be permitted, ensuring that VCRS-funded PhD researchers align with those funded by DfE.
If I am on a DfE or VCRS studentship will I still receive my monthly payment?
You will continue to receive all monthly stipend payments as normal while you work off-campus.
Monthly payments will continue till month 36 (i.e. 3 years) of your studentship.
If I am on a DfE or VCRS studentship and my project is delayed as a result of the University closure, will I receive any additional stipend payments?
We are working with DfE to consider the implications for PhD researchers whose progress is delayed as a direct result of the University closure.
They have indicated that there will be some additional funding available to extend stipend payments for those whose research has been unavoidably been delayed by COVID.
We await confirmation of the extent of this additional funding and how this will be allocated.
As soon as we have a further update, we will share it via these FAQs.
We ask PhD researchers to be patient and trust that the Doctoral College is continuing to advocate on your behalf.
If my PhD is externally funded through a grant, will my studentship payments be extended beyond the 36 months to compensate for the period of closure?
At the moment, only no cost extension requests to UKRI research grants will be allowed. The University’s Department for Research & Impact are currently liaising with research funding bodies and we will keep funded researchers updated should this change.
Is there any hardship funding available to PhD researchers?
It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is having deep economic impact, with significant financial hardship for many across society and we understand PhD researchers are not exempt from this.
The University operates a Student Support Fund which makes funds available for those suffering from genuine financial hardship at this time.
The Fund is open to all students, including PhD researchers, who can demonstrate they are experiencing financial hardship, whether they live in University or private sector rented accommodation and we are working to fast-track applications through this difficult period for all.
Is there any guidance specifically for PhD researchers living in University accommodation? Is there any guidance specifically for PhD researchers living in University accommodation?
The University has agreed that students and PhD researchers living in the University’s student accommodation who wish to return home will be released from their contractual obligations from 3 April 2020 with no financial penalties.
University accommodation remains open for those who wish to remain in their University home.
Further information is available on the COVID-19 website.
Is there any guidance specifically for PhD researchers living in private rented accommodation?
For PhD researchers with a private tenancy contract the UUSU advises that you contact your landlord as soon as possible if you think you are unable to pay your rent.
For further guidance or support around contacting a landlord or Housing Rights NI please contact the UUSU Advice Bureau.
Other UU Services
Are Student Wellbeing and support services such as AccessAbility and Inspire still available during lockdown?
Most services continue to be available remotely, and you should make contact as usual – please see Student Wellbeing for full details as well as advice on how to stay well during lockdown.
Can I still access advice from the Employability/Careers Team?
Our employability colleagues are continuing to offer support to our PhD researchers and have now moved their support online so you can connect with them virtually at:
Now might be a time to brush up your CV and think about life after your PhD.
Can I access Skype for Business for my PhD supervisory meetings?
Currently PhD researchers do not have full access to the Skype for Business package.
However, you can join any Skype for Business meeting that you are invited to; the only thing you cannot do is to initiate the Skype meeting itself.
Any of your PhD supervisors can set up the Skype meeting and, at the arranged time, you can access the meeting by clicking the ‘Join Skype meeting’ link using the webapp option.
I have paid for a parking permit and can no longer use it. Can I get a refund?
You can request a refund by filling in the student cancellation of permit form available from the policy document on the car parking website
A refund will be based on an end date of April 1st 2020 and Finance will credit the refund as detailed on the form. This can take up to a month to process depending on when the request is submitted.
Can I access the campus at all, and if so how?Can I access the campus at all, and if so how?
In line with government guidance, the aim is to reduce the number of individuals on campus as much as possible and only essential access will be granted. However, it may be possible for you to apply for ‘ad hoc’ access to pick up items or information which are necessary to allow your research/work to be undertaken remotely (research on campus is not generally permitted).
Please note that your supervisors MUST request this on your behalf using the campus access form:
Please also note that it will take around 48 hours to arrange access and your supervisor will need full details such as date of visit, time, duration, campus purpose etc to complete the application.
I did some teaching (or demonstrating) before we went into lockdown, how can I ensure that I am paid promptly for these hours
Please contact your subject level/Research Unit administrator for advice on how to ensure that payment is made without delay.
Should you experience any difficulties, please contact your Head of Doctoral College, who will assist in resolving the problem.
As a PhD researcher, can I help in any way with marking for our undergraduate students?
We appreciate the team effort that colleagues may wish to make to support academic progression.
In the event of staff absence due to illness, PhD researchers who have been through confirmation, or who have a Masters in a cognate subject area, and who have taken or are registered for the First Steps to Teaching and Learning in HE module, will be permitted to mark work up to and including level 7. Moderation arrangements must avoid all moderation or double marking of any assessment item being conducted solely by PhD researchers.
As a full-time PhD researcher, can I undertake part-time work alongside my PhD to assist with the COVID-19 effort?
Given the exceptional circumstances presented by COVID-19, your supervisors may agree that you can work up to 6 hours per week assisting the COVID-19 effort, such agreements should be recorded in PhD Manager.
Taking up paid employment of more than 6 hours per week whilst in receipt of a Department for Economy (DfE) or Vice Chancellors Research Scholarship (VCRS) PhD studentship is not permitted under current Terms and Conditions.
If a PhD researcher wishes to work more than 6 hours per week then a leave of absence (LOA) should be sought. Although pursuing an LOA to undertake paid employment would not normally be a valid reason for approval, given the current exceptional circumstances we will expedite such LOA requests.
During the LOA, stipend payments would be paused and then, once the LOA is over, resumed for the remaining time - i.e. the stipend payments will still total 36 months.
Do PhD researchers have access to Microsoft Teams?
In response to the demand for support for University meetings and collaboration, Microsoft Teams (https://teams.microsoft.com) has been made available to all PhD researchers from Monday 8th June.
Please visit https://www.ulster.ac.uk/teams for further information on MS Teams, including useful hints and tips.
Summer graduations has been deferred, what are the current plans for graduation?
The University has postponed graduation ceremonies due to the current situation regarding Coronavirus (Covid-19) but it is working to agree a suitable alternative and will provide more information as soon as it is available. Further details can be found on the graduation site.
However, the Doctoral College is keen to celebrate the achievements and successes of the PhD Class of 2020 and will host an online Celebration Event on 30 July. Graduands will have received emails from the Doctoral College with further details.
The University Senate will still confer PhD awards and PhD Researchers will receive their parchments by post in mid-July.
Questions and Updates
If you have a question which is not answered here, please email email@example.com (copying in your Postgraduate Tutor and Research Director) so we can both respond to your query and update these FAQs.
Please be assured that we are working on your behalf to consider the challenges caused by COVID-19 to PhD progress and we will update our FAQs to reflect any progress we make or any change in our advice to PhD researchers, Please check back on this site regularly for updates.
We encourage all PhD researchers to remain in touch with fellow PhD researchers using email, Yammer and other social media networks and, keep up to date with Twitter @UlsterUniPhD account.