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
PhD researchers who test positive for COVID-19 or are self-isolating
Please let your supervisors know if you need to self-isolate or test positive for COVID-19 and complete the online COVID-19 notification form.
Please also complete an absence request on PhD Manager for any period of sickness. (If this is for more than two weeks you should submit a Leave of Absence Change Request instead.)
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 realise that undertaking a PhD during a pandemic has brought considerable additional challenges.
No PhD researcher can be assured that it will be possible to follow their original PhD plans fully.
Given the uncertainty that accompanies this pandemic, it is vital that PhD researchers and their supervisory teams consider how plans may be adapted or changed to ensure progress is maintained and that, as far as possible, the PhD can be completed in a timely manner.
Can I ask my supervisor for face to face meetings, on or off campus?
PhD supervision is likely to continue on a blended (face to face and online) basis while University and Public Health guidance continues to vary in the light of the pandemic.
You should therefore consider in the first instance the current Public Health and University guidance in order decide if your request is acceptable. For example, if ‘only services essential to the operation of the university’ are permitted on campus, it would be inappropriate to ask to meet on campus.
If your supervision meeting can be organised within the guidance (for example a socially distanced meeting outdoors which is currently allowed) you may request a face to face meeting but cannot insist on it.
Please bear in mind that some supervisors have valid reasons not to agree to meeting face to face.
Are filter committees and UUREC operating as normal in terms of ethical approval for my project?
Research Governance 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 (email@example.com) in Research Governance.
How do I gain access to my learning space on campus?
At this time the University is keen for those research colleagues who can work from home to do so, but we also acknowledge that it is not possible in all instances.
The office access request form is to be completed by the PhD researcher in consultation with their supervisory team and signed by both the PhD researcher and either a Supervisor, Postgraduate Tutor, Research Director or Student Wellbeing Officer (electronic signatures are acceptable).
This form should be accompanied by a Risk Assessment for the room concerned and sent to Tim Brundle for consideration by the Research Recovery Workstream (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Following approval, the Supervisor, Postgraduate Tutor, Research Director or Student Wellbeing Officer should complete the reboarding application.
The reason and detail for the request should be included under ‘Full Description of Activity’ (Q6) of the reboarding application.
I am working on my PhD remotely (i.e. from home) and not coming onto campus on a regular basis, should I complete a study away request?
Yes, for all cases where a PhD researcher is working remotely (i.e. not coming onto campus on a regular basis) we ask that a ‘study away’ change request is submitted on PhD Manager.
Such study away requests were approved in the first instance until 3 January 2021 and requests until 31 March 2021 will now be considered.
This information is required by funders but is also requested to help us tailor our support of PhD researchers working on-campus and remotely (from home).
If a further study away request is not submitted for a PhD researcher, it will be assumed that they will be coming on-campus regularly.
Please note that any PhD researchers from outside the UK who require a Tier 4 Student visa to study at Ulster will continue to be subject to UKVI concessions regarding remote study.
Any such remote study requests should be discussed and agreed by the supervisory team and should only be agreed where it is possible for the PhD researcher to continue working on their PhD remotely without impacting their progress. Monthly meetings between PhD researchers and supervisors must continue to be recorded on PhD Manager.
In cases where ‘study away’ is not appropriate, it would be expected that the PhD researcher would return to campus or if PhD progress cannot be achieved then the PhD team is asked to consider whether a period of leave of absence may be needed.
I am returning to my home country and need a Covid test in order to do so – how do I organise this?
Many countries require a travel certificate/letter, which private Covid 19 test providers can issue along with results.
NHS advice is that any person wishing to take a test for travel purposes should take a private test (the test required for international travel purposes is usually different to that offered by the NHS).
A number of providers (such as Randox) offer the private tests which can be taken at home or in person (search online for ‘private Covid test Northern Ireland’ to see the range of options), Belfast International Airport is to introduce Covid-19 testing for people who need it before making essential journeys.
The price of a private test varies from approximately £100 upwards, you will need to organise and pay for this yourself.
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?
Final years in receipt of a DfE or VCRS studentship, have been given an opportunity to apply for some additional stipend payments specifically for delays resulting from the COVID-related lockdown. We welcome the extension of such additional stipends to all DfE and VCRS PhD researchers and will circulate details of how these will be allocated in due course.
Regardless of stipend extensions, supervisory teams should review plans in order to minimise the impact that the pandemic and any future lockdowns may have on the PhD project rather than relying on possible additional stipend payments at the end of the normal period of registration.
It is important that in addition to any application for additional stipend funding, a change request to apply for an extension of time should be submitted, in the normal manner via PhD Manager. Please note that an additional three months of fee-free extensions of time were approved by Senate in response to COVID which will extend the usual four month fee-free period to seven months.
How will the Researcher Development Programme be delivered?
The Researcher Development Programme (RDP) continues to be delivered online.
Full details of the RDP can be found at the Researcher Development Site.
The Weekly Update on the Researcher Development Programme continues to be sent to all PhD researchers and their supervisors every Wednesday.
International PhD researchers on Tier 4 Visa
What advice is there for international PhD researchers on a Tier 4 visa?
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 email@example.com. 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.
PhD submission and examination
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Jordanstown / Belfast based PhD researchers
- Suzanne O'Kane (email@example.com) for Coleraine / Magee based PhD researchers.
Please also copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Doctoral College does not normally require a hard copy thesis however, if an external examiner requests one then we will ask the PhD researcher to deliver a copy to a Doctoral College office, this can be done in-person or by post.
I am due to have my viva in the near future - will it go ahead as planned?
Remote vivas have been operating successfully since they moved online in March.
During the reboarding transition period, vivas will continue to take place remotely.
I am due to submit my final thesis – what should I do?
The Doctoral College does not require a hard copy of the final thesis, please submit an electronic version of your final thesis to:
- Kate McMorris (email@example.com) for Jordanstown and Belfast based PhD researchers
- Suzanne O’Kane (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Coleraine and Magee based PhD researchers.
Please also copy in email@example.com.
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.
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.
Questions and Updates
If you have a question, please email firstname.lastname@example.org (copying in your Postgraduate Tutor and Research Director).
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.
We encourage all PhD researchers to remain in touch with fellow PhD researchers using email, Yammer and other social media networks and to keep up to date with the Twitter @UlsterUniPhD account.