The PhD Journey - key milestones

During your research journey, there are a number of key milestones which you will be expected to achieve within specific timeframes. This table provides you of an overview of what is expected of you.

ProcessWhen (full time)When (part time)
Re-enrolmentAround mid-September, annuallyElectronically, every summer
Initial AssessmentWithin four months of first registrationWithin ten months of first registration
Annual reportFirst week in May, annuallyFirst week in May, annually
formal assessment
Between eight and twelve months of first registrationBetween twelve and twenty-four months of first registration
Final AssessmentWithin thirty months of first registrationWithin sixty months (PhD) or thirty-six months (MPhil) of first registration
Intention to SubmitThree months before proposed submission dateThree months before proposed submission date
Submission of
Within thirty-six months (PhD) or twenty-four months (MPhil) of first registrationWithin seventy-two months (PhD) or forty-eight months (MPhil) of first registration

Registration and re-enrolment

Following your initial enrolment and registration, you will be required to re-enrol annually in mid-September on your home campus. If you are a part time researcher, you will be required to re-enrol electronically. The Doctoral College will advise you in advance each year, of how and when you are expected to re-enrol.


The Doctoral College will contact all new PhD researchers to invite them to attend Induction. The Doctoral College Induction sessions will normally take place at your home campus, in late September or early October, shortly after initial registration.

The Doctoral College Induction is complemented by a ‘Local Induction’, which is arranged at the Faculty and subject level. PhD researchers are required to attend these Induction sessions as important information relating to research study will be discussed. Induction also provides an opportunity to meet academic and administrative staff involved in research as well as other PhD researchers, both within your subject area and Faculty and also campus-wide.

Doctoral College Induction topics will include both research specific and practical advice, such as Introduction to the Doctoral College, Expectations and Milestones in Doctoral Research, Overview of the Researcher Development Framework, Research Governance as well as Introduction to the Library, Student Support and ICT services.

Faculty and subject area inductions may vary in content but are aimed at providing important information and meeting other PhD researchers and staff.

Initial Assessment

All PhD and MPhil researchers will undergo a formal assessment of progress, arranged by your Faculty, known as the initial assessment, usually within four months of initial registration for full time researchers or within ten months for part time researchers. You can view the form (form RS3a) explaining the possible outcomes.

Your Faculty will be able to advise on the exact nature of the assessment but it will usually include a written submission along with a presentation.  As part of this process, you are asked to consider whether ethical approval is necessary for the project and to make arrangements to apply for such approval, where appropriate.

Your supervisory team, in consultation with you, is required to review progress to date, identify any issues to be addressed and ensure that ongoing training needs are identified prior to this assessment taking place.

Annual Reports Process

The Doctoral College will initiate the online reporting procedure for all research students in April each year. Both you and your supervisory team will be asked to complete a confidential annual report detailing a summary of your progress to date. You should be aware that the report you submit will not be shared with your supervisors.

Your supervisors will also be asked to provide a recommendation (RS4 form) on whether or not you should progress to the next academic year.  If reports are not submitted they will be pursued by the Faculty and Doctoral College and progress to the next academic year may be delayed.

The Faculty will receive and consider all reports at the faculty progress board. If the Research Director is also a member of your supervisory team, then your report will be considered by the Associate Dean of the Faculty to ensure confidentiality.  The annual re-registration process will not normally be permitted until the Doctoral College has received your Annual Report.

Confirmation of Registration Status

All PhD and MPhil researchers will undergo a formal assessment of progress, known as the confirmation of registration status, usually towards the end of your first year for full time researchers or before the end of the second year for part time researchers. You can view the form explaining the possible outcomes (form RS5).

Your Faculty will be able to advise on the exact nature of the assessment but it will include a written submission along with a presentation. You will not normally be permitted to re-enrol into your second year (for full time, funded PhD Researchers) until the Doctoral College has received notification from the Faculty of successful completion of your Confirmation, so you should take this into account as it may impact progression and payment of your stipend.

Final Assessment

To help prepare for your final submission and examination, your Faculty will make arrangements for a final assessment of progress within thirty months (full-time) and sixty months (part-time) of initial registration. The format of this assessment is at the discretion of your Faculty and may include presentation at a seminar or conference.

Submission of thesis

Following advice from your supervisory team, you should plan to submit the RS11 a minimum of three months prior to your expected thesis submission date. This enables the Doctoral College and the Faculty to begin making examination arrangements. n.b. submitting the RS11 form does not commit you to an exact submission date.

Comprehensive guidance on the presentation of your thesis is available and should be consulted prior to submission.  Extensive guidance on submitting your thesis is also available.  Along with your submitted thesis, you are required to complete and return to the Doctoral College the student consent form (RS11b), stating which supervisor, if any, you wish to attend the oral examination. You may only select one supervisor to accompany you into your oral examination and you should note that the supervisor will not be permitted to contribute to the examination.

In addition, you must submit the RS17, the reassignment of student Intellectual Property Rights. It is your responsibility to obtain the signature of the IP Manager (Research and Impact) before submitting this form. Failure to submit this form will prevent the degree from being conferred by Senate and you will be unable to graduate.

Oral Examination

Appointment of Examiners

On receipt of your intention to submit form, the Doctoral College will contact the Faculty requesting the initiation of the process of appointing examiners. One External Examiner (two for researchers who have been full-time members of staff for two or more years, or equivalent for part-time staff members) who should have previously examined at an appropriate level, one Internal Examiner and a Chairman are required. The criteria for appointing examiners can be found at the end of the form RS12.

Oral Examination

An oral examination is required to be held no less than four weeks from the date on which the Board of Examiners receives your thesis, and normally within three months of receipt of the submission.  The examination will normally be held at your home campus. Where the examination is to be held on another campus, your written consent must be provided prior to arranging the examination.

The Doctoral College will formally write to you detailing the date, time and venue of the oral examination once a date has been arranged by the Chair of the supervisory team. The Doctoral College will also provide you with a copy of the Turnitin report, detailing similarity matches from your thesis.

Following the examination, you will be informed of the recommended outcome. A letter of official confirmation will follow from the Doctoral College after approval by the Board of the Faculty within two weeks of the date of the oral examination. Details of the possible examination outcomes can be found under the regulations for each degree programme.

Final submission of thesis and Graduation

Full guidelines are available on the submission of the final thesis post examination.

If you are awarded a degree without any required corrections you should submit one bound copy of your thesis to the Doctoral College within six weeks of the notification of the outcome of your examination. If you are awarded a degree subject to corrections you should make the necessary amendments to the thesis (within three months or six months, depending on the outcome) as directed by the Examiners and have these amendments approved by the Internal Examiner prior to arranging final binding and submission. You should submit your final bound copy in accordance with the Guidelines for Presentation of Theses.

Additionally, those awarded the degree of PhD should complete and submit the Ulster eTheses Deposit Agreement, along with the electronic version of your thesis in PDF on a CD.

You may, if you wish, request two year hold on your thesis: this is done through the Ulster eThesis Deposit Agreement.

In accordance with the requirements of the University Code of Practice for Professional Integrity in the Conduct of Research each researcher must deposit all raw data and samples with their Supervisor Team prior to final presentation of the thesis. A statement confirming that the supervisory team is content that all appropriate materials have been deposited must be presented to the Doctoral College at the time of submission (RS16 Data and Sample Deposit form).


On submission of final thesis and all relevant forms, you will be eligible for Graduation, provided you are not recorded on the University’s system as a ‘debtor’. You will be contacted by Registry regarding attendance at graduation and ticket allocation electronically via your University email account and it is therefore imperative that, following submission, you continue to check this account.

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