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Postgraduate researcher FAQs

Last updated on 1 April 2020

The University of Manchester recognises that PGRs may have specific concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Please visit this page for updates and visit the FAQs on Research, Staff and Students for additional information, including on health and travel advice.

Further support and contacts

Reporting illness

Remote working

Progression and assessment

Accommodation

PGR support and wellbeing

PGR finance

Graduate Teaching Assistants

Returning home

Fieldwork/placements/events

Research ethics

Volunteering

Visas

Useful links

Further support and contacts

How do I contact my local PGR support team?

Reporting illness

I think I may have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19). Do I still need to report this to the University?

If you feel unwell and think that you may have the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you should follow the latest advice from the NHS. PGRs should also inform their supervisor and local PGR team, and visit Staff FAQs for more information.

Remote working

Will I have any access to my study and research areas?

No. In line with the UK Government’s latest advice about coronavirus (COVID-19), the University will be closing all of our non-essential sites until further notice. This includes all teaching and research buildings both on campus and in associated clinical sites and the Library - although electronic library resources will still be accessible.

Should I stop working now that non-essential facilities have closed?

No. PGRs will be expected to continue working on their research remotely, if possible, until further notice. Please follow guidance issued by IT Services on support to work remotely and discuss with your supervisor tasks that can be reasonably completed whilst remote working. If your main supervisor is unavailable, please liaise with your supervisory team.

Some useful links relating to data management include:

Can I apply for an interruption or extension to my research?

In the coming weeks, we will be exploring every option to alleviate and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your research. Please be assured we are involved in sector-wide discussions with other institutions and major funders and will communicate further information about this as soon as possible, including information on extensions and interruptions requests.

What if I am unable to continue my research remotely?

PGRs should work from home wherever possible. If you are unable to continue working, you should make your supervisor aware of this and discuss the options with your supervisor and local PGR team; these options might include an interruption or extension request, depending on the length of time you are impacted. Keeping a log of any lost time is strongly advised whether that be due for example, to lack of access to appropriate resource, a period of illness, you need to attend to caring responsibilities, inability to continue fieldwork or research within NHS/visiting patients, or a return to clinical duties. 

Will my University desktop PC work at home?

Desktop PCs will not work from home. IT services have provided guidance on how to access your University PC via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and remote desktop connection. For more information visit Working from Home.

Should I return home?

Please continue to check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for updated guidance and continue to work remotely if you can. PGRs should inform their supervisor and local PGR support team of their decision.  

How should I remain in contact with my supervisor/supervisory team whilst working remotely?

Provided that your supervisor is in good health and therefore working remotely, contact should be maintained during this period (eg. email, phone or Zoom). Access to the basic version of Zoom is freely available and allows you to set up 1:1 meetings of unlimited length.  If you require meetings via Zoom with more than one other person your meeting is limited to 40 minutes, but your supervisor can set up longer meetings through the staff Zoom license. If your main supervisor is unavailable, PGRs should liaise with other members of their supervisory team. All progression and supervisory meetings should be conducted remotely and eProg milestone deadlines should continue to be met.

How can I get access to MATLAB?

The MathWorks has provided The University with a licence to download and install the full suite of MATLAB products on to both staff and students’ own, or University provided computers.

This will enable teaching and research to continue more easily whilst we are all working remotely. Further details regarding access, installation and who to contact if you have technical issues are available on BMH announcements.

Progression and assessment

Will I still need to do my annual review/continuation review?

Yes, you should continue with your annual review/continuation review as scheduled in order to review your progress over the last year and enable you to raise any issues you have encountered or foresee over the next progression period. The review should be completed remotely using, for example, Zoom or Skype.

I am due to submit my thesis, is this still possible?

Yes. All PGRs are required to submit their thesis electronically but the University will not require hard bound submission of the thesis during this period of remote working.

I have a viva scheduled, will this still go ahead?

Now that the University has moved to a position of remote working and until further notice, all vivas should either be conducted remotely or postponed to a later date. If vivas go ahead remotely, internal examiners should record that all participants are happy to proceed remotely. The normal policy on applying for permission to conduct the viva remotely will be waived during this period.

Given the current circumstances, please use the technology that most suits the participants of the viva (eg. Zoom). Please note that you will be asked to either show your student ID card or some other form of valid ID (eg. Passport), or your supervisor will asked at the beginning of the remote viva to verify your identity (your supervisor will subsequently leave the viva). If you have any questions about the examinations process please contact your local PGR support team or see further interim guidance on remote vivas on the PGR Code of Practice webpages in the Submission and Examination section.

My programme requires the completion of taught units. How will I complete these?

PGRs should follow local guidelines around seminar programmes and all teaching and training events will be delivered according to instructions from the course organiser.

Accommodation

I live in University accommodation. Will I need to leave?

If you are residing in University accommodation please contact the Accommodation Office on accommodation@manchester.ac.uk for updates. Alternatively, out of working hours the Hall ResLife Team. Further information about halls of residence is available in the Student FAQs

PGR support and wellbeing

Are the University wellbeing support services still available?

Yes, the University’s support services the Big White Wall (free online mental health and wellbeing support 24/7) are also available to all PGRs. There is also useful advice on the PGR Life wellbeing page.

How can I look after my wellbeing whilst working from home?

We recognise that during this uncertain time remote working is not easy. Here are some excellent ideas about how to manage this and stay well.

If you can, set up a dedicated workspace in your house, it will help to differentiate between 'research' and 'off' time and create a boundary between relaxed, social space and workspace. There is some useful guidance about working from home and from NHS England about how to sit at your desk correctly - try adapting this to your at-home setup.

Maintain a routine, this will look different depending on your circumstances but can include things like getting up and ready as you usually would, taking a morning and afternoon walk instead of your commute, and taking regular breaks away from your workspace.

  • If you have caring responsibilities, speak to your supervisor about how to manage your research work around these. It is likely that this will be a changing situation and will require ongoing discussion.
  • Try and define the hours you will be working and resist the temptation to check-in outside of these hours.
  • Even if you are isolating with symptoms, light exercise is recommended, try these at home and at your desk.
  • Make use of the many online resources including podcasts and apps on mindfulness and wellbeing.

I have an existing condition, I am registered with Disability and Advisory Support Service but symptoms have got worse and I am too ill to study remotely. What should I do?

Please contact your supervisor/supervisory team and Faculty/School PGR support team for advice.

Further information can also be found on the DASS website. You should follow the most recent NHS advice at all times.

Is a hardship fund available to PGRs?

We want as many PGRs as possible to be able to continue with their research and we are widening access to our student hardship fund and making it easier to make an application. The fund, which can award both small grants and loans, is now open to all students, regardless of mode of study or nationality. Further details can be found on Student support or by emailing funding@manchester.ac.uk.

PGR finance

I receive stipend payments, will these continue?

Yes, stipend payments will continue as normal. Any issues should be discussed with your local PGR support team. The living Cost Support Fund is also available to assist in overcoming financial hardship.

Will the University be refunding me part of my tuition fees?

We expect PGRs to be continuing with their research remotely, and the University continues to support all PGRs to achieve their outcomes.  As such we will not be refunding tuition fees.  If you are struggling to conduct your research remotely, please contact your supervisor and local PGR support team to discuss an interruption/extension request.

Graduate Teaching Assistants

I also work as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). What happens to that role now that we have moved to remote working?

GTAs will be expected to deliver their scheduled, contracted teaching online where possible. In all circumstances, GTAs will receive payment for the work they were contracted and scheduled to undertake, whether they are able to deliver this online or not. The guidance for online teaching and learning provides practical ‘how to’ guides and advice on how to provide and deliver teaching content online.

What happens if am working as a GTA and I fall ill?

GTAs are advised to follow the latest advice from the NHS website if they are displaying the symptoms of coronavirus. In these cases, options for GTAs and the person they usually report to include agreeing that GTAs will deliver their scheduled contracted teaching online where this is
possible, however, it is recognised that some activities, like delivering lab-based demonstrations, will not be able to take place.

GTAs are entitled to sickness absence pay and Special Leave pay for their contracted periods. PGRs with Graduate Teaching Assistant and ResLife responsibilities should also follow guidance issued to staff.

Returning home

My home government wants me to return, should I leave?

Some governments are recalling their students or wish their students to return to their home country immediately. If this is the case, we will use our best endeavours to support any PGR who is unable to remain for whatever reason. Please contact your supervisor and your PGR Faculty/School office.

I am a Tier 4 student who is returning home. What do I need to do?

International PGRs on a Tier 4 visa should liaise with their local supervisor and PGR support team to let them know they are returning home and should continue to conduct their research remotely.  If this is not possible, please contact your supervisor and local PGR support team to discuss an interruption/extensions in order that the sponsorship remains up to date. This is to ensure there are no issues from a visa perspective. Ultimately it is your decision whether you remain in the UK or decide to return home.

Fieldwork/placements/events

I am currently away from the University conducting fieldwork/on a placement. What should I do?

If you are a PGR on fieldwork or placement, please refer to local government coronavirus guidance on National Health Service and Public Health England. For advice on foreign travel please refer to The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. PGRs should discuss this with your supervisor and PGR team and they can advise further.

I had fieldwork/a placement scheduled to start soon. Can I still go?

No, unless it can be conducted remotely. All future-dated fieldwork and placement activity should be postponed until further notice. If you have any questions please contact your supervisor or local support team but you must follow government advice regarding travel and social distancing.

I am registered to attend an event/conference. Should I go?

You must follow government advice regarding travel and social distancing, and refer to travel advice for foreign travel. PGRs should discuss any concerns with their supervisor.

Research ethics

What should I do if my research/project involves face-to-face contact with people? What research involving human participants should stop?

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the following types of research should stop as soon as is ethically possible: interviews, focus groups, observations in public spaces, psychological experiments, tissue sampling, and any other research procedure requiring face-to-face contact.

Can I continue to collect data involving human participants?

Data collection which does not require direct personal contact can continue during this period, such as via Skype, telephone or electronic surveys/questionnaires. Where possible, projects should be adjusted to be conducted remotely. Research will only be permitted to continue face-to-face if there is an exceptional reason such as clinical need or a significant ethical rationale for non-immediate cessation. Any continuation of face-to-face research will require University approval. Advice is provided via links below:

For information about how to adapt your project or continue a project on exceptional grounds that has NHS REC approval please go to the Faculty Research Governance website.

Information about how to adapt your project or continue a project on exceptional grounds that has UREC approval.

I want to do some research into COVID 19, how can I get ethical approvals?

If your research involves NHS patients, visit Sponsorship Approval.

If your research does not involve NHS patients, visit Research Ethics.

Volunteering

I am a healthcare professional and wish to volunteer my services to local NHS services/practices. Can I be released to do this?

We are aware that a number of our PGRs are qualified healthcare professionals and may wish to provide their expertise/knowledge in local NHS trust services/practices. The University is fully supportive of this activity and can consider a formal interruption request in the usual way from the individual. PGRs should discuss with their supervisor in the first instance to ensure this would be feasible in terms of their project/funding before submitting a formal interruption request to their local PGR team.

How can I find out more about volunteering?

We know that many of you are keen to volunteer at this time to offer your support. Further information on how to volunteer is available for both students and staff.

Visas

I am worried about my visa status. What should I do?

The UK Home Office publishes regular updates. The latest advice is that all foreign nationals whose UK visas expire any time from 24 January 2020 and who cannot leave the country because of travel bans or self-isolation, should contact the Home Office if they wish to extend their stay in the UK. Their visas will be extended to 31 May 2020.

Details on what to do to obtain this visa extension are on UK Home Office.

Useful links

Where can I find COVID-19 advice and information from the major funders of grants and studentships?

Visit research FAQs and useful links for more information.