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Policy on Ethical Approval of research on human subjects in taught assessment

This Policy was originally approved by the Teaching and Learning Group (TLG) and by Senate in June 2015, with implementation from December 2015. Updates to the Policy were approved by Senate in June 2017, for implementation from September 2017. The updates mainly relate to clarification that the document applies to research on human subjects only (rather than animals), including a change of title to reflect this; additional wording in paragraph 4.7 relating to students’ responsibilities, particularly regarding mitigating risk and occasions where the focus of study may change; and highlighting the fact that advice on research ethics can be sought from Research and Business Engagement Support Services.

For a full PDF version of the Policy, please see below:

1.       Introduction

1.1          This document defines the University’s policy on the ethical approval of research on human subjects that is carried out by students as part of assessments on taught programmes.

2.       Purpose

2.1          The purpose of this policy is to ensure that a consistent approach is applied when dealing with ethical approval of research on human subjects as part of assessments on taught programmes.

3.       Scope

3.1          This policy applies to research on human subjects that is undertaken independently by undergraduate or postgraduate taught students, outside of a laboratory, lecture or seminar, and that is not directly
               supervised in person by a member of staff.

3.2          This policy covers reports, projects and dissertations that may require ethical approval for an element of research on human subjects within the assessed work of a taught programme.

4.       The Policy

4.1          Responsibility for approving risk assessment and working in an ethical manner with human subjects is the responsibility of a unit teacher or dissertation supervisor.

4.2          Schools must have a procedure for ethical approval of research in taught assessments, which includes the completion of a risk assessment where appropriate.

4.3          The procedure must be explained to students within the course unit documentation.

4.5          Appeals with regards to a decision relating to Ethical Approval are permitted under Regulation XIX (Academic Appeals Procedure).

4.6          The School procedure must ensure that students receive instructions on how to work in a safe, ethical manner and be made aware of why this is important.

4.7          Students must be made aware that when they conduct independent research on human subjects, they have a responsibility to:

  • ensure a risk assessment is completed when appropriate and that necessary measures are taken to mitigate significant risks;
  • comply with instructions for working in a safe and ethical manner when engaging in an  investigation involving human subjects;
  • ensure that the independent research work completed does not deviate from that which has been approved;
  • contact the relevant member(s) of staff, in advance, if the focus of the independent study is likely to change, to ensure that they will continue to work in a safe and ethical manner.

4.8          Students must not commence their independent research work until they have been given permission to proceed by their course unit teacher/supervisor. The course unit teacher/supervisor will only do this once they are satisfied that the risk assessment and/or ethics procedures have been satisfactorily completed. This aspect of the policy also applies to amendments to projects.

4.9          Should students fail to comply with the instruction from a unit teacher/supervisor with regards completing risk assessment and/or working in an ethical manner, they are liable to receive a fail mark for their work.

4.10        In extremely serious cases students may be referred to the University under Regulation XVII (Conduct and Discipline of Students). We do not want to see any student receive a fail mark or be referred under Regulation XVII and urge all students to take seriously risk assessments and ethical approval, and to follow the instructions of their unit teacher/supervisor.

4.11        General information about research ethics can also be sought from Research and Business Engagement Support Services at:



Version 1.1, July 2017