Advice for postgraduate research students on continuing disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Disruption to study

My research is still being disrupted because of coronavirus. What should I do?

We know that some students may still be experiencing disruption to their research during 2022-23 related to coronavirus, for example difficulties with international fieldwork, changes to planned research, or the impact of long Covid. 

If you are in this situation, we advise that you continue to record the disruption you experience in the log provided by your division/department, to help ensure that you receive any extensions/suspensions/deferrals of Transfer or Confirmation of Status you may require at a later date. Keeping a log will act as a reminder for you in the future, but is not intended to require very extensive or frequent recording of details.

It is suggested that logs should include brief details of disruption experienced and dates (e.g. fieldwork took 9 months instead of the planned 6 months in 2022 due to delays caused by travel restrictions), and should be detailed enough that it will be possible for the purpose of future applications for you to look back at them to write an account of how your study was disrupted. 

We have also introduced a process, which remains in place in 2022-23, that may allow for some of the disruption caused by the pandemic to be taken into account at Transfer, Confirmation and Viva examinations. Each division has produced specific guidance about how to apply and the criteria which would still need to be met to obtain your degree. If you wish to explore this option you should discuss this with your supervisor.

Please also see the guidance on the University Continuation Charge (UCC) Support Scheme for 2022-23.

I need to complete a log to record how my research is still being disrupted due to Coronavirus. What should I include?

Your division/department should be able to provide you with a log to record any continuing disruption to your research which is due to Coronavirus, to help ensure that you receive any extensions, suspensions, or deferrals of Transfer or Confirmation of Status you may require, at present or in the future.

You can include a note of any disruption which is linked to the pandemic. Examples of what you might include are:

  • Your own illness
  • Illness of family members
  • Increased caring responsibilities
  • Impact on your long-term physical and/or mental health
  • Impact of Coronavirus if you are a student with disabilities/long-term health conditions, e.g. you are at higher risk of Coronavirus
  • Financial impacts
  • Inability to travel to undertake fieldwork; or inability to meet with research subjects, where alternatives are not available and the impact on your research cannot be mitigated (you should discuss with your supervisor whether alternatives are available)

This list is not exhaustive, so you can record in your log any other disruption you have experienced due to Coronavirus. You may also wish to record details of any disruptions as part of your student report in GSR. Keeping a log will act as a reminder for you in the future, but is not intended to require very extensive or frequent recording of details.

It is suggested that logs should include brief details of disruption experienced and dates (e.g.fieldwork took 9 months instead of the planned 6 months in 2022 due to delays caused by travel restrictions), and should be detailed enough that it will be possible for the purpose of future applications for you to look back at them to write an account of how your study was disrupted.

I don’t think I will be able to submit my thesis on time because of coronavirus-related disruption. What should I do?

You have two options available: you can apply for an extension (see below) or, if your work is sufficiently progressed, you may be able to submit your thesis with an explanation of the ways in which the pandemic has impacted upon your planned research, for the examiners to take into account. You will still need to meet the qualitative requirements of your DPhil, but the examiners may be able to take into account the impact of the pandemic on the volume and/or type of research produced. Each division has produced guidance for their research degree students about how to apply for this and the criteria which will still need to be met to obtain your degree. If you wish to explore this option, you should discuss it with your supervisor.

You can apply for an extension if you have reached your maximum submission deadline (the end of your 12th term if you are a full-time DPhil student).

You will be granted an extension if you cannot submit due to the impact of coronavirus.

Extensions due to coronavirus will not count towards the normal limits on the number of terms of extension which can be granted, if the coronavirus-related disruption took place between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive. For example, if you need an extension for Michaelmas term 2022 due to coronavirus-related disruption earlier in the pandemic, in Hilary term 2021, this will not count towards the normal limits on extensions. 

If you continue to experience coronavirus-related disruption from Michaelmas term 2022 onwards, you can still be granted an extension on this basis, but this will count towards the normal limits on the number of terms of extension which can be granted. If you have been granted the normal maximum number of terms permitted, but are still unable to submit due to continuing coronavirus-related disruption, you should contact your Graduate Studies Assistant, who can make a special application to the University’s Education Committee for additional term(s) of extension. Evidenced coronavirus-related disruption would be a reason to grant additional term(s).

If you have not yet reached your maximum submission deadline (i.e. for a full-time DPhil student, you have not yet reached your 12th term), you should not apply for an extension yet. If you later reach your deadline and are unable to submit on time, you should apply for an extension at that point. You will be able to use your log of the coronavirus-related disruption you experienced as evidence for the extension.

I don’t think I will be able to submit my work for Transfer or Confirmation of Status on time because of coronavirus-related disruption. What should I do?

You can apply for a deferral of Transfer of Status or Confirmation of Status if these are due.

You will be granted a deferral if you cannot complete Transfer or Confirmation of Status due to the impact of coronavirus.

Deferrals due to coronavirus will not count towards the normal limits on the number of terms of deferral which can be granted, if the coronavirus-related disruption took place between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive. For example, if you need a deferral of Confirmation of Status for Michaelmas term 2022 due to coronavirus-related disruption earlier in the pandemic, in Hilary term 2021, this will not count towards the normal limits on deferrals. 

If you continue to experience coronavirus-related disruption from Michaelmas term 2022 onwards, you can still be granted a deferral of Transfer or Confirmation of Status on this basis, but this will count towards the normal limits on the number of terms of deferral which can be granted. If you have been granted the normal maximum number of terms of deferral permitted, but are still unable to submit for Transfer or Confirmation of Status due to continuing coronavirus-related disruption, you should contact your Graduate Studies Assistant, who can make a special application to the University’s Education Committee for additional term(s) of deferral. Evidenced coronavirus-related disruption would be a reason to grant additional term(s).

If your Transfer or Confirmation of Status is not due, you should not apply for deferral yet.

If you later reach your deadline and are unable to complete Transfer or Confirmation on time, you should apply for a deferral at that point. You will be able to use your log of the coronavirus-related disruption you experienced as evidence for the deferral.

If you do not wish to apply for deferral of Transfer or Confirmation you may wish to have the disruption to your research caused by the pandemic taken into account by the examiners. Each division has produced guidance, which remains in place for 2022-23, about how to apply for this and the criteria which will still need to be met to obtain your degree. If you wish to explore this option you should discuss this with your supervisor.  

If you do decide to apply for deferral of Transfer or Confirmation this will not prevent you from also applying to have disruption to your research taken into account.

I’m unable to study at all at the moment due to continuing coronavirus-related disruption. What should I do?

If you are unable to work on your research at all, you can apply to suspend study. If coronavirus-related disruption is affecting your research (e.g. issues with international fieldwork), you should first discuss with your supervisor how your research project might be adjusted. 

Suspensions due to coronavirus do not count towards the normal limits on the number of terms of suspension which can be granted, if the coronavirus-related disruption took place between Hilary term 2020 and Trinity term 2022 inclusive.

If you continue to experience coronavirus-related disruption from Michaelmas term 2022 onwards, you can still be granted suspension on this basis, but this will count towards the normal limits on the number of terms of suspension which can be granted. If you have been granted the normal maximum number of terms of suspension permitted, but are still unable to study at all due to continuing coronavirus-related disruption, you should contact your Graduate Studies Assistant, who can make a special application to the University’s Education Committee for additional term(s) of suspension. Evidenced coronavirus-related disruption would be a reason to grant additional term(s).

Assessment and thesis submission

I need to attend my viva, or my interview for Transfer or Confirmation of Status, but cannot travel to Oxford for coronavirus-related reasons. What should I do?

PGR vivas and milestone assessments (Transfer or Confirmation of Status interviews)  can be held remotely online via videoconference in exceptional circumstances, which include pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Your Director of Graduate Studies can give permission for this. You should agree in writing to the arrangements; and the remote viva should comply with guidance available in Annexes D and E of the Policy and Guidance on Research Degrees

You can be remote from both examiners/assessors (i.e. three-way remote vivas are permitted). You do not need to wear sub-fusc when attending a remote viva (and neither do your examiners).

It is permissible for some attendees to be in Oxford and others to attend remotely (e.g. if an external examiner could not travel, but you and the internal examiner were in Oxford and able to meet in person).

I’ve already attended my viva, but I’m unable to resubmit my thesis with minor or major corrections at the moment, due to continuing coronavirus- related disruption. What should I do?

Some PGR students need to resubmit their thesis with minor or major corrections after their viva.

If you are not able to resubmit your thesis to your deadline due to coronavirus-related disruption, and you have been granted the extensions normally allowed, you should contact your Graduate Studies Assistant to ask about a special application to the University’s Education Committee for additional extensionsis. Evidenced coronavirus-related disruption would be a reason to grant additional extensions.

I need to submit my finalised thesis in order to graduate. What should I do?

Students granted leave to supplicate in Michaelmas Term 2022 will not need to submit a hardbound copy of their DPhil thesis to the Examination Schools in order to graduate. This also includes any students granted leave to supplicate in the 2021/22 academic year, and any students who were unable to submit a hardbound copy due to COVID-19 social distancing measures in the 2019/20 & 2020/21 academic year.

However, all candidates do need to submit an electronic copy to the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) a minimum of five working days prior to your graduation date. You will not be able to attend a degree ceremony (even in absentia) without doing so.

If access to your thesis needs to be restricted, a hard copy of your thesis will still need to be submitted in due course. Further information on the position from 2022/23 onwards, and on when it will be possible to submit hard copies of restricted access theses, will be forthcoming during Michaelmas term 2022. Hard copies should not be printed and submitted to the Exam Schools or arranged for print and delivery via print services in the meantime, before it is confirmed how they should be submitted.

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