FAQs for Supervisory Staff
This information has been collated in order to deliver timely responses to questions frequently asked of the Director of Postgraduate Research by busy supervisory teams. Please note, there are no changes to the regulations; this information has been collated for clarification, and therefore better adherence to, current regulations.
If you feel that there is something we have not covered here but would like us to add, please email Tracy Ireland (PGR Administrator for Research & Enterprise).
Supervision and Operational Information
What training is provided for supervisors?
What additional research training is provided for PGRs?
Who should proof read the candidate's thesis?
Am I responsible for PGR facilities provison?
What provisions are support services responsible for?
What are the regulations for the provision of PCs?
Is a Bench Fee required?
How should complaints be dealt with?
Extensions and Interuptions
Assessments and the Viva
What if there is a delay with the appointment of an External Examiner?
How many times should the same External Examiner be used?
Can an ex-member of Salford staff act as examiner?
Can a viva be completed using video conferencing?
What contributions do I need to make to Independent Chair and Ethics Review duties?
What is information is available about the role of the Independent Chair?
Who appoints the examiners for interim assessments and internal evaluations - and how do I choose them?
What restrictions are there on Internal Examiners for Internal Evaluation?
What happens if a student tells me they may not be able to complete their viva on the day identified, due to mitigating circumstances?
Colleagues can book on to session relevant to their School via the Quality & Enhacement Office website. The Blackboard site for Academic and Research Staff Development also contains resources to support supervision and researcher development.
Dr Anita Williams (School of Health Sciences) has created a helpful checklist (Oct 2016 v1) for use in candidates first supervisory meetings.
The regulations and Code of Practice’s suggestion is that a student should seek supervisor’s “advice” on the thesis. The expectation is that the supervisor should read the draft thesis/chapters, and give advice on the quality and standard of the materials and possibly suggest improvements, much like a reviewer would do when reviewing a paper submitted to a journal. This should not take too long to do. Advice and feedback should of course be given while the student is writing up chapters of the thesis as a normal course of discussions during supervisory meetings, rather than waiting until a complete draft is done. One could make reference to the policy of providing feedback to taught students; that it should not take a supervisor more than a certain time (e.g. 3-5 weeks) to provide this advice. The student can then carry on and do the revision.
This advice precludes correcting the thesis. A lot of supervisors do this by rewriting or re-arranging parts of the text, and it takes up a huge amount of their time. As academic staff, we have a choice to do more than what is required in the Regulations/CoP. Most supervisors will choose to help the student to improve their thesis to as high a standard as possible; that is fine and generally benefits all parties. However, it is important to let students know that that is not a requirement, and therefore they cannot use “supervisor not available to correct the thesis” as grounds for extension.
The University’s Minimum Standards of Provision document, which is agreed and approved by the University Senate and Executive.
One particular point to note is that the policy requires provisions to enable students (full-time) “to have reasonable access to dedicated postgraduate computing facilities” only (p.2), and not a dedicated PC for each individual student. ITS is working towards this policy and hence is not currently committed to providing a PC to an individual PGR student as there are dedicated PGR computing hot-desk areas around the University.
The PGR Handbook that the School gives to new PGR students when they arrive.
The handbook states the university’s minimum provision, which in terms of PC provision are only “dedicated postgraduate computing facilities” (p.36 and 43).
Optionally, the School ’s own PGR Service Level Agreement (SLA) if there is one.
This can go beyond the University’s Minimum Standards. For example, CSE commits to provide a full-time student “with a standard networked computer for their sole use”. The standard office PC is of similar spec as staff PC and serviced and renewed by ITS in the standard cycle (so no more than 3 years old) and should be of a similar standard to staff machines. If this cannot be sourced from ITS then the School is committed to use its own money to do it. However, it should be noted that we are still under the University’s IT policy and the PC will have to be purchased through ITS. It comes with standard ITS software image (which by default is Windows XP the same as staff PC). Staff and Students are not allowed to install software on their PCs for reasons of security and license compliance. All additional software (including updating to Windows 7) on university PCs must be purchased, licensed and installed by ITS through a request to ITS Sevice Desk, ext. 52444.
Many PGR projects require specialist equipment and/or field trials. The consequence of not charging bench fees to cover these is that, for example, the upkeep and/or acquisition of these equipments will have to be funded by other academic activities. This is clearly unsustainable and we can see that as a result some labs are not as well equipped and some equipments are not as well maintained as they should be. Hence in the process of PGR admission:
- Potential supervisors should consider each PGR application carefully to see if a bench fee is appropriate and justified.
- When filling in the PhD Admission Approval Form, a statement is required from the supervisor under '15. Special Condition' to state whether a bench fee is required or not.
- If a bench fee is required, the supervisor needs to specify the amount, and give a short justification under the Special Condition heading. A couple of sentences should be sufficient for the justification. The usual bench fees charged typically range from £2000 to £5000. Obviously bench fee from a single PhD project cannot be expected to fund the acquisition of an expensive piece of specialist equipment. In such cases the supervisor should consult with their Research Centre and School to see if a general pool with other projects in the same/similar subject area can be created to fund the acquisition.
- AHRI should only sign the form when they are satisfied with the bench fees suggested and the justification for it.
Governance Services Unit have developed a comprehensive Complaints Procedure which can be downloaded from http://www.salford.ac.uk/qeo/StudentPolicies/student-complaints-procedure.
All forms are linked to the web page http://www.pg.salford.ac.uk/page/progression_forms.
The University of Salford is generous to automatically grant a full year for the completion phase: the norm is to expect PhD student to complete within the standard duration of study (i.e. 3 years for a full time PhD). It is important that we actively work together to ensure that the whole post-submission process also occurs, both for own reasons (completion statistics etc.) and to the student's good (to proceed with their career).
The maximum periods of candidature (i.e. minimum periods of study plus the completion phase) should be strictly adhered to. Extensions of candidature beyond the maximum period of time are notnormally granted. It will be granted only in exceptional circumstances, generally:
- where there is an unforeseen and serious case that hindered a student’s progress beyond the student’s control and over a period of time substantial enough to prevent completion within the minimum period of study plus the completion phase,
- on specific application by the candidate, accompanied by a written justification and substantiated by independent documentary evidence, and supported by your supervisory team,
- if application is made before candidature is due to expire
The University does not want to prescribe which circumstances are acceptable and which are not. However, it is suggested that the following types of circumstances would not normally be acceptable:
- Circumstances over which a student has some control through prior planning (e.g. family wedding or holiday; moving house; getting married; choosing to do something considered more important; getting a cheaper flight);
- Circumstances to which all or most students are subject, which are part of the normal course of life events (e.g. financial difficulties, personal relationships, family matters).
- Circumstances which have already been appropriately provided for by special study and assessment arrangements;
- Circumstances arising from poor project/time management or personal organisation (e.g. failure to plan for foreseeable emergencies such as computer crashes, printing problems, work not backed up, data collection incomplete, travel problems, misreading/lack of awareness of project plan or assessment schedules);
- Minor ailments of a short-term nature such as colds, headaches, stomach upsets.
- Ongoing illnesses or circumstances: instead students should seek support from their supervisor, PGR personal tutor, or Student Life Directorate. Options include assessment for a Student Support Plan or an interruption from their studies.
- Difficulties related to the research project that the candidate’s study is based on, if the candidate has successfully passed the Interim Assessment and Internal Evaluation at the appropriate time.
However, there may be serious circumstances of a medical or personal nature, beyond the student’s control and unforeseen, which have a recognisable and adverse effect on academic performance during the programme of study over a substantial period. The application of extension of candidature provides a procedure through which such exceptional circumstances can be reported and considered. Circumstances will be accepted or rejected depending on their nature, severity, timing and the cogency of the evidence.
An interuption of study is the usual course of action when a student becomes pregnant. If possible, the student should make a pre-emptive request for interruption.
Generally, as good practice, we should avoid using the same external more than twice a year. While some universities limit the number to no more than once per year, the suggestion here is that we could be a bit more flexible. We take the view that the same external should not be used more than twice a year, but allow the supervisory team to submit a request to SREC (backed up by a detailed case for support) if there is an exceptional case that a more frequent use is justifiable. SREC will then decide if the case can be accepted or not. In such cases the ADR will not sign the NoP until SREC makes a decision.
If there is still a strong case to proceed with the viva by video conferencing - after exploring all alternative options - then we will need a written statement from the student and supervisor to justify why the viva should proceed in this manner. We will also need written confirmation from the student, the examiners, the independent chair, and the supervisor that they are happy with the video conferencing arrangement for the viva, and that they understand that the student and the panel (examiners and the IC) can and should stop the viva if any of them feels that the examination procedure, and in particular the student, is disadvantaged by the video conferencing arrangement. Only when we have all these in writing that SREC can consider approving the viva to go ahead by video conferencing.
- The Supervisor advises two panel members who cannot be members of the supervisory team. The panel should consist of Supervisor/Co-supervisor and two other academics.
- If there is a a re-assesment Supervisor ensure that the panel remains the same.
- The Supervisor arranges the date and time, and requests a room booking from the admin team.
- The Supervisor advises two panel members who cannot be part of Supervisory team and only 1 of them can have been on the Interim Assessment panel, the other cannot.
- The Supervisor ensures that the panel is the same if it is a re-assesment.
- The Supervisor arranges the date and time, and requests a room booking from the admin team.
If your student discloses a problem on the day of the viva that would severely impair their performance, every effort should be made to postpone their viva to a later date.