Welcome to the PGR Engagement pages. You will find information below relating to what you can expect during your research programme from reviewing your work, progressing into the next year of study, your PGR community and supporting you while you undertake your research.
We ask that you always keep in mind that as a PGR, you will benefit from the advice and direction of your supervisor(s), but ultimately you are responsible for your own research and thesis. This doesn’t just apply to the academic content of your thesis, but also looking after yourself and others while undertaking your project and developing as a researcher. Exploring the pages below will help you as you do this.
Your supervisor(s) will usually be your first point of contact throughout your research, but if you have any general queries, you’re always welcome to contact Claire and Nic in the Engagement team at email@example.com.
- Milestones and Timelines
Below are outlines of a typical PGR journey for various supervised study lengths. Please note that these are guidelines only. Supervised study is the amount of time you or your funder pay tuition fees. For a standard PhD this is 36 months and for a Master’s by Research, 12 months.
This may look a little different for you (eg if you’ve had to take a break from your research or needed longer than your supervised study, if you have visa requirements or if your funder/sponsor requires additional reports from you) and you’ll have lots to add in (training, conferences, events etc) but we hope it’ll provide you with a useful guide.
Masters by Research
- UK Research Council (UKRI) Funded Students
All RCUK funded research students, who are registered in Je-S, will have received communications from Researchfish, asking for information on research outcomes. This is a compulsory return, required by all research councils (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC and SFTC). The reporting period is between February and March each year.
If you are funded by any of the research councils, or through a doctoral training centre supported by them, then you will have to complete the return.
You should have received an email form your funder and from Researchfish inviting you to the submission system. Your supervisor will have received a communication from Researchfish as well, asking for their help and support for student returns. If you have not received this communication, please get in touch with Researchfish by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Six-Monthly Reviews
What is a six-monthly review?
The six month review process is designed to provide check in points throughout your PhD (between your formal progression assessments) to ensure that you are progressing in your PhD and also address any pastoral issues you might be facing. As of October 2022 we have created tailored forms for each stage of the PhD to focus on key issues you will face at each point.
For full-time students, reviews will be required at 6, 18 and 30 months as a check-point between your annual progression exercises (APE). Part-time students will receive these forms at 6, 36 and 60 months of study and will also complete 'e-mail check in' reviews within their extended timelines. This is where we will request a brief update via e-mail from both student and supervisor on how things have been going in your project. The reviews will be sent to you by the PGR School Engagement Team and you should complete these within one month. We will get in touch with you when these are due via e-mail so it is imporant that you are regularly checking your university account. If unsure about your review timings, please do refer to our assessment timelines or e-mail the Engagement team to check with us directly.
You should treat the review process like you would expect to undertake in employment whereby you set goals and objectives and reflect on your achievement of these. This is also an opportunity to make sure that things are working well for you and the supervisory team so please do make use of the opportunity to raise any concerns you may have.
What are the outcomes of a six-monthly review?
The outcome of a six-monthly review is satisfactory or unsatisfactory in terms of the development of your research.
Please note that it may be that you have raised a pastoral issue, but that you are still on track with your research at the point of completing the review. In these cases, you would have a satisfactory outcome noted but the Engagement team will usually contact you directly to make you aware of support services that the University offers and to make sure you have the right support in place more generally. We will also usually make your PGR School Coordinator (PGC) aware that we have done this.
If you have raised other concerns (eg problems with office space) but are still on track with your research at the point of completing the review, a satisfactory outcome will be noted. However, we will make your PGC and School PGR administrator aware of these types of issues. If they are not addressed, you should note this at the next available opportunity and make it clear that you have raised the point previously. The Engagement team will then discuss this further with your School.
What happens if I have an unsatisfactory outcome?
All the six-monthly review forms are considered by the Engagement team. If it is clear that the outcome returned from this is unsatisfactory, there are a number of steps which will be taken. You may also find it helpful to have a look at the flow chart we have produced for supervisors.
We want to make it clear that the review process is not designed to be punitive; rather, it is designed to help you keep on track with your research and to identify quickly any issue which may prevent you from doing this.
The Engagement team will contact the PGC to make them aware that you have an unsatisfactory outcome. The PGC will be asked to arrange a meeting with you and your supervisor/supervisory team to see what actions can be taken to find a resolution to the issue raised. It is hoped that this will address the issue raised.
If the issue is not resolved after meeting with the PGC, the PGC may consult further with the PGR School Officer (PGO), Head of School and/or Engagement team as felt appropriate. If further immediate action is required, you will be contacted by your PGC and/or the PGR School Engagement team.
Your six-monthly review may be taken into account at your annual progression and may contribute to a final decision on the outcome of this exercise.
What do I do if I don’t want to raise an issue on my review form?
Wherever possible, we encourage you to have open dialogue with your supervisor(s) but we do understand that it can be challenging to raise some issues. Our website has a full list of support services at the University which are available to you as a PGR. You are welcome to consult with these at any time.
The review forms also contain information about who you can contact to discuss any concerns. You are also welcome to contact the Engagement team at email@example.com directly if you would like to raise something outwith the usual six-month timeframe.
Please try to address matters proactively rather than waiting until you receive an unsatisfactory outcome in your reviews and progression. It’s important that you feel supported as you undertake your research and know that there are lots of people you can contact if you feel you need help.
- Annual Progression
What is annual progression?
As well as your six-monthly reviews, you will complete an annual progression exercise. This is overseen and administered by your School. The formal annual progression assessment is mandatory for all year 1 and year 2 PhD students; in some disciplines, an assessment/check-point also takes place in year 3.
Annual progression may vary between years 1 and 2 but will usually consist of a presentation and/or submission of written work. This is assessed by a panel, with a minimum of two members, one of whom will not have had any connection with your work. This is to ensure that there will be an independent member of staff involved with reviewing your research.
Annual progression is designed to assess your ability as a researcher, confirm the suitability of the project and to ensure that the supervisory team is working well. You should be able to demonstrate that you have a thorough background knowledge of your project, be able to appraise key issues critically, be able to describe your research and understand what its significance/contribution is and have a plan of work for future milestones.
When does annual progression take place?
Annual progression will usually take place around month nine, but each School can vary slightly so it’s very important that you check what the expectations are for your discipline. If you aren’t sure about this, your supervisor or School PGR administrator is a good person to contact.
What if I have concerns about annual progression?
It’s very important that you speak to someone as soon as possible if you have concerns about your annual progression. This is to ensure you have any necessary support in place but also because there are Regulations governing progression (GR 24). This regulation states that students must make satisfactory progress each academic year but also that if you think something has impacted on your ability to do this, you must inform someone in writing at the earliest opportunity. This will usually be your supervisor(s) but may also be your PGR School Coordinator, PGR School Officer or Head of School.
As always, if you would like to discuss an issue with someone outwith your School, you can contact the PGR School Engagement team on firstname.lastname@example.org at any time. The important thing is to make someone aware.
What if I’m undertaking fieldwork during annual progression?
If you are undertaking fieldwork or otherwise off-campus when your annual progression is due to take place it is very important that you contact your supervisor as soon as possible or, ideally, discuss this in advance of the off-campus request. Your annual progression may take place as close as possible to the original date if all parties agree to this (you, your supervisor(s), the panel).
If you are off-campus for longer, your School may require you to undertake progression from a distance. You should discuss arrangements for this with your supervisor and PGC in the first instance.
In either of the above scenarios, please be sure to let the PGR School Engagement team know of any exceptional arrangements.
What are the outcomes of annual progression?
Under General Regulation 24, PGRs are required to make satisfactory progress each academic year. The outcomes for annual progression can be broadly split into satisfactory or unsatisfactory, with nuances at each level:
- Satisfactory: proceed to next academic year
- Satisfactory with reservations: proceed to next academic year but actions will be recommended to address any identified weaknesses with which you must comply by an agreed date
- Resubmission: additional work required for further review before a final decision of satisfactory or unsatisfactory returned. This must be completed within two months of the original annual progression date
- Amend the supervisory team to provide additional technical/academic expertise
- Unsatisfactory, lower award: you may not continue on the PhD pathway but you may be eligible to register for a lower award (Master’s by Research)
- Unsatisfactory, termination of studies: you have neither reached the standard required for a PhD programme nor a lower award. This may occur immediately after your progression exercise or following resubmission (3) of work.
What happens if I have an unsatisfactory outcome?
In the case of an unsatisfactory outcome under categories 5 or 6 above, your School will have recommended that you move to a lower award or your studies be terminated. They will usually communicate this to you verbally or in writing, also letting the PGR School Engagement team know. The Engagement team will then ask the PGR School Officer to review this decision. Where the PGO agrees, they will inform the Engagement team who will communicate the outcome to Registry. Registry will then this outcome to you officially with further guidance about, for example, the appeals process.
Please refer to this flowchart for information and processes relating to the Annual Progression Exercise
- Your PGR Community
PGR Community Teams Page
All PGRs can join a PGR Community Teams page (joining link here) so we encourage students to utlise this space to connect with others and keep up to date with any events/discussions initiated by the PGR Community.
The University of Aberdeen recognises the value of staff network groups in creating an environment that respects the diversity of staff, and enables them to derive maximum benefit and enjoyment from their involvement in the life of the University.
The Multi-Faith Chaplaincy is, at its very heart, a place of pastoral care. Chaplains provide not only a welcome but support and advice to members of the community in times of stress, crisis, bereavement, or illness. We are also here for those simply wanting to explore questions of a personal or confidential nature. The Chaplaincy actively works to develop and organise inter-faith dialogues and community celebrations, building community through various events.
- Wellbeing Lounge: students are welcome to drop in to the wellbeing lounge throughout the day for a tea/coffee or just as a place to relax.
- PG Cafe: All postgraduate students are welcome to come along to the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy for coffee, cake and an opportunity to meet fellow postgraduates. This runs every Tuesday from 2.30 - 3.30pm - event details can be found here.
- PEACE (Pet and Companion): PEACE is a charitable organisation that provides pastoral care along with canine therapy for people requiring support and companionship. Half hour sessions are available in the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy on Wednesdays between 2pm and 4.30pm and on Thursdays between 2pm and 3pm. To book an appointment please email email@example.com.
Aberdeen University Students’ Union Association (AUSA) is a student-led organisation that aims to support, empower and represent students during their University experience. When you join the University, you’re automatically enrolled in the Students’ Union where you are encouraged to share your views so that we can help you make the most of your time at university. As well as having access to all of AUSA's normal events, societies and resources, AUSA host a Postgraduate and Mature Students Coffee and Cake throughout the year which you are encouraged to attend. The dates for the first term of 2023-2024 are as follows in Union Brew:
Thursday, 19th October: 11:30-12:30
Thursday, 16th November: 1-2pm
Thursday, 7th December: 1-2pm
The International Centre (IC) is a virtual and on-campus hub for anyone interested in the ‘international experience’ aspect of attending University. They not only offer advice and opportunities to socialise, but are also a great starting point for anyone looking to integrate themselves within the international community of the University. They run various different events and activities throughout the year (including language groups), so do explore the opportunities available with them.
Qualitative Research Network
The Qualitative Research Network (QRN) brings together like-minded PGRs and staff to stimulate discussion, provide peer support, and deliver informal training on all aspects of qualitative research. For clarity: we do not provide formal teaching or qualifications, we are not trained to provide specialist support relating to all disciplines or methods (please ask your supervisor!); we also don’t have the authority to help you choose your method or approach. We can’t offer formal training for NVivo or other software packages but you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if there are any training courses.
Our programme will be published throughout the academic year and you can register your place on the course booking system at www.abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking. Please contact QRN on email@example.com to let us know what you would like us to cover in our sessions, how you would you like the sessions to be run and if there are any other activities or events you would like to do as part of the network. We’re also on Facebook.
Granite journal is the first PGR interdisciplinary journal of Aberdeen University. The journal has been established by students for students. This open access journal is designed to give PGRs of the University of Aberdeen a place to publish their work and to provide them with experience of the publishing process.
More information can be found on the dedicated Granite webpages and updates/calls for submissions will be included in the PGR newsletter.
- Supporting You in Your Research
Student Advice & Support
The University provides a range of services to support you during your time at Aberdeen. This includes student support advisers, disability advisers, mental health support, international student advisers, as well as the chaplaincy and counselling service. You can find out more information about the teams on the student advice & support pages, you should also explore the student support and wellbeing pages.
Please remember that if you need to speak to someone when the student advice and support office is closed, you should:
• Contact your GP and ask for an emergency appointment
• Contact NHS out of hours service on 111 - NHS out-of-hours
• Call 999 in an emergency
• Students in University accommodation can contact the Student Resident Assistants
PGRs are always welcome to contact the PGR School engagement team on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any concerns and queries they may have about their studies.
The PGR School Engagement team run a fortnightly drop-in service where students can book 20-minute sessions providing a space for you to raise any concerns you may be experiencing which could have an impact on your studies. Please note that these are not intended as therapeutic sessions, but as an opportunity for you to have a neutral listening ear and to be signposted to the relevant information/person you need.
Please note that there are six individual 20-minute appointments during this time; you are not signing up for one two-hour session. You will receive an Outlook invite for your session between 1400 -1600 in advance.
Sign up on the Course Booking System.
Training and Development
The PGR School provides a comprehensive suite of courses, workshops and training opportunities to help you get the most out of your research. Please check out the webpage for further information or contact the PGRS Training team at email@example.com.
Academic Support via School Contacts
For students struggling with academic issues throughout their PhD, supervisors should normally be the first point of contact but please note there are other contacts available to you in your school. Your Administrator will be able to advise and direct you on various issues including your Annual Progression information but you can also contact your PGR School Coordinators should you wish to discuss other academic issues. If you are unsure of your school contacts you can find them here.
Student Learning Service
The SLS works with all students to enhance their academic skills. Find out more on their website.
Look After Your Mate
The Engagement Team host Look After Your Mate workshops designed by Student Minds (UK Student Mental Health charity). The workshop empowers students to support friends experiencing mental health difficulties, whilst looking after their own wellbeing.
For PGRs, navigating university life can be tricky at times and we know how important it is for an individual to reach out to their friends in times of need. We want students to have the knowledge, confidence and skills to support their friends and feel comfortable confiding in each other.
The workshop covers an introduction to student mental health and the student experience, understanding when a friend may be struggling, communication techniques, signposting and boundaries, self-care and looking after yourself whilst supporting a friend.
We will be hosting sessions throughout the year both online and in person so students will be able to sign up for these on the Course Booking System when dates are confirmed.
Workplace Dignity Network Coordinators
The Workplace Dignity Network aims to provide support to staff who would like to chat through wellbeing concerns. This could be in relation to bullying/harassment, stress, work relationships, work/life balance or mental health issues. The Network members are a listening ear. Sometimes it just helps to share an issue and discuss it. The Network can also signpost you to other sources of support which you may not have considered previously.
The Workplace Dignity Network has received training, but they are not counsellors, mediators or mental health experts. They will, however, be able to provide advice on the University providers of these services. You can find out more about this service on the working here pages.
Check out the Wellbeing Toolkit which is designed to help you look after yourself, and find the support you need when you need it.
- Student/Supervisor Relationship
You can find some more information on the student-supervisor relationship in the PGR handbook, including information about what to do if you’re experiencing difficulties with your supervisor(s).
- Changes to Study
You can find more information about changes to study in the student handbook.
- Researcher-Led Initiatives
Researcher-Led Initiatives Funding supports the career development of PGR students. Funding is available to develop innovative activities which will support your career development and that of your peers. Find out more.
- Your PGR Representatives
You have a number of peers representing your views to the various University governing bodies.
AUSA PGR Rep
PGRs have representation with Aberdeen University Students’ Association. Your rep for this academic year is Daniel Cutts, who says:
It is a privilege to have been elected to represent my fellow graduate students for which you have my thanks. I am here to help. Please contact me with any issues that you feel I could be of assistance with. I understand how challenging the situation we are currently in is for many of us; however, it is by working together and being open about the problems that we face which will allow us to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Please do not hesitate to contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the school-based PGR representatives and we will strive to ensure that your comments and suggestions are heard.
As well as your official AUSA rep, each School has a PGR rep, recruited by the School, to sit on the PGR Committee on a rotational basis. Find out more about your school rep.
In the 2022-23 academic year, School reps are scheduled as follows:
- Business School: Pending update
- School of Biological Sciences: Victoria Gillman and Lucy Henshall
- School of Divinity, History and Philosophy: Kelly McRae, Sava Ristic and Grace Whitcombe
- School of Education: Louise Haynes and Suzanne McDonald
- School of Engineering : Mohsen Laleparvar
- School of Geosciences: Pending update
- School of Language, Literature, Music & Visual Culture: Aizhan Amangazina and Gulshat Tussupova
- School of Law: Tom Lawrie
- School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition: Pending update
- School of Natural and Computing Sciences: Pending update
- School of Psychology: Sanni Ahonen
- School of Social Science: Sarah Hiepler
- Essential PGR Contacts
Please see the Key Contacts page in the PGR handbook for more information.