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 Lorna 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?
Six-monthly reviews occur, as the name suggests, every six months from your start date. The form will be sent to you by the PGR School Engagement team and you should complete the form within one month.
You should treat this like the reviews 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 will 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 a section where you can request the Engagement team to contact you further to discuss anything you do not feel comfortable including in the form. You are also welcome to contact 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:
1. Satisfactory: proceed to next academic year
2. 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
3. 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
4. Amend the supervisory team to provide additional technical/academic expertise
5. 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)
6. 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.
- Your PGR Community
Shut-up and Write
The PGR School launched Shut-up and Write groups in August 2019. Participants come together to write without interruptions and distractions for a fixed amount of time. No use of mobile phones or Internet is allowed. Participants share their writing goals at the beginning of each session (5-10 minutes), and report on their progress at the end of the session (10-15 minutes). People are also encouraged to share any concerns or advice around academic writing. Each session has a facilitator who provides guidance and ensures discipline.
Participants should come to the session with a precise writing task (eg to write an abstract for a conference or to draft an introduction to a chapter). It is also helpful to set yourself a goal of how many words you are expecting to produce during the session. One of the ideas behind Shut-up and Write is to understand and improve one’s writing productivity. Another goal is to experience writing as a social process, by sharing with others your goals, concerns and writing tips.
On-campus sessions take place 1400-1600: every first and third Wednesday in the PGR Writing Room at Crombie Hall; every second and fourth Thursday at Foresterhill (usually in the Suttie Centre). Please do consider going to a different campus, even if you’re not usually based there. We also have virtual sessions for our part-time and distance students. You can sign-up for sessions at www.abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking.
Silent reading groups will be launching in late 2019/early 2020. These will run twice monthly, one session in Old Aberdeen and one at Foresterhill. This is a chance to undertake an activity with others which can often be solitary. Set aside time with no distractions to come with a defined reading schedule and then feel free to discuss your goals with other PGRs.
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.
We encourage discussion on all aspects of qualitative research, provide peer support and networking opportunities, offer informative sessions, and learn more about qualitative research in an informal environment. We also provide a drop-in space for troubleshooting and informal support with research-related questions.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Each month, the PGR School issues a newsletter to current students. This will keep you up-to-date on events taking place in the PGR School and across the campuses, as well as letting you know about training opportunities, stories from our PGR community and much more.
Part-time and distance students
Our part-time and distance students are a valued part of our PGR community. Some PGRs have developed their own networks to help to build a sense of community. Please get in touch with the PGR School if you would like to explore this further.
The University’s Student Advice & Support team has put together some information for students who are parents who are parents which we hope will be helpful for you. The University also has a Parents’ Network which you would be very welcome to join. Please get in touch with Dr Clémence O’Connor for more information.
- Supporting You in Your Research
Check out our Wellbeing Toolkit which includes information on how you can connect with others during the break.
If you find yourself impacted by coronavirus, please contact email@example.com You can also find out more about the support available at https://www.abdn.ac.uk/students/support/isolation-toolkit.php
Please remember to follow the Scottish Government guidance, to keep you and those around you as safe as possible.
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.
Shut Up and Write
Academic writing doesn’t have to be lonely – join Shut Up and Write for PhDs to experience writing as a social process. You can work on anything you wish in these sessions, you can focus on an abstract, a manuscript, data analysis or even use it to create images for your thesis – the time is yours! Sessions are weekly on Tuesdays at 1100-1300, sign up through the course booking system.
Silent Reading Groups
Grab a coffee, your text and join our silent reading group. You can share with the group what you are reading, but there is no expectation to. If you just want to have some company while you read, that’s absolutely fine. Join us online every Thursday at 1500-1600, sign up through the course booking system.
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
The Counselling Service has a range of excellent resources and self-help guides which you can explore at your own pace
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 along with Student Advice & Support for our PGR students. During lockdown, these will take place via Teams which is why we now need to ask you to sign up for a time in advance.
These 20-minute sessions provide 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.
Slots are available on Tuesdays 1400-1600:
Sign up on course booking at https://www.abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking/
Look after Your Mate
The engagement team run Look After Your Mate workshops, developed by the student mental health charity Student Minds, throughout the academic year. These workshops are designed to give you the necessary tips and tools to support a friend in need and are a great way to help build your PGR community. You can sign up for the workshop via the course booking site at www.abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking.
Resilience in Research
Nic Stokes in the engagement team offers a half-day workshop on building resilience in research based on material developed by Sandra Oza and Janet Wilkinson at the University of Dundee. You can sign up for the workshop via the course booking site at www.abdn.ac.uk/coursebooking.
PGRs have access to the University’s team of staff wellbeing coordinators. The wellbeing coordinators can provide support to staff for a range of issues, as well as signposting on to other sources of support. Please note that the wellbeing coordinators are specially trained members of staff but are not counsellors, mediators or mental health experts. You can find out more about this service on the working here pages.
- 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 in one of the following categories:
• Establish, develop or support networks which cross discipline boundaries
• Run a professional development activity or event which supports the development of leadership, communication, networking, writing and/or other transferable skills within or across disciplines
• Organise an activity or event which allows participants to explore the potential impact of their research
• Organise an event which allows researchers to engage with industry*
*Industry is defined broadly, as organisations which are not in the public sector.
Applications should be in the region of £250-£400. All activities should have a clear benefit to postgraduate researchers within the University. Proposals should have realistic and achievable goals, and a clear budget which demonstrates value for money and reflects the cost of the activity proposed.
Who can apply?
University of Aberdeen postgraduate research students are eligible to apply to this scheme.
The application should be made by a team of at least two people. The lead applicant must be registered at the University of Aberdeen for the duration of the project.
Each application needs one lead applicant. This person will be the main point of contact and will responsible for overseeing the budget and submitting the evaluation form and financial summary at the end of the project.
You can apply for funding for:
Venue hire (if University rooms are not appropriate or available)
Expenses for a speaker or tutor
Small prizes for competitions or thank you gifts
What we don’t fund:
Individual conference travel, accommodation and registration fees
Direct financial assistance to individuals
Events for which funding is available elsewhere
Hardware, software or other design, art, lab and technical materials that your School would normally be expected to purchase as part of their ongoing budgets
Reimbursement of University of Aberdeen student/staff time
How to apply
Complete the application form - The next funding round will open on 04 February 2020 and close on 06 March at 5pm.
- Email to: email@example.com
For informal enquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications to the RLI fund will be reviewed by a panel of academic staff and PGR School representatives. Decisions will be communicated by 16 March 2020.
- 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 email@example.com 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 2020-21 academic year, School reps are scheduled as follows:
Business School: Isaac Adebiyi
School of Biological Sciences: Tanja Schwank
School of Divinity, History and Philosophy: Ben Whitlock, Emily Stevens, John Conway
School of Education:
School of Engineering : Mohsen Laleparvar
School of Geosciences: Alexander O'Donnell
School of Language, Literature, Music & Visual Culture: Maxwell Donaldson
School of Law: Azubuike Ozah
School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition: Ajay Iyer &Inga Schmidt
School of Natural and Computing Sciences: Federica Casolari
School of Psychology: Ana Rozman
School of Social Science: Sarah Hiepler
- Essential PGR Contacts
Please see the Key Contacts page in the PGR handbook for more information.