Dear PGR students,
You will recall from the launch of the Minimising impact of Covid-19 on Research Degrees policy in June 2020 that we initially gathered information on disruption caused by COVID-19 from PGR students in their final year, with an end date before March 31st 2021. We recognised that students with original submission dates later than 31st March 2021 may also have faced significant disruption to their research progression. As indicated at that time, we intended to collect information later in the year from PGR students at these earlier stages (survey 2) who have also faced disruption due to COVID-19. The ongoing disruption to our normal ways of working has lasted longer than many of us anticipated and so it is only now that it feels timely to collect this information for the next group of PGR students – those with an original end date between 01 April 2021 and 30th Sept 2021. A third survey (survey 3) will take place next year towards the summer assessing those students who have submission dates on or after 1st Oct 2021. PGR students in this third survey have more time to fully assess the effects of disruption on their research projects and this will provide us with a fuller picture of the extent of any delays.
Please note: if you are funded by UKRI (AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC or NERC) we ask that you do not complete this survey. If you have not done so already, you should discuss with your supervisor what, if anything, can be done to adapt your project to ensure it can be completed within the funded period. UKRI acknowledge that adaption and mitigation may not always be possible and that additional support may be required for some students to complete their research project within their funding period. In the first instance, you should contact your supervisor/training grant holder to discuss the possibility of a funded extension from underspend on the training grant. Where this is not possible, you will be able to apply for UKRI Phase 2 extension funding in early 2021.
Through this second survey, as in the first survey, our guiding principles are drawn from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and are to provide support for students to complete their thesis to a doctoral level. In identifying appropriate support, students will be treated fairly, inclusively and consideration of personal circumstances will be made. It is our aim to achieve an appropriate balance between supporting our students while maintaining the integrity of a University of Aberdeen research degree award.
To this end, the University has identified limited funding which can be used to provide financial support to some PGR students (not funded by UKRI) who face significant and on-going disruption of their research due COVID-19. If you are UKRI-funded, you will have been contacted by your training partnership and your situation will be surveyed separately, as requested by UKRI. We cannot guarantee availability of funding, but we will review each response on a case by case basis as in survey 1 to identify those with exceptional and unavoidable delays where mitigating actions have not been possible. This information will also help inform any future extension requests and identify specific support requirements. The PGR School will continue to provide as much as support as possible throughout your remaining PhD journey. Unfortunately, it is likely that most projects will require adaptation and both supervisors and PGR students may have to manage expectations around those changes.
This survey should be completed by PGR students with an original end date between 1 April 2021 and 30th Sept 2021 and who are not already in a period of extension or who have already received a funded extension. You should use this survey to outline if and/or how COVID -19 has disrupted your research and to describe the mitigations you have put in place to minimise these impacts. If mitigating actions are possible but have not been used to prepare a revised research plan, it is unlikely any funded extension requests will be approved.
We are also very aware of the uncertainty COVID-19 is causing in relation to the preparation of your thesis and the impact on the examination of that thesis. For this reason we are capturing this information from you also. In due course, we hope that a sector-wide response will be developed to provide guidance for the preparation of theses affected by COVID-19 disruption but regardless we intend to develop a University policy. In addition, this will include guidance to thesis examiners. I know that this has been an area of concern for many PGR students.
The deadline for submission is 08 January 2021 (11.59pm). We will be back in touch as quickly as we can once the data has been analysed.
If you need support or simply to talk to someone there is still a range of information on our Engagement pages. The PGR School have in place a range of opportunities for you to meet other research students including weekly Shut Up & Write or Silent Reading sessions, fortnightly drop-in sessions and a comprehensive training and development programme. The Student Advice & Support office is still operating, as well as chaplaincy if you would like to talk with someone or attend their weekly PGR coffee morning. Remember too that the counselling service has a wide range of self-help guides, links to apps, online resources and support for mental health and wellbeing.
In the meantime, please do keep talking to your supervisor(s) to review and re-orient your project. I want to thank you for your resilience during this challenging time, you should be immensely proud of how you, as a research community of PGR students, have responded to so much ongoing uncertainty. I hope that you will take the time to have a break over the winter holiday.
Professor Graeme Nixon
Dean for Postgraduate Research