Research guidance

We’re continuing to support research and innovation.


Guidance on carrying out research

Wherever possible you should work from home if you can.

Research students who need access to laboratories or other facilities to undertake research and innovation, or to provide essential support to research and innovation, can continue to travel to campus to undertake this work.

Please continue to follow the guidance from your department on accessing research facilities at the University and seek advice from your supervisor.

On-campus study spaces also remain open for those who need to use them. You should only access study space if it is essential, for example if you do not have a study space or access to necessary IT equipment at home.

You are expected to wear a face mask and maintain social distancing rules at all times in any University indoor space, unless you qualify for a medical exemption.

Safety guidance

Financial support for doctoral students

Support for students funded by the University or UKRI

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has made additional funds available to students who were unable to apply for the first round of stipend extensions, which applied to funded doctoral students with a funding end date between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

If your funding end date is before 31 March 2021, all funding decisions will have now been made, following the application process last year.  

The funding particularly aims to support students who have recently gone into their final year of study (funding end date before or on 30 September 2021) and those with ongoing support needs. Students with ongoing support needs include disabled students, students with a long-term illness, those who are neurodivergent or those with caring responsibilities.

UKRI is strongly advising all funded students to speak to their supervisor about adjusting projects to complete a doctoral-level qualification within their funded period. 

Read the UKRI guidance: doctoral students advised to adjust projects for Covid-19 

Students funded by UKRI and students funded by the University will be considered on the same basis of needs-priority as outlined above.

At the University of Sheffield, we will again extend the UKRI scheme to doctoral students we fund, who are in receipt of a full or part stipend from the University, and whose funding end date is after 31 March 2021.

We will also extend the opportunity to apply for an extension to your tuition-fee paying period without incurring further fees to self-funded students whose tuition-fee paying period is after 31 March 2021.

The process for students who are funded by the UKRI and the University of Sheffield to make applications to phase two of the stipend extension scheme has now been approved and launched with a closing date of 5pm on 25 January 2021. Emails have been sent out from Faculty Graduate Schools to eligible students with information about eligibility criteria and a link to the phase two stipend extensions Google form for applications.

Support for externally-sponsored students

Unfortunately, the University is unable to extend financial support to students who are sponsored by other funders. We are, however, actively discussing with other funders whether and how they might provide funded extensions to their students.

If you are funded by a source other than the University/UKRI, you should contact your sponsor to seek guidance regarding extended funding. Your supervisor may be able to assist you in discussions with your sponsor. In addition, it has been agreed to establish a ring-fenced hardship fund for all postgraduate research students who are currently experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic.

Covid-19 support fund

If you're facing additional costs or a significant reduction in income because of the Covid-19 pandemic you can apply for support from the University. All registered students are eligible to apply.

Apply for the Student Covid-19 Support Fund

Changes to planned research

The aims of a doctoral thesis are to make an original contribution to knowledge and demonstrate that its author has gained the necessary knowledge of the discipline as well as technical ability to become an independent researcher.

With this in mind, the emphasis should always be on quality and not quantity. The limitations brought by the Covid 19 global pandemic have exacerbated the need to focus on these elements. UKRI has recently issued guidance advising students to adjust their projects to complete a doctoral-level qualification within the funded period.

UKRI guidance: doctoral students advised to adjust projects for Covid-19

The Quality Assurance Agency has also published guidance for students and supervisors on doctoral standards in the light of Covid-19.

Similarly, we have issued guidance indicating that it is acceptable to amend projects to suit current circumstances, even though they may be rather different to what was initially planned. The pandemic has changed ways of working throughout the globe, and adjustments to postgraduate research projects are just a part of it.

You will be given the option to provide information to examiners on the impact coronavirus has had on their projects. Examiners, in turn, will be reminded of the University guidance that "judgement of the thesis should be based on what may reasonably be expected of a diligent and capable candidate after completion of the prescribed period of research and with due regard to the University’s criteria for the award of the degree".

Download Covid impact form (Word, 16KB)

Oral exams

Oral examinations (vivas) continue to be conducted remotely in most cases.

Read our guidance on oral examinations (vivas)

You can request that a viva examination takes place in person but this will require agreement from all parties and approval from the relevant faculty, and must also be in line with government guidance. You may wish to describe, in the relevant thesis chapter, the changes to your programme and result of those changes.

Extensions to your time limit

All students are encouraged to submit within their original time limit wherever possible. However, we recognise that this may not be possible under current circumstances and therefore time limit extension requests as a result of delays caused by the pandemic will be considered sympathetically.

You may apply for a time limit extension, in line with normal procedures, which should be made no earlier than three months prior to your time limit. A monthly extension fee is normally payable.

How to apply for a time limit extension

Holiday entitlement

You are entitled to take annual leave each year and the University's guidance follows the UK Research Councils' guidance, which is 30 days.

Leave of absence

Some postgraduate research students will have additional childcare commitments or other caring responsibilities at the present time. There are a range of flexibilities which can be explored, including annual leave, changing candidature to part-time, pro-rata leave of absence. If your funder allows these flexibilities, we will work with you to help you balance your home and study commitments.

If, after you have considered your options and had a discussion with your supervisor and, where relevant, your sponsor, you would prefer to take a break from your studies, you can apply for a leave of absence from your degree.

Postgraduate research leave of absence

Support – get in touch

Our extensive range of support services for students are all available online.