Expectations within the submission pending period
Guidance on the level of access students can expect to have to research facilities and supervision during the submission pending period. Information on how to apply to continue core research activities in the submission pending period.
This guidance outlines the level of access students can expect to have to research facilities and supervision during the submission pending period, to clarify and manage the expectations of students and supervisors and to ensure a consistent approach.
What is the submission pending period?
The submission pending period (previously known as the continuation or writing up period) refers to the time between the end of a student’s tuition fee-paying period of registration (which is between 3-4 years, depending on the research project and amount of additional training required) and their time limit (which is normally 4 years for a full-time PhD). Most funded students will only receive a stipend during their tuition fee-paying period; therefore, students are often unfunded during their submission pending period.
During the submission pending period, students no longer pay tuition fees, but are required to pay a smaller submission pending fee on a pro rata basis up to the submission of their thesis (£480 p/a, or £40 p/m in 2022/23).
Principles of the submission pending period
Students’ research projects should be designed so that they are able to undertake all their active/core research during their tuition fee-paying period, as well as writing up their research as they progress. By the time they reach the submission pending period, if they have not already submitted, they should only be engaged in completing the writing and final preparation of their thesis for submission.
The submission pending period should not be used for the completion of stand-alone publications, or for undertaking other work that is not directly related to the completion and submission of the thesis, for example teaching. Most students will no longer be funded by this stage; therefore the emphasis should be on completing and submitting their thesis as soon as possible. Where students were intending to write papers for publication, they should be made aware that these can be incorporated into their thesis without having to be rewritten and the thesis can be submitted as a publication format thesis.
The University has agreed the following principles around expectations for the submission pending period.
- Students will continue to be entitled to supervision in line with the expectations of the Code of Practice, i.e. a minimum of one formal supervisory meeting every 4-6 weeks for a full-time student (pro rata for part-time students). This is to ensure that students receive the guidance and support they require during the final stages of completing their thesis and to assist departments in monitoring progress and ensuring that the student is on course to submit before their time limit.
- Students will continue to have full access to University IT and library resources throughout the submission pending period.
- Students should not normally undertake any active/core research (e.g. lab work, experiments, fieldwork, archival research, primary data collection and analysis) during the submission pending period. If further active/core research is required during this period, this should only be permitted on a time-limited basis (see point 5. below).
- Students should not normally undertake any further academic modules or formal training for the purposes of completing the Doctoral Development Programme. Any further essential training required must be specifically approved by the supervisor, and directly contribute towards the completion of the thesis.
- Where further research and access to research facilities is required during the submission pending period, a case must be put forward by the supervisors for approval by the Head of Department, or their delegate, e.g. the PGR Lead or an appropriate departmental committee. Requests for continued access to active/core research facilities will be considered against university-wide criteria (see ‘Requests to continue active/core research within the submission pending period’).
- Departments should ensure that students’ progress is carefully monitored from the start of the programme of research, and that milestones, such as the Confirmation Review, Submission Review, and regular six-monthly progress reviews, are effectively used throughout to ensure that they are on track to submit within their tuition fee-paying period. Students should also be strongly encouraged to write up their research as they proceed, and not to leave this to the end.
- Where students are unable to engage effectively with their programme of study they should be supported to apply for a period of leave of absence so as not to lose valuable research time. A change to part-time candidature may also be considered appropriate, although this would need to take account of sponsor and regulatory requirements, e.g. it would not be permitted for visa-sponsored students.
- The University should continue to work towards the aim that all funded students are funded for the appropriate length of time required for them to undertake their research project and associated training, and to submit their thesis in this funded period.
Requests for students to continue to make use of active/core research facilities, on a time-limited basis, where this is deemed essential to a successful thesis submission must be considered and approved at departmental level.
The process of identifying which students may require continued access to active/core research facilities should be considered during supervision and will be formally reviewed during the Submission Review process, which will be used to explore potential remedial or mitigatory actions to try to avoid students entering the submission pending period with outstanding active/core research. Students who are identified at Submission Review as being at risk of not completing their active/core research by the end of their tuition fee-paying period will be flagged at this stage and required to proceed to a second stage no later than three months prior to the end of their tuition fee-paying period, at which point they will make a formal application for continued access to active/core research facilities using the 'Application for continued research in the submission pending period' form. As part of this process, students and supervisors will be asked to provide information on why the active/core research has not yet been completed, why the work is necessary for the thesis submission, and what the plan and timescale is for completion of that work.
Requests for continued access will be considered by the Head of Department, or their delegate, e.g. the PGR Lead or appropriate departmental committee, in the first instance, and continued access may be refused in circumstances where they do not feel the student’s needs align with university-wide criteria. Faculty will oversee this process and provide support to departments. Requests will be considered against criteria such as the following (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Extending the core/active period of research will not interfere with the student’s ability to submit within their current time limit, i.e. without requiring a time limit extension, and there is sufficient evidence of progress towards writing the thesis to support this assessment.
- Not granting the student continued access to undertake active/core research will compromise their ability to submit a thesis that meets doctoral standards, bearing in mind the onus on quality, not quantity. See QAA guidance.
- If the student is coming to the imminent end of a programme of experimental work.
- If the extra access is needed due to facilities being closed for reasons outside the student’s control, e.g. during the covid-19 pandemic.
The following are examples of reasons that would not normally be considered good reasons to extend access:
- Where the delays are due to students undertaking activities that are not directly related to the completion of their thesis.
- To enable the student to undertake non-research activities such as teaching or conference attendance.
- Where delays were encountered earlier in the research that should have resulted in an LOA, but one was not taken (e.g. lack of access to essential facilities, personal circumstances). It is acknowledged, however, that visa-sponsored students face restrictions on the amount of LOA that they can take without their visa being curtailed, and that this can sometimes prohibit them from applying for lengthy periods of LOA for practical or financial reasons.
- To start a new programme of experimental work.
Any future Time Limit Extension sought where non-essential research or non-essential activity has been undertaken in the submission pending period is unlikely to be approved.