Progress concerns and Faculty Student Review
If a student’s progress is poor, departments should initially take action to identify why this is the case and whether any additional support or guidance is required and can be offered, either by the academic department or by other support services. Poor academic progress can sometimes signify underlying problems that might best be dealt with by the student taking a period of leave of absence. For example, the student may be struggling with personal, medical or financial difficulties that are affecting their concentration and impeding their progress. An approved break from studies may enable the student to recover and/or deal with the cause of the difficulties.
If a department has explored options for additional support and still has sustained concerns about the academic progress of a research student they should discuss these concerns at an early stage with the student and should seek ways to address the situation. If the student is still at an early stage in their degree any concerns may be addressed by the Confirmation Review process, which is intended to confirm a student’s potential for doctoral-level study. A student who fails to demonstrate sufficient progress and potential for doctoral level research at their Confirmation Review will be downgraded to MPhil. This reinforces the need for Confirmation Reviews to take place within the University’s required timescale (see ’Confirmation Review’ section).
If the department has tried to engage the student in improving their progress and there is still no improvement, the matter should be referred to the relevant faculty. This can be done in several ways. Lack of attendance and/or engagement should be flagged via the Student Engagement Monitoring checkpoints, which occur three times per year. Concerns that are raised in this way will be followed up by Research Services and may lead to a student being sent a faculty warning letter and/or being asked to meet with the Faculty Officer to explain the reasons for their lack of progress. Where a department has completely lost contact with a student this may lead to the student being deemed withdrawn.
If this still does not result in an improvement in the student’s performance, an academic department may request a formal review of a student’s academic progress, on certain grounds which are specified in the University Regulations as to Progress of Students. This is a formal process designed to determine whether or not a student should be permitted to continue their programme of research, and if so, on what terms. Such decisions are taken at faculty level following a thorough review of the student’s progress, at which the student and department are usually present.
Departments should note that they can report a student for unsatisfactory progress under the Progress of Students Regulations at any point in the year and not just following an engagement checkpoint. However, it is expected that the department will have already raised any progress concerns with the student before progressing the matter to the faculty. Departments should contact their Faculty Administrator in Research Services for further guidance.
Departments will assess students’ attendance and engagement with their programmes of research at various points throughout the year. The monitoring is carried out using systems that have been developed by the University specifically to help departments identify and support students who are having difficulty with their study programme. Information about how individual departments will carry out attendance monitoring and how they will use this information is normally included in departmental student handbooks.
If departments have any concerns regarding the attendance or engagement of their students they should consider what appropriate follow-up action is required to address their concerns. Departments are advised to seek guidance from their faculty administrator in Research Services, who will advise on the available options.