Postgraduate researcher FAQs

Updated 12 April 2021

Research study and progression arrangements

Wellbeing and support

Suspensions and extensions

Thesis examination

Can I access campus?

Up to date information can be found on our campus service updates webpage.

Do I need to be in Leeds?

Postgraduate researchers (PGRs) are asked to work from home whenever possible. However, for some PGRs, access to research facilities is needed to progress with work. These access arrangements will be managed by academic schools.

If you are in your overtime period you will not be required to return to Leeds during the 2020/21 academic year, unless you wish to return and you are able to do so.

Should I be having supervision meetings and how?

Yes, please continue to have regular meetings with your supervisor/s and record the meeting notes in GRAD as usual. You should continue to record in your meeting notes any impact on your research plans or progress. Unless it is absolutely necessary for meetings to take place in person, they should happen online or by telephone.

I am an International PGR with a Tier 4 visa, is there anything else that I need to do?

If you are in your standard period of study, and your particular research project can be carried out remotely, we will support you to continue your research degree remotely during the 2020/21 session, provided that you intend to return to Leeds to complete your research degree studies as soon as circumstances allow.

If you are in your overtime period there is no requirement for you to remain in the UK. You will not be required to return to Leeds unless you wish to return and you are able to do so. If you will not be returning to the UK (for example if you will be submitting your thesis and taking your viva remotely), we may not be able to continue to sponsor you under Student/Tier 4. Please contact the International Student advice team using your full name and student ID in any correspondence.

If you will be continuing your research remotely for the time being, or returning home in your overtime period, you will need to complete a ‘Change of Study Location’ workflow in GRAD.  This is so that the Graduate School knows where you are based and can support you during this period.

Please see our visas and travel pages for further advice.

Can I amend my research project / timetable / plans?

Adjustments to individual research projects and plans can be supported to enable you to complete to your original (or an adjusted) timetable. This may include changes to the methodology, experimental design, plans for data collection, or refining the scope or the emphasis of the original project. You should discuss with your supervisor/s or Graduate School for further advice and support.

If you do need to adapt your research project, you can submit a COVID-19 impact statement alongside your thesis. This impact statement will be shared with your examiners. Please see our guide to the thesis examination process for further advice.

I have my First Formal Progress Review or Annual Progress Monitoring meeting coming up, how should I proceed?

First Formal Progress Reviews and Annual Progress Reviews are continuing as normal. Please contact your Graduate School if you feel that your progress has been affected by the current situation, and they will be able to advise you on how we can best support you.

You will be able to record any impacts on your research plans as part of your progress review form in GRAD. These review points will provide an important opportunity for you to discuss adjustments, contingency plans or other action that might be needed.

I have my Transfer viva coming up, how should I proceed?

We are expecting Transfer vivas to go ahead via video streaming wherever possible.  The policy on video streaming is available online.

We do not recommend delaying Transfer unless this is really necessary, but we acknowledge that some flexibility over both timing and the quantity of work submitted will need to be applied.  You will be able to record any impacts on your work as part of your progress review form in GRAD.

Please contact your Graduate School if you have difficulties with this or if you feel that your progress has been significantly affected by the current situation, and they will be able to advise you on how we can best support you (for example, by considering a delay to the date of the Transfer viva).

If you are disabled and you think that you need any reasonable adjustments or additional support to undertake your Transfer viva, please contact Disability Services who will be able to help you.

Where can I find more advice and support if I need it?

We are doing all we can to support you as effectively as we can. Your Graduate School should be your first point of contact for any PGR-related issues, and you can also talk to your supervisor or Director of PGR Studies. You can contact the Doctoral College and we will be able to put you in touch with the best person to answer your query if you are unsure where to go. The following sites may also be helpful:

What should I do if I become unwell with COVID-19?

Find out what to do if you have symptoms, test positive, or are required to self-isolate. You can also find out about support you can get. If you are unwell, we do not expect you to continue to progress your research or continue with supervision meetings, but please complete the ‘Authorised Absence’ workflow in GRAD to inform your Graduate School of your absence. You can find this under the Change Request menu on the right hand side of your GRAD record.

If you need to self-isolate, but feel able to continue with your research, you do not need to complete the authorised absence workflow, but you should let your Graduate School know if you need support.

What if I prefer to suspend my studies at the present time?

As is normally the case, you may choose to suspend from study for family reasons/special circumstances for up to a 12-month period, or if you are unable to progress your research at this time due to access to the resources you need or travel or other restrictions. You can apply for a suspension via GRAD (using the suspension/extension workflow under the change request menu). Please contact your Graduate School for advice if needed. They will also be able to advise on how this would affect your funding or Tier 4 visa if this applies to you.

It may also be possible to arrange a short, authorised absence from your studies. Please contact your Graduate School for advice if needed.

My work has been delayed due to the measures applied during the coronavirus pandemic. Can I apply for an extension?

Yes. Extension requests agreed between PGRs and supervisors and/or Directors of Postgraduate Research Studies will be approved when work has been affected by COVID-19. No additional fees are charged for a period of extension.

We accept extension requests within six months of the end of your standard period of study (for example in the last six months of your third year of full-time study, as stated in GRAD under the “Expected thesis submission date” field) as this will mean you will be in a good position to fully assess disruption, the amount of time lost and the length of extension required. This is a change in practice – previously we only accepted them within three months of the end of your standard period of study.

We have made it as easy as possible for a COVID-19 extension to be given, and the following light-touch arrangements are in place:

You can make your extension request earlier than normal under University policy (in the last 6 months of your standard period of study).

  • You can make your extension request earlier than normal under University policy (in the last 6 months of your standard period of study).
  • You only need to provide a very brief summary (1 or 2 lines) of the reasons for the extension and confirm the period of time needed so that we can better understand what support you might need.
  • You will not need to provide any additional documentary evidence in support of a COVID-19 extension request.
  • These arrangements will remain in place for any PGR who has been registered for study during the time of the pandemic.
  • Any COVID-19 suspension or extension which is approved will not count towards the maximum period of suspension or extension normally permitted under University regulations (24 months for full-time PGRs, 36 months for part-time).
  • If you would prefer not to document personal information into the GRAD workflow please contact your Graduate School, who can help with applying outside GRAD.

It is still our preferred approach that you wait until the final six months of your standard period of study to request an extension as by this point you will be in a much better position to assess the impact of COVID-19 on your project and timetable, and the amount of time needed to complete. However, if you wish to flag that you anticipate that an extension will be needed you can do this at any stage via GRAD. Contact your Graduate School if you need advice on how to do this.

You should continue to discuss with your supervisor/s any difficulties and disruption caused by the pandemic, and keep a record of this in your GRAD supervision meeting records. Keeping a log of issues and lost time in this way will make it easier when you come to make any extension request.

Why are blanket extensions not being given?

We want to ensure that there is no detriment to you in terms of the time you have available to complete and submit your thesis, but it is not possible to have a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Our approach seeks to be sensitive to this and to recognise the broad range of academic and personal impacts on individual PGRs and their projects. For this reason we are not putting in place blanket extensions of a pre-determined length for all PGRs. Instead, we will approve all requests which have been agreed with your Supervisor/s. We want to give you the length of extension you and your Supervisor have assessed is needed, based on how you and your project were affected by the pandemic, whether this is fairly short or for a much longer period of time. Please see the previous FAQ for more detailed advice.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, I am likely to need to go into my ‘overtime’ year. Will I have to pay a fee for this?

In recognition of the potential disturbance to the usual timelines for PGR study caused by the current situation, we have decided to waive the overtime year fee for all PGRs whose overtime year fee would normally be due at any point up to 30 September 2021. You do not need to apply for this fee waiver: it will be applied automatically, but due to the way that our systems work, it will appear on your record as a scholarship to cover the amount of the fee charged.

I was not eligible for a funded extension. Will the University be able to help me further?

The University’s Hardship Fund is available if you find yourself in financial difficulty. Please remember that this fund is available to PGRs and you should seek advice from the specialist teams before deciding that you are not eligible for it.

How can I submit my thesis? Will I need to submit a printed copy?

Thesis submission is now online only. Theses should be submitted via GRAD as a PDF; bound hard copies are not required. The date of submission will be recorded as the date that the PDF was uploaded to GRAD. Your Graduate School can provide advice and support if needed.

The University has also withdrawn the requirement to submit a hard bound copy of your final, corrected thesis for the award of your degree. You only need to upload a PDF copy of your thesis to White Rose Etheses Online. This can be carried out remotely.

I have my final viva coming up, how should I proceed?

At the current time, the expectation is that the majority of final vivas will continue to be held by video-streaming. The policy on video streaming is available to download.

You can find further information about the viva process in our Guide to the Thesis Examination Process. A range of support is also available in the Doctoral College Minerva organisation.  Organisational Development and Professional Learning (OD&PL) are also offering mock video streamed vivas for those with upcoming vivas which will allow you to explore the video streaming environment and try out some general viva questions in a mock set up. If you are interested, please contact Dr Tony Bromley by email:

If you are disabled and you think that you need any reasonable adjustments or additional support to undertake your final viva, please contact Disability Services who will be able to help you.

We are aware that some PGRs may need to arrange to be on-campus for their viva due to the nature of their research. Please contact your Graduate School so arrangements can be considered if this is applicable to you. It may not be possible to accommodate all requests for on-campus vivas, and they must be considered on a case by case basis and in accordance with local and national guidelines in place at the proposed time.

Can I inform my examiners about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on my thesis or my research plans?

Yes. We recognise that in some cases your research plans, and your thesis submission, may have to change from what you originally intended.

You can submit an impact statement alongside your thesis which discusses any impacts of COVID-19 on your research plans, and the choices made to respond to this. A template is available for this, which you can upload to GRAD alongside your thesis submission. Please see our guide to the thesis examination process for further advice. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has produced advice on Doctoral Standards for Research Students and Supervisors which you may also find helpful.

The impact statement will be sent to your examiners with your thesis for examination.

A discussion of the impact may also be incorporated into the thesis, if appropriate. Your supervisor/s will be best placed to advise you on the most appropriate location and form for this discussion.

What is happening about graduation?

Please check our student FAQs for further information.