Coronavirus information for PhD students

This page has been compiled by the Doctoral Academy Oversight Group, and attempts to answer a number of questions with regard to PGR studies in relation to COVID-19. Many of the responses do indicate that the answer will need to be tackled on a case by case basis. With this in mind, please consult PGR Supervisors, PGR Directors / Coordinators, and departmental PG Administrators in the first instance.

The Q&As will be updated as and when further information becomes available.

Any comments or questions can be directed to the Doctoral Academy. Please keep in mind that we are all working in unchartered territory at the moment, and absolute clarity on some issues may not yet be possible.

Professor Chris Edwards
Director of the Doctoral Academy

Dr Debbie Costain
Associate Dean for Postgraduate Studies, FST

Staying in touch

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  • Should I be working at home?

    Yes. The Bailrigg campus is providing a ‘remote and reduced’ operating model for accessing essential services and facilities on campus for those living on campus. Most other staff will be working from home, and we encourage PhD students to do the same. The Storey Institute in Lancaster City Centre is closed until further notice.

  • Should I continue to meet with my supervisor?

    Yes. As the University is attempting to limit in person interaction, supervision meetings should be held using the digital platform preferred by you and your supervisor until further notice. Microsoft Teams is the default platform used at Lancaster University. If the availability of technology is limited, meetings can if necessary be held by telephone.

  • Should I log that the meeting has taken place?

    Yes. Given the challenging circumstances, it is more important than ever that there is a record of the meetings that have taken place. Please ensure that all meetings are logged using the PGR Records system on Moodle. 

Vivas and assessment

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  • Will my appraisal panel still take place?

    Yes. The University is attempting to operate as close as is possible to ‘business as usual’, but with most staff working from home. Appraisal panels will be conducted online, using a digital platform such as MS Teams (departments may choose to use an alternative platform). However, timings may invariably change. If you believe that you are getting to the stage where an appraisal is overdue, please contact your PGR Administrator and / or PGR Director / Coordinator.

  • My PhD viva is not far off, will it still take place?

    Yes. Our regulations support vivas being conducted online (as a result of supporting many hundreds of online PhD students). The normal model is that we would try to avoid those involved in the viva being in more than two locations at once. However, this will likely be unavoidable during the COVID-19 outbreak. We, therefore, ask that on any written records of the viva it is made clear both how the viva was conducted, and why it was conducted in that way. As per standard University guidance, the viva should either be recorded, or there should be an independent chair. We are close to finalising formal changes to the University Academic Regulations with regard to online vivas, and will be issuing accompanying guidelines shortly.

  • Prior to my viva, do I still need to submit soft copies of the thesis?

    The submission of soft copies is very much for the convenience of the examiners, so if agreed by the examiners we are able to allow electronic only submission. Don’t forget however that you may want your own soft copy for use both before and during the viva.

  • After my viva, do I still need to get a hard copy of my thesis made?

    No. The University regulations have been temporarily amended such that hard copies will not be required. The final submission should only be made electronically.

  • I’m not confident using online platforms such as MS Teams. Is there any training available?

    Yes. ISS have a range of online resources and training available that you will find on the University ISS IT Training web pages. You can register for a Teams webinar or access the Communication and collaboration with Microsoft Teams online course at any time.

Extensions

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Research

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  • My PhD requires specialist research labs. Are they currently closed?

    Yes. Most buildings and research labs are closed to access under the Universities `reduced and remote’ operating model. We are managing critical systems, high risk research and equipment and supporting `critical’ lab work, in the current national / international interest.

    You should discuss your research activity with your supervisor. We would hope that discussions may also help to identify other, less specialist resource-intensive, elements of your research that could be tackled during this challenging period, including secondary research methods and research writing.

  • Can I have access to labs if I socially distance?

    No. Since the 23rd March 2020 theUniversity has implemented a `reduced and remote’ operating model. Labs are currently closed to general access with all but essential maintenance and safety checks stopped. Prior to the University lifting of any access restrictions, it must be clear that a safe working environment is available, in accordance Public Health England advice and health and safety regulations and mandates.

  • Are there plans to open specialist research labs?

    Yes. Work is currently in progress to develop processes for, and implement a phased return to specialist research labs. Health and safety is paramount and labs will not reopen until it is safe to do so. As part of the reopening process, updated Risk Assessments are in preparation for each of the research facilities.

  • I was working on a collaborative project and I can’t access labs based off site. What should I do?

    The current travel and social distancing restrictions have resulted in many organisations operating to reduced and remote operating models. You should discuss your situation with your supervisor(s) and collaborator. There may be opportunity to change the current focus of your research to undertake desk-based activities, such as literature review or writing up, or to adapt your research plans to employ secondary / desk-based research methods.

  • My PhD requires data collection in settings that are currently unavailable. What should I do?

    In the first instance, you should discuss the situation with your supervisor. There may be opportunities to gather data remotely, use secondary or simulated data, or to focus on different areas of your research such as literature review, writing up of your work or conference / journal papers. If appropriate, we will explore opportunities for ‘pausing’ your studies with you.

  • I am currently unable to collect data using ‘face to face: in person’ methods, as planned, and intend to adopt remote data collection methods. Do I need to contact the Research Ethics Committee?

    Yes. If your research involves human participants and you are changing your mode of data collection you will need to submit an amendment application to the relevant Faculty Research Ethics Committee (FREC). To support you in this, Research Services have provided additionalinformation on their Covid-19 impact pages: Research Services. There is guidance for those switching to remote data collection part-way through their data collection (who may need to temporarily pause activity and notify participants) and information for those proposing to start their data collection remotely. You should discuss the situation with your supervisor in the first instance.

  • I have field work currently underway or about to start. What should I do?

    It is possible that fieldwork will not be possible for a specific period of time, as yet unknown, and should be rescheduled for later in the year, if possible. If your fieldwork is highly dependent on the time of year, then you may need to consider alternative arrangements. You should discuss with your supervisor in the first instance.

  • What happens if, because of the nature of the work I am doing, I have no option but to stop work on my PhD/MRes?

    You should discuss the situation withyour supervisor and PGR Director. If all alternative avenues have been exhausted in terms of elements of the work that can be completed now, we can look at the options in terms of intercalation or extending registration periods.

  • My PhD requires non-UK field work. Am I allowed to travel?

    The University is advising students (and staff) to follow Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice. Currently, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Within this context, any travel for University purposes is not essential, and therefore it is not possible for you to travel on University business, research, or study abroad, as the University’s insurance no longer applies. If you need more information about travel, please contact travel@lancaster.ac.uk.

  • My PhD requires UK field work. Am I allowed to carry out this field work?

    Government advice continues to be that you should stay at home as much as possible, and work from home if you can. The question of completing fieldwork will depend on individual circumstances and will need to be answered on a case-by-case basis, so in the first instance talk to your PhD supervisor and/or PGR Director/Coordinator.

  • I have been supporting the Covid-19 response, and this has impacted on my studies.

    The University will work with you to establish the best way forward. In the first instance talk to your PhD supervisor and / or PGR Director / Coordinator, and they will escalate as appropriate.

  • I was intending to take modules as part of the University research training programme, but I am worried that they will now not take place.

    The Doctoral Academy have established a team that are designing a University provision for the academic year 2020/21, with emphasis on online delivery. This makes sense given any uncertainly around Covid-19, but more significantly is an opportunity for the University to focus on online provision to support both students remote and local to the Bailrigg campus.

Computing

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Travel

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Health and wellbeing

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