Graduate School Handbook Part 7 – Sources of support and help for postgraduate researchers including personal circumstances

This part of the handbook includes regulations, information and guidance about personal circumstances for postgraduate researchers (formerly extenuating circumstances), reasonable adjustments and links to other resources and sources of help available.  

7.1 Expectations about accessing support and help


PGR7.1.1R
All PGRs entitled to expect access to reasonable levels of support during their studies, provided by the University via the Graduate School and other professional and special services, from within faculties, and by the supervisory team.

Information about sources of support and help will be made available to postgraduate researchers via the Graduate School Handbook and the Graduate School web pages.

Part 7a Personal Circumstance for postgraduate researchers

Introduction – what are personal circumstances?

  • Personal circumstances are serious personal difficulties or significantly disruptive matters outside your control which impact upon your ability to make progress with your research, or to meet the deadline for completing/submitting your work for a specific progression milestone, or to attend a progression viva voce/progress review meeting.
  • They can also apply when completing or submitting your thesis/work for final assessment or undertaking a final assessment viva voce examination, but there is special advice that you must follow for the final assessment period. 
  • The Graduate School has a personal circumstances process in place to help PGR candidates facing these situations.
  • The help available varies according to the nature and seriousness of the situation, and you need to read the guidance below and in the Graduate School guidance notes on completing your personal circumstances application carefully to decide which option is most relevant for you.
  • All personal circumstances requests must be supported by relevant evidence and must be made by the deadlines indicated in the application process guidance notes.

Who is this guidance for?

This guidance is for PGRs registered on postgraduate research degrees where personal circumstances are affecting progress with their research study. 

It is not applicable for circumstances affecting any Masters level modules that PGRs may be taking as part of their training development credit requirement or modules being undertaken by PGRs registered on Professional Doctorate programmes.

If you have circumstances affecting a specific assessment for a module you are taking, you will need to complete the University’s personal circumstances process for taught modules.

If your circumstances affect both your research study and a specific taught module assessment you will need to complete both the PGR and the taught module processes.  This is because the range of appropriate options and outcomes are different for each process. 

If you are unsure about what which process applies to you, please contact the Graduate School for more advice.

To submit a PGR personal circumstances application you need to use the form provided on the Graduate School Research Degree Forms web page.


Regulations

Regulations about personal circumstances for PGRs

PGR7.2.1R Postgraduate researchers are expected to engage with all progress review milestones and assessment events (i.e. progression examination, PR2 and PGR3, and final assessment viva voce examination) that are required of them.

PGR7.2.2R If a PGR does not submit the required work/thesis by the specified deadline for a progress review milestone, progression examination, or at final submission, this will be recorded as a non-submission. If this is due to significant personal reasons outside the PGR’s control then they may submit a personal circumstances application.

PGR7.2.3R If the PGR has chosen to submit the required work/thesis and attend the progress review meeting or viva voce examination it will not normally be possible to submit a personal circumstances application subsequently. (See also late personal circumstances at PGR7.4.8)

PGR7.2.4R If personal circumstances prevent a PGR from actively engaging with their research project, meeting a submission deadline, or attending a progress review or viva voce examination they may apply for one of the following:

  • Up to 5 working days (Monday – Friday) for the late submission of a progression examination report or progress review work. Evidenced or self-certified where no evidence is collectible (once only per stage, not available for final submission or within final assessment period).
  • An extension to a progress milestone submission deadline i.e. progression examination report or progress review work (for up to 28 days, once only per stage, not available for final submission or within final assessment period);
  • The postponement and rearrangement of a progression examination viva voce or progress review meeting;
  • A suspension of registration (for up to 12 months, not within the final assessment period);
  • An extension to the registration end date (available post stage 3 progress review only – extra time to complete and make final submission);
  • Postponement and re-arrangement of the final assessment viva voce;
  • Suspension during the final assessment period, or extension of the final assessment period.

In all cases appropriate supporting evidence will be required. The process for making an application is described on the Graduate School PGR personal circumstances guidance notes. Additional guidance is provided below.

PGR7.2.5R Faculty Research Degrees Committees will have mechanisms to consider applications for personal circumstances confidentially up to the commencement of the final assessment period.

PGR7.2.6R The Research Degrees Award Board will have mechanisms to consider applications for personal circumstances confidentially within the final assessment period.

PGR7.2.7R The Research Degrees Award Board is responsible for considering personal circumstances relating to the withdrawal of a PGR’s registration.

Procedures about personal circumstances

PGR7.3 How can the PGR personal circumstances process support me?

PGR7.3.1 Table of options available

 Type of help available   Applicable registration stages  Typically relevant situations
Up to 5 working days extension to progress milestone submission deadline
• Complete Personal Circs form on Grad School research degree forms webpage.  Submit by email with evidence to Graduate School

• Stages 1, 2 or 3:
for RD1 proposal, progression exam report, progress review work 

• Not for final assessment period 

• Short term circumstances affecting your ability to meet your submission deadline;
• Self certification is sometimes permissible in these cases;
• Milestone specific – does not extend your registration;
• Available for Tier 4 visa PGRs.
Up to 28 days extension to milestone submission deadline or postponement of progression exam viva/review meeting.
Complete personal circs form on Grad School research degree forms webpage.  Submit by email with evidence to Graduate School
• Stages 1, 2 or 3:
for
RD1 proposal, progression exam report or viva, progress review work or meeting.
• Not for final assessment period (see below)
 • Circumstances that mean you need more time to submit your work, typically those affecting your work rate, rather than stopping you from working altogether;
• Circumstances that mean you need to postpone your progression exam viva or progress review meeting;
• Milestone specific - does not extend your overall registration completion date or impact your fees or funding;
• No adjustment of future milestone deadlines;
• Once only per stage of your award;
• Self certification not permissible;
• This is available for Tier 4 visa PGRs.
Suspension of Registration: one month or more - up to 12 months
• Complete an RD4 form and submit via email with evidence to the Graduate School.
• Tier 4 visa PGRs: complete RD4 form submit to Graduate School as above,
and
• Complete an authorised absence request form (if for more than 2 weeks); available from and submitted to UWE Info points.

• Stages 1, 2, or 3

(For final assessment period see below)

 • For more serious or longer term circumstances which mean you cannot work at all and need a complete break or ‘time out’ from your research studies;
• Affects your overall registration completion date and all interim progress milestones;
• NB. This may also affect any modules you are registered on for the duration of your suspension and you may need to submit personal circumstances separately for these;
• Fees not payable during suspension, but neither is any bursary, stipend or other funding support.  You may be financially liable for any funding shortfall as a consequence of suspension;
• PGRs subject to Tier 4 visa requirements must submit a completed ‘Authorised Absence’ request form which is available from UWE Info points and gain approval for any authorised absences or suspension of more than two weeks prior to the start of the absence. 
Exceptional Extension of Registration

Complete an RD3 form and submit to Graduate School 

• Stage 3: after PR3 progress review – usually during completion period.
• Not for final assessment period (see below)
 • Where circumstances during the completion phase of your registration (after stage 3 progress review) affect your ability to complete your project and submit your thesis on time;
• You may be financially liable for any additional fees payable as a consequence of an extension to your registration;
• Is available for Tier 4 PGRs but you must get advice from the Visa Support Team if you will need to extend your visa.
ALL circumstances concerning submission of thesis for final assessment or occurring after submission has taken place. Contact Graduate School PGR Assessment Team for advice  • Final Assessment Period  Including but not confined to:
• deadlines for submitting thesis for final assessment;
• postponement of viva;
• suspension during final assessment period or during thesis resubmission period;
• extension of resubmission period;
• Tier 4 PGRs must get advice from the Visa Support Team if any request will need an extension to your visa.
     

PGR7.4 Applying for personal circumstances

PGR7.4.1 How do I apply?

Go to the Graduate School PGR online research degree forms web page read the personal circumstances guidance note and use the relevant form to apply for the support which is most suitable for your circumstance, submit this to the Graduate School attaching your supporting evidence.
 

PGR7.4.2 What supporting evidence is required?

  • Read the list of acceptable supporting evidence included in the personal circumstances guidance note. This also shows circumstances that are not likely to be accepted.

Please note that, for PGRs, self-certification is only available for an extension of up to five working days (this means Monday to Friday) and only if other appropriate evidence is not available. This is different from self-certification for exams or coursework on taught programmes and is more like self-certification of sickness used in a workplace environment.

  • For all other applications you must supply appropriate evidence. If you do not your application will be rejected.

PGR7.4.3 What is a suspension of registration?

  • A suspension is a complete break from your studies because your circumstances mean you are unable to work actively on your research at all. It is a time out of one month or more and up to 12 months. Your registration completion date and any progress milestone dates along the way are moved on by the length of your suspension.
  • It is not an opportunity to catch up on work if you have fallen behind.
  • A suspension is not a reasonable adjustment and is different to a milestone extension.
  • During a suspension you must not work actively on your research and this includes writing up, using the library or other resources. You will not be entitled to any active supervision beyond that needed to ensure that your Director of Studies remains in pastoral contact with you – i.e. contacting you to see how you are.
  • You can continue to access some Wellbeing Service support services, but will not be able to access mentoring support activities.
  • Because you are not using resources or supervision your fees will be suspended but it is important to note that so too will any bursary funding. This can result in your funding running out before your revised registration completion date and you will be financially liable for any shortfall in fees. If you are in receipt of UK Research Councils funding your funder will need to be informed of your suspension by the Graduate School or RCUK project co-ordinator.
  • Before applying for a suspension you need to think carefully whether this is the best way to deal with your particular situation. For example, if what you really want is to catch up with work that you have been unable to complete because of your circumstances and you can be confident of getting this done within a month, then a progress deadline extension may be better for you.
  • You are advised to discuss your application with your Director of Studies before submitting. Your DoS must sign to say they support your application.
  • Tier 4 visa PGRs who want to apply for a suspension of more than 2 weeks must also get authorised absence approval before going on suspension; seek advice from UWE Info points.
  • Note; only in exceptional cases will the FRDC approve contiguous suspension applications i.e. repeat applications, one to run straight on from the other.

PGR7.4.4 What is a progress milestone extension?

  • A milestone extension gives you up to a maximum of 28 days to catch up with your work and submit, or to postpone your progression exam viva or progress review meeting by up to 28 days to allow you to resolve your circumstances. It is not a reasonable adjustment and is different from a complete suspension because you are allowed to carry on working on your research.
  • If your work rate has been affected by your circumstances i.e. your progress has been slower or you haven’t been able to work to your full capacity, and you can provide valid evidence to support this, then this may be the best option for you.
  • Your overall registration completion date will not be extended and neither will your subsequent milestones in later stages.
  • Your fees will still be payable because you are still working, accessing supervision and other resources. Any bursary or funding will still be paid, but will not be extended.
  • You can only apply for this extension once per stage of your registration. This is because the extra time will in effect be taken from the time available for your next stage. The University considers that anything more than a month would be likely to have a detrimental impact on your later progress and might ultimately impact upon your ability to complete your project on time.
  • If you are an international PGR who is subject to tier 4 visa requirements you must ensure that you remain compliant with the University’s attendance and engagement monitoring requirements.
  • Before applying for this support you need to consider carefully whether your situation will be resolved within 28 days. If your circumstances are serious or will have a longer term impact then a suspension may be more appropriate.
  • You are advised to discuss your application with your Director of Studies before submitting. Your DoS must sign to say that they support your application. You must provide supporting evidence with your application.

PGR7.4.5 When should I submit my application for personal circumstances?

  • You should submit your application as soon as you know that you are going to need to.
  • It is not usually possible to submit an application for a milestone extension or a suspension of registration retrospectively (i.e. after the event).
  • If you are submitting personal circumstances about a progression exam viva or a progress review meeting which is just about to take place (e.g. within 4 days including weekends) you must get in touch with your Director of Studies and the Graduate School as soon as possible by phone or email, as well as completing and submitting the personal circumstances application. This is so that examiners/reviewers can be notified and alternative arrangements put in place.
  • If you need to submit personal circumstances during the final assessment period you must follow the procedures at PGR7.4.6 below.

PGR7.4.6 I am in the final assessment period (having submitted my thesis) and have personal circumstances what do I do?

  • You should contact your Director of Studies and the Graduate School Postgraduate Research Assessment Team as soon as possible by phone or email for further guidance about completing the personal circumstances form.
  • If your circumstances relate to your final assessment viva voce and it is about to take place (e.g. within 4 days including weekends) you must contact your Director of Studies and the Graduate School Postgraduate research Assessment Team immediately, without fail. If you cannot get through to the Assessment Team by telephone because the office is closed, then you should leave a voice mail and you must also send an email with ‘Urgent, final viva personal circumstances’ in the heading. You must then telephone as soon as the office re-opens (Office hours: Monday – Friday 09:00 – 16:00). This is so that examiners can be contacted urgently, especially if they are external to the University and travelling long distance e.g. flying in from abroad. The Assessment Team will provide you with guidance about what to do next.
  • Please note you are expected to make every effort to attend the viva on the date arranged and to plan ahead for most common eventualities e.g. normal childcare or care of other dependants, and what alternative arrangements you might need to put in place if a dependent is ill.
  • Final assessment viva voce examinations will be postponed at short notice only in the most extreme circumstances.

PGR7.4.7 I was granted a progress milestone extension, but my circumstances are more serious than I thought at first and I can’t work on my research at all. What should I do?

  • If having been granted a milestone extension and your circumstances then worsen or turn out to be much more serious than you first thought meaning that you are unable to work on your research at all, you should speak to your Director of Studies as soon as you realise and then apply for a suspension of your registration (complete form RD4), together with supporting evidence. Your evidence will need to show why you can’t work at all.
  • This is so that your registration is put on hold while you get better or resolve your circumstances. If you continue with the milestone extension the Graduate School will assume that you are working and you will be eating into the time available for the next stage of your studies. It is not normally possible to permit a suspension retrospectively.

PGR7.4.8 Late personal circumstances – I was affected by personal circumstances but I did not apply at the time, am I too late?

  • You may be able to apply for your personal circumstances to be taken into account by the FRDC or the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) on an exceptional basis, but only if you can show that your circumstances impaired your ability to make a decision at the time about whether you were fit enough submit your work or attend your viva/review meeting. You should read the guidelines about late circumstances on the Graduate School personal circumstances guidance notes before submitting and any application must be supported by appropriate evidence.

PGR7.4.9 I don’t think a suspension or a milestone extension is what I need – what help can I access?

  • If you do not think a suspension or a milestone extension will provide you with the support you need there may be other ways in which the University can support you so that you can continue with your research. For example, if you have a disability or an ongoing health or other condition, or are a primary carer for someone who has, it may be possible to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to your registration.
  • In order to access this support you should disclose your situation to the University as soon as possible, by contacting the Graduate School or Disability Services for guidance. You should also read the section later on in this chapter of the handbook about reasonable adjustments. If you are contacting Disability Services please ensure that you let them know you are a PGR.
  • It is not normally possible to change the outcome decision of a progression examination, progress review or final assessment viva voce on the basis of reasonable adjustment needs disclosed retrospectively after your viva or review.

PGR7.4.10 How will I find out the outcome of my application for personal circumstances?

  • Depending on your stage of registration the FRDC or the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) will consider your application will write to you with the outcome. This will normally be in the form of an email letter sent to your UWE student email address. Applications will normally be considered at the next scheduled Committee meeting. Committees and the Award Board meet regularly. In very urgent cases the Chair of the FRDC or RDAB may consider your application between meetings.

Additional guidance for international Tier 4 visa PGRs

Applying for a leave of absence if you are an international Tier 4 visa PGR

Approval for an authorised absence

  • Situations can sometimes arise that require some international PGRs to be absent from UWE: for example, a family emergency in your home country, a period of sickness which requires time away from studies to recover, or time required to undertake data collection/research for a dissertation or thesis.
  • Approval must be obtained in advance for any authorised absence from UWE’s Visa Support Team and PGRs should discuss this in advance of taking any leave. Approval is given on a case-by-case basis and must have support from an academic member of staff such as the Director of Studies. A PGR may be able to receive an authorised absence for up to 60 days but this cannot be granted in all cases.
  • The authorised absence rule can only be applied if the PGR will not require a visa extension as a result of taking time out from their studies.
  • Information about how to obtain an authorised absence.

Other sources of help and guidance for international PGRs

Student Welfare Services department

The Students’ Union may be able to help with practical and general welfare questions. There is no shame in asking for help and once we know you are experiencing difficulties we will try to help you sort things out.

International PGRs can also access support from the UWE Wellbeing Service.

Other frequently asked questions about personal circumstances

What is the latest time I can submit my work on my progress milestone deadline date?

  • 12 midnight if you are submitting electronically, or during office hours and by 4pm at the latest if you need to deliver your work to the Graduate School Office in person (Mon-Fri, 09:00 – 16:00). If you are likely to arrive near to the time that the office closes ring ahead to let the staff know you are on your way and your estimated time of arrival.

What if I, or a member of my family for whom I am primary carer, is taken ill immediately preceding my progression examination viva, progress review meeting, or final assessment viva voce (i.e. within 96 hours/4 days of viva including weekends)?

  • Please note you are expected to make every effort to attend the viva on the date arranged and to plan ahead for most common eventualities e.g. normal childcare or care of other dependants, and what alternative arrangements you might need to put in place if a dependent is ill.
  • However, if you become seriously ill, or have a highly contagious illness, or other serious unforeseen circumstances arise that you cannot deal with immediately or no alternative arrangements can be made you must contact your Director of Studies and the Graduate School without delay. Follow the instruction at procedures PGR7.4.5 and 7.4.6 above.
  • During office hours (Monday – Friday 09.00 – 16:00) you should ring the Graduate School. Outside these hours you should email the Graduate School and then ring as soon as the Office reopens.
  • Note, your viva/review meeting is an oral defence; you will not be required to write, therefore do not assume that personal circumstance applications about injuries such as sprains to hands or wrists will be accepted unless you can show that your oral capabilities are impaired. The Graduate School is normally able to make adjustments to the viva room regarding accessibility and/or to how the viva is conducted e.g. short breaks during the viva.

What if I am taken ill during my progression exam viva, or a progress review meeting or my final assessment viva?

  • Your examiners or reviewers, or the Independent Chair (final assessment viva) will offer you a short break to give you a chance to take medication, visit the bathroom,have a glass of water etc., and if you are able to, your viva/review can resume. They may also contact the Graduate School for advice;
  • Breaks of this kind will be noted on the examiners’/reviewer’s report form,especially in situations where the examiners/reviewers felt that your performance was adversely affected;
  • If you manage to complete your viva but feel that your overall performance has been significantly and detrimentally affected you should contact the Graduate School for advice about what to do next. If this happened during your final assessment viva you should contact the Graduate School Postgraduate Research Assessment Team. You will normally be asked to submit personal circumstances to the FRDC or RDAB explaining how you were affected.
  • If you are too ill to continue and the examiners determine that the viva is not sufficiently complete, the viva/meeting will be halted and the examiners/reviewers will contact the Graduate School for further advice. Your viva may be re-arranged for another date as soon as possible after you are better.
  • Note, nervousness and anxiety is normal during a viva and will not normally be sufficient reason for halting or postponing the examination, but you may be offered a short break during the viva to collect yourself. If you are aware that you suffer from serious anxiety that is a recognised and ongoing health condition for which you have supporting evidence you should contact the Graduate School at least six weeks prior to your viva so that reasonable adjustments can be discussed.

Can I use self-certification for an illness affecting my submission or viva?

  • Yes you can, but only if you are applying for a five day extension to your submission deadline, or if you are taken ill immediately prior to your viva, and you cannot obtain other appropriate supporting evidence e.g. if you contract a highly contagious illness and you have been advised by your Doctor to stay at home and not visit the doctor’s surgery.
  • If you wish to self-certify immediately prior to a viva, you will need to ring the Graduate School and speak to a member of staff for guidance. See procedures above at PGR7.4.5 and 7.4.6. If you could reasonably be expected to be able to obtain other acceptable supporting evidence self-certification will not be accepted.

I need reasonable adjustments to my viva arrangements due to my disability, ongoing health condition or specific learning difficulty, what should I do?

  • If these have not already been agreed during a previous support needs meeting, you should get in touch with the Graduate School as soon as possible, normally no later than six weeks before your expected viva date so that arrangements can be discussed.
  • If your needs have changed since reasonable adjustments were first agreed you should contact the Graduate School or Disability Services so that they can be reviewed.

I am having difficulty meeting my progress milestone submission deadline due to my disability or ongoing health condition, or specific learning difficulty. I already have reasonable adjustments in place, can I also apply for personal circumstances to extend a milestone deadline or to suspend my registration?

  • You will not normally be able to apply for personal circumstances on these grounds unless there is an unexpected and sudden worsening/deterioration in your condition prior to your submission deadline or viva and you can provide appropriate evidence to support this. In such cases you may be granted a milestone extension or your viva may be postponed.
  • You can also apply for personal circumstances if your situation is not related to your ongoing condition.
  • If a sudden deterioration in your condition means that you are likely to be affected for longer than 28 days (the milestone extension maximum) you may still be able to apply for a suspension of your registration where you can provide appropriate evidence to support this. However a suspension of registration is not in itself a reasonable adjustment.
  • If your needs have changed since the reasonable adjustments were agreed you should contact the Graduate School or your Disability Services advisor to discuss whether the reasonable adjustments are still appropriate or need to be reviewed.
  • Please see also part 7b below Reasonable Adjustments

I am feeling very anxious and stressed about my progression examination/final viva – who can help me?

  • It is normal to feel some anxiety about exams. Many PGRs find the viva voce and preparation for it a challenge.
  • While stress is not an illness, excessive stress if not recognised and addressed can lead to serious illness such as depression. If stress is affecting your ability to work and prepare for your progression exam or final viva you should speak to your Director of Studies in the first instance to discuss strategies for preparing for the viva.
  • If you are approaching the final assessment period then you may find a mock viva useful. Speak to your Director of Studies about arranging this. Remember, however, that there is no guarantee that the questions you are asked in the mock will come up in the real viva.
  • There are also sessions about the Progression Exam and Final Assessment which you can attend during your registration as part of the Graduate School’s programme of PGR Skills Development Workshops.
  • If you have already submitted for final assessment and are getting ready for your viva the Graduate School Skills Development Team have sets of viva preparation cards which you can borrow to help your preparations.
  • You can also find advice about managing your stress levels on the University student health and wellbeing web pages, as well as a link to the University Wellbeing Service who can provide 1:1 help and support. You can also drop into the Graduate School Office in room 3E37 for general advice and guidance and a friendly ear.

My situation doesn’t really fit into any of the scenarios described above

  • Discuss the situation with your Director of Studies if you are able to and contact the Graduate School for advice and guidance. For PGRs with circumstances affecting their research, this is a more appropriate first step than going to a UWE information point. If you do go to an info point for advice however, please ensure you tell them that you are a PGR and they should point you in our direction.

Part 7b Reasonable Adjustments for postgraduate researchers

Regulations

PGR7.5 Regulations about reasonable adjustments

  • PGR7.5.1R The Graduate School in collaboration with other professional and specialist services will ensure that there are confidential opportunities for PGRs to disclose disabilities, health or other ongoing conditions, or specific learning difficulties (including dyslexia) for which additional support and/or reasonable adjustment may be required.
  • PGR7.5.2R The Graduate School in collaboration with other specialist services will ensure that mechanisms are in place for PGRs with a documented disability, health or other ongoing condition, or specific learning difficulty to access additional support and/or reasonable adjustments.

PGR7.6 Reasonable adjustments in viva voce examinations, progress review and examination of taught modules

  • PGR7.6.1R [E18.1R] Where appropriate, PGRs may receive extra time or other exam adjustments. In the case of viva voce examinations and progress review these adjustments can be varied and wide ranging and must be discussed and agreed individually with the Graduate School in advance.

Further information and guidance

Applicants and newly registered PGRs

  • The University encourages all applicants to disclose any disability and support needs they might have. Without this information we cannot offer you the appropriate information and support, e.g. about Disabled Students Allowance (DA), viva voce examination adjustments, 1:1 mentoring support, etc.
  • Successful applicants for a postgraduate research degree award who disclose that they have a disability, ongoing health condition or specific learning difficulty will be sent a PGR disabilities questionnaire for completion and offered a meeting with a disability adviser and an officer from the Graduate School to determine what support they need during their doctoral programme.
  • There are several confidential opportunities during the application and admissions process for prospective PGRs to disclose a disability.

Current PGRs

  • If as a currentPGR you have a disability, ongoing health condition or specific learning difficulty that you haven’t previously disclosed and you need support to help you undertake your research, or reasonable adjustments for a PGR progress milestone or other assessment, you can contact the Graduate School or make an appointment with a disability adviser in Disability Services. If you contact the Disability Service please ensure that you let them know you are a PGR.
  • To find out what type of support is offered by the University please go to the Disability Services web pages.
  • In addition, you may need support or reasonable adjustments specific to your PGR status, e.g. adjustments for viva voce examinations. You should contact the Graduate School about this.

Privacy policy

  • We understand that you may be concerned about disclosing information about yourself or your condition. Please be assured that all information you provide is confidential and is shared only with those directly involved in your support arrangements with your consent. If we are fully aware of your needs we will be better equipped to ensure you are supported.
  • Please see our privacy policy for more information on data protection and confidentiality at UWE Bristol.

Putting support in place

  • Once you have disclosed a disability, ongoing health condition or specific learning difficulty the Graduate School will normally invite you to a PGR support needs meeting which will be attended by a disability adviser, a Graduate School officer and usually your Director of Studies.
  • The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss your support needs specific to postgraduate research study. This can include support in preparing for progress milestones and reasonable adjustments for the progression examination, progress review meetings and where appropriate, the final assessment period and completing your thesis.
  • It is useful to have your Director of Studies present at this meeting as they will have the most regular contact with you in your day-to-day research life. However, if you would prefer that they did not attend, we will identify other ways of informing them about your support needs which you are comfortable with during that meeting.
  • The disability adviser will also be able to provide general advice about disability support and reasonable adjustments if you have not already had a meeting with them. This can include advice about making an application for Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA) if you do not already receive this, and the kinds of support that DSA can be used to fund.

Types of PGR support available as reasonable adjustments

The Graduate School will try to tailor support to your specific needs. Reasonable adjustments can include but are not limited to:

  • Accessibility adjustments for PGR Research Development Workshops, forums and UWE Summer residential.
  • Preparing for a viva: an initial indication of the likely range of questions/topics which the examiner will wish to discuss. But you should be aware that there is no guarantee that the viva will not explore other aspects or areas of your research - you should prepare for every eventuality.
  • Adjustments to a viva voce room e.g. accessibility, furniture, lighting, proximity to a bathroom, etc.
  • Adjustments to the way in which the viva is conducted e.g.: 1)an electronic version of your thesis/work on your laptop/iPad/tablet for your reference during the exam; 2)scheduled breaks during the viva; 3)examiner questioning style e.g. short single clause questions, avoiding multiple clause questions.

Adjustment to mode of registration for PGRs with reasonable adjustments

Sometimes it is possible to consider changes to your mode of registration as part of reasonable adjustments and these can include:

  • Switching from full-time to part-time study is available to most PGRs at any time as long as funding arrangements or research council requirements permit. This provides 18 months between progress milestones as opposed to 12 months and an adjustment to your registration end date. However, you should note that a part-time mode of study is not normally available to PGRs who are subject to Tier 4 visa requirements.
  • Switching to a more flexible version of part-time study with more time between progress milestones to enable you to continue to work through your project at a pace that suits you. We call this ‘part-time stretched’ and typically it might provide up to a 24 month gap between progress milestones.

Things to bear in mind:

  • This flexible part-time registration model is normally only available once you have passed the progression examination as this will provide evidence that the research project itself is viable for completion as a doctoral award. Part-time stretched will lengthen your overall registration period and therefore the level of flexibility that we can offer may be constrained where studentships are being funded by external bodies or industrial partnerships.
  • You should also be aware that switching to part-time or part-time stretched may make your overall registration period very long indeed and you should consider the impact of such a long term commitment on your physical health and your wellbeing.
  • While adjustments of this kind this will not increase your overall fees, if you are a self-supporting PGR you will also need to think carefully about the financial impact on your domestic situation/living costs.

Part 7c - Other resources and sources of help for PGRs

  • Staying healthy both physically and mentally during your research studies will help you to enhance productivity, reduce sickness and avoid unnecessary absences from your studies. Section 7a of this part of the handbook outlines what to do if you do become ill and cannot work on your research or need more time to meet a progress milestone submission deadline.
  • The Graduate School in conjunction with the UWE Wellbeing Service run sessions about staying healthy during your research degree as part of the Research Skills Development Workshop series. At the moment these run twice per year, check the website for further details and dates.
  • You can also obtain help, support and advice if you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or have another ongoing mental health condition in your day-to-day life at UWE, but do not need or want to suspend your registration or apply for personal circumstances. This is available for all students of the University including PGRs from the University’s Wellbeing Service.

1:1 Support

The Wellbeing Service can provide 1:1 counselling and mentoring and mental health support, and also run a range of workshops on various topics including: emotional resilience and mindfulness. The service is based in 3F on Frenchay campus.

Talking to someone – informal drop-in sessions

The Wellbeing Service also hold informal drop in sessions at 3F Frenchay Campus if you want to talk to someone in person about non-urgent issues. These are usually held on a first-come-first-served basis. Visit their website for more information about the times of current sessions.

Urgent concerns about mental health and wellbeing

The drop in sessions are not generally suitable for urgent or crisis situations. If you have urgent concerns about your mental health or wellbeing and need to talk to someone you can call the Wellbeing Service on: + 44 (0) 117 32 86268 and ask for the Wellbeing Duty Practitioner. This service is available during office hours.

Urgent concerns – Talking to someone outside office hours and other sources of support

There are a number of options available if you need support outside of standard office hours, go to the Wellbeing Service web pages for further details.

The Samaritans

You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 / +44 (0)117 9831000 if you need someone to talk to. You can also email them on jo@samaritans.org

NHS 111

The NHS 111 Service is fee to call on mobiles and landlines. Dial 111 to speak to a trained adviser, who will assess you and direct you to the best medical option.

Your local GP

Get in touch with your local GP to access any out of hours service they may provide.

Advice for staff who have concerns about a PGR’s health or wellbeing.

The Wellbeing Service is a confidential service and is unable to discuss any information about whether a student is accessing the service unless they have the student’s consent.

Any Director of Studies/supervisor or other member of staff who has urgent concern about an PGR can speak to the Duty Wellbeing Practitioner during standard office hours by ringing + 44 (0) 117 32 86268 for general advice and to pass on their concerns.

The Wellbeing Service have also produced an advice for staff supporting students guidance document as a downloadable pdf document.

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