Applying for ethical approval


Research and GDPR compliance update

GDPR regulations apply to all researchers across the University. Academic researchers and professional services colleagues are responsible for ensuring their own activities are compliant.

For research-based undergraduate modules, masters-level, PhD and Professional Doctorate research the supervisor (or relevant module leader) is formally responsible for ensuring that research is undertaken as part of a degree programme is GDPR compliant.

New templates and guidance on privacy notices, participant information sheets and consent forms are now available, together with guidance on research data management planning.

All staff and doctoral students undertaking research can refer to the Data Protection Research Standard for general GDPR guidance (staff log-in required).

Completing an ethics application

You should aim to prepare ethics applications early, as the processes and procedures of scrutiny can take up to six weeks to complete.

** Over the summer and Christmas vacations applications are likely to take longer due to annual leave (ethics application scrutineers). While we’ll do our best to process applications as quickly as possible, please allow extra time for a response from the committees. **

Human participant research

Please complete the application form for research involving human participation and ensure you read the guidance in the form. Please consider carefully any ethical issues relating to your research.

Applications should provide sufficient information for a decision to be reached by the Committee.

Human tissue research

All research using human tissue requires ethical approval. Please complete the application form and ensure you read the guidance note. Human tissue is defined as material that has come from a human body and consists of, or includes, human cells. 

See the Policies and Procedures for the University's policy relating to research using human tissue and the operating procedures related to the ethical review, oversight and management of human tissue research.

Student research

There are specific operating procedures that relate to the ethical review process for student research projects. Please see Student project review and the Student research FAQs.

Research with ethical issues but not involving human participants

Research which does not involve human participants but which is high risk or has potential for negative impacts on the environment or society may be submitted for review by a UWE research ethics committee.  

You can apply using the application form (research not involving human participants). Please ensure you read the guidance in the form and consider carefully any ethical issues relating to your research. You can also download Guidance for Ethical Approval of Research Projects without Human Participants.

Applications for approval by FREC/UREC

On receipt of a valid completed application form and all supporting documentation the FREC or UREC officer will register the application. The application is scrutinised by members of the Committee, who decide whether or not to approve the application, and where necessary, seek further information from the applicant. In exceptional circumstances a FREC may refer the application to the UREC for review. The approval process may take up to six weeks or longer over the summer vacation.  

Application outcome and feedback

Applicants will be notified and generally feedback from the UREC or FREC will be made available. Applicants are encouraged to regard the comments and feedback from a research ethics committee as helpful and to respond constructively, especially where further work is required for the Committee to be able to reach a favourable decision.

Exceptional circumstances procedure for urgent processing of ethics applications

If you need an urgent decision on your application, a special request for exceptional approval can be made by contacting (tel: 0117 32 81167). You will need to complete a short form to explain why your application cannot be processed within the standard timescale. The UREC/FREC reserves the right to delay processing urgent applications if the necessary administrative and scrutiny resources are not available to reach a decision with the urgency requested. Please note the criteria for requesting urgent processing on the application form.

Applications for approval by NHS and other research ethics committees

If your project is research, and involves NHS patients, service users, organs, tissue, data or other bodily material, or is to be conducted on NHS property you may need NHS Research Ethics (REC) approval.  Please note, this will be in addition to, and in advance of, the University's research ethics approval but will not normally require two separate applications.

Details on how to apply to the NHS REC are available on the NHS Health Research authority website. If you are unsure as to whether you require NHS REC approval, please refer to the approval guidance available on the Health Research Authority website.

Some projects in social care settings may be submitted to the National Social Care Research Ethics Committee.

Amendments to the research protocol

Once ethical approval has been given by FREC/UREC, the researcher is required to notify the Research Ethics Committee, in advance, of any proposed significant amendment to the original protocol (for example changes to the study population, revised methodology) using the official amendment form. The Committee may then wish to review its opinion.

Approval pathway diagrams

There are different pathways to approval depending on where your research is being carried out, whether the research is low risk or high risk, and who is conducting the research.

  • Category A projects
    Externally funded project involving human participants (not NHS patients) (students and staff)
  • Category B projects
    Externally/internally funded project involving human participants (NHS patients) (students and staff)
  • Category C projects
    Externally/internally funded project using human tissue as defined by the Human Tissue Act 2004
  • Category D projects
    Internally funded project involving human participants (not NHS patients)
  • UREC FREC review process
    The research ethics review process via the university or Faculty research ethics committees.

Further advice and guidance

For further advice on how to seek research ethics approval for your project, students should consult their supervisor, and staff may contact a member of their Faculty Research Ethics Committee. See further information on guidance and support.

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