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The PhD Programme

1. PhD Supervision

A PhD student will have two supervisors, a first and second supervisor. We envisage two possible types of supervision, of which the first will be the norm:

1. Main and secondary supervisors.
One of the supervisors is the main supervisor and the other the secondary one. In this case most of the interaction will be between the main supervisor and the student. The level of interaction of a full-time student with the main supervisor will be on average once a week, and of a part-time student once every couple of weeks.
With part-time students, it is possible that on occasion, email interaction could replace physical interaction. It is noted that we would like to maintain as much flexibility as possible with part-time students and therefore it is possible that the interaction pattern will be low at some times and high at others.
The role of the secondary supervisor is to provide the student with additional feedback and guidance. Interaction with the second supervisor will be driven by request either from the supervisor or the student. The second supervisor will also provide backup in cases when the first supervisor is absent from the Department.

2. Joint supervision.
In this case the roles of the two supervisors are equal. It is especially important in such cases that there is a clear understanding of the individual roles of each supervisor and that there is good coordination between the supervisors regarding the subject area researched. The level of interaction of a full-time student with each of their supervisors will be at least once every couple of weeks. For part-time students the level of interaction will be once a month with each supervisor, with email interaction to replace, on occasion, physical interaction.

Prior to starting the degree it is the responsibility of the supervisors that the student fully understands their respective supervisory roles.

2. Taught Modules

Depending on their prior qualifications, PhD students may be required to undertake and pass up to three taught modules delivered by the Department. Normally, the modules will be taken in the first year for full-time students and in the first and second year for part-time students, and will need to be passed at the Merit level (60%). Passing the required taught modules will be one of the criteria for the student's progression to the next stage.

3. Research Plan and Initial Research Project.

In consultation with their supervisor(s), PhD students should complete the Research Plan form available here: Word Doc / PDF within the first three months for full-time students and first six months for part-time students. The agreed Research Plan should be submitted to the Director of Research. As part of their Research Plan, students will be required to undertake an Initial Research Project. The aim of the Initial Research Project will be to produce a detailed review of the relevant research areas, identify concrete research problems to be investigated, demonstrate the student's ability to conduct independent research and possibly produce new theoretical results and/or prototype software. The results of the Initial Research Project should be be reported within the Stage 1 Report and Presentation (see Section 5 below for details).

4. PhD Monitoring

The following completion times should be taken as guidelines:

For full-time students - three years plus at most one year for writing up. (We strongly encourage full-time students to complete their studies before their funding runs out.)

For part-time students - normally, five years plus at most two years for writing up. We are more flexible with part-time students taking special circumstances into account.

For the purpose of monitoring the student's progress the student will have to produce a yearly report and, at a critical stage of their studies, a presentation; see Section 3 for the detailed structure of these. The monitoring will be overseen by a review committee of three to four academic staff, which will include the student's two supervisors. The committee will be appointed for each particular student at the outset of their studies by the Research Admissions Tutor and the Research Tutor in consultation with the supervisors. The progress reports will govern progression of students to subsequent years of study, which will be approved by the Department Research Committee. The second report will determine the transfer from MPhil to PhD for full-time students. For part-time students the transfer will be determined by their third report. The review committee will also consider the rarer cases where the student is considering submitting a thesis for an MPhil degree.

Both full-time and part-time students will submit their first progress report to their review committee at 9 months. Full-time students will give an oral presentation together with their first and second progress reports at 9 and 18 months, and part-time students will give an oral presentation together with their second and third progress report at 21 and 33 months. Thereafter there will be annual reviews of all students, both part-time and full-time, which will normally take place in June. Students will be required to submit a short progress report, showing their achievements to date and how this is leading towards a PhD. In all cases students should present a detailed work plan for the next year. They should indicate their plans for completion and submission of the thesis by the end of the 4th year at the latest for full-time students, and by the end of the 6th year at the latest for part-time students; see Section 3 for more details. It is the responsibility of the supervisors to coordinate with their students the delivery to the review committee of the progress reports, and to schedule presentations when applicable, so that students' progress can be discussed by the Department Research Committee by late June.

The progression reviews are not a formality. If the student does not meet the required standard for a PhD then the review committee may consider the student as a candidate for an MPhil degree or alternatively consider terminating their registration. The main aim of the PhD transfer review is to establish that the contribution the student is making is likely to lead to a PhD, and to put in place a realistic plan for the remaining part of the PhD.

The review committee will also look at students' publications, which are important in terms of getting external feedback on the research, establishing the contribution of the research, getting practice in presenting the work and the opportunity to meet other researchers in the field by conference or workshop attendance. In most cases we would expect a student to publish at least two papers prior to submitting the thesis; these could be either conference or journal publications.

The following timetable shows the various stages of the PhD monitoring (pres. is a shorthand for presentation).

Stage Deliverables Part-Time Full-Time
0 report only 9 months N/A
1 report+pres. 21 months 9 months
2 report+pres. 33 months 18 months
3 report only June each yr June each yr

5. Structure of the Presentations and Progress Reports

  1. Stage 0 - Report

    The key points that the part-time student should aim to get across at stage 0 are:

    • What is the research area the student is investigating.
    • Preliminary review of the state of the art in the chosen field of study.
    • Work achieved so far and likely contribution.
    • Programme of work on the PhD as a whole, and of the next year of study in more detail.
  2. Stage 1 and 2 - Presentation and Report

    The key points that students, part-time and full-time, should get across at stage 1 are:

    • What is the research area the student is investigating.
    • What are the open problems in the area that could be tackled.
    • What has the student achieved so far; this should include at least a critical survey of the state of the art in the chosen field of study and preliminary original research being carried out.
    • What does the student expect to achieve during the next year of study and how will these goals be realised.

    The key points that students, part-time and full-time, should get across at stage 2, which determines the transfer from MPhil to PhD, are:

    • What is the contribution the student is making to the chosen field of study and justification why the contribution will lead to a PhD.
    • How does the contribution fit into the bigger picture regarding the chosen area of research.
    • Comprehensive and up-to-date critical review of the literature relevant to the thesis.
    • Preliminary table of contents for the thesis.
    • Detailed plan for the following year of study.

    In both cases the oral presentation should reflect the material in the submitted report, as indicated above. The presentations to the review committee should take approximately 20 minutes, and will be followed by a short discussion.

  3. Stage 3 - Subsequent Reports

    The key points that the part-time student should aim to get across at stage 3 reports are:

    • Where they stand in terms of the goals that were set the year before.
    • What contribution is being made towards the PhD and what research needs to be done to complete the contribution.
    • Achievements to date including, software developed and/or publications during the past year.
    • Refinement of the table of contents of the thesis.
    • Detailed work plan for the next year.
  4. Additional Comments

    For stages 0 to 2 the reports should be between 10 to 15 A4 pages, and from stage 3 onwards the reports should be between 5 to 10 A4 pages. In addition to the specific points for each stage, they should address the following issues:

    The review committee will also look at the logical organisation and style of the report. The review committee will produce a short written report on the outcome of the progress review. This will be discussed between the student and their supervisor, and the student will have the opportunity to add their written comments.

    • Participation in conferences, workshops, seminars and other activities related to the PhD work.
    • The supervision, provision of resources, administrative and othe relevant matters.
    • Self-assessment of the student's progress.

6. Other Issues

Full-time research students are expected to attend the Department's Research Seminar Series, and part-time students are highly encouraged to attend.

Full-time students are expected to support the Department's taught courses for at most 5 hours per week, as part of their training. This will normally involve lab supervision, tutorial help and marking of coursework, and will be remunerated at the current College rate.

Research students must have an active and up to date web page, within the Department's web site. The web page should include at least: contact details, a description of their area of research, and a publications list.

The Research Tutor will meet all new research students as part of the induction session. This will be followed by a reception to allow staff and students to get to know each other.

A yearly questionnaire will be made available to students to get their feedback on their supervision and other issues such a learning resources and training.

Students who are experiencing problems that cannot be resolved with their supervisors should discuss these with the research tutor.

Staff-student meetings will be organised by the Research Tutor once a term.

PhD students are required to attend the Department's research methods course, normally in their first year of study.

PhD students will also be encouraged to attend generic research training courses, as appropriate.

When appropriate the Department will endeavour to support student's attendance at conferences. An application for such support must be handed in to the first supervisor and will be decided the Head of Department.

The Department will supply students with the appropriate computer hardware and software, as identified at the outset of their studies. Applications for any further hardware/software must made to the first supervisor and will be decided by the Systems Manager and the Head of Department.

Please have a look at the short form of the College Post Graduate Code of Practice for research degrees.