Thesis Advisory Panels: 3- and 4-year PhD students

TAPs must be recorded via Skills Forge 

The Supervisor and the Thesis Advisory Panel  (TAP) are the main body charged with monitoring student progress.


  • send the proposed TAP membership via Google form by the end of October (for October start students) or after the student has completed the first month of the studentship for students commencing at other times of the year. TAP membership requires formal approval by the departmental Graduate School Board.


  • Meetings to take place within 3 months (ie in December for October start students) and then within 6 months and at 6 monthly intervals until submission of the thesis;
  • Organise your TAP meetings well in advance, Doodle is a useful tool (academics have multiple commitments and hence busy diaries);
  • Discuss the content of your TAP report with your supervisor/s and allow time for them to comment on drafts;
  • Students must complete, with their supervisor, the TAP preparation form on Skills Forge ;  at least in one week in advance of the meeting date;
  • Enter all TAP meeting notes directly into Skills Forge and take a copy of the review of supervision form to EVERY meeting.

Policy regarding unsuccessful confirmation of registration for PhD degrees:

  • Should a student fail to satisfy the Confirmation Panel that they have met the requirements for confirmation at the first attempt, the student must be provided with clear and detailed written feedback on the areas that have been deficient in both their written submission and their oral examination performance.  The points raised by the Confirmation Panel should be specifically addressed by the candidate in the revision of the written submission, which will be re-examined.  If the revised written submission is sufficient to satisfy the Confirmation Panel then the student will be deemed to have passed and a second oral examination is not required.  If the revised written submission does not in itself satisfy the Confirmation Panel then a second oral examination must be held.
  • The second oral examination must be recorded and the Director of BGSB (or their alternate) must attend.

Research Student engagement


The following points indicate the minimum level of engagement expected of our students, if you are not achieving these levels then you are advised to seek help at the earliest opportunity: 

  • Working the equivalent of full-time in the lab/office (unless officially half-time), ie 5 days per week 09.00 to 17.00 (plus evenings and weekends when experiments require)
  • Working from home requires prior permission from supervisor/s
  • Regular attendance at lab meetings and seminars

Student responsibilities include: 

  • Ensuring that TAP meetings are taking place on schedule
  • Ensure all Skills Forge milestones are met
  • Ensuring that supervisory reports are up to date 
  • Any periods of sick leave need to be documented by completion of the self-certification process any periods in addition/not covered by the self-certification process need to be covered by medical certificates

What can students expect from their Academic Supervisor/s and the Department

Please see guidance on Departmental policy regarding supervision

What help is available should things go wrong?

In the Department, talk to one or some of the following people:

Outside of the Department:

Contact the Student Hub

Other sources of assistance for students

Contact the GSA (Graduate Students’ Assoc.)

TAP membership

Normally, we expect a TAP to have two members of the University academic staff, at least one of these being from Biology.  The industrial supervisor of a CASE or other jointly-supervised project should also be on the TAP.

The recommended number of TAP members is 3, with a maximum of 4; a case for exceptions to this limit can be made, for example, in the case of CASE/industrial supervisors, or highly multidisciplinary projects.

TAP membership allows for inclusion of independently-funded research fellows, as long as the second TAP member is a member of the academic staff with successful PhD supervisory experience.

Who should attend the meetings?

The full TAP is required to attend the 3 month meeting and any meeting at which confirmation of PhD status is considered. Full attendance is preferable at the other meetings, but if this proves impractical, it is sufficient that the meeting should include the student, the main supervisor and one TAP member who is a member of the academic staff in the Biology Department. Virtual meetings, which are more likely to occur later in the studentship, are acceptable with prior approval from the Director/Associate Director of BGSB.

All documentation will be provided and circulated electronically as far as practicable.

Information regarding TAP report content

Supervisors and students are reminded that confirmation of PhD enrolment must take place within 24 months of registration (for full-time students) and within 48 months (for part-time students).  The Biology Graduate School Board (BGSB) has agreed that students will transfer to PhD enrolment at 18 months (please see guidelines below).

All TAP meetings must be recorded directly into Skills Forge

By the date of the Confirmation of Enrolment Examination, the student should be able to:

  • Identify and articulate a hypothesis or research question(s), which, if properly explored has the potential to lead to an original contribution to knowledge within the required period
  • Identify, categorise, and critically engage with an appropriate amount of academic material already published in the area of their research
  • Articulate their methods and explain their research approach both in writing and in answer to direct questioning by the Confirmation Panel
  • Produce a piece of academic writing which indicates to the examiners that the student has the ability to progress to writing a successful PhD thesis

  • 3 month TAP Dec year 1 - A 2,000 word (maximum) report outlining plans and first experiments. 
  • 6 month TAP March year 1 - A 2,000 word (maximum) report to discuss the project and experimental/research plans
  • 12 month TAP Sept year 1 - A 3,000 word report to include a review of relevant literature, of the work so far and a plan for future work. The TAP are required to comment on what progress is required to ensure transfer to PhD status at 18 months.
  • 18 month upgrading TAP March year 2 (the University's Confirmation of PhD form must be completed) - A 5,000 word report and decide either (i) to recommend transfer to PhD, (ii) to recommend transfer in 6 months, or (iii) to record that progress not satisfactory and refer the case to the Biology Graduate School Board.  Where the TAP recommend (ii) the BGSB suggest that an extraordinary meeting at 21 months to confirm that progress is on track for transfer at 24 month meeting. To include a coherent and realistic timetable for the completion and submission of the thesis by the end of the full-time or part-time enrolment period, for agreement by the TAP.  A timetable must be attached.
  • 24 month TAP Sept year 2 - A 1,000 word summary of recent progress and future objectives (if already registered for PhD), or to discuss a revised 5,000-word report and consider recommending transfer to PhD.
  • 30 month TAP March year 3 - A brief summary on aims, progress and plans, including an outline of the proposed thesis chapters.
  • 36 month (3 yr students) TAP Sept year 3 OR 36 month (4 yr students) TAP Sept year 3  - A first draft of some part of the thesis, and a timetable for completion of the thesis. To ensure that the experimental programme has been completed or, if any further work is planned, that it is essential and realistic.
  • 42 month TAP March year 4 - A draft of some part the thesis, and to ensure the timetable for completion of the thesis is achievable.  

Review of supervision

Feeding back information on supervision

TAP members are asked to discuss supervision with the student once the supervisor/s has left the room. This form is completed and returned by the student to Biology Student Services, B/T008.


The Researcher Development Framework

The Researcher Development Framework guidelines

TAP Meeting Structure

A 1 hour meeting focused on the student’s progress and plans, with: A 10 min presentation by the student covering work completed since the last TAP meeting.

With questions and discussion this is be expected to extend beyond 10 minutes, but it provides an indication of length and number of slides to be used (10-15).

Discussion on the student’s plans for the next few months working towards the FRP meeting. 

Review of Supervision Meeting between the student and independent TAP members and with the supervisors out of the room.

Complete a hard copy of the Review of Supervision Form (this should be handed in to BGSO in the Student Services Office, B/T008). Skillsforge TAP form completed and submitted at the end of the meeting. Understandably, if there are particular issues or student needs, the meeting would extended.