Accessibility statement

1. Introduction

See also:
- Appendix 5: Policy Framework for Distance Learning Research Degree Programmes
- Appendix 6: Policy Framework for Collaborative Off-site and Collaborative Split-site PhD Programmes
- Appendix 7: Policy Framework for Integrated PhD Programmes


1.1 The Policy on Research Degrees (PoRD) sets out University policy on postgraduate research degree (PGR) programmes for postgraduate researchers (hereafter referred to as PGRs) , supervisors of PGRs and members of Thesis Advisory Panels, Progression Panels, examiners of research degrees, and other University staff with responsibility for PGRs.

1.2 This Policy has been drawn up with reference to the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, Advice and Guidance: Research Degrees (2018). York Graduate Research School (YGRS) is responsible for implementing the PoRD and reviewing it on an annual basis.

1.3 his Policy supplements, but does not supersede, the University’s regulations for PGR awards (Regulation 2). 

1.4 This Policy applies to the degrees of PhD, EngD, MPhil, MA (by research) and MSc (by research). The PhD by Publication option for members of staff is detailed separately in the University’s regulations (Regulation 2.9). Therefore, this policy refers to all PGRs unless otherwise stated.

1.5 There are additional regulations that apply to:

  • PGR programmes by distance learning: Appendix 5 
  • Collaborative split-site and off-site PhDs: Appendix 6
  • Integrated PhD programmes: Appendix 7.

Responsibility for PGRs and PGR programmes

Institutional responsibility

1.6 York Graduate Research School (YGRS) is responsible for postgraduate research (PGR) provision at the University of York. York Graduate Research School Board (YGRSB) - which reports via University Research Committee to Senate - is responsible for overseeing the work of YGRS. YGRSB has three subcommittees: PGR Policies and Programme Committee (PPPC) (to assure the standards of PGR programmes, and to monitor and promote the enhancement of the quality of the academic experience of PGRs), PGR Funding and Recruitment Committee (to ensure accountability, transparency and consistency with respect to the funding and recruitment of PGRs), and PGR Experience Committee (to coordinate and oversee matters relating to the support and personal and professional development of PGRs and to promote a vibrant community of PGRs). 

1.7 YGRS monitors PGRs and PGR programmes through:

(i) the consideration of a range of statistical data (where appropriate analysed by department and demographic factors) including:

  • Postgraduate Research Student Experience (PRES) survey data (when available)
  • formal supervision meeting and TAP meeting compliance rates (from PGRA)
  • rates of progression at the first and second attempt (from PGRA)
  • submission and completion times and rates (from the SIA and PGRA)
  • pass, referral, fail and withdrawal rates (from PGRA)
  • appeals and complaints (from Special Cases)
  • data provided by GSA. 

(ii) Annual Review and other University review processes, which include explicit consideration of PGRs and PGR programmes.

1.8 Operational institutional responsibility for PGRs and PGR programmes is as follows:



Recruitment and Admissions

Marketing, Recruitment, Admission and Outreach (MRAO)

Supporting the PGR journey from enrolment through progression to final examination and award

PGR Administration (PGRA)

PGR programme approval, monitoring and review


Central PGR induction and training

Building Research and Innovation Capacity (BRIC) Team  

Training for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)

Academic Practice

Research policy framework

Policy, Integrity and Performance team (PIP)

Research ethics

University Research Committee (URC) and disciplinary Research Ethics Committees

Central training for PGRs and supervisors

 BRIC Team

School/departmental responsibility

1.9 Within a school, department or centre (as applicable), the research committee has oversight of all research in the department, while responsibility for PGRs and PGR programmes rests with the Board of Studies, although in many schools/departments/centres responsibility is delegated from the Board of Studies to a Graduate School Board (or equivalent) led by a Graduate Chair. In the rest of the document, ‘department’ is used to represent a PGR’s home school/department/centre, and Graduate School Board (GSB)/Graduate Chair is used to represent whichever school/departmental/centre committee or individual has formal responsibility (either directly or under delegated powers) for PGRs and PGR programmes.

Record keeping

1.10 PGRs, their department and the University are responsible for maintaining records relating to a PGR’s programme, including supervision, progress and training. The primary system used to maintain such records is SkillsForge and PGRs and their supervisors are required to engage with this.

Approval of PGR programmes

1.11 All new PGR programmes must be approved by the relevant Graduate School Board. They also require planning and academic approval at University level. Academic approval is undertaken by PPPC on behalf of YGRSB.

1.12 All PhD programmes must have an MPhil and an MA (by research) and/or MSc (by research) available as transfer and exit awards. All MPhil programmes must have an MA (by research) and/or MSc (by research) available as transfer and exit awards.

1.13 Where a department is planning to bid for a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) or Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) (as lead or member institution), the University approval stage (i.e. planning and academic) for any associated PGR programme should run in parallel with the initial drafting of the bid in order to identify and address any issues early on in the process and build up staff expertise and cooperation.

1.14 For approval, the relevant new programme pro forma must be submitted with the required supporting documentation, which may include comments (on the relevant pro forma) from an external assessor. The Chair of PPPC may decide that comments from an external assessor are not required, eg if the programme has already undergone external review as part of a bid to a research council or other sponsor/funding body. 

1.15 Modifications to PGR programmes require departmental approval and, in the case of major modifications (including significant changes to progression processes and departmental training requirements), University academic (and sometimes planning) approval.

Approval and modification of taught awards and taught components of PGR programmes 

1.16 PGRs who embark on a PGR programme at the University may be eligible to receive a taught award in three circumstances – as an additional taught award, as an exit taught award or as a teaching award (not covered by this Policy). 

1.17 An ‘additional taught award’ means that PGRs are permitted or required to enrol on a taught programme (eg a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma) alongside their PGR programme for training purposes. PGRs who successfully complete the taught programme and the PGR programme receive both awards (PGRs who successfully complete just the taught programme may still receive the taught award). In the case of an Integrated PhD programme, successful completion of the taught programme is required for progression. In the case of other PGR programmes, successful completion of the taught programme may or may not be a requirement for progression (as approved by PPPC).  

1.18 An ‘exit taught award’ is conferred where PGRs have successfully completed sufficient credit-bearing modules, taken for training purposes, to be eligible for a taught award (eg a Postgraduate Certificate) but who withdraw, have their enrolment terminated or are not awarded a PGR degree on final examination. PGRs only receive an exit taught award if they do not receive a PGR degree.

1.19 Additional/exit taught awards for PGRs must align with the York pedagogy and be presented on the standard new programme documentation for taught awards. Modules contributing to additional/exit taught awards should be on the module catalogue. The standard taught programme design and assessment rules apply to additional/exit taught awards and such programmes must be overseen by an external examiner in line with standard procedures for taught programmes.

1.20 The approval process for additional/exit taught awards for PGRs ensures that a single committee is responsible for final approval for clarity of decision making, while safeguards are in place to ensure consistency and sharing of good practice across all the University’s taught awards.

1.21 Where additional/exit taught awards are available to postgraduate taught students (PGTs) as well as to PGRs then standard approval procedures for new taught programme approval should be followed. Once a programme has received planning and FLTG approval, PPPC may approve the incorporation of the programme into a named PGR programme as an additional taught award or exit taught award. 

1.22 Where additional/exit taught awards are only available to PGRs (ie not to PGTs), the approval process is as above, but PPPC takes the final decision on approval. 

1.23 Modifications to additional taught/exit taught awards for PGRs should be approved by the relevant Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching, and then the Dean of YGRS. 

Four-year and 3.5 year PhD programmes

1.24 Departments can propose four-year and 3.5 year PhD programmes (and part-time equivalents), in addition to their existing three-year PhD programme(s). PGRs may be admitted to a four-year or 3.5 year PhD programme only if the programme has the necessary approval. The University recognises two distinct types of four-year PhD programmes: (i) four-year PhD programmes and (ii) Integrated PhD programmes. 

1.25 Four-year and 3.5 year PhD programmes are normally developed in response to the requirements of research councils and other funding bodies. The longer duration may recognise the time that PGRs are required to spend on additional activities (ie those not primarily directed towards research or thesis preparation) and/or reflect the funder's desire that PGRs should submit within the funded period (whilst recognising that this may not be possible within a three-year period). Four-year and 3.5 year PhD programmes are similar to the University's standard three-year PhD programmes but with a different normal and minimum period of enrolment (see section 7). Four-year and 3.5 year PhD programmes do not normally have a continuation year (see section 7).

1.26 Integrated PhD programmes are often developed in response to particular departmental needs, namely to facilitate the admission of those who meet the University's minimum PhD admission requirements and demonstrate the potential to undertake a PhD but whose educational background means they are unsuited to a three-year PhD programme (eg they are moving between disciplines or their Master's programme did not provide the right academic preparation for PhD work). Integrated PhD programmes have their own policy framework (see Appendix 7). 

Policy sections

1. Introduction

2. The criteria for the award of PGR degrees

3. The research environment

4. Selection, admission and induction of PGRs

5. Supervision

6. Responsibilities of PGRs and supervisors

7. Periods of enrolment, changes to PGRs' status and personal circumstances (including illness), working hours and holidays

8. Progress and review arrangements

9. Development of research and other skills

10. Evaluation of PGR programmes

11. Research integrity and ethics

12. Assessment

13. Dissemination of research results, intellectual property rights and responsibilities

14. PGR complaints and appeals

15. Research away from York (excluding PGRs on distance learning PGR programmes)

16. Arrangements for non-York PGRs