Accessibility statement

8. Progress and review arrangements

See also: Appendix 2: Policy on PhD/EngD and MPhil Student Progression

8.1

Regular review of a PGR’s progress is essential to maximise the likelihood of the PGR completing the programme successfully within an appropriate timescale, and to ensure that if progress is unsatisfactory that they are given the support they need to make improvements. Formal supervisory meetings and routine meetings of Thesis Advisory Panels (TAPs) (see below) form a key part of this regular review process. MPhil and PhD/EngD PGRs are also subject to formal reviews of progress (see below). Additional progression points may be introduced when proposed by a department and approved by PPPC.   

8.2

Where a PGR has to make any significant changes to their research project for any reason (including but not limited to force majeure events), this should be discussed at formal supervisory meetings and TAP meetings and taken into account during formal reviews of progress. The discussion and any actions should be recorded in SkillsForge for future reference. 

8.3

Departments are encouraged to specify milestones for PGRs to monitor their progress against (which may or may not be assessed as part of formal reviews of progress). This could include expectations regarding skills training (eg the completion of certain courses/modules by a particular point), and expectations regarding the dissemination of information (for example, in some disciplines, a typical PhD PGR might present a poster at an internal conference in year 1, present an internal seminar on their work in year 2, and present their work at an external conference and be in the process of submitting a paper for publication by the time of thesis submission). Departments may need to consider making reasonable adjustments to milestones for PGRs with a disability and can seek advice, as required, from Disability Services.

Thesis Advisory Panels

8.4

Each PGR will have a Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP). The principal purposes of the panel are to review the progress of the PGR’s research programme and Professional Development Plan (PDP), and to supplement, where appropriate, the advice and guidance given to the PGR by the supervisor(s).

8.5

The TAP consists of the supervisor(s) (the supervisory team) and at least one additional member of the University’s Academic, Research or Teaching staff. The TAP should be chaired by a non-supervisory member of the University’s Academic, Research or Teaching staff who is at grade 7 or above or has considerable experience of supervising PGRs. The following are eligible to serve as additional TAP members: research fellows (NB some research fellows may qualify to serve as a TAP chair), emeritus and honorary staff at the University of York; academic staff based in other academic institutions; researchers based in industry or professional practice. The panel will be appointed within the first three months of the PGR’s enrolment period, and the PGR will be informed of its membership. Not all TAP members need to be present at each TAP however the minimum attendance is two people, including one who is not a supervisor and is eligible to chair the meeting.

8.6

Departments should carefully consider the composition of each TAP (in terms of the number of people, their expertise and their experience) to ensure that it can properly fulfil its purpose. This means ensuring that there is at least one non-supervisory member who is sufficiently independent of the supervisory team (ie excluding anyone with a close personal relationship to a supervisor) to fulfil their role with respect to the Review of Supervision and any role of the TAP in respect to formal reviews of progress (see below).

TAP meetings

8.7

For full-time PGRs, the TAP will meet with the PGR at least once within every six-month period (ie in months 1-6, 7-12, etc., for a full-time PGR). For part-time PGRs, the TAP will meet with the PGR at least once a year. Any member of the panel, or the PGR, may request a panel meeting at other times. Meetings of the TAP are additional to formal supervisory meetings but may be integrated with progress review meetings (see below). The TAP is expected to meet only during the PGR’s normal enrolment period. The purpose and target dates of the TAP meetings to be held during the PGR programme should be made clear to the PGR by the supervisor at the outset of the programme and both the PGR and the main supervisor should take responsibility for scheduling TAP meetings.

8.8

In preparing for a TAP meeting, a PGR should complete the TAP preparation form via SkillsForge and provide relevant supporting documentation in order to reflect on and summarise progress on their work during the review period and outline their future objectives. The supervisor should provide a comprehensive, honest, and constructive written report on the PGR’s progress on the TAP Meeting form.  

8.9

During or immediately following the TAP meeting, a brief report on the outcome and future actions, agreed by all the panel members, should be produced on the TAP meeting record form via SkillsForge where it will be accessible to the PGR (in order to ensure feedback on their progress and to inform the next steps in their research) and TAP members. The Graduate Chair should monitor TAP forms to ensure process and quality are appropriate. The department is ultimately responsible for ensuring that TAP meetings happen on time and are correctly recorded in SkillsForge.

Post-TAP supervision discusssion and Review of Supervision discussion and form

8.10

Towards the end of each TAP meeting, the supervisor(s) should leave the meeting but the PGR should remain with one or more non-supervisory TAP member(s) (sometimes referred to as the Independent Panel Member(s) and who should be clearly independent of the supervisory team). The non-supervisory TAP member(s) should encourage the PGR to complete and submit the Review of Supervision form, thereby offering the PGR an opportunity to discuss their supervisory relationship in a safe environment. The Review of Supervision form can also be completed independently of the TAP process. See section 5 on Supervision for more details.

Raising an issue about a TAP

8.11

If a PGR is unhappy with the TAP that they have been allocated, or if they believe it is not operating as it should, they should attempt to resolve the matter informally in the first instance. If they feel unable to discuss the matter directly with their TAP, or the problem remains unresolved having done this, the PGR should follow the steps outlined in section 5: Providing feedback on, and dealing with challenges to, the supervisory relationship. 

Formal reviews of progress for MPhil, PhD and EngD students

NOTE: PGRs registered on PhD and EngD programmes before 1st September 2016 are subject to the Confirmation of Enrolment process

Purpose and overview of formal reviews of progress

8.12

A PGR is admitted to a PhD/EngD or MPhil programme on the basis of an assessment of their potential at the admissions stage. Remaining on the PhD/EngD or MPhil programme is conditional on the PGR making satisfactory progress with respect to their research project and the other elements of their PhD/EngD or MPhil programme. 

8.13

The purpose of formal reviews of progress is, therefore, to ensure that PGRs on PhD/EngD and MPhil programmes are making satisfactory progress. Formal reviews of progress take place on an annual basis for full-time PhD/EngD and MPhil PGRs (towards the end of a PGR’s academic year) and on a biennial basis for part-time PhD and MPhil PGRs. Formal reviews of progress are not required for entry into a continuation period, where this is permitted.

8.14

In a formal review of progress, a PhD, EngD or MPhil PGR is assessed against the relevant University progression criteria by a progression panel. PGRs are permitted a maximum of two opportunities to meet the relevant University progression criteria at each formal review of progress. If a PGR has not met the relevant University progression criteria after two attempts they will be deemed to have failed the progression point and they will be transferred to an alternative programme or their enrolment will be terminated. Progression decisions are approved by the SCA on behalf of Senate.

8.15

Full details on formal reviews of progress are provided in Appendix 2. Whilst the framework for formal reviews of progress is set out by the University, many of the details (including the exact timing, the evidence requested, and the composition and operation of panels) are determined departmentally within the parameters set by the University. A department must obtain PPPC approval for its approach to formal reviews of progress (ie including in relation to the timing, evidence and panels) and any major changes to that approach.    

Composition of the progression panel

8.16

The progression panel for a PhD/EngD or MPhil PGR should comprise at least two individuals and be independent of the PGR’s supervisor(s). The progression panel should be chaired by a senior academic member of the same or cognate department who has experience of successful PGR supervision in the broad disciplinary area within which the PGR is based. 

8.17

Progression panels are not expected to make detailed judgements about a PGR’s research project, nor to direct the PGR’s future work; rather, they are required to determine, on the basis of the evidence from the PGR and the supervisor’s report, if the PGR meets the relevant University criteria for progression (which are threshold requirements).

Timing of formal reviews of progress

8.18

Formal reviews of progress will take place according to the schedule below. PGRs must complete all aspects of the review, and the recommendation of the progression panel must be submitted via SkillsForge, by the deadline.

8.19

Maximum Period of enrolment prior to progression reviews (departments must set their own timelines within these broad University parameters – see Appendix 2):

Which progression point?

FT PGR student first attempt timing

FT PGR student second attempt timing

PT PGR student first attempt timing

PT PGR student second attempt timing

PhD/EngD & MPhil

First 
Formal Review of Progress

9-12 Months

No more than 3 months after the date of the first progress review meeting 

17-24 Months

No more than 6 months after the date of the first progress review meeting

PhD/EngD

Second 
Formal Review of Progress

21-24 Months

No more than 3 months after the date of the first progress review meeting

41-48 Months 

No more than 6 months after the date of the first progress review meeting

4 Year PhD/EngD

Third 
Formal Review of Progress

33-36 Months

No more than 3 months after the date of the first progress review meeting

65-72 Months

No more than 6 months first attempt the date of the first progress review meeting

Evidence considered by the progress review panel

8.20

Departments determine (subject to PPPC approval) what evidence (written and often oral) PhD/EngD and MPhil PGRs should provide to demonstrate that they have met the relevant University progression criteria (see Appendix 2). Evidence from the PGR is considered alongside the supervisor’s report on the PGR’s progress and, where required by a department, agreed TAP reports. 

Progression criteria

8.21

The University’s progression criteria for PhD/EngD and MPhil programmes set out the threshold requirements for progression to the next stage. They should be understood by reference to what a conscientious PGR might reasonably expect to have achieved in the time available. Details of the University’s progression criteria are provided in Appendix 2.

Progress review meetings

8.22

The progression panel will consider the evidence from the PGR alongside the supervisor’s report, and, where required by a department, agreed TAP reports at a progress review meeting. Based on these elements the progression panel will make a decision as to whether the PGR has met, exceeded or not met the relevant University progression criteria, and make a recommendation regarding PGR progression. 

8.23

If a department’s evidence requirements include oral evidence obtained at the progress review meeting, then a PGR will, as a matter of course, be present at their progress review meeting. 

8.24

If a department’s evidence requirements do not include oral evidence obtained at the progress review meeting, then a PGR will not, as a matter of course, be present at their progress review meeting. If, however, a progression panel does not feel able, on the basis of the evidence provided by a PGR and/or the supervisor’s report and/or the agreed TAP reports (if applicable), to recommend that an individual PGR be progressed, then a meeting at which the PGR in question is present, along with at least two members of the progression panel, must be scheduled as soon as possible (and within the department’s specified window for progress review meetings) to give the PGR every opportunity to demonstrate that they have met the relevant University progression criteria. 

Second attempt at meeting the criteria

8.25

If, at a PGR’s first attempt, a progression panel decides that a PGR has not yet met the relevant University progression criteria (including on the grounds of non-submission of evidence and/or non-attendance at a progress review meeting), it must recommend a second attempt at meeting the relevant University progression criteria, programme transfer or withdrawal. 

8.26

The progression panel will provide the PGR with clear written feedback about why the progression criteria were not met and its reasons for recommending a second attempt, programme transfer or withdrawal. The progression panel will specify, in broad terms, what the PGR would need to do to meet the relevant University progression criteria at the second attempt.

8.27

In the case of a recommendation for programme transfer or withdrawal, the PGR may choose to accept the recommendation or, alternatively, decide to make a second attempt at meeting the relevant University progression criteria against the advice of the progression panel. The PGR must inform their department of their intention (i.e. second attempt, transfer or withdrawal) within two weeks of being informed of the panel’s recommendation (if a PGR does not respond within this timeframe it will be treated as an assumed withdrawal). See Appendix 2 for full details of making a second attempt at meeting the progression criteria, including the requirement for recording the second progress review meeting.

8.28

If the progression panel decides that the PGR has met or exceeded the relevant University progression criteria at the second attempt, it should recommend that the PGR be progressed. If, however, the progression panel decides that the PGR has not met the relevant University progression criteria at the second attempt (including on the grounds of the non-submission of evidence and/or non-attendance at a progress review meeting), the PGR will be deemed to have failed the progression point and the progression panel must recommend that the PGR be transferred to an MPhil programme (for PGRs enrolled on a PhD programme only); or that the PGR be transferred to a MA/MSc (by research) programme; or that the PGR’s enrolment with the University be terminated. The progression panel should provide reasons for its recommendation. 

8.29

If a PGR progresses at the second attempt this does not alter the timing of the next formal review of progress (if applicable), nor change the period of enrolment, nor alter the deadline for submission of the thesis.

8.30

Transfer to an alternative programme is subject to the approval of any extensions, if required, and the PGR will be bound by the regulations and requirements of their new programme. 

8.31

A PGR retains the right of appeal against a failure to progress, as outlined in the Regulation 2.8.

Extensions to progression deadlines

8.32

An extension request will not be considered until the PGR is within two months of their progression deadline. Any extension will normally be limited to two months. The total period of extension that may normally be approved is a maximum of four months.

8.33

Any extension to the deadline for a formal review of progress does not alter the timing of the next formal review of progress (if applicable), nor change the period of enrolment, nor alter the deadline for submission of the thesis.