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Appendix 6: Policy Framework for Collaborative Off-site and Collaborative Split-site PGR Programmes

Introduction

1.

This is the University’s policy framework for collaborative off-site and collaborative split-site PGR programmes. It should be read in conjunction with the University’s Policy on Research Degrees (PoRD) and Regulations for Research Degree Awards (Regulation 2). If there is any inconsistency between the PoRD and this framework, this framework should apply.

2.

Exceptions to this framework may be agreed on a case by case basis by PPPC where there is a clear justification and the changes are academically appropriate.

3.

The details with respect to CITY College off-site PhD provision are contained in the York-CITY Collaborative PhD Handbook which is subject to PPPC approval. PGRs on off-site PhD programmes with CITY do not sign individual PGR agreements.

The nature and purpose of collaborative off-site and split-site PhD programmes

4.

Collaborative off-site and collaborative split-site PhDs are for PGRs who are enrolled solely at the University of York and are eligible for a single University of York award (not a joint or double PhD) whilst spending a significant period of their programme away from the University at an approved research organisation (the partner).

5.

Collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs differ in the proportion of time spent at York and the partner as set out in the table below:

 

Standard (campus-based) PhD

Collaborative split-site PhD

Collaborative off-site PhD*

Where PGRs are based

PGRs are based at the York campus.

PGRs split their time between the partner and York. 

PGRs spend the vast majority of their time at the partner, with only short and infrequent visits to York.

Maximum attendance at York

The full period of enrolment.

Half the normal period of enrolment.

Short study visits only (no visits lasting for more than eight weeks) and typically limited to two-four weeks of visit per year. 

Minimum attendance at York

Half the normal period of enrolment. 


Mobility for fieldwork and visits to other academic institutions is permitted but subject to restrictions and time limits (see section 15 of the PoRD): normally no more than 12 months away from York. 

Normally eight months across the programme (although may be lower if academically justifiable) including an induction period (of at least five working days) and the final examination. 

At least one visit in the normal period of enrolment must last for more than eight weeks.

An induction period (of at least five working days) and the final examination. 

*Distance learning PhDs: similar to a collaborative off-site PhD but without the involvement of a partner (see Appendix 5 of the PoRD). 

6.

Partners may include HEIs which choose not to make use of their own degree-awarding-powers (eg HEIs in low- or middle-income countries who are capacity building), research facilities/institutes and related institutions (eg national museums and archives) without degree-awarding-powers, and businesses with the necessary facilities for advanced research. Partners may be based in the UK or internationally and should be in good academic standing. 

7.

The choice between a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD will need to be made on a case by case basis and will depend on a number of factors both academic - including the intellectual needs of the PGR, the nature of the research project, and what the partner can provide in terms of a research community and training for the PGR - and practical - including funding arrangements, any restrictions on a PGR’s mobility for professional and/or personal reasons, and UKVI rules where applicable. For example, where a PGR is based in a highly regarded international research facility, which provides exemplary access to a research community and training provision, and the facility’s equipment is fundamental to the PGR’s research project an off-site PhD programme may be the most appropriate option. An off-site PhD programme may also be the most appropriate option where a PGR is employed as an academic at the international partner and cannot come to York for longer mobility periods for professional and/or personal reasons.

8.

Collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs both fall under the University’s collaborative provision rules and York is ultimately responsible for the standards and academic quality of the provision. This means that there must be a process of due diligence undertaken on the partner, including its reputation and ability to provide an appropriate research environment for the PGR. There must also be a formal agreement in place to cover PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD.

9.

Collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs can be offered on an individual PGR basis but also, and indeed preferably (for economies of scale and quality enhancement), for cohorts of PGRs as part of a broader link between York and the partner e.g. an HEI trying to increase the number of its faculty with UK PhDs, or a national museum/archive with close research links to a York department.

Advantages of collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs

10.

For a department, collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs can provide a means to develop or extend research collaborations with a range of organisations and, in the case of international partners, to recruit high quality international PGRs. Collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs may also appeal to funding bodies who want to develop capacity in a partner but want the reassurance of working with an established UK university. 

11.

For the University, collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs provide transparency when a PGR is undertaking research at a partner. Due diligence checks will have been undertaken on the partner (the scale depending on the risk) and there will be clarity about the respective roles and responsibilities of York and the partner. This, in turn, helps the University meet its duty of care to the PGR (eg in terms of the quality of research facilities, health and safety, and provision of appropriate support), fulfil any responsibilities with regard to visas (if applicable), and safeguard the integrity of research being undertaken in its name. 

12.

For the partner, collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs provides a formal link (which can be publicised) with York thus strengthening the relationship between the two. They also provide clarity around the support the partner is expected to provide for a PGR and how this is recognised by York (eg financially and/or agreement with respect to how the partner/co-supervisor will be acknowledged in any publications or other outcomes arising from the PhD research project).

13.

For PGRs, collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs enable them to be based in the location of their research and/or where they need to be for professional and/or personal reasons but still enrolled on a York PhD programme. Doing a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD means that a PGR will benefit from a supervisor and support from York (when in attendance or by distance learning), plus local support from the partner, which in addition to research facilities may include co-supervision (or other personal support, see below) and access to a research community and training opportunities. 

Key considerations in choosing a partner

14.

The quality of the partner is key to ensuring a successful collaborative off-site or split-site PhD. Partners must be in good standing, academically and more generally (eg financially and in terms of governance), and must be able to provide a suitable working environment for PhD PGRs. Where a collaborative split-site or off-site PhD is part of an initiative to build research capacity at the partner, particular attention must be paid to how the training and support needs of the PGR(s) will be met during their PhD.

Approval process and fees

15.

Where the partner is international, it is recommended that, as a first step, the department works with Global Partnerships to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the partner.

16.

For the approval of a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD proposal with a new partner, a department will need to follow the current off-site/split-site PhD approval process, which includes due diligence, to receive Planning approval (if required) and PPPC approval (always required but normally undertaken by Chair’s action). Depending on the partner, the approval process may include a requirement for further due diligence and/or a departmental visit. Once approval has been granted, the individual PGR agreement(s) can be produced and signed (see below). 

17.

For the approval of additional collaborative off-site or split-site PhDs with an existing collaborative off-site or split-site partner, a department will flag any amendments to the existing proposal for planning approval (if required) and PPPC approval (by Chair’s action). Once full approval has been granted, the individual PGR agreement(s) can be produced and signed (see below).

18.

Standard home or international PhD fees apply unless a department gains formal agreement for an exception. Any transfer of money to a partner must also be formally agreed by Planning.

Programme details

Duration

19.

The period of enrolment for a PGR on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD will be the same as that for PGRs on the equivalent campus-based PhD programme. 

Naming convention and final award

20.

A PGR who successfully completes a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD shall be awarded a PhD in XXXX (their subject) from York and their degree certificate shall not refer to the partner or the fact that they were primarily studying away from York. 

21.

The partner may wish to provide a certificate of attendance, transcript or similar that recognises that the PGR has been based there and includes any courses or other training undertaken at the partner. Any certificate of attendance, transcript or similar to be issued by the partner must first be approved by York and must not imply that the partner has granted an award.

PGR agreements

22.

A PGR agreement should be signed (normally by York, the partner and the PGR) before a PGR enrols on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD. At York, this process will normally be managed by the Research and Knowledge Exchange Contracts Team. Individual PGR agreements will normally follow a University template, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of York and the partner with respect to that individual PGR.

Multiple off-site or split-site PhDs with the same partner

23.

Where a department and a partner are planning to host a number of collaborative off-site or split-site PhD PGRs (either a cohort or spread over a number of years), an academic from the department at York should be nominated to coordinate the provision and oversee the relationship with the partner.

24.

For a cohort of off-site or split-site PhD PGRs, an overarching cohort agreement may be developed to cover common practices across the cohort so that the content of the individual PGR agreements can be minimised (e.g. with the individual PGR agreements being brief appendices to the overarching cohort agreement). Where several off-site or split-site PhD PGRs will start over a number of years with the same partner, a partner-specific template individual PGR agreement may be more appropriate to allow for changes as the relationship develops.

Suitability of the partner’s research environment

25.

The department is responsible for checking that the partner is able to provide the required research facilities (eg laboratories, libraries, computing facilities, specialist equipment, desk space) and that these are of a suitable standard and, where applicable, broadly comparable to what would be available at York. 

26.

The department will also be required to undertake a risk assessment and check that the partner has suitable policies in place e.g. with respect to: (i) health and safety (including insurance), (ii) equality and diversity, (iii) research integrity, and (iv) secure data management.

Data sharing and initial intellectual property (IP) agreement

27.

A data sharing agreement will need to be in place between York and the partner prior to the application of any PGRs. It is also recommended that an indicative intellectual property agreement is negotiated at this stage to avoid later delay.

PGR status and enrolment

28.

A PGR on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD is enrolled on an existing full-time or part-time PhD programme at York (which may be three or four years in duration or part-time equivalent) but their collaborative off-site or split-site status will be recorded and clearly flagged on SkillsForge and SITS. It is accepted that a PGR may also need to register at the partner but this process should not bestow any rights to an award from the partner.

Admission requirements and process

29.

The admission requirements (academic and English language) for a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD are the same as those for the equivalent campus-based PhD programme.  

30.

Collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs may or may not be directly advertised. The partner may be involved in the admissions process (eg a proposed co-supervisor from the partner may be involved in shortlisting and interviewing) but the final decision on offering a place shall rest with York. 

31.

As part of the admissions process, a department must consider carefully and discuss with the partner and applicant the suitability of the project(s) and the individual PGR(s) for this mode of study.

32.

PGR costs (eg for visas, travel and accommodation to meet attendance and in-person supervision requirements) associated with participation in a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD must be clearly stated.

Information

33.

PGRs on collaborative off-site or split-site PhDs should be provided, by their department, with clear written information about studying on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD in the form of an online handbook. 

Requirements for attendance at York

34.

The University’s attendance requirements (see also the in-person supervision recommendations) are as follows:

Collaborative split-site PhD

Collaborative off-site PhD

The PGR will split their time between the partner and York during their enrolment. 

The PGR will spend the vast majority of their time at the partner, with only short and infrequent study visits to York during their enrolment.

Minimum attendance at York: normally eight months across the programme (although may be lower if academically justifiable) including for an induction period (of at least five working days) and for the final examination. At least one study visit in the normal period of enrolment must last for more than eight weeks.

Maximum attendance at York: half the normal period of enrolment.

Minimum attendance at York: for an induction period (of at least five working days) and for the final examination. 

Maximum attendance at York: normally no more than two weeks/year, with no study visits which last for more than eight weeks.

35.

Attendance at York will be negotiated on an individual (or cohort) basis, within the attendance constraints specified above, and set out in the individual (or an overarching cohort) PGR agreement. Attendance at York may be specified in terms of duration (number of weeks at York) and/or presence at particular contact points (eg TAP meetings, progression meetings, departmental conferences or other key departmental milestones).

36.

Attendance at York should be designed to maximise its value, in terms of advancing the research project and/or supporting the intellectual development of the PGR (eg providing access to specific resources at York, enabling the PGR to undertake an experiment under the direct supervision of the York supervisor, providing opportunities for the PGR to participate in training and integrate with the research community). 

37.

PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD are required to visit York for an induction period of at least five working days (longer if this is required by their department e.g. for the provision of introductory training) at the start of their programme, normally within two months of their first enrolment on the programme. PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD are required to visit York for an induction period of at least five working days (longer if this is required by their department e.g. for the provision of introductory training) at the start of their programme, normally within two months of their first enrolment on the programme. 

Attendance at York: practical considerations

38.

International PGRs subject to UKVI restrictions will be required to apply for an appropriate student visa to meet attendance requirements. The timing of attendance requirements will need to be designed with visa restrictions in mind. It is the PGR’s responsibility to apply for visas and meet visa requirements.

39.

It is the responsibility of the PGR or their funder to organise and fund (e.g. travel, accommodation and visas) any trips that they need to undertake to meet attendance requirements or for in-person supervision meetings (see below). 

Induction

40.

PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD are required to visit York for an induction period of at least five working days (longer if this is required by their department e.g. for the provision of introductory training) at the start of their programme, normally within two months of their first enrolment on the programme. 

41.

The induction visit should be fully-timetabled and carefully structured to provide maximum value to the PGRs. The induction must include: a formal supervision meeting with feedback on a PGR’s work (eg the research proposal), a general PGR departmental induction and a bespoke departmental induction that focuses on their particular needs. 

42.

Unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, the timing of the induction should be scheduled to coincide with one of the two main University PGR annual start points so that PGRs can attend the YGRS central induction session, GSA welcome activities and standard PGR departmental induction programme.

Appointment of supervisors, co-supervisors and pastoral advisers/mentors

43.

The main supervisor for a PGR undertaking a collaborative off-site and split-site PhD must, in accordance with the PoRD, always be from York. 

44.

The details of the role of the partner in co-supervising and/or supporting a PGR should be agreed in advance of the PGR starting the programme and set out in the individual (or overarching cohort) PGR agreement.

45.

Where suitably qualified staff are available, the partner may provide one or more co-supervisors (subject to the approval of the department at York, as set out in the PoRD). Any co-supervisors from the partner should undertake training to familiarise themselves with York’s approach to PGR supervision and relevant policies and procedures. 

46.

Additionally or alternatively (particularly if the partner cannot provide a co-supervisor for a PGR), the partner may provide a member(s) of a PGR’s Thesis Advisory Panel. Additionally or alternatively, the partner may provide a pastoral adviser or mentor but in this case it should be clear to the PGR that this person’s role is complementary to, rather than replacing, the pastoral support offered by their supervisor(s). 

Supervision

47.

Supervision should be conducted in accordance with the rules of the PoRD, and any additional departmental requirements, with the exception that when the PGR is located at the partner both formal and informal supervision meetings with the York-based supervisor will normally take place via video-conferencing. 

48.

Of the (minimum) eight formal supervision meetings/enrolment year between the York-based supervisor and the PGR, it is strongly recommended that at least one should be in-person (ie where the PGR and the York-based supervisor are co-located either in York, at the partner, or at another location e.g. a conference). It is considered good practice for a York-based supervisor to visit their PGR at the partner at least once during the course of the PGR’s PhD. 

49.

The purpose and likely frequency of informal supervision meetings and contact should be made clear for the PGR by their supervisor, at induction and within the relevant handbook (or equivalent). Departments are strongly encouraged to ensure that some form of contact between the PGR and their York-based supervisor occurs at least monthly, if not more frequently. 

Monitoring and progression

50.

The policy and procedures for monitoring and progression for a PGR undertaking a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD are the same as for a campus-based PhD but, unless otherwise set out in the individual (or overarching cohort) PGR agreement, TAP and progress review meetings should take place by video-conferencing (with the PGR and any local co-supervisor or TAP member (as applicable) at the partner) unless they coincide with a PGR’s visit to York. Permission does not need to be obtained from PGRA for a TAP/progression meeting to be held by video-conferencing.

Research community

51.

One of the benefits of undertaking a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD (in comparison to a distance learning PhD), is that the partner will normally able to provide the PGR with a local research community. The department at York should, nevertheless, take steps to ensure that PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD feel part of the research community at York (see the Policy Framework for Distance Learning PGR Programmes). The individual (or overarching cohort) PGR agreement should specify any particular community-building actions for York or the partner, particularly if the research community at the partner is limited.

Training and development

52.

PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD must complete any training that is mandatory at York, for example the Research Integrity Tutorial, and are expected to complete any recommended training, for example Becoming an Effective Researcher. 

53.

Research and transferable skills training and support for the professional development may be provided by the partner, by York (either when the PGR is present in York or by distance learning), or most likely by a combination of the two. Discussion about training needs (particularly where a department mandates particular courses/taught modules) should take place at an early stage, so that details of how these needs will be met (including the respective responsibilities of York and the partner) can be recorded in the individual (or overarching cohort) PGR agreement.

54.

Departments should take proactive steps to make their departmental training accessible to, and appropriate for, PGRs on collaborative off-site or split-site PhD degrees. This might involve, for instance, facilitating remote participation in training sessions, modifying and recording training sessions for asynchronous consumption, or developing interactive online resources.

Access to facilities and resources

55.

PGRs will have access to the facilities and resources of the partner as set out in the individual (or overarching cohort) agreement, and to the facilities and resources of York when in attendance or as a distance-learner.

56.

PGRs on a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD should have the same access to departmental funding opportunities (eg conference funds) as PGRs on the equivalent campus-based PGR programme.

Examination

57.

The examination process for a PGR undertaking a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD is the same as for a campus-based PhD. Collaborative off-site and split-site PhD PGRs may request an offsite, hybrid or online oral examination but if this is not approved by the Standing Committee on Assessment they must attend York for this purpose. 

58.

An academic from the partner may serve as the internal examiner for a PGR on the relevant collaborative off-site or split-site PhD if they hold an honorary appointment at York at an appropriate level and meet the usual expectations in terms of academic expertise and lack of conflict of interest. When a partner academic is appointed to serve as an internal examiner, they should receive training and support from an experienced internal examiner in the relevant department at York and, in addition, an independent Chair from the relevant faculty should be appointed to oversee the examination process (see section 12 of the PoRD). An academic from the partner can never serve as an external examiner for the relevant collaborative off-site or split-site PhD.

Transfers

59.

Where academically appropriate, subject to any UKVI restrictions (if applicable) and the resolution of any funding issues, and with the permission of the department, partner (where required) and SC, a collaborative off-site or split-site PhD PGR may transfer to the equivalent campus-based programme.

Teaching opportunities

60.

Access to paid teaching opportunities at York for PGRs on collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs will be limited, and such opportunities will not be available to those who do not have the right to work in the UK and/or are based outside the UK. The Policy on Graduate Teaching Assistants would apply as normal (eg PGRs must meet the training requirements). 

61.

PGRs may undertake paid teaching work at the partner, if available, but this should be with the agreement of their supervisor(s) and funder, if applicable. The hours undertaken should be no more than would be permitted for a PGR on a campus-based PhD to ensure that their research project and work/life balance is not jeopardised. 

PGR representation and engagement

62.

PGRs on collaborative off-site and split-site PhDs should be included in departmental and University mechanisms for PGR representation and engagement, as per other PhD PGRs, acknowledging that reasonable adjustments may need to be made to facilitate their participation when located at the partner.

Complaints and appeals

63.

Complaints relating to the partner should be raised, initially, directly with the partner but the PGR shall have the right to escalate any complaint to York if they cannot get satisfactory resolution. Appeals should always be directed to York. 

Quality assurance

64.

Departments should monitor the progress of, and outcomes for, collaborative off-site and split-site PhD PGRs. The effectiveness of collaborative off-site and split-site PhD programmes (with a particular focus on the research environment being provided by the partner) should be specifically considered as part of the Annual Review and Periodic Review processes. The University may also wish, on occasion, to conduct a more in-depth review of collaborative off-site and split-site PhD provision.

65.

Ongoing relationships (and any associated memoranda of Understanding, overarching cohort agreements/partner-specific template individual PGR agreements) should be subject to regular review (normally on a five-year cycle) to ensure that the relationship is working well and that the partner continues to be in good standing and to offer an appropriate research environment.