Guidance on Forms

This page is to provide PGR students with some guidance on how to fill in the forms and to outline the expectations of both the School’s PGR Progression Panel and the College Research Degree Board. Most importantly, please make sure you always fill in ALL fields. All forms can be found on the PGR Office Page.

Approval Process

All forms need to be submitted by email to the admin team at Signatures need to either be embedded images or typed (with clear email trail, always including Director of Study in cc:). The approval process is outlined in the figure above. Details about the decision powers of each entity (CRDB or PPP) are detailed in this document.

PGR students always submit their forms at latest 1 week before the PPP meets. Late submissions will no longer be accepted. All submission deadlines are published in the SoCS PGR Calendar (this can also be imported into your own Google or Outlook calendar by importing this URL). PPP operates as a standing committee, so submissions are assessed online whenever they are submitted. Should there be any problems spotted during this initial assessment, students/directors of study will be asked for amendments even if the PPP has not met. Hence, it is beneficial for a speedy process to submit significantly before the deadline so that obvious problems can be spotted early on. PPP has the ambition to apply enough scrutiny to any forms that are submitted that they will just be approved by the CRDB in 99% of all cases. Usually PPP will request amendments if there are concerns that the form is at risk to be rejected at CRDB level. If satisfactory amendments are received 1 week before the actual CRDB deadline, they shall be presented at CRDB to not delay the process for the student.

General Guidance

  • Students are advised to not replicate work, e.g. if a good publication is already written on any progress and research concluded, then there is no point writing this again in detail in any form. A two sentence summary and a (Harvard-style) reference to the respective publication (including a link to download it) suffices.
  • Many forms build upon each other, reuse. E.g. the work plan written in a confirmation of study form should be kept and only revised for annual monitoring reports. There is no point starting from scratch. They same applies to content from any transfers documents. Keep them and only revise what is needed. Don’t start writing everything from scratch.
  • The PPP looks at approximately 30-40 forms every meeting. That’s a lot. Be nice and be concise and clear. You are doing yourself and us a favour if you communicate in brevity but to the point. Observe word limits. The forms should contain a brief and concise summary and overview, with references to any attachments and/or submitted papers for further detail.
  • Submit on time! We are very generous allowing papers to be submitted until a week before the meeting. You (rightfully) expect that forms are looked at with some scrutiny and that feedback is given where it is useful. We need to be strict about the deadlines, as in the past we had papers submitted until 5 minutes before the meeting. That’s not fair on the members of the PPP.

Confirmation of Studies (CoS)

The biggest part of the CoS form is the detailed description of the proposed research project. This is being looked at by PPP and usually – also in case of immediate approval – some (hopefully) valuable feedback is returned to the student.

In the approval process PPP and CRDB check that the confirmation of studies fulfils the following requirements:

  1. Clear aims and objectives are articulated and they are significant and original enough to be awarded with the degree the student is enrolled for (MSc / MPhil / PhD).
  2. The student provides satisfactory evidence of knowledge in the chosen field of study and an awareness of the state of the art (up to date background literature).
  3. A credible work plan is included with milestones and the main tasks identified. This does not have to be a detailed work plan with dozens of tasks, but evidence of the student’s understanding of the work required.
  4. Risks of the project are being considered (e.g. the unavailability of data, drop out of a key collaborator, etc)
  5. Ethics have been approved or are at least applied for (conditional approval)
  6. The team of supervisors is qualified to advise in the chosen field of study and has undergone PGR supervision training.

Consequently, it is advised to have at least the following sections in the confirmation of studies detailed description (order may vary and deviations from this structure are acceptable as long as the content covers the requirements outlined above):

  1. Abstract: A summary of no more than 150 words
  2. Introduction and Motivation: including relevant literature motivating the project
  3. Aims and Objectives: usually 1 overall aim, broken down in a number of objectives that are SMART
  4. Background: incl. the relevant literature on methodology and related work
  5. Work plan: incl main tasks and milestones with an indication of the month milestones are due, a GANTT chart is encouraged
  6. Risks: a brief consideration of the main risks of the project. Focus on project-specific risks, not general risks. This can take the form of a risk matrix. For critical risks, contingencies need to be planned.

All this should be as concise as possible and focused really on the project proposed. The 1000 words guidance on the form should be considered as an upper limit.

Monthly Meeting Forms

These are usually a matter between supervisor(s) and students. PPP takes note, but doesn’t comment on them. However, PPP and CRDB check at annual monitoring that the correct number has been submitted. In case of any disputes or doubts, these forms are looked at. It is suggested that before each meeting the students writes a (very brief) summary of the progress since the last meeting, and during the meeting supervisor(s) and student complete the action plan and the advice section. Make sure to sign every single one of these!

MPhil/PhD Transfer

Extensive guidance on this has been prepared by the PGR office in these two documents:

MPhil to PhD Transfer Report Guidelines and more general MPhil to PhD Transfer Guidance. However, the minimum requirements for the transfer report are similar to the annual monitoring forms outlined below, but more details are expected for the transfer panel to get a more comprehensive picture of the research in this project.

Annual Monitoring

First, an MPhil/PhD Transfer report can replace the first annual monitoring report IF it is submitted before the anniversary of enrolment. Annual monitoring (or the Transfer report, see above) is a precondition for re-enrolment. Students cannot continue their studies if they have not passed the annual monitoring.

In the approval process PPP and CRDB check that the annual monitoring form fulfils the following requirements:

  1. Clear evidence is given about the project progress: Students must include any publications written, including references of those submitted and those accepted/published. To minimise the amount of text to be written in the annual monitoring form, students are encouraged to summarise progress very briefly if the work has been detailed in a publication and attach said publication(s) to the annual monitoring form. It is not sufficient to say something like this: “In the last year I have been working on 2 publications, finished my study design, and started writing”
  2. Clear description of an updated work plan, for the rest of the PGR project, including a brief timeline. Students are encouraged to always keep a copy of their original CoS work plan and update this every year and report deviation and updates of this. This is the least effort, but ensures orderly reporting of updates on the work plan. The work plan can be very concise again, but just writing “In the coming year I’ll be continuing programming and evaluating” will not suffice. Again, if there are supporting documents (e.g. a work plan for the project that the PGR project is embedded in, such as a task of a H2020 project the student is working on etc) it is perfectly fine to attach this and refer to it for details.
  3. Convincing statements by supervisors and evidence of satisfactory progress towards the degree. PPP checks the final completion date against the progress reported. If there are major concerns about the project being unrealistic, PPP will liaise with the team of supervisors to learn about contingency plans and may request those contingencies to be included in the report.
  4. An up-to-date list of publications is included, listing all publications produced by the student to date (since the start of the studies). This should include all accepted/published publications and all submitted ones. Links to the papers on need to be provided.

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