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Current Postgraduate Students


PhD First Year Probationary Review Requirements

You need to submit a report as part of the first year probationary review assessment process, as well as attending the compulsory elements of our training programme. You can find detailed information regarding the first year probationary review here. This webpage includes important information that is specific to the Chemistry Department and includes information on submission, assessment and outcome.

In your first year, you are registered for the PhD (Probationary) in Chemistry. Towards the end of your first year you will need to write a report for the probationary review process, in which your progress and aptitude for continuing to doctoral research is carefully assessed. If all goes well, you will emerge from this process registered for the PhD. If it goes less well, a range of options exist to try to help get you back on track or identify a suitable pathway for you.

The format of the report is not strictly laid down and quite flexible however, in addition to covering the research work completed in this year it should contain a review of the appropriate literature and a clear indication of the way in which you expect your PhD project to develop (future work).  There is no minimum length but it must not exceed 12,000 words, including summary/abstract, tables and footnotes, but excluding table of contents, photographs, diagrams, figure captions, list of figures/diagrams, list of abbreviations/acronyms, bibliography, appendices and acknowledgements. The Degree Committee will not normally accept any reports that go over the word limit. 

Your Supervisor will advise on length, style and content and will have examples of recent reports you can look at: you should also find a ‘good’ report or thesis in your lab before you start to give you an idea of what you should be aiming for. Please also take note of the university plagiarism rules and research best practice before you begin.

Note 1: Derivations, code and spectra should routinely be included in the first year report as Appendices, unless they form part of the connected argument presented in the report. 

Note 2: Experimentalists who find that their experimental section is taking them over the 12,000 word count should retain only the key compounds in the Experimental Section (part of the main report body, i.e. included in the word count); all other compounds (including preparation method and experimental data) should be moved to an Appendix entitled 'Supporting Information', i.e. rendering them excluded from the word count.

Note 3: Occasionally, it may be necessary to submit information electronically that it is not possible to include in the printed version, e.g. datasets, movies/simulations or computer code. If you need to take up this option and are unsure of how to do this, please contact the Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator. It will not be included as a part of the materials uploaded onto Moodle in the Degree Committee submission process.

Note 4: For the first year report, there is no requirement to include a Declaration at the beginning of the report because it is all included in the form which you submit where you will also required to declare that you have completed all of the first year compulsory elements. For a PhD however, a Declaration is required as part of the thesis; details of what this needs to say can be found at here.

What if I am Missing Some Data?

It is not completely unusual to have missing analytical data at the time of your first year report submission however, you should aim to have a complete report including all analytical data if possible. However, if you are missing some data and are worried, please get in touch with the Postgraduate Education Team or inform your supervisor. 

What to Submit and Where?

By the deadlines for you first year report, all students must upload to the Degree Committee Student Submissions course in Moodle:

  1. A pdf of your report. Please name your report file in the format of [Surname]_[FirstName]_Report
  2. A completed Probationary Review Declaration & Certificate of Submission form (Submitting your first-year report) saved as a .pdf with the naming format of [Surname]_[FirstName]_Certificate.

Please also note that no reports should be submitted by students to Assessors via email: you may only be Assessed on copies uploaded to Moodle.

Should you wish to make a voluntary disclosure of any disability/chronic illness that might affect the conduct of your viva please complete this disclosure form and submit to the email a copy to the Postrgaduate Student Co-ordinator and Degree Committee. You should do this up to two months in advance of the submission deadline to allow the Degree Committee to make appropriate arrangements for your viva - you should not wait until you are ready to submit to notify the Degree Committee as this could delay the date of your viva.

When to Submit?

Your submission deadlines vary according to when you begin your PhD. The current report submission deadlines can be found here on the degree committee website.

If you are unable to meet your submission deadline then, where there is a genuine problem, it may be possible to obtain an extension. You should contact the Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator as soon as you anticipate having to submit late.

** Please note that if you need to obtain approval from an Industrial sponsor before submitting your report this should be taken into account during the planning stages of your report. Sponsor approval DOES NOT constitute a valid reason for applying for an extension to your deadline for either a First Year Probationary Report or ultimately your PhD.

How do I organise my viva?

1. Before your submission date you will be informed as to who your two Assessors will be: one of whom is your Academic Mentor and one recommended by your Supervisor, both officially appointed by the Degree Committee.  We will also invite you to submit a form if you wish to make a voluntary disclosure of any disability that might affect the conduct of your vivaYou will need to submit the form (should you require it) and your provisional viva date to the Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator at your earliest convenience.

2.  You may then contact your Assessors to arrange a provisional viva date and time: in order to allow sufficient time following submission for checks, release of reports to Assessors and completion of pre-oral reports, please arrange this no sooner than two weeks from submission date.  No provisional vivas should be arranged to take place before this and you may find that some Assessors prefer to wait until your report is in hand before they agree to set the provisional viva date. If you have any difficulty organising your provisional viva date, please let the Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator know and we will assist you.

What Happens After Submission of the Report?

  1. Degree Committee will check and release your report to your assessors, who will then be able to download directly from Moodle.
  2. If you do not already have your provisional viva date and time set, you need to do so as soon after submission as possible. 
  3. The Assessors will read your report and each prepare a brief independent preliminary report on it before the oral examination.

Please note: Assessment should ideally be completed within 2 months of submission and within 4 weeks of submission wherever possible.

What Happens in the Viva/ Oral Assessment?

  1. You should be prepared to give a 10 minute talk, introducing your project background, aims, results and projected future work to your Assessors (check with them beforehand the best format for this, e.g. projecting ppt onto a screen, using ppt on the computer, ‘chalk and talk’).
  2. You will be asked about all aspects of your report and possibly about your training by the Assessors in a session usually lasting for around one hour, sometimes longer.

What Happens After the Viva/ Oral Assessment in Straightforward Cases?

In most cases, the situation is straightforward (around 90% progress onto PhD) and the following process occurs:

  1. The Assessors submit their independent pre-assessment and joint post-assessment reports to the Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator; these are then uploaded to Moodle.
  2. The Degree Committee will send the Assessors’ reports to you as feedback. The reports will also be sent to the Department's Postgraduate Education team and to your Supervisor. 
  3. Your Supervisor will be asked to comment on your progress in the light of the Assessors’ reports by email, and to indicate his or her support for the assessors recommendation, as well as to confirm your PhD project title. 
  4. The Department's Postgraduate Education Team will consider the Assessors’ reports together with your Supervisor’s comments and recommend an outcome to the Degree Committee on CAMSIS. The Degree Committee will then confirm to Student Registry on the details of your registration, and your status on CAMSIS should change shortly thereafter. 

What Happens if There is a Negative or Inconclusive Recommendation?

In some cases it is less clear and the Department/Degree Committee will then recommend alternative pathways to students.  The Departmental actions described below are IN ADDITION to the procedures set out for First Year Probationary Review by the Degree Committee and designed to provide the smoothest path possible for students who do not progress to PhD in a straightforward way.

In such cases, the Degree Committee will consider appropriate future steps in consultation with the Department. Anybody for whom Assessors recommend some specific action (e.g. resubmission of the 1st year report) or who are experiencing difficulties at the end of the first year will meet with a member of the Postgraduate Education Team so that, in conjunction with advice from your Supervisor, your Assessors and yourself, we can work out how best to support you at this stage and give the right outcome. 

a)  Continue to PhD following acceptable resubmission of first year report within three months of initial Assessment:

In all cases of this type, the following procedure is usually followed:

  • Upon the submission of Assessor forms which indicate that a report needs to be rewritten, the Degree Committee will notify you, your Supervisor and the Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator (GSC).
  • With the Assessor comments in hand, the Postgraduate Education Manager will speak with the student and their Supervisor (in a joint meeting) to ensure the pathway being followed is optimal for the student. 
  • This conversation and the agreed pathway forward will then be communicated by email to the student, Supervisor, first year report Assessors and Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator: all parties are then invited to make alterations to the proposed plan of action and areas in which the student needs to demonstrate improvement.  The Postgraduate Student Co-ordinator will retain all this information, as an accurate record agreed by all those involved, including any future communications.
  • Following resubmission/assessment of an acceptable report, the Assessors may if they wish allow the student to proceed without a second viva, subject to the quality of the revised report and the other actions that the student has taken following their initial recommendations.
  • The student’s Supervisor will follow Degree Committee guidance (which is communicated by email and bespoke to each individual case) for registration of student following successful completion of First Year Probationary Review at this second opportunity.

b)  Other options:

Every student who does not undergo a satisfactory first year probationary review will normally be first given the option of re-writing their report within three months to a standard appropriate for progression to PhD.  However, there may be cases where the report is still not of this standard or it is agreed prior to such a re-write that the student will progress via an alternative route and in these cases, the following recommendations are possible:

If you are asked to leave at the end of the first year with either a CPGS or MPhil for a variety of reasons, the following procedure will be followed:

  • The student will normally be interviewed by the Postgraduate Education Manager;
  • A summary of the discussion and conclusion will be sent to the Postgraduate Student Coordinator, the student and the student’s Supervisor;
  • Student will need to confirm that they agree with the summary, have discussed the recommendation with their Departmental Academic Mentor and College Postgraduate or Senior Tutor prior to taking the next steps.

The Degree Committee will consider the Assessors reports and the Department’s recommendation and make a considered recommendation on how to proceed to the Board of Postgraduate Studies. The next steps will vary depending on what that recommendation is and are as follows:

If the recommendation is to change degree registration from probationary PhD to MPhil:

  • The student will write up and submit the MPhil thesis in a time-frame agreed by the Department, their Supervisor, the Degree Committee and Student Registry (normally not more than three months).
  • The MPhil thesis will be examined by two Examiners (usually one internal, one external) and a viva carried out with the Examiners and student.

If the recommendation is to write up and leave with a Certificate of Postgraduate Studies (CPGS):

  • If it is considered that a student will not be able to generate sufficient material for an MPhil, they will usually be offered the opportunity to have their first year’s work considered for a CPGS and then leave.
  • The student will then write up and submit a CPGS report in a time-frame agreed by the Department, their Supervisor, the Degree Committee and Student Registry (usually one month, normally not more than three months).
  • The report submitted will normally be examined by two Examiners (usually both internal) and a viva carried out with the Examiners and student.

If the recommendation is to remove you from the University Register of Students with no formal outcome (also applies to MPhil students), we will do everything we can to properly support you through this process.

Funding: all students who embark upon a PhD will do so with funding which is specifically intended for students carrying out a full PhD.  If the decision is made to transfer Degree Registration from Probationary PhD to MPhil or write up and leave with a CPGS, extensive consultation with student and supervisor will be carried out, including a full financial assessment.  Normally, up to 3 months funding will be offered where required to complete any dissertation/thesis, typically drawn from the same source of funds that is currently supporting the student, unless the Sponsor objects, in which case it will be from Department reserves.