School of Social and Political Science

FAQs for research students

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We know you'll have questions - we've gathered up a list of the most common questions and provided some answers below.

FAQs relating to Covid-19

While this situation is affecting us all in various ways, we encourage you not to unduly delay your research wherever possible. In order that your studies progress, albeit with necessary adaptations, the expectation is that everyone continues working, with the aim of minimising impact as much as possible. We have devised the FAQs below to help guide you through this time.

I would like to resume or start my fieldwork – will this be approved?

Fieldwork conducted by PhD students at their current location will be considered on an individual basis, taking into account eased restrictions in the country they are located. This includes both UK-based and overseas fieldwork. Decisions will reflect health and safety advice and whether the proposed fieldwork presents an opportunity to fulfil the academic outcomes intended.

If your current fieldwork has changed or you are planning on fieldwork, you should contact your supervisor to discuss your contingency plans, relating both to your data gathering and personal safety and what, if any, necessary arrangements could be put in place to collect data, e.g. Skype interviews (but please be aware that there might be data management issues if you record these interviews, see below). You should then submit a Risk Assessment (in line with guidance) so it can be reviewed:

All research must be undertaken in a way that reflects the local public health guidelines.

Please ensure you have received approval for your fieldwork prior to undertaking it or booking any travel or accommodation.

In the case that you cannot proceed with your studies, please be aware that an Interruption of Study is available to you.

Will I be able to obtain travel insurance for my fieldwork?

We advise you to ensure you have applied for the University’s free-of-charge travel insurance. 

However, If you have your own insurance you need to check with the University's Insurance Office that it provides sufficient cover.

I plan to conduct scheduled interviews now online. Is there anything I need to consider in regard to ethics?

If you are now considering interviews via video call, the College (CAHSS) Research Ethics Committee has advised that you should be using Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business. Both are available through Office 365 credentials and are University supported, meaning they have been through data protection impact assessments.

When you record your meeting in Teams, the download will be available from the Channel that you organised the meeting in, or the Chat space (if you did not add a channel), for a limited time of 20 days. This recording will be private in that only people added to your Team or your Chat will be able to access that download link.

If you have used any other platforms, you will need to check who holds the rights to any recordings and who can access this information. Unless you have confirmed the data management implications (as the platform provider might get access and hold the rights to sensitive data collected), you should refrain from recording confidential interviews other than via the approved platforms above.

For detailed information on ethical considerations when rethinking research due to Covid-19, please see the CAHSS Research Ethics Committee guidance (PDF)

If you have any queries requiring expert advice, please contact your Subject Area Research Ethics Lead (SAREL).

My PhD work has been impacted by the Coronavirus situation and I am unlikely to complete before my Maximum End Date. I am not yet in my Writing Up year. Should I take an Extension of Study?

If you are not near the maximum end date of your programme, you can only take an Interruption of Study, not apply for an extension.

Information on Interruption of and Extension of Study

You are advised to take careful notes of any disruptions and hold ups of your research and ask your supervisor to add these to your engagement tab on EUCLID as this might provide relevant evidence if an extension might eventually be necessary.

My study has been impacted by the Coronavirus situation and as a result I am unable to work on my research at this time. Should I take an Interruption of Study?

If your studies will be impacted for one month or more due to Coronavirus/Covid-19, please submit your Interruption of Study request by following the usual procedure on our website.

Note that if you are a Tier 4 student, please contact Student Immigration Service before submitting your request for specific guidance.

If you are granted an authorised interruption of study due to Covid-19 disruption of more than 3 months, no tuition fees will be due for this period and your tuition fees will be updated to reflect this. 

On your return to study in the 2020/21 session, your tuition fees will be re-calculated at the 2019/20 rate of fee for the remaining months of your current year of study.

I am worried about the implications for my Tier 4 Visa if I take an interruption longer than 60 days due to Covid-19.

The Home Office issued new guidance on 20 April 2020.

As per this guidance, the University does NOT have to withdraw sponsorship for any student unable to study for more than 60 days if it is directly related to the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the interruption must be in line with the Covid-19 outbreak and the student must intend to and be able to return to their studies once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. If a student is not in a position to return to their studies immediately following the lifting of restrictions as defined by the UKVI, then their Tier 4 sponsorship may have to be withdrawn at this stage. 

For further advice on how this guidance may affect you if you are a Tier 4 sponsored student, please contact the Student Immigration Service on: visahelp@ed.ac.uk

As per University of Edinburgh policy, any student not in a position to engage with their studies must apply for an Authorised Interruption of Study which should be entered into the EUCLID student record. 

My study has been impacted by the Coronavirus situation and as a result I may need more time to submit my thesis. Should I request an Extension of Study?

Some students may need to extend their studies. Unless the requirement for an extension is urgent, it would be better for any extension requests to be delayed until the long-term consequences have become clearer. Students are encouraged to record clearly the effects of the Coronavirus on their research so that this can be clearly demonstrated if an extension is requested.

UPDATE 8 January 2021: Continuation and Matriculation Fees
The Continuation Fee will be waived if the reason for the extension is marked as COVID-related on EUCLID so please ensure you specify the COVID-19 impact in your extension application. The Matriculation Fee will not be waived but payment may be delayed.

Note that if you are a Tier 4 student, please contact Student Immigration Service before submitting your request for specific guidance.

I'm returning to my home outside of Edinburgh. Do I need to fill out a Leave of Absence?

If you have left or are planning to leave Edinburgh to return home and work remotely, please let us know by emailing us at pgresearch.sps@ed.ac.uk.

I'm on a Tier 4 visa. How will returning home affect my visa?

For those students with Tier 4 visas, if you leave the UK but continue to engage fully with your studies as available online until the end of semester, your visa will remain valid.

I am a scholarship student. Will my stipend be affected if I take an Interruption of Study due to the Coronavirus situation?

For School-funded scholarships and Wellcome Trust Doctoral Scholarships, please contact pgresearch.sps@ed.ac.uk for guidance. Note that it is standard practice for your stipend to pause while you are on Interruption of Study and to be reinstated when you return so that your maintenance payments stay in synch with your time on-programme. If you request your stipend to continue while you are on Interruption of Study, we can look into this for you.

Note that discussions are currently underway to devise a policy on funded interruptions for scholarship students and we will update this section once a decision has been made.

If you are funded externally, you should contact your funding body for guidance on their contingency processes in this case. Some of those we know you may hold are shown below.

The SGSSS has informed us that they are developing a process for seeking Covid-19 extensions and we are waiting for their guidance.

ESRC or AHRC (University CAHSS contact – pgawards@ed.ac.uk)

Leverhulme (University contact – studentfunding@ed.ac.uk)

My PhD viva is due to take place in the near future. Can this still go ahead in the scheduled timeframe?

Vivas: It is the intention that vivas are proceeding in the scheduled timeframe. To support this, it has been agreed that, in the current, exceptional circumstances, Internal Examiners can organise a ‘remote’ viva where all participants are located at different sites. Ideally, an approved person (for example, a British Council representative or academic member of staff from a partner institution) should still accompany the student; however, a student will be permitted to undertake the viva on their own where necessary if this option is not available.

If your viva is impending and you would like further information on this, please contact pgresearch.sps@ed.ac.uk

My research has been affected by the Coronavirus situation. Should I reflect this in my thesis?

It is quite legitimate for you to highlight your ‘Covid-19 workings’ within your thesis. This might include how your methods had to change, your thought processes in adjusting your planned data collection, and the need to narrow the focus of your research questions. To assist you with this, you may wish to keep a record of the above so you can capture this for writing-up stage.

I am due to submit my thesis soon. Can I do this electronically?

Yes. Following an emergency change in regulations the College Office now accepts electronic only submission of theses for examination. 

Submit your thesis to the College Postgraduate Research Student Office

My Annual Review is due to take place in the near future. Can this still go ahead in the scheduled timeframe?

Annual Progression Reviews: These should go ahead within the standard timeframe (9–12 months of your anniversary start date – both full-time and part-time students) and be held remotely rather than inperson. Students should discuss this with their supervisors and all parties involved should arrange a remote meeting eg via Skype or Teams. A two-step process is possible with the paper being submitted as normal and the discussion postponed to later, however, our advice is to proceed with an online meeting as it is unsure when it will be possible to have face-to-face meetings with more than two people in the near future.

However, if the Coronavirus situation has resulted in you being unable to work on your research, please follow the guidance in the Interruption of Study section above.

Can I access printing services for critical work?

University Print Services has arranged a managed print-on-demand service where necessary or urgent which PGR students may request. This is particularly for larger volume work due to the cost of the post/courier service. Please email sps.support@ed.ac.uk to discuss the suitability of a requested print job. Note that you must agree to sharing your home address with the supplier otherwise this service cannot be used.

The service has been checked as secure for most University business, but you must ensure that the file you are submitting is appropriate for this facility. It will be shared with a third-party University supplier who will store the file temporarily on their systems for the purposes of printing a hard copy only and it will be handled both by their staff and either the courier or Royal Mail employees. Files containing basic personal information can be submitted but should be dispatched via courier only. Printed documents containing sensitive or personal information must be kept secure in your home and must be securely disposed of.

I take courses as part of my PGR programme. How is the Coronavirus affecting teaching?

In Semester 1 2020/21, teaching will be delivered with a hybrid approach. Please keep up-to-date with assessment and exam developments on the University’s Covid-19 webpages. Please see the Learn page for your course for the most up-to-date information on how the school is implementing extensions and assessments.

Are there any online workshops for PGR students I can take at this time?

Yes, the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) is running online workshops specifically tailored to PGR students.

At a glance - monthly workshops at IAD

Should I stay in touch with my supervisor during the Coronavirus period?

Yes. All dissertation/thesis supervision for the remainder of the academic year should be done remotely, in line with guidance on limiting social contact.

Student Engagement & Supervisor meetings: PGR one-to-one supervisory meetings will now happen remotely and will be recorded as normal in our systems. You may wish to remind your supervisor to record your meetings in EUCLID and to note your current location.

Please keep in touch with your supervisors and the school for support and guidance, particularly during this unique and disruptive time.

I have been impacted financially due to the Coronavirus situation. Is there any help for me?

The University offered financial support for students experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19. The financial support could be used to cover any exceptional costs students may have incurred in relation to accommodation, subsistence, and travel.

Applications closed in July 2020. As of 18 November 2020, the Scholarships and Student Funding team have processed a total of 4285 applications.

Financial Support - Coronavirus (Covid-19)

For further funding advice, students can contact The Advice Place and also review the Hardship Funding.

If you are a scholarship student, your scholarship stipend payments will continue as per normal while you remain on-programme.

Can I retrieve items from my SPS desk/office space?

Retrieval of items must be considered as exceptional. It is vital that you consider the following prior to submitting a building access request to sps.facilities@ed.ac.uk for consideration.

  1. Please give due attention to determining, and clarifying why, the situation is truly exceptional – e.g. without access to retrieve the requested items, your work will be critically impeded, with immovable deadlines that if not met will result in serious, long-term impact to yourself or others
  2. You should have a consultation with your supervisor in to help identify any potential solutions that will remove the requirement to arrange specific access to a building

Can I get financial assistance to set up a work space at home?

Assistance for students regarding work-from-home set-ups was available via the University’s hardship fund. Please note that applications closed on 31 July 2020.

PhD students who tutor are able to apply for the School’s (up to) £100 work-from-home fund under their staff status.

Work from Home Equipment Expenses Support

Please include as much information as possible on your request as you cannot submit an eExpense claim without receiving an authorisation code.

My health has been impacted. Who do I contact for support and guidance?

The University’s support services remain in place, albeit mostly by remote working due to the UK rules on social distancing and non-essential travel. Please contact any of these services at any time. The University is still here for you, to support you both academically and pastorally.

You are also welcome to contact your PGR Support Team with any queries – pgresearch.sps@ed.ac.uk

How should I stay updated of developments in the University and School during this time?

Please regularly check your University email account, this FAQ page, and the University’s Covid-19 website. It is likely that updates will be regularly provided for the next few weeks or months and it is important you are aware of these.

Postgraduate on-programme queries

How do I select, change or audit courses?

Please follow instructions on our choosing courses webpages

What funding is available to me while on-programme as a PhD student?

You will find information and application guidance on our Funding webpage.

What facilities and resources are available to PGR students?

Facilities and Resources webpage

Who do I contact if I have a disability or require a Schedule of Adjustments?

Please contact the University's Student Disability Service for guidance and information on support available to you.

Who should I contact if I need to request an Extension, Interruption or Leave of Absence from my PhD?

Please take a look at our Postgraduate study section and action these requests as soon as possible.

What should I do if I need to request Special Circumstances or an Extension during my MSc by Research programme?

Please take a look at our Postgraduate study section and action these requests as soon as possible.

Where is the Graduate School Office located?

We are in Room 1.20 on the 1st floor of the Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, University of Edinburgh. Our opening hours are 9.30am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

Note that the University buildings are currently closed due to the Covid-19 situation. Staff are working remotely at this time.

Postgraduate scholarship queries

Where do I find information on available scholarships and application instructions?

Our Scholarships webpage provides a list of those available, their deadlines, how to apply, eligibility criteria, and award details for each scholarship.

How will I be advised of my scholarship application outcome?

The status of your application can be found in the 'My Scholarship Applications' section in EUCLID. You will also receive an email notification when a decision has been made on your scholarship application.

Who do I contact if I am having technical issues with the scholarship application system?

Please contact our Student Systems department for guidance.

Student administration queries

How do I get a Certificate of Matriculation letter confirming my student status?

You are able to print a Certificate of Matriculation from your MyEd account when you have matriculated.

How do I pay my tuition fees?

Your tuition fees must be paid in full on or before matriculation at the start of each new academic year, unless you are paying in instalments. The payment methods available to you will depend on who is paying for your tuition fees.

More information on the Finance website - Student Academic Fees

How do I set up a bank account?

The University provides comprehensive information on options for opening your first student bank account in the UK and banking safety.

More information on opening a UK Bank Account

How do I get a letter for Edinburgh Council Tax exemption?

Please follow the guidance on the University's Student Administration website.

Council Tax Exemption Letter

How do I register with a doctor?

Register with a local doctor and access your health services

 University FAQs

Please also view these University-level FAQs about EdHelp, Semester 2 and Covid-19, and specific information for University of Edinburgh postgraduate research students:

 

Student category
MSc by Research