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PGR Student Handbook

Student academic progress

You need to make good progress on your research and writing. It is in your own interests that you produce written work from an early stage of your research. It is normal for supervisors to ask you early on to produce a literature review, to write papers on methodological questions, and to produce draft chapters or sections of chapters. There are two main dimensions to the academic progress of research students — the quality and pace of work. The former refers to the extent to which the research is meeting the assessment criteria of the degree for which the student is registered as well as to performance in the research training programme. The latter refers to the likelihood of the student submitting their dissertation/thesis on time. Both aspects of progress are monitored. Accordingly, the University lays down certain stages that your work should reach and also requires that your overall progress be monitored by the Doctoral College. 

Once per term all students will have a progress review meeting with their supervisory team.  These are part of your monthly supervision meetings but are also a time when you should review progress made and set new targets for the term ahead.

Specific information for funded students

Students in receipt of funding to support their studies are required to maintain good annual progress throughout their studies. Progress is assessed as part of the University’s Annual Monitoring Review. You should be aware that failure to maintain satisfactory progress may affect your funding or sponsorship. 

National quality assurance frameworks require the University to have a procedure for monitoring your progress, to identify any problems, to suggest solutions, and to make decisions about your registration, in line with the University’s Code of Good Practice for Annual Monitoring of Research Students.

The Annual Monitoring Review is an exercise that takes place in the January of each academic year. It is an important process in ensuring that all students receive appropriate and timely support and feedback on their progress in their postgraduate studies. In the few situations where student progress is not satisfactory, it also triggers clear and focused communication to the student which should help to address the identified problem. Please note carefully the following points:

Monitoring is compulsory for all research students. Any student who does not follow the College procedure may find their registration terminated.

  • Progress monitoring provides an opportunity for you to reflect on your own progress and to raise any problems that you feel may be affecting your work.
  • You will only be allowed to proceed in your degree and to continue your registration if you receive satisfactory reports on your progress.

University policy on monitoring states that the purposes of monitoring are:

  • To assist the University in ensuring parity of provision and treatment for students across the University;
  • To identify problems either in a student’s programme of study or in the student-supervisor relationship;
  • To assess student progress in order to give feedback to the student;
  • To monitor the nature and frequency of research supervision and other facilities offered to postgraduate research students; and
  • To assist in making formal decisions about continued registration.

Submission of Report

All students are asked to complete a report and you will be asked questions relating to your progress in your studies and your supervision. The forms will be made available on MyPGR and you will receive an email at the appropriate point in the year to let you know when they are available.

Business PGRs are expected to submit their latest Training Needs Analysis report along with their Annual Monitoring Report so that your training can be considered alongside your progress. If concerns are raised regarding progress, the panel will consider training that has been undertaken and consider whether there is additional training that may support your ongoing progress. 

Students and supervisors are required to complete independent annual report forms which are considered by a College review panel, which then makes recommendations on each student’s progression to the next year of study. The panel currently consists of the College Director of Postgraduate Research (CDPGR), the relevant discipline DPGR, the PGR Manager and the PGR Support Officer.

The University has a Code of Good Practice which sets out the procedures through which unsatisfactory progress for all students should be handled.

Identifying Unsatisfactory Progress

For postgraduate research students, unsatisfactory progress is usually identified when a student has not met the requirements laid out under Responsibilities of Students in the ‘Code of Good Practice - Supervision of Postgraduate Research Students’, as specified in the College’s own Code of Practice, or as identified by their supervisory team, and in particular might arise from supervisory termly progress review meetings. Unsatisfactory progress or engagement may be also identified through the Annual Monitoring Review process, through application to upgrade from MPhil to Doctoral Study, or through an application for an extension to study.

This will normally be a request that a formal written warning be issued to the student, specifying the work they are required to undertake, within a designated period of time, to rectify the situation. This initial warning is usually issued by the PGR Support Officer.

It is important that if there are any issues, such as finance or personal health, that are impacting on your studies that you discuss these with your supervisor as there may be other procedures such as Health and Wellbeing support or a period of interruption that are more appropriate.


There are three stages for dealing with unsatisfactory progress (see the University Code of Practice for further details):

1. Initial Warning:  Concerns with a student’s progress or attendance may be best picked up in discussion with a member of staff, however, to constitute an initial warning a record must be kept and a copy sent to the student concerned. In discussion students should be invited to explain if there are any circumstances, which were unavoidable, and which prevented their failure to perform satisfactorily, which they could not reasonably have informed the College of earlier.
2. Final Warning:  If concerns about unsatisfactory progression are not satisfactorily addressed following an initial warning, or if further concerns about the student arise within 12 months of receipt of the initial warning, the student should be referred to the appropriate Associate Dean of the College (or appointed deputy) who should issue the student with a final warning. The student will be provided with the opportunity to arrange a meeting, where they can explain if there are any circumstances, which were unavoidable, and which prevented their failure to comply with the terms of their initial warning or which led to further unsatisfactory progress, which they could not reasonably have informed the College of earlier.
3. Referral to College Director of PGR and Dean of Faculty:  If a student’s performance and/or attendance remain unsatisfactory following issue of a final warning, or if further concerns about the student’s progress are picked up within 12 months of receipt of the final warning, the College Director of PGR will meet with the student to let them know that they will be reporting them to the Dean of Faculty with a recommendation that they are deregistered. The student will be invited to explain if there are any circumstances, which were unavoidable, and which prevented their failure to comply with the terms of their final warning, which they could not reasonably have informed the College of earlier. If the student misses the meeting, they will be directly reported to the Dean of Faculty.

The University imposes certain maximum periods of study for each programme. Full details can be found in the TQA manual

It is imperative that you submit your thesis, and that you are examined, in good time. The College and the University are closely monitored by funding bodies and the government to ensure that graduate students – whether publicly funded or not – complete their work in a timely fashion. The aim, in the case of a full-time PhD, is to ensure submission for examination after 3 years of registration and completion – that is, the deposit on Open Research Exeter (ORE) of an examined and (where necessary) revised thesis – within 4 years of registration. 

Unless an extension has been approved, registration is automatically terminated when the maximum period of study has been reached. In such circumstances students will not be allowed to submit a thesis and will not be eligible for the award of a degree.