Research Postgraduate Regulations

2016/7

Introduction 

Scope and purpose

Admission 

Enrolment 

Forms of leave

Progression (MPhil and PhD)

Progression (professional doctorates)

Termination of studies

Readmission to a programme of study

Assessment - research degree examination

Examination outcomes

Submission of final thesis

Academic misconduct

Introduction

Regulatory framework

1. These regulations form one element of the regulatory framework of the University of Stirling. The framework includes: ordinances; other academic regulations; codes of practice, policies and standards; module descriptors; and definition of terms.

2. These regulations apply to all categories of postgraduate research student at the University, except where the Academic Council has qualified them through agreements with third parties such as a memorandum of agreement, a Memorandum of understanding, a collaborative agreement, or a joint venture.  These regulations do not apply to Doctor of Letters and Doctor of Science awards.

3. Professional doctorate programmes, comprising a taught element followed by a research element, are governed by the taught postgraduate degree regulations for the taught element and the research degree regulations for the research element.

Regulation changes

4. Academic Council has the authority to vary these regulations at its discretion. Authority is delegated to the Education and Student Experience Committee (ESEC) which annually approves the regulations for the new academic year.

5. Authority to apply exceptions to regulations for individual students is delegated to the Academic Panel, a sub-group of ESEC. The relevant code of practice will stipulate any instances where Academic Panel has delegated authority to schools or to university administration.

Academic appeals

6. A student has the right to submit an academic appeal on any aspect of these regulations in line with the code of practice for academic appeals.

Scope and purpose

7. The research degree regulations set out the University’s minimum requirements for:

i. the management of research degree programmes;

ii. the mechanisms for assuring the academic standards of the University’s research degrees;

8. The role of the regulations is to maintain the quality and academic standards of the University’s research degree programmes and to provide clear guidance for students and staff.

9. The research degrees regulations should be read in conjunction with the code of practice: research degrees which lays out expectations and procedures in relation to the admission, training, supervision, support and progress of students.

10. The regulations and code are consistent with Quality Assurance Agency requirements as laid out in the UK Quality Code for HE, Chapter B11: Research Degrees (2012) and are approved by ESEC on behalf of Academic Council.

Awards and research degree standards

11. Research degree theses should broadly address the expected outcomes as defined by the qualification descriptors set out in Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (2001), www.scqf.org.uk.

Masters

12. The standard of the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is that expected of a graduate who has satisfactorily completed a programme of study which includes the critical investigation and evaluation of an approved topic and who has demonstrated an understanding of research methods appropriate to the chosen field and has presented and defended a thesis, by oral examination, to the satisfaction of the examiners.

Doctorates

13. The standard of the doctoral awards listed below is that expected of a graduate who has satisfactorily completed a programme of study which includes the critical investigation or evaluation of an approved topic(s) and who has demonstrated an understanding of research methods appropriate to the chosen field resulting in an independent and original contribution to knowledge and has presented and defended a thesis and or practical element, by oral examination, to the satisfaction of the examiners. 

Doctor of Applied Social Research; 

Doctor of Business Administration; 

Doctor of Education; 

Doctor of Midwifery; 

Doctor of Nursing; 

Doctor of Philosophy;

Doctor of Professional Health Studies;

Doctor of Diplomacy.

Admission

Entry criteria

14. The minimum requirement for admission to a research degree at the University of Stirling is an upper second class honours Bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification.  Some discipline areas also require a Master’s degree in a related subject.  The University may accept other qualifications and/or professional experience in lieu of the general entry requirement. 

15. A candidate whose first language is not English is required to provide evidence of English language proficiency equivalent to a minimum level of IELTS 6.5 (6.0 in all bands).  Details of English language qualifications and waivers are available at http://www.stir.ac.uk/study-in-the-uk/entry-requirements/english/postgraduate/ 

16. Professional doctorate programmes commence in a teaching semester and the entry criteria and initial start date of each programme are available at http://www.stir.ac.uk/postgraduate/programme-information/

Transferring into Stirling 

17. An applicant transferring to the University of Stirling from another higher education institution may apply for a reduction in the periods set out in paragraph 23. The minimum period of study at the University of Stirling is one year (full-time) or two years (part-time).

Supervisory team

18. An applicant is required to identify a lead supervisor (a member of University staff) for their research project.  A successful applicant will be allocated a supervisory team, including the lead supervisor, which may consist of staff from the University and/or qualified and appropriate individuals from outside the University.

Enrolment

19. A student is admitted to a generic research degree and is required to enrol (on the first of the month and typically on 1 October, the first working day of January, 1 April and 1 July) and pay fees annually on the anniversary of their initial start date for the duration of their expected period of study. 

20. A student studying for a research degree may not be enrolled concurrently for any other course in higher education, at any institution, leading to a degree or credit bearing award except with the permission of Academic Panel.

21. Continued enrolment is subject to satisfactory progress, including satisfactory completion of the year 1 annual progress review (see paragraphs 44-56). 

22. A student who does not complete within the expected period of study (three years for a full-time student and six years for a part time student) is required to re-enrol as ‘writing up’ for which they will be charged a registration only fee.
 

Period of study

23. The following table details the minimum, expected and maximum periods of study for each award:

Award

 

Minimum (months)

Expected (months)

Maximum (months)

MPhil

Full-time

12

24

36

 

Part-time

24

48

72

PhD

Full time

24

36

48

 

Part time

48

72

96

DASR

Full-time

36

 

48

 

Part-time

48

 

96

DBA

Full-time

24

 

48

 

Part-time

36

 

96

EdD

Full-time

24

 

48

 

Part-time

60

 

96

NurD/MidD/DPHS

Part-time

48

 

96

DDipl

Full-time

36

 

48

 

Part-time

72

 

96

  

Research Compass

24. Research Compass is the University’s progress monitoring system.  A student registered on a research degree with the University is required to use Research Compass to record supervisory meetings, complete annual progress reviews and to manage their student status and registration.  Further details are provided in the code of practice: research degrees.

Change in mode of study

25. A student with reason may transfer between full and part-time study during the expected period of study, with the approval of Academic Panel.  The maximum period of study and associated submission date will be adjusted on a pro-rata basis.  

26. It is not possible for international students who are studying in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa to study part-time and they must therefore be registered on a full-time degree.

Attendance

27. A student wishing to carry out all or a substantial part of research away from the University, with the exception of agreed periods of fieldwork, must obtain the approval of Academic Panel.  

28. A student wishing to change their study location must obtain the approval of Academic Panel.

Field work

29. A student is, in advance of their trip, required to request authorisation to undertake a period of fieldwork for more than two weeks.

Employment

30. A full-time research degree student may not normally undertake any additional work (paid or unpaid) if it cumulatively occupies on average more than ten hours per week, except after consultation with the lead supervisor and with the permission of the Head of School.

Forms of leave 

Annual leave

31. A full-time student is entitled to take a maximum of 40 days annual leave (pro-rata for part-time) in a 12 month period.  This entitlement includes 10 days when the University is closed (two days at Easter and eight days at Christmas).  Leave entitlement is pro-rata for a part-time student.

Maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave

32. Where a student has an expected week of childbirth within the period of registration, she will be entitled to suspend her studies for up to twelve months. 

33. If a student’s partner has an expected week of childbirth during their period of registration, the partner will be entitled to paternity leave of ten days, at any time during the partner’s pregnancy or within three months of childbirth. 

34. A student whose partner has given birth may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave depending on individual circumstances.

35. If a student is adopting a child within the period of registration they will be entitled to suspend his/her studies for up to twelve months.

Leaves of absence

36. A student may be authorised, by Academic Panel, to take a leave of absence from their programme of study.

37. A student may interrupt their programme of studies for a cumulative maximum of two years.

38. A student who does not re-enrol on the agreed recommencement date or who has not communicated intentions towards their studies by the end of the period of leave of absence will be deemed to have withdrawn from the programme of study.

Extensions

39. Maximum periods of study can be adjusted in the event of delays and setbacks that are outside a student’s control.  A maximum of 12 months extension can be agreed in exceptional circumstances as determined by Academic Panel. 

40. There are visa implications for international students who are studying in the UK on a Tier 4 visa who are granted leave (other than annual leave or field work) or an extension. Students should consult with the international advisor should they have any concerns over the implications of an absence or extension on their visa.

Progression (MPhil and PhD)

Induction

41. MPhil and PhD students are required to attend Stirling Graduate School induction and any specified induction programme coordinated by their school or division.  Professional doctorate students have been inducted via the taught element of their programme.

Skills analysis

42. A student is required to undertake an analysis of their initial skill levels (through Research Compass), with the support of their supervisory team, within the first three months of their programme (within the first six months for part-time students). 

Supervisory meetings

43. A student is required to formally record, via Research Compass, a minimum of one meeting with their supervisor/supervisory team every three months (once every six months for PT students).  Details and content of the meetings, which may take place ‘virtually’, must be recorded on Research Compass.

Annual progress reviews

44. A student and their supervisory team, regardless of mode of study, are required to complete annual progress reviews.  

45. Where a student’s progress is deemed satisfactory in the year 1 annual progress review (by month 12 for full-time and month 24 for part-time students), the student’s registration on their intended degree programme will be confirmed.

46. Where progress in year 1 is found to be unsatisfactory then Academic Panel may: 

i. in the case of a student registered for a doctoral award, transfer registration to the degree of MPhil;

ii. in exceptional cases, defer a decision on progress for up to six months (12 months for a part time student) 

iii. require the student to withdraw from study.

47. There is no confirmation process for students studying on an MPhil or professional doctorate programme.  However, where progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory paragraphs 46ii and iii will apply.

48. A student and their supervisory team are required to complete subsequent annual progress reviews by the anniversary of the student’s initial start date.

49. Where progress is deemed unsatisfactory through the annual progress review system, then Academic Panel may:

i. advise the candidate of the unsatisfactory progress, the possible consequences and recommend remedial action;

ii. in the case of a student registered for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy transfer registration to the degree of Master of Philosophy;

iii. require the student to withdraw from study.

50. Academic Panel may impose additional requirements on students and the supervisory teams at any point if concerns emerge in relation to progress.

51. A student may appeal against the requirement to withdraw from study or to transfer registration under the code of practice for academic appeals. 

Progression (professional doctorates)

52. The taught component and the research component of a professional doctorate are regarded as separate stages of the programme.

Professional doctorate

Taught component

Research component

Credits required

Minimum 180 (120 of which may be at SCQF level 11)

Up to 360 at SCQF level 12

Exit awards

Min 60
(PG Cert)

Min 120
(PG Dip)

Min 180
MSc/MA

 

University regulations being applied

Taught postgraduate regulations

Research degree regulations

53. Taught modules offered for credit as part of a programme of study leading to the award of a professional doctorate are subject to the requirements of the University’s taught postgraduate regulations and the relevant programme handbook. 

54. A student is required to pass all taught credits before progressing to the research element of the award.

55. Details of the programme requirements for the taught element are set out in the taught postgraduate calendar. 

56. The component elements of professional doctorate programmes consisting of independent research study resulting in the production of a thesis are subject to the requirements of these research degree regulations and the code of practice: research degrees

Termination of studies

57. A student’s studies will be terminated where the regulations are not met; examples include:

i. Non-payment of tuition fees;

ii. Failure to make adequate academic progress;

iii. Failure to comply with the University's disciplinary code;

iv. Non-attendance, including persistent non engagement or prolonged and unauthorised absences from the University;

v. Failure to enrol, including failure to return from a leave of absence or failure to present satisfactory evidence of permission to study in the UK;

vi. Failure to comply with the conditions of a Tier 4 visa.

58. The University is required to notify the Home Office of those students in a receipt of a Tier 4 visa who withdraw from their programme of study or complete their studies earlier than expected.

Readmission to a programme of study

59. Readmission of a student to a programme of study is at the discretion of the Head of Admissions in consultation with the school and Academic Panel.  A student’s previous academic history will stand, provided that credits (or notional credits for level 12 research degrees) were achieved within the past five years.  

60. Where a student has previously failed to achieve an award due to academic failure, their case for re-admission will be considered by Academic Panel.  

Assessment - research degree examination

61. The University’s policy and procedural framework for research degree examinations is set out in the code of practice: research degrees. The process for submission and examination of a research degree thesis is the same at both MPhil and Doctoral level.

The thesis

62. Theses for the award of MPhil, PhD, DASR, DBA, EdD, NurD, MidD, DPHS or DDipl must present research results in the form of 

i. a standard thesis, 

ii. a portfolio of a minimum of three published research papers with a substantial contextual narrative or;

iii. a substantial body of practical work accompanied by a scholarly written thesis. 

63. Theses must be written in English unless approved in advance by Academic Panel.  Permission to present a thesis in another language must normally be sought at the time of application to enrol and is only likely to be given if the subject matter of the thesis involves language and related studies.

64. Submissions for University of Stirling research degrees should conform to the prescribed maximum word limits for the relevant programme as detailed in the code of practice: research degrees.  Guidance on the forms of thesis is provided in the section 11 of code of practice: research degrees.

Examining committee

65. The Academic Council will appoint an examining committee for each candidate on the recommendation of the Head of School. 

66. Each examining committee will consist of at least one external examiner, at least one internal examiner and an independent chair who will be a member of University of Stirling academic staff. All internal examiners shall be members of the academic staff. At least one internal examiner shall be neither a probationary member of staff nor a person whose sole status is that of a recognised teacher. 

67. No external examiner shall have been a supervisor of the candidate. 

68. Definitions of the roles of the examining committee are set out in the code of practice: research degrees.

Examination

69. The candidate shall undergo an oral examination (viva voce) on the thesis and the general field within which the thesis lies. In exceptional circumstances and on the recommendation of the examiners, Academic Panel may waive the requirement for an oral examination and may specify alternative arrangements. 

Examination outcomes

70. Following the oral examination the examining committee will submit a report to ESEC recommending one of the following:

i. Award the degree 

ii. Corrections – the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific corrections to be signed off by a nominated examiner within one month.

iii. Amendments – the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific amendments to be signed off by a nominated examiner within a maximum of six months.

iv. Resubmission - the thesis requires significant revision and/or additional research to reach the standard required for the award.  The candidate must undergo a further period of study and potentially a further oral examination, normally by the same examining committee, within 18 months of the initial examination.

v. No award - the thesis is substantially deficient in all or any of the requirements for the degree and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, or the requirements of any other research degree.  [Professional doctorate students will achieve an exit award based on taught credits accumulated.]

vi. [In the case of PhD] Award MPhil - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, but the thesis satisfies the requirements of Master of Philosophy.

vii. [In the case of PhD] Resubmission for MPhil - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the doctoral degree and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements.  However, the thesis may satisfy the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy subject to specific substantial revisions.  The revisions should be completed within a period of 18 months from the initial examination.

Resubmission following viva voce

71. Where the examining committee recommends that the candidate resubmit, the candidate will be permitted a resubmission and re-examination on one occasion only.

72. On completion of the re-examination, the examining committee may recommend one of the following:

i. Award degree registered for - The thesis is of the required standard for the relevant award.

ii. Corrections – the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific corrections to be signed off by a nominated examiner within one month.

iii. Amendments – the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific amendments to be signed off by a nominated examiner within a maximum of six months.

iv. No award - The thesis is substantially deficient in all or any of the requirements for the relevant award and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, or the requirements of any other award.

v. [In the case of PhD] Award MPhil (with or without corrections/amendments) - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, but the thesis satisfies the requirements of Master of Philosophy.

73. The examining committee report to ESEC and, following consideration of the report a recommendation is made to Academic Council.

74. A candidate may appeal against a decision of ESEC in accordance with the University of Stirling code of practice for academic appeals.

Submission of final thesis

75. Following a decision by an examining committee to make an award a student is required to submit the following within one month of confirmation of approval of corrections and amendments by examiners:

i. one hard bound copy of their final thesis, including any supporting material, which will be lodged in  the University library

ii. an electronic copy, which will be submitted to the institutional repository,

76. The thesis is automatically a matter of public record, and thereby freely available unless specified by the student at the point of final submission.  A student can request restriction of access to the thesis for a specified period and the point of final submission on the condition that the thesis meets the grounds of exemptions allowed under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and/or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations (2004).  

77. At the end of a restriction period if a thesis author wishes to extend the restriction further the author must re-apply to the University to determine whether the grounds for exemption continue to be met.  

78. No award will be conferred until the requirements in paragraph 75 have been fulfilled. 

Academic misconduct

79. Where evidence of an assessment offence in the preparation of the thesis, or other irregularities in the conduct of the examination, comes to light prior to or subsequent to the recommendation of the examining committee, action will be taken, in accordance with the University policy on academic misconduct.

80. A board of examiners may recommend to Academic Council that an aegrotat or posthumous award be conferred in respect to an undergraduate or taught postgraduate programme.

Aegrotat awards may be considered where no degree award may be made within the regulations, and the student is close to completing the award but is prevented from doing so because of illness.

In recommending an aegrotat award, a board of examiners should be satisfied that: the student's prior performance clearly demonstrates that he/she would have satisfied the requirements for the award, but for the illness experienced; and the student is unlikely to be able to return to complete his/her studies at a later date.

A posthumous award can be considered where a student has died and has either; completed the programme of study, including the required assessments, and has satisfied the requirements of the award; or has not completed the programme of study but the board of examiners is satisfied that the student would have been able to complete or satisfy the requirements for the award.

In making a recommendation for a posthumous award in this case, the board of examiners shall consider the evidence of the student’s academic performance overall and in respect to any coursework submitted or assessments completed.

Approved: ESEC May 2015

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