Swansea University

Guide to Progress Monitoring

Guide to Progress Monitoring

Progress Monitoring of Research Students

Progress Monitoring

During the course of a research student’s candidature the student is expected to meet regularly with his/her supervisors, and at most meetings it is likely that the student’s progress will be monitored in an informal manner. Details of the meetings should ideally be recorded on the on-line system. A minimum of four formal supervisory meetings is compulsory each year, two of which will be reported to the Postgraduate Progression Board. During these supervisory meetings the student’s progress is discussed and formally recorded on the on-line system.

The stages at which the student’s progress is assessed are outlined below:

Figure 1: Progress Reporting Arrangements

The Postgraduate Research Academic Board has a formal process for monitoring each student’s progress and deciding whether the student should be allowed to proceed with his/her research. The College should give the student the criteria and procedures by which the student’s progress will be assessed. Colleges must ensure that their specific criteria and procedures are sufficiently robust to ensure that students who are unlikely to be able to successfully complete the relevant research degree can be clearly identified.

Confirmation of Candidature (relevant to all modes of study)

The College is required to confirm the candidature of a student to the Postgraduate Research Executive Group within three months of the initial enrolment of the student. In doing so, the College is confirming that the student has fulfilled the specified administrative requirements and is academically prepared to undertake the agreed research project. In particular:

  • The candidature details held in the central database and on-line system are correct: in particular the start date, the minimum candidature date, the maximum submission date, the names of the supervisors, the mode of study, the subject of study;
  • The student has matriculated for entry to the University;
  • The student has arranged funding for the duration of his/her candidature;
  • A request to submit their thesis in Welsh has been submitted to the College and thereon to the Academic Registry;
  • A request to submit the thesis in a language other than English / Welsh (where this is for academic reasons or where submission of the thesis in another language is a requirement of the specific programme) has been submitted to the Executive Group;
  • A research plan has been agreed between the student and the supervisors and a brief project summary (approximately 300 words) noted on the on-line system;
  • Ethical aspects of the research have been considered;
  • As far as can be reasonably assessed at this stage, the facilities and resources necessary to complete the proposed project are available, or will be made available as required;
  • A Training Needs Analysis has been completed;
  • The student has received the relevant documentation, such as the College’s Postgraduate Handbook;
  • The necessary safety training has been identified and either the student has completed it or an adequate schedule for its completion has been agreed;
  • The student has attended or will attend any compulsory University or College training courses.

A formal Confirmation of Candidature Report Form is required to be completed by the student and supervisor, and recorded on the on-line system. The form will be considered at the College and Postgraduate Research Progression Board at the 3-month stage. 

A report of all non-confirmed candidatures will be made to the Postgraduate Research Executive Group three months after enrolment. If the College cannot confirm candidature for a student after three months, the Postgraduate Research Academic Board will require the student either to suspend or to withdraw from the programme (see the Guide to Suspensions and Extensions for Research Students and the Guide to Transfer and Withdrawal of Research Students). However, in very exceptional circumstances, a student may submit an application to extend their Confirmation of Candidature by three months to the Postgraduate Research Executive Group for consideration.

After confirmation of candidature has been completed a student is not permitted to significantly change his/her topic of research, as such a change would invalidate the confirmation of candidature. If a student wishes to significantly change his/her topic of research, the student should be required to withdraw from the current degree and re-apply for the new topic of research.

Progression Stages

Twice yearly, two formal assessments of progress should be carried out by the student and their supervisors and recorded on the on-line system. The Confirmation of Candidature Report will be the first of these formal assessments. The assessment reports are then submitted to the Research / Postgraduate Committee of the College for consideration. The College Research / Postgraduate Committee will approve the progress recommendation and assessment report or make appropriate amendments. The progress recommendation will be reviewed by the Postgraduate Research Progression Board which reaches a formal decision regarding the student’s progress and continuation.

In cases where a supervisor has concerns regarding the progress of a student, the supervisor may request that a formal progression report be produced for that student and presented to the next available meeting of the Postgraduate Research Progression Board.

It is the responsibility of the student to make Executive Group aware of extenuating circumstances which could have an effect on his/her progress.  Academic appeals based on extenuating circumstances which could have been brought to the attention of the Executive Group prior to the meeting of the Postgraduate Research Progression Board shall not be considered.

The student will be able to view the Progression Board decision, comments and recommendation, once the recommendation has been confirmed. If the student is unhappy with the decision reached, and thinks that there are sufficient grounds, he/she can appeal against the outcome of this review using the Regulations for Academic Appeals.

Towards the end of the first year (approximately 9 months after enrolment), Colleges must submit to the Progression Board a formal assessment report on the student's progress with a recommendation regarding the outcome of the student's progress to date.

During this initial period, the student will be expected to demonstrate the ability to proceed with further research and will be expected to meet the criteria set by the College to measure the performance of the student. Different Colleges may have different procedures and criteria for reaching these decisions, but they must be made clear to the student via the College handbook or other written information. The following general criteria are used for all students when assessing whether the student has successfully completed the initial period:

  • The student shows a good knowledge and understanding of their subject and associated methods and techniques;
  • The student has carried out a comprehensive literature review;
  • The student has demonstrated potential to make an original contribution to his/her field of study;
  • The student can present and communicate his/her work orally, and in writing, in a successful manner;
  • The student has satisfactorily completed the training modules or courses which were identified at the start of his/her studies;
  • The student can evidence competency, both written and spoken, in the language of submission (English or Welsh).

The Progression Board can reach one of the following decisions:

Recommendation
Satisfactory Progress Progress is satisfactory and the student has completed the element of the programme of research expected at this stage of candidature.
Cause for Concern Progress is moderate, the student is permitted to proceed; however, there are some concerns regarding academic progress. This decision may have been reached because the student has not yet been able to have completed the work expected at this stage. If there are two consecutive 'Cause for Concern' recommendations given, then the subsequent recommendation should be noted as 'Critical Cause for Concern' if progress is not yet satisfactory. 
Critical Cause for Concern Progress is slow or no progress has been achieved. This decision may have been reached because the student has not yet been able to have completed the work expected at this stage.  It should be made clear to the student what is expected of him/her and a work plan agreed. The student should be considered at the next available Progression Board and if there is insufficient progress and the work agreement has not been met, then he/she will be required to withdraw or transfer down to a Masters Research Degree.
Disruption to Progress (Beyond Student's Control) Progress is slow, which has been disrupted because of factors beyond the student’s control e.g. laboratory equipment malfunctioning and delays with the repair. This recommendation must be accompanied by a statement from the College giving full details of the concerns identified.
Transfer to PhD/Doctorate It is recommended that the student transfers to a more appropriate programme. This recommendation should normally be used when the student is transferring between a research master’s programme and a doctoral programme, provided the student is within minimum candidature for the doctoral programme and has met the ‘transfer up´ criteria e.g. completed a transfer report which has been reviewed by a College Panel and undergone an interim viva.
Transfer to MPhil/Master of Philosophy It is recommended that the student transfers to a more appropriate programme. This recommendation should normally be used when the student is transferring between a research doctoral programme and a master’s programme, provided the student is within minimum candidature for the master’s programme. If this is the case, the student will have the right to seek a review appeal (see regulations for Academic Appeal).

This recommendation can also be used when a student is transferring up from a MA/MSc by Research (MRes in exceptional circumstances), provided he/she is within minimum candidature for the MPhil programme and has met the ‘transfer up´ criteria e.g. completed a transfer report which has been reviewed by a College Panel and undergone an interim viva.
Transfer to MRes (Master of Research) It is recommended that the student transfers to a more appropriate programme. This recommendation should normally be used when the student is transferring between Doctoral/Professional Doctorate programme to MRes, provided the student is within minimum candidature for the MRes programme. If the student is transferring to a lower degree he/she will have the right to seek a review appeal (see regulations for Academic Appeal).
Transfer to Masters by Research (MA/MSc/LLM by Research) It is recommended that the student transfers to a more appropriate programme. This recommendation should normally be used when the student is transferring between a MPhil programme / doctoral programme to MA/MSc by Research, provided the student is within minimum candidature for the MA/MSc by Research programme. If the student is transferring to a lower degree he/she will have the right to seek a review appeal (see regulations for Academic Appeal).
Required to Withdraw Progress is unsatisfactory and the student is required to withdraw. The recommendation is used when the student has made little or no progress, or shown so little potential that it is deemed to be impossible to complete the research within the candidature period. This recommendation must be accompanied by a statement from the College giving full details of the concerns identified. The final decision will rest with the Progression Board. The student has the right to seek a review or appeal (see regulations for Academic Appeal).
Student Voluntary Withdrawal The student has voluntary withdrawn from the programme of study.
Out of Time The student has not submitted and the student is now out of time. The student’s record will be closed. 
Submitted/Resubmitted The student has submitted / re-submitted and is waiting for the result.

Formal progress assessment reports will still need to be recorded on the on-line system and submitted to the Postgraduate Research Progression Board biannually throughout the candidature(or more frequently if required). These assessment reports seek to establish whether the project is proceeding according to schedule. The assessment report can also highlight any concerns or difficulties encountered and action taken or needed to resolve these issues.

At the end of the normal supervised period of candidature the student is expected to have completed his/her research and to be ready to submit the thesis. The student's College must submit a formal assessment report on progress to the Progression Board with a recommendation indicating whether the student is ready to submit the thesis within six months.

Different Colleges may have different procedures and criteria for reaching these decisions, but they must be made clear to the student via the handbook or other written information. Typically, some of the following criteria are used in order to asses when the student will be able to submit the thesis:

  • The main body of research is completed (i.e. fieldwork);
  • A first draft of most of the thesis chapters has been produced and reviewed by the supervisors;
  • Full supervision is likely not to be required:
    • Supervision is focused upon reviewing drafts of thesis chapters and/or editing, or;
    • Supervision is now limited to reviewing drafts of remaining chapters (e.g. results and discussion chapters), including final refinements and/or editing;
  • The student has produced an agreed work plan with the supervisors to ensure that submission will realistically occur within 6 months.

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