A Chair, who is independent of the supervisory process, oversees this reporting process. This person will usually be the Head of Department or the Head of Department's nominee. The panel discussing progress is comprised of the supervisors (or the supervisor and the Departmental Advisory Committee) and the meeting Chair. The reporting process comprises four parts:
The reporting process is initiated by self-review, produced by the candidate. Although there is no standard layout for a self-review document, candidates are advised to refer to the Requirements for the Student Self-Review Document as a general guide, alongside the following two sections (Six-month Self-Review and Annual Self-Review). In all cases, candidates should discuss and agree upon the precise format of the self-review document with their supervisors. The self-review need not be overly long. It should be a summary of work and may be augmented by appendices containing more detail. Previous self-reviews and reports should be used as a point of reference when indicating goals achieved and tasks completed. Ordinarily, a self-review should be completed and uploaded to eVision by the candidate within two weeks of receipt of the eVision reminder.
As well as providing a succinct account of the work done during the reporting period, the self-review can be used to indicate any specific areas of concern that the candidate wishes to be addressed at the subsequent meeting. We draw particular attention to the sections "Support and Resources" and "Candidate and Supervisor Responsibilities" in the PhD Progress Report Form.
The self-review should also list any publications, seminar or conference presentations related to the PhD completed during the reporting period.
Depending on departmental practice, candidates normally will upload the self-review document onto eVision when submitting their candidate responses. A postgraduate administrator can also assist in this if needed. We recommend that the candidate advises the supervisor/convenor as soon as they have uploaded their self-review preferably at least a week ahead of the planned meeting time.
As the first self-review, the six-month self-review marks a crucial moment in the candidacy. The candidate's self-review should briefly define the research proposal and thesis layout, as well as outlining the research and writing the candidate has undertaken to date, and the work planned for the following review period.
As a minimum, the self-review will typically contain or refer to:
- A statement of the research topic or problem
- An outline of the significance of the problem and an indication of how it will meet the requirements for originality and a contribution to knowledge which define the PhD
- A literature review
- A statement of research questions or hypotheses
- An account of the methodologies by which the questions or hypotheses will be investigated and/or the theoretical model(s) which will be applied
- A thesis outline
- A timetable for the work planned for the next reporting period
- Identification of possible career pathways and desired professional development opportunities (e.g. teaching, research-grant writing, internship etc)
Note that the Student-Supervisor Agreement must be attached to the six-month Progress Report when the report is circulated for endorsements and then forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All self-reviews for annual reports should take the preceding report as a point of reference. The self-review will typically contain, or refer to:
- An assessment of progress made with reference to the tasks set in the timetable in the last report
- An indication of new developments which have led to a change of direction or emphasis for the project
- Detailed plans and/or drafts of work completed
- An updated outline of the thesis
- A timetable for the work planned for the next reporting period
- Ongoing professional development plans targetted to possible career pathways
The self-reviews do not need to reproduce work already done by the candidate and seen by the supervisors. A self-review should be a summary document, to which any relevant pieces of work can be appended, if necessary.
All PhD candidates are able to provide confidential feedback to the Dean and Manager of the Graduate Research School when accessing eVision to upload their self-review document. This feedback may include any concerns or questions the candidate may have with regard to their doctoral studies. Feedback is strictly confidential - the Dean or Manager will not contact supervisors or departments without the express permission of the candidate concerned.
Prior to the Progress Meeting, the Chair should contact the candidate and supervisors independently to see if there have been any issues with the supervisory relationship. If the candidate has not been contacted by the Chair, and they wish to talk to them, they should initiate a discussion. This is a very important stage, since the candidate may feel unable to raise or admit to issues of supervision with their supervisors are present. If there are issues with supervision, the Chair should negotiate with the candidate (or supervisors) which, if any, aspects will be raised in the formal meeting and by whom, or whether the matter will be taken up with the Head of Department, a Postgraduate Co-ordinator, an Associate Dean or with the Manager or Dean of the Graduate Research School.
The Progress Report meeting is chaired by the Chair. Typically the format involves methodically going through the Progress Report form in eVision (either online or by printing out the form in advance and annotating), noting changes where appropriate and providing commentary where necessary.
The Chair should ensure that all matters raised in the self-review are discussed at the meeting. Moreover, if there are any supervisory issues that have been raised for discussion from the pre-meetings, these should be openly discussed. The candidate and the supervisors should also be asked to address the questions raised in each section of the report form.
The candidate's performance will be rated using the scale: outstanding, very good, good, fair, and unsatisfactory. If the panel members have any doubts about the candidate's performance in any area of their work, these should be raised courteously and frankly. The panel should also suggest practical measures to counter any perceived deficiencies in performance.
It is particularly important that, at the time of the six-month and first annual report, the candidate is given a clear warning where performance is deemed to be unsatisfactory. If the panel feels that confirmation of the candidacy is seriously in question, the candidate should be advised of this at the first opportunity (ideally, this would be at the time of the six-month report) and alternative options (such as termination of candidacy or enrolment for a Master's degree) outlined. Indeed, if at six months, work at the expected doctoral standard looks unlikely, a plan of work should be devised to write-up research in a format that could be considered for a lesser degree (e.g., Masters or Postgraduate Diploma). If, at a later stage, a confirmed candidate demonstrates fair or unsatisfactory performance (noted during regular supervision meetings or at a formal progress meeting), they may be placed 'Under Review', which is a procedure governed by an MOU that aims to try and improve the candidate's performance.
The meeting with the candidate should also provide the opportunity for open discussion of supervisory arrangements, issues, practical, technical and financial support. It is imperative that the projected completion date of the project be monitored and that any significant changes to the project, its supervision or support be recorded in the progress report. All changes except resourcing splits can be entered on the progress report form without the need to complete a "change of research details" form.
During the meeting, the Chair will, in consultation with the candidate and the supervisors, fill out the standard PhD Progress Report form (either online or on a hard copy), being sure to answer all the questions. Minutes may also be taken of the meeting, which are then uploaded in eVision as a record of the meeting. The report form is designed to identify any matters of concern which need to be addressed and commentary should be provided in the appropriate areas or in the meeting minutes (if these are being kept). If no matters of serious concern are identified, the commentary need not be lengthy, but if progress is "fair" or "unsatisfactory", then an explanation is required in terms of what has led to this rating and steps that will be taken to try and improve progress.
Once completed, the PhD Progress Report form should be printed off (if completed online) and signed by all parties, who should receive a copy of the signed report. If a hard copy form has been annotated in the meeting, the convenor should arrange for any annotations to be entered into eVision (e.g., by themselves or an administrator in the department) and then the form should be printed and circulated for signatures. If there is disagreement about the report, this should be signalled by the Chair when returning the report. In such cases, a candidate or a supervisor may make a personal written statement relating to a progress report.
Once signatures have been gathered, the PhD Progress Report form should be sent to email@example.com. Supervisors and candidates are also advised to retain a copy for their records.
Copies of the PhD Progress Report form are available for download from eVision by authorised staff, or can be obtained on request from firstname.lastname@example.org.