SOAS University of London

Doctoral School

PGR Covid Mitigation

The Covid-19 pandemic has a significant and on-going impact on all SOAS communities, including on our PGR community. Students find themselves without appropriate workspaces or technical infrastructure, access to library materials has been severely restricted and fieldwork projects had to be interrupted or postponed. In addition, many PhD students face financial challenges and the pandemic also has negative effects on students’ mental health and wellbeing.

In response to the pandemic, the School has put in place a number of mitigation arrangements to support PGR students and to help address negative impact of the pandemic. The mitigation policies have been updated continuously and will be monitored to ensure they reflect the development of the crisis.

SOAS’s mitigation arrangements for PGR students fall into different categories:

  1. Deadline extensions for different cohorts of students to provide additional time to complete the project
  2. Mitigation policies relating to fieldwork
  3. Upgrade from Mphil to PhD and PhD examination
  4. Covid Impact Statement
  5. Provision of online services and virtual spaces
  6. Provision of online services, virtual spaces and electronic resources
  7. Information and support from the Doctoral School and Student Advice & Wellbeing
  8. Support for mental health and wellbeing
  9. Study space and access to research materials
  10. Financial support
  11. Further support from SOAS

If you have any further questions on Covid-19 mitigation, please book a 1-1 sessions with your Doctoral School Student Support Officer through this website.

1. Deadline extensions for different cohorts of students to provide additional time to complete the project
  • 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 cohorts have been granted an automatic,  Fee Free Extension of three terms of continuation following 4 years of full-time study (or 7 part-time equivalent). Students enrol normally for their 4th year of study (or part-time equivalent) and will then be eligible for a further three terms no fee extension in Year 5 (or 8 part-time equivalent).
  • The process of change to Extension of Writing-up (Continuation) status will proceed as normal, and students can apply at the end of Year 3. When making decisions, panels are asked to take into account the additional Covid extension of 3 terms - they should be assured that, given the current draft, the thesis can be completed within 6 terms (rather than normally 3 terms).
  • There will be no changes to the assessment of the final thesis. Examiners are asked to assess the thesis by standard criteria. However, examiners may take into account how the project has been developed and has adapted to the changed research environment through innovative methodological or conceptual solutions (see QAA Guidance on this here)

What this means for you:

If your normal four years of enrolment (inc. continuation) have ended or were scheduled to end between Sept 2020 and Sept 2023, your new end of enrolment (and deadline for submission of your thesis) has been extended by three terms as below:

15 Sept 2020 => 15 Sept 2021
15 Sept 2021 => 15 Sept 2022
15 Sept 2022 => 15 Sept 2023
15 Sept 2023 => 15 Sept 2024

You do not need to do anything, the DS team will update in both PhD Manager and Unit-e.

2. Mitigation policies relating to fieldwork
  • Applications for Fieldwork in years other than Year 2 (the normal year for fieldwork) will be considered favourably, including students wanting to take fieldwork in Year 4 due to Covid. If you are applying for Fieldwork, please ensure you state the nature of the research very clear, particularly if this is to be conducted only online.
  • Researchers in the field can apply for an extension of fieldwork and would not have to return to London for enrolment
  • Fieldwork approval follows FCDO advice travel advice.

3. Upgrade from Mphil to PhD and PhD examination
  • PhD Vivas are currently taking place online
  • PhD thesis should be submitted electronically. We will provide information about
    the submission of a hard copy in due course
  • PhD Award Letters and PhD Certificates will be issued electronically and hard
    copies will be ordered

MPhil upgrade
Please try to remain on track if you can so that you can pass this progression
point and register as a PhD researcher next academic year. Every MPhil student facing upgrade this year should be in touch with their supervisor now to discuss whether they can submit by relevant deadline. If there are problems in doing so, tell your supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies (previously departmental Research tutor)who will consider an extension. The usual timeline is for the initial result of upgrades to be communicated to the Doctoral School by 15 June, and the results of any referrals and extensions to reach the Doctoral School by the end of August so that preparations for enrolment can be made. Please try to stay on track with these dates if you can, enabling the upgrade in due course.

Continuation where Covid-19 extensions already granted
This progression point will be dealt with on a case by case basis together with your supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies. Please liaise with your supervisor if you do not expect to have a draft thesis ready by your deadline for approval to continuation status. There will not be a change to the current timeline for progressing to continuation, instead we shall ask for evidence that candidates will be able to write up and submit their theses within six continuation terms, rather than the usual three. No additional continuation fee will be incurred. The normal expectation to progress to continuation status would be presentation of a complete first thesis draft, this will be adjusted to ask candidates to indicate which sections of their draft work cannot be completed presently and to demonstrate how they will complete those sections when circumstances permit. Our intention in extending the continuation period, rather than deferring the date of transition to continuation, is to permit as many candidates as possible to submit on their current deadlines while also offering more time to those that need it.

4. Covid Impact Statement

Students who are submitting their PhD thesis for examination from September 2021 onwards can optionally include a Covid-19 impact statement to provide contextual information about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the PhD project, and how these effects have been mitigated. The statement will help examiners to better understand the project and its results, and will be removed from the final version of the thesis (students can opt in to their anonymised data being used by the Doctoral School for our analysis of Covid-19 impact on the PhD journey). The statement will not have any influence on the outcome of the examination, and there are no negative consequences of not including an impact statement.

The assessment of SOAS PhD theses will remain unchanged and there will be no change to the standards that a thesis and viva performance need to meet for award of a PhD. Please refer to our PhD Examination Guidance page as well as the Quality Assurance Agency’s recently published Advice on Doctoral Standards for Research Students and Supervisors.

If you wish to submit your statement, you are encouraged to discuss it with your supervisor, refer to the instructions in the form, and insert your statement in your thesis after your Declaration page. A link to the word version of the form can be accessed here and will also be available on PhD Manager. 


5. Provision of online services, virtual spaces and electronic resources
6. Guidance for project design and remote research
  • We offer support for students to adjust their projects through SOAS guide on remote research
  • From 2021/21 applicants are asked to provide mitigation strategies for their projects to think about how the project can be adjusted in case of unforeseen changes like the pandemic

7. Information and support from the Doctoral School and Student Advice & Wellbeing

A number of new initiatives have been put in place to support our researchers during these difficult times including;

  • Fortnightly newsletter
  • Fortnightly PhD Studio
  • Bookable 1-1 sessions with your Doctoral School Student Support Officer - SSO (DS) are available for regular on-line drop-in session to discuss questions or concerns about your studies. These DS query virtual drop-ins will be available in 15 minute slots all booked through our appointments page. Once you have booked a meeting, the team will generate a Google meeting link on the day of your appointment and this will be automatically populated on the calendar invite linked with your SOAS email. If you are in need of urgent support, your respective SSO can be reached through MS teams or Google chat, alternatively please book a 1-1 session.
  • Termly feedback PhD Forum
  • Advice for Tier 4 students remains available from SAAW and from the Compliance team

8. Support for mental health and wellbeing

For personal wellbeing support, MPhil/PhD students also have access to both the student-facing Student Advice and Wellbeing as well as to the staff-facing Employee Assistance Programme.


9. Study spaces and access to physical research materials

We set up bookable safe work spaces in dedicated PGR spaces in SOAS Main Building. Room G1 in the Main Building is a dedicated PGR workspace. PGR students can also book Library Carrels. Please book your study space.

The Library are also offering PhD students limited access to shelves in the following sections on a limited request basis:

LEE Periodicals - this includes many of our hardcopy periodicals
Art
Archaeology
Africa
China and Inner Asia
South Asian collection (level A)

Requests will be reviewed by subject librarians so students are advised to allow at least 2-3 working days for their request to be reviewed. They can send requests by contacting libenquiry@soas.ac.uk


Depending on the development of the pandemic, we will gradually further reopen the campus and we hope to back in place for 2021/22

10. Financial support

There is an exception for students funded by UKRI or by SOAS scholarships whose scholarship end dates fall between March 2020 and March 2021 who have a six-months extension, fully funded, after Year 3.

UKRI (including AHRC and ESRC) extended its own full scholarships by six months for those whose scholarship end dates fall between March 2020 and March 2021.

SOAS-funded scholarships will be shadowing UKRI scholarships and hence will be extended by the same six-month period. Unless they have interrupted for some reason, the cohort affected will be those current, full-time, third year research postgraduates whose funding ends in September 2020

Hardship fund
Researchers belonging to the SOAS doctoral community are explicitly included among those eligible to apply for support from the hardship funds:

https://www.soas.ac.uk/studentadviceandwellbeing/students/money/hardship-funds/

Further information will be provided for the following funds in the coming weeks:

  • Conference Funding
  • Language Acquisition Fund
  • Student-led initiatives Fund
  • Fieldwork and Conference Fund

11. Further support from SOAS