Section 2. Requirements for study

2.1 Residence

2.1.1 Minimum residence periods

Work and residence towards a degree is calculated from the term of matriculation. While working in Oxford, graduate students on full-time courses must usually reside within 25 miles of the city centre. There are minimum residence periods which must be met before a degree can be taken. These minima are normally:

DegreeMinimum residence periods
Master of Science by Research 3 terms
Master of Letters 6 terms
M.Litt. after completing Oxford M.Phil./B.Phil./M.St./M.Sc. 3 terms
Doctor of Philosophy 6 terms
D.Phil. after completing Oxford research M.Sc./MPhil/MSt 3 terms

Special arrangements exist to enable intermittent residence or vacation residence periods to count towards the overall requirements (see the Examination Regulations for further details).

2.1.2 Vacations for research students

Students on research courses (such as a D.Phil.) should expect to spend  a minimum of 44 weeks of the year on their studies.

2.1.3 Dispensations from residence

There may be periods when it is desirable or necessary for research students to work on their research away from Oxford. Applications for dispensation from residence allow the responsible body to dispense a student from not more than three terms of residence ‘only on grounds that it is necessary to the student’s work that he or she should be allowed to study at some other place than Oxford’. The most common grounds for dispensation is the need to carry out fieldwork, or to make use of experimental facilities which are not available in Oxford. It is also possible to obtain dispensation if a student’s supervisor moves to another University in the middle of the student’s course and a suitable replacement cannot be found in Oxford. Applications should be made using the standard university form and in good time before the proposed period of absence.

In relation to applications for dispensation of residence for Probationer Research Students (PRS), the Examination Regulations include the additional clause ‘in exceptional circumstances’. Given the increased emphasis on induction and research training, it is the University’s expectation that students will not normally be given dispensation from residence in their first year of PRS status.

An exception to the residence requirements is made for a limited number of students admitted to undertake research in the Medical Sciences or MPLS Divisions but with special permission to undertake their research in a well-found (recognised) laboratory outside the University. This permission is granted at the time of application to the University. As such, these students do not need to apply for dispensation. Details are provided in the Special Regulations of the two divisions, set out in the Examination Regulations.

2.2 Time permitted

2.2.1 Time limits

Students working for the D.Phil. are expected to submit their thesis within three or at most four years (12 terms), and within three years (9 terms) for the M.Sc. by Research or the M.Litt.. The University places particular importance on the careful definition of a research topic, the structuring and timetabling of the research, and the expeditious writing up of the thesis, in order that this time scale can be met. In addition, funded students should be aware that their funding body will have defined maximum periods of financial support for studentships.

DegreeTime limits
Master of Science by Research 9 terms
Master of Letters 9 terms
Doctor of Philosophy 12 terms

 

2.2.2 Extensions

Extensions of time can be given for up to six terms for D.Phil. students, and up to three terms for M.Sc. by Research and M.Litt. students. Subject areas should not normally give extensions for more than one term at a time, so that a student’s progress towards submission can be the subject of regular monitoring by others in addition to the supervisor. Applications for extensions of time should be made using the correct form, before the end of the period in which the student is expected to submit.

Students are encouraged to give early notice if it appears an extension of time will be necessary. Students are asked to indicate on the application for confirmation of status their likely timetable for submission and whether they anticipate having to apply for extension of time. Any subsequent applications for extension of time on the part of students who have not indicated that such an application is likely should be subject to careful scrutiny.

Where a student has received a number of extensions and his or her prospect of making progress with the thesis is small, then withdrawal (and later reinstatement) should be considered.

Grounds for extension - guidance note

Extensions should only be granted in cases where exceptional circumstances have prevented completion within the normal maximum period and where there is a real prospect of the thesis being submitted within the foreseeable future. 

Careful consideration should be given to the grounds on which an application is made.  Examples of acceptable grounds include: a temporary difficulty in the student’s personal life that has slowed progress; interrupted supervision; practical problems with the student’s projects.

Applications on medical grounds or on grounds of personal difficulties that have prevented any work progressing would generally be more appropriately handled proactively through suspension of status (retrospective if necessary), whilst those on grounds of disability would normally be handled through an application to Education Committee for adjustment to the mode of study or to the timing of milestones.  Students who make an application on grounds that they have been prevented from completing their research by the extent of paid work that they are undertaking should be advised in line with the University’s policy on paid work.

2.3 Student status

2.3.1 Suspension of status

If a student cannot work for a particular reason, e.g. illness, family circumstances, financial hardship, then application for suspension of status can be sought, for not less than one and not more than three terms at any one time, using the relevant form. Students should be encouraged to contact the relevant University service (counselling, disability, etc) for help and advice if they have not already done so, before applying for suspension. Such applications will also be considered in connection with election to a student sabbatical office within the University. Responsible bodies may not allow more than six terms of suspension in total for any student. Requests for any further period of suspension must be addressed to the Education Committee.

In considering applications for suspension of status from those students well past the original number of terms for the course concerned (12 for D.Phil., 9 for M.Sc. by Research and M.Litt.), consideration should be given to whether letting the student’s status lapse, and allowing reinstatement when the thesis is ready for submission, is not a more appropriate option.

Funded students

A student who holds a Research Council award and wishes to apply for a suspension of status should also make a separate application for suspension to his or her funding body. This is because funding bodies must specifically approve suspension of the award and agree a consequent extension to the time within which the thesis must be submitted.

Parental leave

Students who give birth during their period of registration for a postgraduate research degree are automatically entitled to suspend their studies for up to 3 terms (one calendar year) of maternity leave. This period of leave is considered separately from the 6 terms of suspension that their faculty or departmental board may allow, and no special application to Education Committee is required. The full policy on parental leave (including paternity and adoption leave) is available from the Student Gateway.

2.3.2 Lapsing of status and reinstatement

If a student fails to submit his/ her thesis or fails to transfer or confirm status within the allotted time (details may be found in the relevant course handbook), and without being granted an extension of time, his/ her status as a graduate student will lapse and his/ her enrolment should be withdrawn on the student record system. Once a student’s status has lapsed, he/ she is no longer registered as a student of the University and should not have access to University facilities during this period.

A student may apply to reinstate his or her status on the graduate register using the relevant form. Reinstatement requires the support of the student’s college (to ensure the student remains in good standing with his or her college) and former supervisor. The candidate’s application should be accompanied by a clear work plan and timetable, which should be endorsed by the former supervisor. Where the former supervisor is no longer available, the relevant body will need to appoint an assessor to check on the appropriateness of reinstatement. If the assessment is satisfactory then a new supervisor will need to be found for the purposes of submission. If no one is willing or available, reinstatement should normally be declined. Reinstatement should not be regarded as automatic but is usually allowed for a student who is ready to submit his or her thesis.

When considering applications for reinstatement, departments/faculties should take into account factors such as the currency and validity of the thesis, the availability of appropriate supervision, and whether the student successfully completed Transfer and Confirmation of Status before his or her status lapsed. In the majority of cases students should be ready to submit their thesis. In cases where the student did not complete Transfer, a fresh application will be more appropriate. In cases where Confirmation was not completed, reinstatement should be made dependent on completion of an assessment equivalent to Confirmation, (the requirement for the milestone might subsequently be waived) and sufficient time on the register should remain available to the student to complete their thesis within the normal time limits.

A doctoral student who withdrew before the end of his or her fee liability will, on reinstatement, immediately become liable for any outstanding fees up to the required maximum for the D.Phil.

It is more likely that a student will have completed his or her twelve terms for the D.Phil., plus some or all of the six terms’ possible extension. If the first is the case, then reinstatement will need to include an extension of time (usually for one term). If the student has had his or her twelve terms plus six terms’ extension, then the application for reinstatement and extension will have to be made to the Education Committee.

2.3.3 Changes to mode of study

If a student’s programme of study is offered on both a full-time and part-time basis, he or she may apply to change his/her mode of study from full-time to part-time (and vice versa) once during his/her studies, except where the special regulations for the course prohibit any change.

Applications must be made using the GSO.4 form, and require the support of the student’s supervisor or course director and college.  The student must also give the reason for the change and the term of effect.  Approval of the application will be the responsibility of the relevant board.

Appropriate grounds for an application for change of mode would include employment or a significant change in personal circumstances.  A change of mode of study for health reasons should not be approved unless medical evidence indicates that part-time study is feasible and full-time study is not. In other cases, a suspension is the more appropriate course of action.

Students may not change mode of study more than once during the course of their studies, unless there are exceptional circumstances.  If a student wishes to change mode for a second or subsequent time, an application must be made to Education Committee.

Students should also be aware that funding bodies (including RCUK) may have their own restrictions on change to mode of study.  In addition, overseas students may be restricted by their visa requirements.  Changes to mode of study will affect tuition fees, completion dates and milestone dates (if applicable), and may also affect entitlement to some University and college services, and other entitlements such as Council Tax exemptions. 

2.3.4 Concurrent enrolment

Full-time students may not normally be concurrently enrolled on another award-bearing programme at this or another university.

2.4 Work, including teaching

2.4.1 Teaching by graduate students

The University aims to give postgraduate research (PGR) students the best possible opportunity for personal and career development including through the provision of teaching opportunities. Teaching and demonstrating to others provides students with an opportunity to develop a range of personal skills, and can also reinforce PGR students’ own knowledge of their subject. In addition, teaching experience is vital for students intending to pursue an academic career path. The University is committed to ensuring transparency and equity in the offering of teaching opportunities to PGR students.

2.4.1.1 Minimum and maximum levels of teaching opportunities to be offered

The University encourages departments and faculties to commit to providing at least minimum levels of teaching opportunities for PGR students and indicate what these might be. However this will vary significantly by subject area and the University cannot guarantee teaching opportunities as part of the research programme.

The primary focus for all students should be their research, and so the amount of teaching offered and undertaken will vary at the individual level. Factors which need to be considered when attempting to identify minimum and maximum levels of teaching opportunities for students at an individual level include:

  • whether or not the student has reached an appropriate stage in his or her research;
  • Research Council guidelines;
  • the views of individual supervisors;
  • the balance required between providing opportunities for teaching experience and placing too much responsibility on PGR students;

Any decision about the provision of teaching opportunities for a student should be made with the aim of serving the best interests of the student in the context of observing the teaching quality requirements of the collegiate University.

2.4.1.2 Requirements

Stage of research

Students should normally have completed (or had waived) transfer of status before participating in any teaching activities. It is not appropriate for Probationer Research Students (PRS) to take on substantial teaching commitments such as several weeks of tutorials, (although first year doctoral students may act as demonstrators, take translation classes, support academic study skills development etc).

Training

The University’s explicit policy is that no PGR student should be allowed to teach without some form of initial training. At the very minimum, students should undertake a 'Preparation for learning and teaching at Oxford' course, which is usually a half or full day in duration and is provided by divisions and departments/faculties. Students may also go on to complete the ‘Developing learning and teaching’ course, which gives students (usually over the course of one term) the opportunity to: be assigned a teaching mentor; participate in teaching seminars; and undertake a limited number of teaching hours (advice is a minimum of seven contact hours) in order to compile a teaching portfolio for accreditation with the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA). These courses are generally hosted in the department, faculty or division with support from the Oxford Learning Institute.

Supervisor guidance and permission

Before participating in any teaching, students should first seek agreement from their supervisor, and advice as to whether their research is making good progress and they are expected to complete on time. The supervisor’s views should be recorded on the Graduate Supervision System (GSS).

2.4.1.3 Restrictions

Research Councils and other funding bodies may impose a restriction on the number of hours’ teaching a student may do each week.  Departments and faculties may also impose similar restrictions, which usually involve a limit of 5-6 hours per week (including preparation time).

Teaching by PGR students will generally only be at undergraduate level, though there may be a small number of circumstances in which teaching at other levels may be appropriate.

2.4.1.4 Practice in departments and faculties

In order to offer teaching opportunities to students, departments and faculties are asked to ensure the following is in place, and made known to students:

Promotion of opportunities

  • clear and widely accessible mechanisms by which opportunities for PGR teaching are advertised and fairly distributed;
  • a widely accessible place where individual students are able to indicate their interest in undertaking such teaching;

Hours

  • a statement for prospective and current students on the likely availability of teaching opportunities;
  • a statement of a department or faculty’s guidance on the maximum number of hours of teaching which it would expect PGR students to undertake;

Training

  • a statement of a department or faculty’s provision of training for teaching making clear that students are not permitted to undertake teaching until they have participated in training. Where possible, training should be undertaken under the auspices of the central University scheme for the development of teaching, see www.learning.ox.ac.uk/support/teaching/programmes/plto/;
  • a pointer to any guidance provided by the faculty/department to assist those undertaking teaching;

Agreed

Expectations

 

  • a mechanism to ensure that, where the teaching/demonstrating is undertaken on behalf of the department or faculty, a simple written statement setting out the expectations on both sides (hours of work, conditions, length of contract and rates of pay) will be provided for the student(s) concerned, and the support available within the department/ faculty;

Tutorial teaching

 

  • mechanisms for liaising with colleges to ensure an appropriate balance of teaching by senior staff and by graduate students is maintained for programmes of tutorials centrally organised by faculties and departments.

Monitoring and mentoring

  • an indication of the form of mentoring/ supervision and monitoring/ review which will be provided for PGR students who teach on behalf of the department/ faculty (which could be via supervisors, course co-ordinators, subject tutors or Directors of Undergraduate Studies, or through being part of a larger teaching team);
  • the procedure by which the faculty/department would deal with complaints about the quality of teaching provided by graduate students.

 2.4.2 Non-academic-related paid work

The University recognises that some graduate students will want to undertake a limited amount of paid work during their studies, whether as part of their academic development (e.g. teaching and demonstrating) or to help to support themselves financially. These guidelines aim to ensure that any paid work undertaken does not adversely affect students’ success in their studies or their ability to complete their course on time. In addition, some graduates will have prescribed limits on how many hours’ paid work they can do, which must be observed: for example, graduates funded by research councils and some other scholarships, and those graduates with student visas. Individual colleges may also have guidelines. Students should be aware that demand for part-time paid work in Oxford often exceeds the amount of paid work available, whether it is academic paid work or other forms of paid work. For this reason, graduate students should not rely on the availability of paid work to fund their University and college fees and their living costs when planning how to finance their studies and completing their Financial Declaration.

Full-time graduate students

Full-time graduate students should generally regard their studies as a full-time occupation of at least 40 hours per week, and should normally be available for academic commitments during core working hours (i.e. 09:00 to 17:00 on weekdays). PGT students should regard this as applying to term-time study whilst for PGR students it applies year-round.

The University therefore recommends that full-time graduate students on a taught course (such as a Master’s) do not undertake more than 8 hours’ paid work each week whilst studying. The number of weeks of full-time study required will depend on the course structure. Students may find they have substantial study commitments in the Christmas, Easter and summer vacations as well as the University’s three full terms of eight weeks each. Students should check the structure of their own course, and its implications for any paid work, with their department or faculty.

Students on research courses (such as a D.Phil.) are advised that any paid work should still allow them to spend at least 40 hours per week for a minimum 44 weeks of the year on their studies.

Part-time graduate students

Part-time graduate students should ensure that any paid work does not interfere with the commitment of time required for their course. Part-time graduate students wishing to begin or continue with paid work are encouraged to speak to their department or faculty in advance about how it could fit with their course. They are also encouraged to speak to their employer to ensure that any study leave requirements may be accommodated.

2.5 Applications outside normal limits

In cases where requests from students are outside the normal limits governing graduate students, application must be made to the Education Committee.  These normally relate to:

  • extensions of time beyond the normal limits;
  • permission to transfer status out of time or to hold PRS status for longer than six terms;
  • admission directly to D.Phil. status of suitably qualified candidates from outside Oxford;
  • dispensation from residence for longer than the normal limits.

Applications for these matters require support from college and by or on behalf of the division.