Researcher operating machinery

November 16, 2020, by Michael Slade

Update for our community of postgraduate research students

I would like to share an update bringing together a number of recent communications of interest to our community of postgraduate research students (PGRs).

While Covid-19 and national restrictions are having an impact on all our lives and across our whole University community, it is important to recognise that the pandemic has been a particularly troubling time for our PGRs.

Postgraduate research is rewarding, exciting and challenging, we fully appreciate that your experience has suffered, with studies disrupted, and worries that goals and plans for the future remain uncertain. We are here to support you on your journey to adjust to the new reality of your doctorate, which will inevitably be a different piece of work than originally planned, and we will help you to deliver the very best possible outcomes to your research studies.

Your academic colleagues and mentors are your champions, and your biggest fans. We are absolutely aware of your amazing contribution, enriching our research and enhancing our reputation for nurturing outstanding young research leaders.

We are also in awe of your resilience. While I do not wish to play down the disruption and worries our PGRs are facing, your creativity and determination in adapting your studies and research wherever possible has been remarkable.

Your dedication typifies the commitment shown across our research community as we continue to deliver transformative research in the face of the pandemic. Please see my previous blog for more on how research is continuing during the current national restrictions and our guidance to researchers.


UKRI-funded PGRs

Postgraduate research students on UKRI-funded PhD programmes have last week received an email from UKRI on its recent decisions on funded extensions for PGRs.

UKRI reviewed the impact of the pandemic on PGRs through a survey of UKRI-funded PGRs conducted in July, which more than 500 University of Nottingham PGRs completed. Based on the results of this survey, UKRI has now informed us that it will be able to offer some financial support for extensions for PGRs whose programme of registered study finishes between 1 April 2021 and 1 October 2021.

The University of Nottingham will produce a framework on how we will allocate any funds given to the University in line with UKRI expectations on ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion, and the full UKRI guidance.

We will apply the University’s core values of fairness, consideration and kindness in managing and allocating this support.

We will provide you with full details of who is eligible to apply and the process involved as soon as possible.

Please see my update to PGRs on UKRI-funded PhD programmes.

As I announced in my blog on 9 July 2020, all University of Nottingham doctoral PGRs, whose original period of registered study ended on or before 1 October 2021 have been awarded an extension of up to six months with no additional fees payable by the PGR. This response was in recognition of the exceptional circumstances and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on PGRs studies and wellbeing. This level of support may be unprecedented in our sector and reflects the University’s high regard for our PGRs and the contribution you make to our research ecosystem.

In addition, UoN scholars in receipt of stipend support in this group have also benefitted from additional funding support.

For non-UKRI funded PGRs we are looking at what support we may be able to offer. We will continue to update you on this.

All PGRs should work with their supervisory teams aiming for completion of their thesis by the original planned submission date, with an emphasis on adjusting research plans to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on progress. The work may need to differ significantly from original plans in order to do this. All PGRs should record any Covid-19-related impacts and project adjustments and mitigations. Do continue to talk through your plans, concerns and needs with your supervisors.

Your supervisors, mentors and colleagues will continue to support your work in delivering the doctoral outcomes and showing how these have been achieved in your thesis. Key doctoral outcomes include creation and interpretation of new knowledge, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems, and the ability to reach conclusions based on incomplete data.


COVID winter departure plans

The University this week also shared plans for the upcoming winter break and arrangements for the safe movement of students who wish to travel home. While this is welcome news, I do recognise that PGRs will have differing priorities.

As members of our research community, most of you can and will carry on your research activities in Nottingham after the Government student ‘travel window’ of Thursday 3 and Wednesday 9 December, and indeed after the end of term. Many of you of course regard Nottingham as home and will not be planning on any travel during the Christmas period.

For those travelling, and those remaining in Nottingham, we will be contacting PGRs to offer support for both ongoing research activity and travel plans that fall outside the Government student travel window of Thursday 3 December and Wednesday 9 December. Those PGRs staying on and around University Park will be able to access study space, catering and other facilities if needed. Look out for more details in the coming weeks.

It is important to also stress that the Covid-19 testing, whether through the national scheme when it comes online at the end of November or through our own Asymptomatic Testing Service, will be available to PGRs. You can find out more about the testing service currently open to all on-campus staff and PGRs here, this includes the testing station locations, days and times.

We hope you take advantage of this service, to help keep our community safe while also playing our part in supporting a responsible approach to travel during the festive period.


Researcher Academy Faculty Leads

The Researcher Academy is delighted to introduce the team of Researcher Academy Faculty Leads (RAFLs). Within and across faculties, RAFLs lead and champion postgraduate, postdoctoral and early career researcher-related support and activities. Your RAFLs are:

  • Arts – Dr Lucy Bradnock (PGR and Research Staff)
  • Engineering – Dr Nicole Porter (PGR), Dr Ifty Ahmed (Research Staff)
  • Medicine and Health Sciences – Professor Anna Grabowska (PGR), Dr Alex Tarr (Research Staff)
  • Science – Professor Richard Graham, Deputy Dr Dov Stekel (shared PGR and Research Staff responsibility).
  • Social Sciences – Professor Laurie Cohen (PGR and Research Staff)

RAFLs are currently organising local PGR-focused Town Halls and forums to update researchers and hear their views.

In addition, RAFLs contribute to online town hall meetings for the wider research community, which have so far taken in Social Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences, and Science. PGRs are also welcome at these upcoming events in the series:

18 November 11am-12.30pm Faculty of Arts
Professor Lynda Pratt, Faculty AVPC for RKE
Register here
23 November 2-3.30pm Faculty of Engineering
Professor Chris Tuck, Faculty AVPC for RKE
Register here
2 December 10 -11.30am The future of knowledge exchange
Professor Chris Gerada, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Industrial Strategy, Business Engagement and Impact
Register here
15 December 12-1.30pm Research staff  (technicians, postdoctoral researchers, early career research fellows on internal and external fellowships and colleagues on research contracts)
Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Register here

I hope this update to our PGR community is useful and draws together some of the recent communications of interest to you.

It is also an opportunity to once again pass on my sincere thanks for your resilience and goodwill in these extraordinarily challenging times.

Best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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