Rovier Verdi, a second year PhD candidate in the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, won the Coventry University ‘Three Minute Thesis’ (3MT®) competition 2021.
Supporting our Postgraduate Research (PGR) Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our Postgraduate Research (PGR) community over the last 12 months, and will undoubtedly continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We recognise and understand that the experience and implications of the pandemic have been, and continue to be, different for everybody.
There have been a number of challenges caused by the pandemic that have had an impact on academic progression for PGRs. As such, Coventry University's Doctoral College & Centre for Research Capability and Development (RECAP) and Research Centre teams have worked incredibly hard to minimise the impact of the pandemic on individual progression. Colleagues are committed to ensuring that all of our PGRs can continue with their research and are supported and safeguarded as best as possible in these unique circumstances.
The institution at large is committed to supporting our PGR community for the foreseeable future as we begin to return to some sense of normality.
The Doctoral College and RECAP took a number of steps in the weeks immediately before the initial period of lockdown in March 2020 (measures which continue to remain in place both during and outside of lockdown periods). These include:
- Extensions to thesis submission dates for those PGRS that apply for them granted on a case-by-case basis;
- Progress Review Panels (PRP) and Viva Voce Examinations being held remotely using Microsoft Teams in line with the amended Code of Conduct for Remote PRP’s and Vivas;
- Greater flexibility in the submission and timeline of documents for Progress Review Panels to avoid delays in progression to next phases of programmes;
- The full Researcher Training and Development suite of programmes moved online, incorporating blended learning, webinars, online workshops and seminars;
- Extensions to registrations for PGRs that apply for them being granted on a case by case basis;
- Fee waivers for self-funded candidates that apply for them granted on a case by case basis;
- Extensions to Coventry University funded studentships and stipends for PGRs that apply for them granted on a case by case basis, and
- Payment plans implemented for candidates in their normal registration period that have requested additional time and flexibility in the payment of their fees.
A comprehensive No Detriment Policy was circulated to all PGRs on 21 April 2020, detailing the support measures that have been put in place. The policy will continue to be in place to help our PGRs over the coming months.
The No Detriment Policy covers all options available for PGRs in regards to progression, submission and examination, and clearly outlines changes of procedures and options for extensions. This includes:
- Extensions to registration (including fee waivers)
PGRs have been, and continue to be able to apply for extensions to registration if they are in the last 12 months of their programme; responses to these requests are usually issued within five working days.
- Extensions to stipends (for studentships funded by the university)
Requests for extensions to stipends are usually undertaken by PGRs who are in the last three months of their programmes, and are reviewed by the Doctoral College alongside the PGR’s Director of Studies and Research Centre Director (or nominee). Responses to these requests are usually issued within 10 working days.
- Extensions to Progress Review Panels and Thesis Submissions
- Conferment of awards
These options are available for all of our PGRs, with requests being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
While no blanket extensions have been implemented, the university reviews and takes into consideration every application and/or request for extensions to registration and stipends, and places great importance in considering the requirements of each individual.
We are aware of the varied finanacial and wellbeing challenges that our PGRs have faced and we have continued to offer an extensive range of support.
Financial support has been available throughout the pandemic to candidates who find themselves in unforeseen circumstances, leaving them without money for essentials, through applications submitted to our discretionary Emergency Fund.
The Connections Matter initiative was launched to bring together a wealth of wellbeing support information, resources and activities to help students at all of our locations stay connected and stay healthy; both mentally and physically.
Virtual appointments with our Mental Health Coordinators have continued to be available to book for all PGRs.
In addition, a number PGR-specific resources and support haves been available, including:
- Research Centre specific support e.g. equipment accessibility;
- Weekly virtual drop-in sessions facilitated by the Doctoral College and RECAP; and
- On-campus support for those candidates that remained in Coventry during breaks throughout the year.
General information regarding teaching and learning arrangements, COVID-19 testing, campus access and health and safety is available on the Return to Campus Hub.
As well as formal support infrastructures, the research community has hosted frequent drop-in sessions and colleagues have been available to speak to, and seek guidance from, during extended hours (evenings and weekends).
The university has been proactive in reopening specialist research and laboratory spaces in line with the government guidelines. Our laboratory spaces were opened as soon as possible at the beginning of July 2020 and have been kept open during subsequent lockdowns, with all appropriate safety measures in place.
We have also facilitated a laptop loan scheme for PGRs who require equipment enabling them to work from home during the lockdown.
Though our PGR community has not been able to attend the usual induction and collaborative events throughout the year, the Doctoral College and RECAP have been astounded by the input and interactions from our PGR ccommunity at our virtual events.
The Doctoral Capability and Development Conference (DCAD) planned for the 24 March 2020 swiftly altered to be hosted virtually, and the same format was developed for this year's conference. A full online programme was put together including live chats, webinars and online workshops for our PGRs. DCAD also saw the 'Outstanding Research Supervision' team award for the Centre for Sports, Exercise and Life Sciences (CSELS).
The 2021 Research Hootenanny was also successfully delivered online, enabling a full programme of events for our postgraduate research community to come together and share successes, experiences and ideas.
Our full programme of continued events can be found on the RECAP website.
We've worked hard to ensure that our PGRs have been contacted and communicated to throughout the pandemic. Critical and supporting information has been circulated via email and on relevant websites. More information can be found on the internal staff and student portals (login required).
Celebrating PGR successes
Even though its been a challenging time, we've celebrated our PGR successes and highlighted their endeavours.
Saif Alatrash, a Cotutelle PhD candidate in the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, has been awarded Postgraduate Researcher of the Year 2021.
Postgraduate candidates from across the university have put together short videos to bring their PhD projects to life.
PhD candidate Mirabel Pelton has been awarded the Rising Researcher Award for her work on suicide prevention in autistic adults.
Postgraduate candidate explains why Coventry University was the best place to expand her undergraduate degree into a PhD
We asked PhD candidate Anya Goncalves Geiger why she decided to undertake her postgraduate studies at Coventry University.