Neglect of Academic Obligations by Research Students

The nature of a research student’s academic obligations varies from programme to programme and from department to department. Where the supervisory team or progress review panel has concerns that a research student may not be meeting those obligations, they should seek to initiate a response as soon as possible.
What Constitutes Neglect of Academic Obligations?

The initiation of proceedings for neglect of academic obligations is appropriate if the supervisory team or progress review panel has concerns about:

  • whether the research student is meeting their academic obligations - such as maintaining progress in accordance with an agreed work plan, producing work of an appropriate standard, attendance at scheduled formal supervisory meetings and/or maintaining regular contact with the supervisory team, engaging and responding to the advice and guidance of the supervisory team, etc.

or has serious doubts about:

  • the research student's progress or ability to achieve the degree for which they are registered
Initial Response of the Supervisory Team/Progress Review Panel

Where the supervisory team and/or progress review panel feels that the research student's work or progress is such that there is a danger the student could be deemed to be neglecting their academic obligations, they should:

  • initiate a meeting with the research student
  • ensure that the research student understands their academic responsibilities and the reasons why their progress is considered to be unsatisfactory
  • ascertain whether there are any external factors affecting the research student's progress

The initial measures taken following such a meeting should normally be supportive – for example:

  • a suspension of programme if there are personal or medical difficulties
  • reformulation of the research area/question(s)
  • transfer to a lower degree (where possible)

Where the research student is required to improve their working practices, there should be a clear understanding as to what is expected and a specific date at which the research student's performance will be re-assessed.

This process should be documented in some form so that there is a clear record as to the response of the Department.

Report to Head of Department

The supervisory team/progress review panel must notify the Head of Department and the Postgraduate Tutor in writing if:

  • it is clear that the research student could be deemed to be neglecting their academic obligations


  • if, following an initial response, the work or progress of the research student fails to improve or they fail to complete agreed remedial actions without a reasonable explanation

The Head of Department and Postgraduate Tutor should be notified using the standard report template:

The Head of Department will offer the research student the opportunity to explain the concerns regarding their progress and may ask the research student to attend a formal meeting to discuss the situation. 

Departments are encouraged to use the standard notification template when writing to the research student:

Outcome of Head of Department's Review

The Head of Department should initiate a review of the allegation of neglect of academic obligations. In consultation with the Postgraduate Tutor and the supervisory team, the Head of Department should then decide on the most appropriate course of action.

The outcome of the Head of Department’s review of the allegation of neglect of academic obligations will lead to one of the following decisions:

  • that there is no case to answer
  • that the research student should be issued with a formal warning accompanied by an action plan identifying the areas in which the student must improve - the action plan should include a clear schedule
  • that the research student should be referred to the Senate Discipline Committee for termination of registration

The research student should be informed in writing of the outcome of the Head of Department's review. Departments should use the standard notification templates:

Withdrawal for Non-Engagement

Research students are required to maintain regular contact with the supervisory team. The supervisory team must ensure that instances of non-engagement by research students are reported as soon as they become apparent; this is particularly important with respect to international students whose immigration status requires formal attendance monitoring.

Research students who fail to maintain regular contact with the supervisory team should be contacted in writing by the Department and asked to respond by a specified date. A copy of this notice should be provided to the Doctoral College Office.

If the research student fails to respond satisfactorily by the specified date it shall be assumed that they have withdrawn from the research degree programme. The Department should notify the Doctoral College Office who will terminate the research student's registration.

Further Advice

Departments who need further advice on proceedings for neglect of academic obligations should contact the Secretary to the Senate Student Discipline Committee :

Departments who need further advice on withdrawals for non-engagement should contact the Doctoral College Office.

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