Probation Review for Research Students on PhD, MD, PsyD, and MPhil Programmes

Research students on PhD, MD, PsyD, or MPhil programmes must complete an initial probation period at the start of their research degree.

Before the end of your probation period you will be required to complete a probation review.

Probation Period

The probation period duration is either:

  • one year (MD, PsyD, and full-time PhD and MPhil programmes)

or

  • two years (part-time PhD and MPhil programmes)

Research students on these programmes must complete a probation review which will be used to determine whether you have made satisfactory progress in your research degree over the probation period and can satisfy the probation review panel that you have the ability to complete your research degree within the relevant maximum registration period.

The probation review comprises two parts:

  • written reports by you and your supervisory team
  • a presentation and defence of your work to a probation review panel
Probation Review Report

Your Department will tell you when you are required to complete the written report for your probation review. Normally this will be around ten months (MD, PsyD, and full-time PhD and MPhil) or twenty months (part-time PhD and MPhil) after your initial registration.

Your written report will comprise two parts:

  • a substantive piece of writing (5,000 to 10,000 words) - the format that this will take will depend on your discipline and your Department will tell you what is required; usually though it will involve a statement of what it is your research will address and how you intend to do this together with a literature review that establishes the context for your work
  • supporting documents, including:
    - a work plan for completing your thesis over the remaining period of your degree
    - a record of the skills and career development training that you have completed to date
    - records of all the formal supervisory meetings that have been held to date

If you have any questions about the requirements for your written report, you should discuss these with your supervisory team as early as possible.

Your supervisory team will also provide you with feedback on your draft probation report, so you should agree with your supervisors the date by which you will provide them with a final draft.

Your supervisory team will prepare their own written report for your probation review and this will include a discussion of your progress to date and the feasibility of your work plan.

Probation Review Meeting

The written reports by you and your supervisory team will both be considered by your probation review panel. Your probation review panel will normally comprise two members of the University’s academic staff. Members of your supervisory team are not allowed to be members of your probation review panel.

Your probation review panel will invite you to a probation review meeting. Normally this will take place eleven months (MD, PsyD, and full-time PhD and MPhil) or twenty-two months (part-time PhD and MPhil) after your initial registration.

The format of the probation review meeting will depend on your discipline. In some cases it will be a closed meeting between you and your probation review panel - something like a viva voce examination. In other cases, it may involve you giving a presentation to a wider audience followed by an opportunity for the probation review panel to ask you questions.

Your Department will tell you what type of format is used in your discipline, but regardless of the type of format used you will be expected to:

  • discuss your research and the context for this
  • your work so far
  • your plans for completing your thesis

The probation review panel will ask you questions in order to decide whether your progress to date has been satisfactory and whether you are likely to be able to complete your degree in the time allowed.

You are strongly encouraged to prepare for your probation review meeting by practising responses to the types of questions that your probation review panel might ask. You should practice speaking your responses - perhaps on your own or with a friend. Your supervisors may also be able to run a practice review meeting with you.

As you practice your responses, think particularly how you might answer questions such as:

  • What is the original contribution to knowledge that you hope to make?
  • What is the research context for your work?
  • What methodology are you using? Are there any limitations with this and, if so, how are will you address these?
  • Are there alternative methodological approaches? What benefits and limitations are associated with these?
  • What is the timeline for completing your research and your thesis? Is this feasible?
Probation Criteria

The probation review panel will make a decision on whether you have successfully completed probation. 

You will be deemed to have successfully completed probation if it is the academic judgement of the probation review panel that:

  • your overall performance demonstrates appropriate progress to date

and

  • there are no serious doubts about your ability to achieve the degree for which you are registered

That decision will be based on your written report (including your work plan, supervisory meeting records, and training record) and your performance in the probation review meeting (including any separate presentation session).

To make that decision, the probation review panel will consider your overall performance and look to see whether you can demonstrate appropriate performance across a number of defined aspects:

Skills Development

  • research and other skills appropriate for research degree level study
  • appropriate standard of spoken and written English language skills

Personal Performance

  • the ability to defend their research ideas and plans
  • the ability to accept constructive criticism
  • satisfactory attendance at formal supervisory meetings

Research Management and Progress

  • the conception and development of a viable research topic or, if they are working on a pre-determined research topic, an appropriate contribution to the development of the research project
  • a standard of work appropriate for research degree level study – including appropriate progress to date and the ability to plan and manage their own work within the supervisory framework
  • appropriate knowledge of relevant literature and/or source materials and an ability to reflect critically on these
  • appropriate use and referencing of relevant literature and/or source materials
  • the development and/or application of appropriate research methodology
  • the development of a viable plan for completing and submitting the thesis within the specified maximum registration period
Research DegreeMaximum Registration Period
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Full-Time Four Years
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Part-Time Seven Years
Doctor of Medicine (MD) Full-Time Four Years
Doctor of Medicine (MD) Part-Time Five Years
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) Part-Time Five Years
Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Full-Time Two Years
Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Part-Time Four Years
  • appropriate ethical approval has been sought (where needed)
  • the potential to make an original contribution to knowledge (not applicable on MPhil programmes)
Probation Review Outcomes

In most cases the probation review panel will be able to tell you immediately following the end of the probation review meeting what recommendation they intend to make.

The probation review panel may make one of the following recommendations:

  • that you should be allowed to continue with your research degree programme
  • that you should continue on probation for a period of no more than six months and complete a further and final probation review before the end of that period
  • that you should be transferred to a lower research degree programme
  • that your registration should be terminated

Successful Completion of Probation

You will be deemed to have successfully completed the probation review if it is the academic judgement of the probation review panel that:

  • your overall performance demonstrates appropriate progress to date
  • there are no serious doubts about your ability to achieve the degree for which you are registered

If you successfully complete probation, you will be allowed to continue with your research degree programme.

Continuation of Probation

Your probation period will be continued if it is the academic judgement of the probation review panel that:

  • you have not fully met the requirements for successful completion of probation
  • you have demonstrated sufficient progress and ability to complete probation successfully within an additional period of no more than six months

If your probation period is continued, you will be allowed to register for the next year of your degree programme but will remain on probation. Before the end of the continued probation period you will be required to complete a further and final review.

This final probation review will follow the same format as the original review - that is, you will be required to complete a probation report and attend a probation meeting. Normally this will be with the same probation review panel.

Following the final probation review meeting, the probation review panel will make one of the following recommendations:

  • that you should be allowed to continue with your research degree programme
  • that you should be transferred to a lower research degree programme
  • that your registration should be terminated

Transfer to a Lower Degree

This outcome is possible only for research students registered for the degree of PhD.

You will be transferred to a lower degree if it is the academic judgement of the probation review panel that:

  • your overall performance does not demonstrate appropriate progress to date
  • there are serious doubts about your ability to achieve a doctoral degree
  • the panel agrees that you have demonstrated sufficient progress and ability to achieve the degree of MPhil

Termination of Registration

Your registration will be terminated if it is the academic judgement of the probation review panel that:

  • your overall performance does not demonstrate appropriate progress to date
  • there are serious doubts about your ability to achieve the degree for which you are registered
  • transfer to a lower degree is not possible (research students registered for the degree of MD, PsyD, or MPhil) or there are serious doubts about your ability to achieve a lower degree
After the Probation Review

At the end of the probation review, both you and your supervisory team will receive a copy of the probation review panel’s report. Even if you have successfully completed probation, you should discuss this report with your supervisory team as soon as possible and consider whether it identifies any concerns that you need to address.

Please note that successful completion of the probation period must not be taken as an assurance that you will be awarded a research degree – it is an academic judgement on your progress to date and the final decision whether to award a research degree will rest with your examining team and be made on the basis of your thesis and your performance in the viva voce examination.

You have the right of appeal if the probation review panel recommends that:

  • you should remain on probation for a period of no more than six months and complete a further and final probation review before the end of that period
  • you should be transferred to a lower research degree programme
  • your registration should be terminated

Appeals must be submitted as soon as possible following receipt of the probation panel's recommendation. Further advice is available in the Academic Appeals Procedure.

Share this page: