E12 Stages of progression

There are three stages of progression for candidates undertaking research degrees. Each stage is subject to independent review either via the progression examinations at stage one or via review events at subsequent stages.

  1. Stage one – At the end of this stage the candidate will be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examiners that the project is viable for the award on which they have registered, will have made satisfactory progress in line with the initial objectives agreed at project confirmation, and will have defined the detailed objectives, scope and other requirements of their project going forward (for example, ethical requirements).
  2. Stage two – The candidate will be able to demonstrate through submitted work chosen from a published set of options that they are making satisfactory progress with their project in line with objectives agreed at the progression examination and are on track to complete and submit for final assessment within the maximum study period allowed. At the end of this stage, the candidate will be provided with formative feedback from an independent reviewer and their Director of Studies (DoS), who will agree appropriate targets for the final stage of the project.
  3. Stage three – The candidate will be preparing to finish their project and will be able to demonstrate through draft material submitted that they have a realistic plan for completing outstanding objectives and submitting their work for final assessment within the maximum study period allowed. Formative feedback from the independent review and DoS will identify what needs to be done to complete. The agreed level of supervision during the completion period will also be discussed.

E13 Progression review stage one

  1. A candidate will have a progression examination to determine if they can progress from stage one to stage two of their studies. The detailed requirements are detailed in the procedures for the progression examination.
  2. The progression examination will comprise:
    • a progression report submitted by the candidate
    • other optional work submitted by the candidate
    • a viva voce examination.
  3. If a candidate is unable to meet the required deadline for the submission of the progression report they should submit a personal circumstances application (see regulation E11). If a candidate does not submit the progression report by the required deadline and without good reason, their registration will normally be withdrawn.
  4. The progression examination will be undertaken by two internal examiners who are unconnected with the supervisory team, the work or the candidate.
  5. The viva voce examination may take place face-to-face on university premises (or a collaborative partner institution) or, where all parties consent, via an online video conferencing platform approved by the University.
  6. The outcome of the progression examination will be recommended by the internal examiners to the designated college committee who will agree the outcome. The outcomes can be:
    • pass
    • fail
    • discretionary resubmission.
  7. The committee will provide guidance on remedial work required based on feedback from the examiners in the case of a resubmission outcome. A candidate whose resubmitted work is acceptable may not be required to undergo a further viva voce examination at the discretion of the examiners, but a candidate will not be failed at resubmission without the opportunity to defend their resubmitted work at viva.
  8. Should the recommendations of the internal examiners not be unanimous, they will submit separate reports to the designated college committee, who will consider both reports and agree an outcome.
  9. The designated college committee will forward any fail recommendations to the Examining Board, which will consider the withdrawal of the candidate’s registration.
  10. A candidate will have the right to appeal a decision of the Examining Board as set out in the University’s Academic Appeals Policy under Regulation D25.

Procedures about the progression examination

How progress is measured

  1. The University uses the UWE Bristol Doctoral/MPhil qualification descriptors (as set out in Regulation E3) as the benchmark for measuring progress. Postgraduate Researcher (PGR) candidates must have successful confirmation of their project (see Regulation E9) to be eligible for the stage 1 progression examination and must pass the progression examination to be able to continue with their research degree.
  2. Programme specific requirements for other work submitted with the progression report may apply to Professional Doctorate awards, and these will be outlined in the programme specification and/or programme handbook for the award.

Milestone objectives

This procedure links to regulation E12.i.

  1. The progression examiners must be confident that the PGR, supported by their supervisory team, has done the following:
    • defined the detailed objectives and scope of the research project
    • been actively engaged in working on the research project and has made progress appropriate to the time spent and in line with the initial objectives agreed at the project confirmation
    • made a suitable survey of the relevant research literature and shown an ability to make a critical evaluation of published work
    • developed an appropriate knowledge of research methods relevant to the area of research, and can explain and justify their choice of research methods
    • taken action to deal with any conditions of ethical approval and/or identified any changes to ethical requirements
    • been actively engaged in any professional development or training activities identified at project confirmation, and has completed mandatory training units in ethics and data management required by the University
    • agreed a research data management plan for collecting, managing, storing and, where appropriate, sharing of research data from the project
    • developed an adequately detailed plan of future work to ensure that the research degree can be completed within the maximum study period allowed for the award.

Appointment of the progression examiners

This procedure links to regulation E13.iv.

  1. The designated College Committee is responsible for confirming the appointment of progression examiners.
  2. The DoS must ensure that nominations for progression examiners are submitted for consideration by the Committee in good time.
  3. Progression examiners will:
    • bemembers of UWE Bristol academic staff (or of the candidate’s collaborating establishment or of the partner institution at which the candidate is registered)
    • be independent of the research project, the candidate, and the supervisory team
    • be experienced researchers with a good general understanding of the PGR’s chosen project field but need not necessarily be a leading subject expert in that field
    • not normally be research degree candidates at the University or partner institution.
  4. A progression examiner may act as independent reviewer for the PGR for progress review milestones in subsequent stages.
  5. Progression examiners are not disbarred for consideration as internal examiners for the candidate at final assessment, provided that they also meet all other published appointment criteria.

Responsibilities of the PGR candidate

This procedure links to regulation E13.iii.

  1. To submit the progression report and any optional additional work by the deadline indicated in the written terms and conditions of their award registration.
  2. To undergo a viva voce examination in defence of their work on the date and at the time specified by the University, to demonstrate how the work done so far and the planned future work will meet the aims of the research project.
  3. If a candidate has previously disclosed a disability or ongoing health condition for which reasonable adjustments have been agreed, they must ensure that they discuss any support needs for the viva with their DoS and the Doctoral Academy as early as possible, usually no later than six weeks prior to the expected date of the viva.

The progression report

This procedure links to regulation E13.ii.

  1. The report must include:
    • a provisional title of the thesis or the collection of published works in the case of PGRs registered on DPhil/MPhil by publication
    • a concisely worded statement of the aim of the research
    • a critical summary of the relevant work already carried out and planned future work, showing how both of these fulfil the aim of the research
    • a description of the research methods being used and why
    • where the candidate’s work is part of a larger group project, a short statement identifying the separate and distinctive nature of their individual contribution to the overall project (both achieved so far and planned for the future)
    • confirmation of credit bearing modules undertaken so far
    • a time plan for the remaining stages of the work, including any planned skills development, training or modules still to be undertaken, and an indication of when the PGR expects to submit the thesis for final examination
    • an update on ethical approval and any other matters of research governance, for example, any significant changes to the research data management plan, or to confidentiality, intellectual property or collaborative arrangements where this is a requirement of project confirmation, or where the position has subsequently changed.
  2. Report length
    • Report length is normally between 3,000 and a maximum of 6,000 words.
    • Progression examiners may, but are not obliged to, consider work submitted as part of the report which exceeds the maximum length where prior approval to submit a longer report had not been obtained from the designated College or School committee.
    • In such cases candidates should either apply to the designated committee for permission to submit a longer progression report or should consider submitting optional other work.
  3. Optional other work
    • PGRs may also submit an additional collection or file of work produced for other purposes that they wish to present to the progression examiners as additional supporting evidence of progress with their research.
    • This can include but is not limited to conference papers or presentational material, journal papers or other material where publication is planned or material presented at UWE Bristol, for example at departmental forums.
    • This additional work is not mandatory for the purpose of the progression examination unless the programme specification for the award requires it (for example some Professional Doctorates – check Professional Doctorate award handbook/documentation for further information).
    • Where presentational material is submitted as part of the additional work no actual presentation is required.
  4. Third party copyright
    • Inclusion of any ‘third party material’ in any assessed work (for example material generated or owned by someone else) must be appropriately attributed in the body of the submitted work, as well as in any bibliography.

Responsibilities of the Director of Studies (DoS)

  1. Arranging the progression examination
    • To ensure that all elements of the progression examination process are completed by the deadline stated in the terms and conditions or subsequent update notifications.
    • To submit nominations for progression examiners for consideration by the College Committee in good time. See the organising a progression examination table for timings.
    • To discuss with the PGR any support needs they may have as part of previously agreed reasonable adjustments. Alert the Doctoral Academy as soon as possible, no later than six weeks prior to the viva date.
    • Where the PGR advises them of a previously undisclosed disability or ongoing long term health condition to refer them to the Doctoral Academy as soon as possible (see guidance within the Doctoral Academy Handbook relating to support and reasonable adjustments).
    • Organise the date and practical arrangements for the viva examination and liaise with examiners and the PGR as appropriate. The date chosen should allow sufficient time for completion of the whole examination process by the end of stage one:
      • MPhil 9 months full-time (FT), 15 months part-time (PT) (unless final submission has been made)
      • PhD 12 months full-time (FT), 18 months part-time (PT)
      • DPhil 18 months (unless final submission has been made)
      • Professional Doctorates as per approved programme specification.
    • See also the organising a progression examination table for detailed requirements.
    • To support the PGR in preparation for the progression examination.
    • To advise the PGR about completing any further work required by the examiners in the case of resubmission and about incorporating the examiners’ suggestions for improving the execution of the project.
  2. Academic integrity within the examination space
    • The DoS is responsible for ensuring that confidentiality and academic integrity is maintained within the examination space. If the viva is held online the DoS or other supervisor who has completed the UWE Bristol supervisor training must attend the viva.
    • Where the viva is held face-to-face it is strongly recommended that the DoS should attend but this must be with the agreement of the PGR candidate.
    • In both cases the DoS may take no part in the assessment of the candidate and may not interject unless specifically requested to do by the examiners.

The examination

This procedure links to regulation E13.iv-vi.

  1. The examiners are responsible for assessing the extent to which the PGR has made an appropriate start towards meeting the doctoral/MPhil descriptor criteria and achievement of the milestone objectives.
  2. Examiners will each produce an independent, written preliminary scrutiny report of the work on form RD2b (DOC) which is submitted to the Doctoral Academy prior to the viva and by the deadline.
  3. This report will not be shared with candidate or their supervisors and any comments that examiners subsequently wish the candidate to see should be inserted into the examination outcome report.
  4. The examiners will:
    • conduct the viva mindful of the equality and diversity requirements of the University and in accordance with guidance provided by the Doctoral Academy or other relevant University specialist services as appropriate. If reasonable adjustments have been made to enable the PGR to undertake the examination, the Doctoral Academy will advise the examiners of this in advance.
    • be mindful of University policy on assessment offences and the Code of Good Conduct in research
    • check that ethical approval has been obtained if a requirement of project confirmation and a research data management plan has been agreed and is in place.
  5. At the end of the examination the examiners will provide the candidate with oral feedback about their work and progress and their agreed outcome.
  6. The examiners will produce a joint outcomes report (see form RD2c (DOC)) for confirmation by the Committee, including written formative feedback and any recommendations for the candidate about their progress and future objectives/work plan.
  7. In the case of a discretional resubmission outcome, the report will contain a rationale for this recommendation with clear instructions about requirements for additional work. The additional work must be achievable within the permitted time allowed for the resubmission (up to three months for full-time candidates and five months for part-time candidates). This report is submitted to the Doctoral Academy.
  8. If reviewers are unable to agree a joint outcome recommendation, each should submit an independent report (see form RD2c (DOC)) to the Doctoral Academy for consideration by the relevant Committee.

Arrangements for resubmission

This procedure links to regulation

  1. Where a resubmission outcome is agreed, a further viva will be required unless both reviewers agree that the resubmitted work alone provides sufficient evidence to show that the project is back on track.
  2. A resubmission viva will normally be conducted by the same examiners.
  3. Where a resubmission viva is required, the Director of Studies may request sight of a copy of the examiners’ resubmission preliminary reports from the Doctoral Academy Hub to assist the PGR’s preparation for the viva. They will not be permitted to retain copies of the reports and the preliminary reports will not be made available to the PGR directly.

Confirming the outcome of the progression examination

  1. The designated College Committee will receive the examiners’ joint outcome report (RD2c (DOC)) and confirm the outcome of the progression examination. The candidate and the DoS will be notified of this confirmed outcome together with the written feedback and recommendations from the examiners for the candidate.
  2. Where the examiners are unable to agree a joint outcome, the Committee will consider both independent reports and decide the final examination outcome.
  3. In the case of a resubmission outcome the Committee will confirm the details of the resubmitted work to be submitted and set the maximum deadline for resubmitted work (up to three months for full-time candidates and five months for part-time candidates). The candidate and their DoS will be notified.
  4. Where the Committee confirms a ‘fail’ outcome, or ‘fail at resubmission’ the designated Examining Board, Committee, or body will confirm the withdrawal of the candidate from the award.
  5. The Examining Board will also consider any late personal circumstances applications pertaining to the progression examination submitted following a withdrawal decision.
  6. The candidate may appeal against the decision of the Examining Board only on the grounds that there has been material and significant administrative error or other material irregularity, as set out in the University’s Academic Appeals Policy under Regulation D26.

Organising a progression examination: timings for PHD/DPhil and MPhil


Achieved by

Establish examining team: DoS nominates reviewers

  • Month 9 PhD full-time (FT)
  • Month 15 PhD part-time (PT) and DPhil
  • Month 12 MPhil part-time (PT)

PGR submits progression report to Doctoral Academy

  • Month 10 PhD full-time (FT)
  • Month 16 PhD part-time (PT) and DPhil
  • Month 7 MPhil full-time (FT)
  • Month 13 MPhil part-time (PT)

Progression viva takes place, RD2c examiner report to Doctoral Academy

  • Month 11 PhD full-time (FT)
  • Month 17 PhD part-time (PT) and DPhil
  • Month 8 MPhil full-time (FT)
  • Month 14 MPhil part-time (PT)

CRDC confirm the outcome of the Progression Exam

  • Month 12 PhD full-time (FT)
  • Month 18 PhD part-time (PT) and DPhil
  • Month 9 MPhil full-time (FT)
  • Month 15 MPhil part-time (PT)

Please note: All timings refer to the beginning of the month, not the end. All PGRs are notified of their submission deadlines in their terms and conditions. If you are uncertain about dates please check with the Doctoral Academy.

Further information for postgraduate researchers

When your progression examination happens

  • Your original terms and conditions document will specify the deadlines for all your progress milestones, including the progression examination. You will not automatically receive reminders of the deadlines for this examination. If you do not submit without good reason you may be withdrawn from your award.
  • If you have lost your terms and conditions document and require a replacement by email or you need to check your deadlines, please contact the Doctoral Academy.
  • If you ever need to suspend your registration for any reason and your progress milestones are revised, you will receive notification of these new deadlines from the designated College or School committee.
  • If your DoS has not discussed your progression examination with you within the first nine months from your start date if you are full-time or 15 months of your start date if you are part-time, you should raise it with them during your supervision meetings.

Choosing your progression examiners

  • Your DoS should discuss the progression examination process and the selection of examiners with you, but the DoS makes the decision about who to nominate as examiner. It may not be possible to accommodate your wishes due to an individual’s suitability or their availability.

Your progression examiner and their involvement in your final examination

  • It is possible that your progression examiner will be involved in your final examination, but they don’t have to be. A progression examiner can be nominated by your DoS to act as the internal examiner for your final examination, as long as they also meet the other published appointment criteria set by the University.

If you cannot submit your report on time due to personal circumstances

  • Designated personal circumstances panels make decisions about allowing extra time to submit your report (milestone deadline extension) and about applications for suspension of registration.
  • You should contact your DoS as soon as possible, read the guidance in the personal circumstances section of the Doctoral Academy Handbook and then read the personal circumstances guidance for PGRs (PDF) for detailed information about what to do next.
  • You should then submit your completed personal circumstances application as soon as possible with any required supporting evidence.

Postponing the date of your progression exam due to personal circumstances

  • You are expected to make every effort to attend the viva on the date arranged. You should plan ahead for most common eventualities, for example non-serious illness of family members, normal family care commitments. Please consider what alternative arrangements you might put in place if a child is ill and excluded from nursery or school. However, if you become seriously ill, or have a highly contagious illness, or if other serious unforeseen circumstances arise in the 72 hours prior to your viva that will prevent you from attending the viva, you must contact your DoS and the Doctoral Academy as soon as possible, preferably by phone and email.
  • If your circumstances arise further in advance, you should still contact your DoS read the advice in the Handbook about personal circumstances, then go to the personal circumstances guidance for PGRs (PDF) for detailed information about what to do next. Please read this guidance carefully as the circumstances in which a viva can be postponed are limited.

Whether your Director of Studies can attend your viva

  • We strongly recommend that your DoS does attend your viva, but this is dependent on your permission, and if they are available on the day. While they can take no active role in the viva, and are not part of the examining team, your DoS can be an extra pair of ears to take in the verbal feedback provided at the end of the viva.
  • If your progression examination is taking place online using video conferencing software attendance by your DoS (or other supervisor who has completed the UWE Bristol supervisor training) is mandatory.

What a resubmission outcome means

  • This is a referral outcome and means that on the basis of your submitted report and your performance at viva, the examiners did not feel that you demonstrated sufficient progress with your project so far, but that with further work you may be able to get things back on a satisfactory footing. You are being given an opportunity to put things right.
  • The examiners will have provided you with verbal feedback at the end of your viva, and you will also receive a written outline of this further work with the formal notification of the outcome of the viva, which will be sent to you by the Committee. This is the minimum work that the reviewers think you must do to give you the best chance of passing at resubmission.
  • The written notification will indicate the deadline by which you must submit your revised work to the Doctoral Academy. You may be given up to a maximum of 12 weeks for full-time (FT) or 20 weeks for part-time (PT) depending on the amount of additional work needed – you may be required to resubmit sooner than this. You can also choose to submit sooner than this if you are ready.
  • You should meet with your DoS as soon as possible to discuss the best approach to the resubmission work. Your DoS will have received a copy of the same written information as you. However, it is ultimately your responsibility to decide how you will improve your work overall.
  • Examiners will consider the further work that you submit and decide whether you need to undergo another viva.
  • The only outcomes available at resubmission are pass or fail – no further resubmission attempts will be granted. A fail outcome at resubmission means that your resubmitted work was still not of a satisfactory standard and will lead to withdrawal of your registration i.e., you will be withdrawn from your degree.
  • Please note, no additional time will be added to your overall degree registration period or any subsequent progress review deadlines at stages two or three in the event of resubmission, these will remain as previously advised in your terms and conditions. It is in your best interests to meet with your DoS and start the additional work as soon as possible after the progression examination.
  • If you have any concerns about this outcome please contact the Doctoral Academy who can provide further guidance about the process you must follow.

If you have passed your progression exam but get a letter about an action plan

  • This means that on the basis of the examiners’ reports, the Committee was content to confirm a pass outcome but has ongoing and serious concerns about how you will progress with your project over the next stage. The Committee wants you and your supervisors to review your project plan to see evidence that you have considered the advice provided by the examiners and that there are clear objectives in place to ensure that your project stays on track towards completion.
  • You will need to report back to the Committee about ongoing progress and the letter will indicate what you need to do and by when. Failure to comply with this condition may ultimately result in withdrawal of your registration.

Doctoral Academy Handbook sections