The progress of research students is monitored throughout every stage of your research degree, through both formal and informal review procedures. The review process is a vital component of the PhD, providing both you and your supervisory team with regular opportunities to monitor the progress of your research project and ensure you are on track for timely and successful completion.
Formal Progress Reviews
The review procedure in the early stage of PhD study consists of the following:
- An Initial Review at the beginning of study, during which the feasibility of your research project is discussed;
- An Annual Progress Review which takes place every year of the student’s research degree until the degree is awarded. Annual Progress Reviews are conducted to ensure that a student’s progress is satisfactory and in line with agreed goals and expectations. The first Annual Progress Review, carried out in the early stage of the PhD cycle, is known as differentiation;
- A process of Regular Performance Monitoring with university guidelines suggesting that students meet formally with their supervisory team a minimum of 6 times per year (and that secondary/co-supervisors should attend at least 3 of these meetings).
1. The Initial Review
Typically taking place approximately 3 months after first registration for the research degree. During the Initial Review the suitability of the student and the feasibility of their research project is verified by their supervisory team and Head of School.
The format of the Initial Review varies across Schools; please see your supervisory team/School for guidance.
2. Annual Progress Review (APR)
The APR is a review which takes place every year of the student’s research degree until the degree is awarded. The first APR for PhD students normally includes differentiation, but some part-time students may not have reached the differentiation stage by the time the first APR is due. Some Schools may also offer preliminary reviews in advance of the first APR/differentiation to ensure that students’ progress is satisfactory; please consult your School for further information.
Additional information on panel membership and types of meetings held in relation to Annual Progress Reviews can be found in the
- Its purpose is to review a student’s progress in that academic year to date, to ensure that it is both satisfactory and on target;
- Your School is responsible for organising the APR, which involves the appointment of a Progress Review Panel which should include individuals outside of your supervisory team;
- The actual format of the APR varies across Schools, but should consist of: written work from the student; a process by which the student can be questioned about his/her work by the reviewing panel (for example an interview or presentation with questions); a documented outcome of the review and the Panel’s decision;
- The normal outcome of the APR is that the student progresses to the next year, either unconditionally or subject to the completion of specific targets;
- As the guidelines for formal review procedures vary across Schools, please consult your School Postgraduate Research Handbook;
- Registration at the beginning of an academic year usually depends on the completion of a satisfactory progress report at the end of the previous academic year, as indicated by the outcome of the APR;
- The first Annual Progress Review for PhD students is called differentiation. This is the most important milestone in the early stage of the PhD cycle, and is discussed in full in the following section.
3. Regular Performance Monitoring
As a research student, you should keep in regular contact with your supervisors, advising them of the progress of your research, of any changes to your research plan and updating them as you complete various stages of your research project.
It is essential that you keep a record of all meetings held with your supervisory team. The reason for this is four-fold. Firstly, these records need to be made available to the Annual Progress Review panels; secondly, they provide invaluable information for monitoring the progress and development of your research; thirdly, they act as a record of your personal development; finally, they will be useful to you when reviewing your PhD experience in advance of the viva which takes places in the final stage of the PhD cycle.
- Your supervisory team is the first 'port of call' for all advice on preparation for Annual Progress Reviews.
- As the guidelines for formal review procedures vary across Schools, please consult your School Postgraduate Research Handbook.