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Admission of Postgraduate Research Students

1. Introduction

A centralised system for the processing of applications for admission for postgraduate research is operated through the Admissions Office. The Office has responsibility for processing the applications and for conveying the formal decisions to candidates. Detailed guidance notes for selectors and others involved in handling applications are prepared by the Admissions Office and circulated through school managers. They are asked to ensure that all relevant staff are familiar with the contents.

The system has operated on the basis of paper application forms for many years with separate applications required for awards. However, in February 2006, a pilot online form was introduced which enabled students to apply for both admission and awards on the same form. The form also populated the computer record in the non-UCAS Admissions System. It is the intention to introduce a full web-based application system for both admission and awards in the 2006-07 cycle. While the paper system will still be available, candidates will be encouraged to use the web-based form.


2. Making Application

2.1 All candidates for postgraduate research must complete an application form, as indicated above, whether web-based or paper. The form is accompanied by detailed guidance notes containing information about the various stages in the application procedure, fees, accommodation, sources of financial support and other relevant matters.

2.2 A separate application form is required for each research topic. In the case of paper forms, they should be returned to the Admissions Office, where they are date stamped.

2.3 The above procedures also apply to occasional students coming to the University for less than one academic year to undertake research on a non-credit-earning basis.


3. Closing dates

3.1 The normal closing date for applications for both full-time and part-time study is 14 February. Full details are contained in the guidance notes which accompany the application form.

3.2 Late applications may be considered at the discretion of schools, if vacancies exist, provided there are no award implications. Advertisements may be placed after the closing date if there are insufficient applications.

3.3 The Admissions Office does not reject late applications unless instructed to do so by a school.


4. Processing of applications

3.1 Application forms received manually are coded by the Admissions Office and the computer record created in the non-UCAS Admissions System. The forms are then sent to school managers or their nominees to be forwarded to academic selectors for decisions. The computer records are updated at the various stages of the application process as outlined below.

4.2 When the web-based system becomes operational, the record will be created automatically in the non-UCAS Admissions System by the candidate when submitting the application. Applications will then be transmitted electronically to schools for decisions and returned either electronically or in hard copy to the Admissions Office for decision letters.

4.3 Criminal convictions

If a criminal conviction has been declared, the Admissions Office contacts the candidate in accordance with the University regulations. These are currently under review but will be available in the near future from the Admissions Office.

4.4 Disabilities/special needs

If a disability is declared, it is highlighted and the form processed in the normal way. In the event of an offer being made, the Admissions Office encloses with the offer letter a questionnaire provided by the Disability Services Unit.


5. Criteria for admission

4.1 The attention of selectors is drawn to precepts 6 and 7 of the new QAA Guidelines for the admission of postgraduate research students and it is the responsibility of the Head of School to ensure that these are followed.

4.2 Selectors are advised that criteria should be clearly documented and included in course information, brochures, websites etc and that they should be adhered to strictly.

4.3 The main criteria are likely to be academic but other factors such as aptitude tests, relevant experience, references and interviews may be taken into account. In making decisions, applications should be scored according to the criteria and a record kept for future reference.

4.4 Factors such as the suitability of the research topic, the availability of supervision and funding for the proposed topic will become increasingly significant so that a ranking order of acceptable candidates may have to be provided in some cases.

4.5 It is the responsibility of selectors to arrange interviews, if required, and to take up references.


6. Selection Procedures

6.1 In an increasingly competitive market-place, it is important for the University to attract as many as possible well qualified candidates for postgraduate study. There is the view that candidates react favourably to speed and efficiency in the handling of their applications and it is therefore desirable for them to be processed speedily and on a rolling basis if possible. As part of the new online system, reminders will be sent to schools where decisions remain outstanding after a period of time.

5.2 At least two members of academic staff should be involved in the decision- making process including the Head of School and the decisions should be countersigned by the Head of School.

5.3 The decisions available to the selectors are as follows:

(i) unconditional offer, where the candidate has already achieved the necessary qualifications. In some cases availability of awards will be a significant factor

(ii) conditional offer, where the candidate has not yet completed the necessary qualifications but would be in a position to do so before the course commences. Offers may also be conditional upon the availability of an award

(iii) reject, where qualifications are deemed to be unacceptable, no supervision is available for the proposed topic or the candidate has been unsuccessful in gaining an award.

5.4 Decisions should be written clearly and unambiguously in the space provided on the application form. The basis of admission or, in the case of unsuccessful applications, brief reasons for rejection, should be indicated clearly. If there are any special circumstances, these should be noted on the form or attached. The decisions must be countersigned by two academic selectors, one of whom should be the Head of School. The final responsibility for decisions rests with the Head of School.

5.5 Candidates may withdraw before a decision is taken. In this event, the form is returned to the Admissions Office.


7. Notifying candidates of decisions

6.1 Formal decisions are conveyed to candidates by the Admission Office. Where offers are made, guidance notes are provided. These include information on replying to offers, return of degree result sheets, fees, funding, applying for accommodation, registration and other relevant matters. Notes of guidance for research students, which have been produced by the Postgraduate Office in response to the QAA guidelines, are also included. Offer letters have also been altered to conform with QAA guidelines.

6.2 In the case of unconditional offers, candidates are advised that they will in due course be called for registration by the Postgraduate Office and contact details are provided.

6.3 The Admissions Office aims to notify candidates of the outcome of their applications within 2/3 working days of their receipt in the Office.


8. Candidate replies

7.1 Candidates who receive offers of admission are provided with reply cards which are returned to the Admissions Office indicating whether or not they wish to accept. It is expected that the new web-based system will enable the Office to contact candidates who do not respond within a reasonable time.

If they still fail to respond, they will then be presumed withdrawn. A track facility to enable candidates to reply online will be introduced when the new online system is fully developed.

8.2 Degree result sheets are provided to all candidates studying in the UK or Republic of Ireland who receive conditional offers. These sheets should then be returned to the Admissions Office with the official stamp of their institution once their results are known. Other EU and international candidates are requested to send documentary evidence of their results as soon as they are known. All candidates are advised that original documentation or certified photocopies will be required at registration.

8.3 Candidates who receive conditional offers and meet the conditions are provided with a Certificate of Acceptance on request. In the case of International candidates, it is provided automatically.

8.4 Those who fail to satisfy the conditions of their offers are reconsidered at the discretion of the school and notified accordingly by the Admissions Office.


9. Appeals

There is a formal appeals procedure for those who are dissatisfied with the outcome of their applications and details are available from the Admissions Office.


10. Deferred entry

Applications for deferred entry are discouraged as many of those who do defer do not materialise the following year. Furthermore, if academic staff leave the University, there may well be no guarantee that supervision can be provided for the chosen topic of research.


11. Registration

The records of candidates whose offers are or become unconditional and who have accepted their offers by mid-August are transferred to the Student Information System (SIS) and acceptances after this date are transferred on a rolling basis. Registration forms are generated from the Student Information System by the Postgraduate Office, which is responsible for the registration of all new research students.


12. Applications for funding

Under the current paper-based system, applications for funding are made separately to the Postgraduate Office. With the new web-based system, it will be possible to link the two.