Most research postgrads have a positive experience of their PhD (or other research degree), but serious issues can arise which seems difficult to resolve and risk the successful completion of your PhD. This could include confirmation, vivas, the working relationship with your supervisor or any other area of your PhD.
The first point of contact with problems such as these would normally be your director of studies or department, but if the issue cannot be resolved or you feel uncomfortable talking to someone in your department there is another stage.
Research postgrads can speak to the University Independent Advisor for Postgraduate Research Students
The service is confidential – no-one in your department (or another department) will be told. It’s not a formal complaint.
Please note: the University Independent Advisor for Postgraduate Research Students was formerly known as the Postgraduate Research Ombudsman, changing its name in April 2017.
What is an Independent Advisor?
Someone who helps to bring a fair settlement on an issue. The University Independent Advisor for Postgraduate Research Students is a University position but provides impartial and independent help through advice and mediation and does not oversee formal (or legal) processes - it's deliberately informal and easy to access. It is NOT like the Office of the Independent Adjudicator or other statutory 'ombudsman' positions (e.g. the Financial Services Ombudsman or Local Government Ombudsman), in that there are no statutory powers.
What sort of issues are covered?
It can be any part of your research degree, so could cover breakdown in your relationship with your supervisor, the arrangements for vivas or confirmation, or reasonable access to vital resources. If you're on an integrated PhD, it could also include the taught elements. MRes students are included.
I feel there are problems, but I might wait for now...
The sooner that a serious problem can be addressed, the better. If an issue drags on, your satisfactory progress with your PhD may be affected.
I’m worried that my supervisor/department/other academic will find out
Meetings with the Independent Advisors are confidential.
What's the process?
This varies with the nature of the problem but, once you have contacted the Independentr Advisors to discuss the issue, they can informally meet concerned parties to move the situation forward. This is not a complaints process.
Nothing can be done to solve my problem
If you’re too close to a problem, it can be hard to envisage a resolution to it. The advisors have a very good record of achieving positive outcomes to difficult issues.
Please see the University's Doctoral Representation page for more details. Information about the Independent Advisors can be found at the end of the page.