Academic support

Study skills

If you are new to higher education or have not studied for some time, you may feel worried about writing an assignment, taking an exam or juggling study, family and work commitments. Whatever your study needs, we hope that you will take advantage of the support and guidance provided:

Attendance and participation

Full engagement with your course, through attendance at face-to-face sessions and participation in online activities, is a key aspect of your studies. This will help both you as an individual and the cohort collectively. Poor attendance or participation may degrade the learning experience not only for you, but for all students on the course. We understand however that students, particularly those with work or caring responsibilities, may not always be able to attend or participate as much as they might have wished. The detailed minimum expectations are set out in your Course Handbook, including a general indication of overall attendance, and whether any elements are regarded as compulsory.

If you feel you are at risk of not meeting the expectations of your course, you should talk to your tutor or Course Director in the first instance. They will provide you with guidance, taking account of your circumstances in the context of the course. Early interventions are much more likely to prove effective in addressing a study problem. If you are, or have been, unable to study for good reasons, such as illness, work or family pressures, then you may wish to consider applying to suspend your studies for a time.

Mitigating circumstances

If you have a problem which seriously affects your performance in your assignments or exams, you can notify the exam board that you have experienced mitigating circumstances. Please be aware that applications should only be made when you have suffered a serious problem, such as a bereavement or long-term sickness, and that most applications do not lead to a change of result. More information is available on the University’s Sitting your examinations page.

The mitigating circumstances process requires you to submit a statement and accompanying evidence. Matriculated students should obtain the form from their college and submit this with evidence to their college; non-matriculated students should submit obtain the form from their Course Administrator and submit this with evidence to their Course Administrator. Forms and evidence should be submitted well in advance of the exam board meeting.

Suspension of status

Suspension of status 'stops the clock' for all elements of your degree, for example, if there is a change in your personal life, work or health that makes it impossible for you to proceed with your studies. Suspension of status cannot be used as a mechanism to provide extra time to complete work. During suspension, you will not attend teaching or submit work, although you can retain your University card and Single Sign On (SSO) access to online resources, including email, and to University libraries.

Students returning from suspension of status will be required to pay any difference between the fee of the course when they leave and the one when they return.

A change in student status can have an impact on your visa and may also affect the visas of any dependents you have in the UK. The University's Student Immigration team can advise you on the potential impact on your visa. You can also seek their advice before suspending if you wish.

More information about suspension of status is available for undergraduates and graduates on the University webpages.

Process for non-matriculated students

  • Contact the Course Director to discuss your situation.
  • Complete and submit a suspension of status form (available from your Course Administrator).
  • Return the completed form together with any supporting information (e.g. a medical note) to the Course Administrator.
  • Suspension of status requires approval from your Course Director and the Director of Undergraduate or Graduate Studies (as relevant).

Process for matriculated postgraduate students

  • Contact the Course Director to discuss your situation (you may also want to consult your college adviser).
  • Download a Suspension of Status form
  • Return the completed form together with supporting information (e.g. a medical note) to your Course Administrator
  • Suspension of status requires approval from your supervisor, the Course Director, your college and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Graduate students: extension of time

In exceptional circumstances, extensions of time can be given for up to six terms for DPhil students, and up to three terms for MLitt and MSc by Research students. More information is available on the University's Submission date and extension of time webpage.

Withdrawal

Should you wish to withdraw from your course for any reason, you must notify your Course Administrator in writing. You are strongly advised to talk to your Course Director before you make this decision, so that they can provide advice and assistance to ensure that withdrawal is a last resort.

Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR) - for postgraduate matriculated courses

Research suggests that there are many benefits for learners in regular review of their progress. This is most productive if the learner carefully considers their own progress and plans, and receives comment and suggestions from a supervisor. The Graduate Supervision Reporting system is set up to facilitate this kind of regular review. GSR is not intended as the sole or main form of communication between students and teaching staff. Your ongoing communication with tutors, supervisors and course director will vary according to your particular course structure and the stage you have reached. To ensure regular review, however, matriculated postgraduate students are asked to use the GSR (accessed via Student Self-Service) to complete self-assessment reports and to view their supervisor's report on their progress.

You will be sent a GSR automated email notification with details of how to login at the start of each reporting window. If you have any difficulty completing these reports please speak to your Course Administrator in the first instance.

Your self-assessment report will be used by your supervisor(s) as a basis to complete a report on your performance this reporting period, for identifying areas where further work may be required, and for reviewing your progress against agreed timetables and plans for the term ahead. GSR will alert you by email when your supervisor or DGS has completed your report and it is available for you to view.

  • Review and comment on your academic progress during the current reporting period
  • Measure your progress against the timetable and requirements of your programme of study
  • Identify skills developed and training undertaken or required (within the self-assessment report)
  • List your engagement with the academic community
  • Raise concerns or issues regarding your academic progress to your supervisor
  • Outline your plans for the next term (where applicable)

Research ethics

The University of Oxford requires that all research involving human participants is subject to ethical review: see the policy on the Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Human Participants and Personal Data.  This requirement applies whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate or researcher.  If you have any doubts you should check with your Course Director in the first instance, and return to this information as required. For students whose research involves animals, a separate review process is in operation through the Department of Zoology’s LERC. Your programme of study will provide the details separately.

Before beginning any project which involves human participants, that is people participating in a direct way by for example answering questions about themselves or their opinions, or performing tasks, or being observed, or which involve data about identified or identifiable people, you must complete the appropriate stages of the ethical approval process.

You must secure approval for your project before you begin any part of your research which involves human participants.

The University is committed to ensuring that its research activities involving human participants and personal data are conducted in a way which:

  • respects the dignity, rights, and welfare of all participants in research;
  • minimises risk to participants, researchers, and third parties;
  • appropriately manages personal data; and
  • maximises the public benefit of research

The University’s Central University Research Ethics Committee (CUREC) oversees the process of ethical review and publishes extensive guidance on its website.

The Department for Continuing Education has established a Departmental Research Ethics Committee, reporting to the Inter-Divisional Research Ethics Committee for Social Sciences and Humanities (the sub-committee of CUREC that deals with research in these fields/disciplines).This committee has delegated powers to review and approve applications where there is a low risk of harm and the research will be carried out within approved guidelines or protocols. The constitution, membership and administrative procedures of the committee are available from the DREC WebLearn site. Please contact this committee in the first instance: researchethics@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Students on courses offered jointly with departments in the Medical Sciences Division and the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division should consult their course director on the appropriate procedures to follow.

Summary of process

Before beginning any project which involves human participants, you must complete the first two stages of the ethical approval process.

Approval must be secured before you begin any research which involves human participants.

Stage 1 – Drafting research project proposal

Your course will have its own arrangements for the preparation and approval of your research topic, and the consideration of ethical issues should be part of this. If you are on a course where you may be involved in conducting research involving human participants (for example, as part of a dissertation), you will find guidance in your course handbook. If you are in any doubt, it is essential that you check with your course director.

At the drafting stage, discuss ethical aspects of your research project proposal with your course director and/or supervisor.  You will need to consult professional codes of practice and CUREC/IDREC approved guidelines, available on the CUREC website.

For further information on why ethical approval is required and who should apply, please see sections A and B of the CUREC Frequently Asked Questions on the CUREC website.

Stage 2 – Complete a CUREC checklist

The relevant checklist for the vast majority of students in the Department for Continuing Education is Checklist 1A, available from the CUREC website.

The checklist is designed to indicate whether a project poses low risks to participants and needs no scrutiny beyond the DREC or could pose significant risks to participants and must undergo further scrutiny.

The checklist and accompanying documents must be typewritten and submitted for approval at least 30 days before the research is due to start.

Guidance on completion of the Checklist 1A

You will find guidance on the CUREC website. Make sure you allow plenty of time to consult this guidance so that your checklist is completed fully and appropriately at the first attempt. If you do so, you will receive approval quickly and save time in the long run.

One detail to note…

‘Anticipated start date’ – this refers to the date when you expect to start the aspects of your project that involve human participants. (For example, contacting potential interviewees.) Do not give the date when you first started drafting your proposal, undertaking literature review, and consulting your supervisor.

You are likely to need to submit supporting documentation with your checklist, such as:

  • recruitment and advertisement material e.g. a poster or invitation letter
  • information for participants to read before they agree to take part e.g. participant information sheet(s)
  • a document to record informed consent e.g. written consent form(s) or oral consent script in the case of an oral consent process
  • a guide to interview questions (this may be a list of questions to be asked, or a preliminary scope of questions) or sample of other instrument(s) such as a sample questionnaire
  • The CUREC website provides detailed guidance on documents for participants.
  • Information about a research project for potential participants should normally be given in writing on headed letter paper which bears the name of the University and the name and address of the department to which the principal researcher is attached.
  • A letterhead file for students to use for this purpose is available from the Departmental Research Ethics Committee WebLearn site.

Submitting your checklist and documentation

Checklists and supporting documentation must be submitted by email, from a University of Oxford email address, to: researchethics@conted.ox.ac.uk

The submission may be made either by the student or the supervisor, but must include email confirmation (from a University of Oxford address) from both.