Academic support, resources and procedures

Study support and resources

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:


Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

Most courses use a VLE for online access to course materials, discussion forums, and other course information.

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 comments and suggestions from a supervisor.

Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR) system

The Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR) system facilitates this kind of regular review. It is not intended as the sole or main form of communication between students and teaching staff, and your ongoing communication with tutors, supervisors and course director will depend on both your 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.

Accessing and using the GSR

You will be notified by email as to how to login at the start of each reporting period. If you have any difficulty completing 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 for completing a report on your performance during the reporting period, identifying areas where further work may be required, and reviewing your progress against agreed timetables and plans for the term ahead. The GSR system will email you when your supervisor or the Director of Graduate Studies is available to view. You should:

  • 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).
  • Record your engagement with the academic community.
  • Raise concerns or issues regarding your academic progress.
  • Outline your plans for the next term (where applicable).

Attendance and participation

Full engagement with your course is a key aspect of your studies, and will enhance you and your colleagues’ learning experience. Minimum attendance expectations are set out in your Course Handbook.

If you experience difficulties with attendance

We understand that students—particularly those with work or caring responsibilities—may not always be able to participate as much as they might wish. If you are struggling to meet the attendance expectations for your course, talk to your tutor or the Course Director. They will advise you, taking account of your individual circumstances. Early intervention is much more likely to prove effective. If you are experiencing difficulties, such as illness, work or family pressures, you may wish to consider applying to suspend your studies for a period.

Procedures for particular situations

Mitigating circumstances

If you have a serious problem, such as long-term illness or a recent bereavement, which has affected your performance in coursework or exams, you might consider submitting a mitigating circumstances notice to the examination board via Student Self Service.

See also Sitting your examinations.

Suspension of status

What suspension of status involves

Suspension of status 'stops the clock' for all elements of your study, and may be used, 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. 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. Please note: suspension of status cannot be used as a mechanism to provide extra time to complete work.

Implications for fees

Students returning from suspension of status in a new academic year must pay any difference, pro rata for the period of suspension, between the course fees published for the years when they leave and return.

Implications for visas

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.

How to apply for suspension of status and further information

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

Suspension procedure 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).

Suspension procedure for matriculated 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 (such as 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.

Extension of time (postgraduate students)

In exceptional circumstances, extensions of time can be granted for up to six terms for DPhil students, and up to three terms for MLitt and MSc by Research students. See Submission date and extension of time.


If you are considering withdrawing from your course, do first discuss your options with the Course Director. If you wish to proceed with withdrawal, you must notify your Course Administrator in writing.

Seeking research ethics approval

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. For students whose research involves animals, a separate review process operates through the Department of Zoology’s LERC; your programme of study will provide the details separately.

Seeking ethical approval

Before beginning any project that involves human subjects, 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 that:

  • 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

University and departmental oversight

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's Departmental Research Ethics Committee reports 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:

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 the ethical approval process

Before beginning any project that 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: Draft a 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/ DREC 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 and submit 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 completing 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.

NB: ‘Anticipated start date’ 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 state the date when you first started drafting your proposal, undertaking literature review, or consulting your supervisor.

 Supporting documentation

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

  • recruitment and advertisement material (such as a poster or invitation letter)
  • information for participants to read before they agree to take part (such as a participant information sheet)
  • a document to record informed consent (such as a written consent form, or an oral consent script where oral consent is sought)
  • a guide to interview questions (such as a list of questions to be asked, a preliminary scope of questions), or other instrument such as a sample questionnaire

Resources for documentation

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 suitable letterhead file 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: 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.