Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Doctoral College

Update from Prof Chris Howls, Director of the Doctoral College

27 March 2020

Dear Doctoral Researchers,

Following on from my email last week, I wanted to update you on some of the matters that the University has put in place to support you this week as we react to rapidly changing world events. 

They do not yet provide a comprehensive solution to all the issues affecting research students. But please be reassured that discussions to try to address these are ongoing every day both within the University, with the rest of the University sector and with national UK level bodies. Once the national policy situation is clarified and we have been able to work through the implications, we will be able to make further statements. 

National and University Situation

Since I last emailed, the UK Government has strengthened its response to the global situation and the University has responded to this change by closing most of its buildings with a very few exceptions – one being a lab in Building 85 undertaking research into a COVID-19 vaccine.

Discussions with Supervisory Teams

For many of you, this will have meant bringing a temporary halt to experiments in labs, or fieldwork, with everyone now working remotely.    

I hope that you are all discussing with your supervisory team how this may change the focus of your research – if at all – and that you are exploring ways to reprioritise tasks and activities. 

Research students who are in a position to submit their thesis should still aim to do so.

In the meantime, you and your supervisory team should keep clear records of the length and reasons for any delays in project progress and, explicitly, whether they are related to COVID-19. Until further notice, this should be recorded in PGR Tracker wherever possible, or using other relevant mechanisms in the Faculties of Humanities and Medicine.

If you are not in contact with your supervisory team, please notify your Faculty Graduate School as soon as possible.

If you have additional unexpected circumstances, unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic that you need to make us aware of, please continue to use the Special Considerations process at the appropriate time.


Guidance for research students is available on the Doctoral College webpages and we are updating these as quickly as possible as events change. Please bookmark the pages and refer to them frequently. Please also keep checking the University COVID-19 (coronavirus) information and guidance webpage and the University’s VISAs page if this applies to you.

Conducting Vivas Remotely

We’ve put together guidance for how to conduct vivas remotely. This will be posted on the Doctoral College website shortly. 

Online Teaching Duties

You may be aware that, as in most Universities across the world, there is extensive work being undertaken regarding the move to online delivery of UG and PGT teaching for the rest of the academic year. For those who were already scheduled to help, your Schools will be working through how best they can use your teaching expertise in this new way of doing things.

Student Support Fund

I’d also like to draw your attention to the University’s Student Support fund. The fund is also open to applications from research students. More details and FAQs can be found here:


Let me reiterate my ongoing very best wishes for your physical and mental health. We have added a list of useful resources on the Doctoral College website.  If you find any that you think are particularly helpful, please let us know so that we can share them.

I would also like to remind you that the University has several mechanisms to continue to support you. The Student Life team is dedicated to supporting student wellbeing and enhancing the student experience. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached by emailing

If you have questions about your research project, your doctoral progression, or any other query related to your doctoral programme, please contact your supervisor and/or Faculty Graduate School, details of which may be found below. Details of how to access the library and online software can be found on the iSolutions webpages.

As always, wishing you and your families all the very best.

Professor Chris Howls

Director of the University of Southampton Doctoral College

Contact Details for Faculty Graduate School Offices

Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental and Life Sciences
Arts and Humanities
Social Sciences

Privacy Settings