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First Year Review

First Year Review

The principal supervisor will convene a review panel of at least 3 members, including the supervisory team and at least one independent member of staff who has not been involved in the supervision of the student involved.  The review should take place in month 10 whether the student has submitted a thesis proposal on time or not, as inability to produce a thesis proposal is itself a sign that progress needs to be reviewed.

There is some variation in the details of arrangements for reviews across Informatics, but in general the review will begin with an oral presentation by the student, briefly outlining what is in the thesis proposal, which the reviewers are expected to have read beforehand. This will be followed by questions and discussion. The review concludes with a private discussion among the panel members. The panel will then provide written feedback to the student, with a copy to the Graduate School office. This is typically drafted by the principal supervisor and agreed, perhaps after amendment, by the other reviewers. It should be completed within one week of the panel meeting.

The main objective of the review is to check that the student has a clearly defined and appropriate research topic together with an appropriate research plan. The feedback must clearly indicate the extent to which this milestone has been achieved. The discussion and feedback may additionally explore other topics including proposing alternative approaches and pointing to related work.

Here are some points that the reviewers should consider:

  • Research Topic and Approach: Is the topic well-defined and focussed? Is it interesting and timely? Does it suit the student's abilities / background / inclinations? Is it likely to lead to an acceptable PhD thesis (making an original contribution to knowledge etc.)? Does the student have a good grasp of the topic area? Is the proposed approach to the topic appropriate and promising?
  •  Plan and Resources: Is there an explicit plan, at an appropriate level of detail? Is the plan appropriate, realistic, and achievable? Are risks identified and do contingency plans seem appropriate? Are the resources required to carry out the plan available? If some required resources are not currently available, are they guaranteed to be available in time? Is any further training required?
  • Progress and Related Work/Approaches: Is the quality and quantity of progress so far adequate? Do results so far look encouraging? Is there relevant work and/or alternative approaches that the student should consider?

Where a serious problem is identified in the thesis proposal review, the panel may recommend a further review on the basis of a revised thesis proposal or a specified piece of work after an appropriate additional period, typically 3 months. Confirmation of candidacy for a PhD would be delayed until after this additional probationary period, provided that this is the outcome of the additional review. Alternatives are re-registration for a MPhil (normally following review of a revised proposal containing a plan for completion at the end of year 2) or discontinuation.

Extension of the probationary period should be seen as a last resort, not as a routine way of providing time for remedial action.  Only in truly exceptional circumstances should a further extension be contemplated.

Preparing for 1st Year Review