Guide

Postgraduate Research Essentials: starting your research degree

Updated on 22 December 2021

Your induction to the University, your new starter tasks, information for international and disabled postgraduate researchers, and the responsibilities of you and your supervisory team

On this page

Welcome and induction

When you arrive at the University of Dundee, the Doctoral Academy will invite you to the next PGR Welcome Event, which may take place online to reach all new postgraduate researchers regardless of their location. These events provide:

  • an introduction to the University
  • information about starting your research degree
  • an introduction to the central University resources and support systems available to you
  • advice from our community of experienced PGRs
  • a chance to connect with PGRs from other Schools who are starting at the same time as you

Your School will also invite you to a School induction event, programme or meeting. This will give you more information that is specific to your discipline and programme. You can expect to learn about:

  • your School, its research areas and people who can help you
  • the arrangements at your School for supporting you through your degree and monitoring your progress
  • the School facilities, resources, communities and events available to you
  • health and safety in your School
  • any other School-specific matters that you should be aware of

Please contact your School and/or the Doctoral Academy if you have any questions about the induction or welcome you have received or if you need any more information to help you to get started at the University of Dundee. You may also find our welcome webpages useful.

Useful contacts

Each School has an academic who oversees the postgraduate research programme, as well as administrative support staff. You can look up the contact details for your School in the table below:

In addition to your School contacts, you can also contact the following teams:

  • The Enquiry Centre is your first point of contact for Student Services, which offers advice, help and support across a range of areas including counselling, disability support, health services, careers, residences, registry related matters and academic skills support. 
  • The Doctoral Academy can be contacted for more specific queries regarding research degrees.

New starter tasks

Matriculation

‘Matriculation’ is the process of registering as a member of the University of Dundee, and you will need to do this before you can begin your degree. You will receive an email from Student Services with full instructions on how to matriculate and which documents you will need. During the coronavirus pandemic, you will complete your matriculation online. 

You must matriculate within the time window shown in the email. If you are unable to matriculate during this period for any reason, please contact the Matriculation Officer as soon as possible – you will need to obtain permission to matriculate late.

Once you have completed your matriculation tasks, you will receive your University ID card, which gives you access to the library and sports facilities. Your School will then be able to help you to set up access to the relevant School buildings.

Please note that you will be required to re-matriculate at the beginning of each academic year during which you undertake supervised study, regardless of when your start date is. Further instructions about this are provided in the Re-matriculation (annual progress review) section of our planning, progress and monitoring guide.

Mandatory induction training

You must complete the following mandatory induction courses:

  • Health and Safety training
  • Research Integrity training course (mandatory for doctoral researchers, optional for research Masters)
  • Information security awareness training
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion

There may be additional mandatory induction training requirements set by your School, degree programme or funding body – please make sure that you are fully aware of these and that you complete them in the required time frame.

Health and Safety

  • Compulsory for: All postgraduate researchers
  • Complete within: Three months of your start date
  • How to enrol: You will be enrolled automatically upon matriculation
  • Access via: My Dundee. Alternatively, this can be found in My Dundee under Organisations > Safety Services
  • Pass condition: Complete all quizzes with at least 80% in each. All postgraduate researchers must take the five core modules, and those working in laboratories must also take the laboratory modules
  • Contact with questions: Safety Services

Research Integrity

  • Compulsory for: Postgraduate researchers on doctoral programmes (PhD, ProfDoc); optional for research Masters
  • Complete within: Three months of your start date. Completion is mandatory before Upgrade Review
  • How to enrol: You will be enrolled automatically upon matriculation and receive full access instructions by email
  • Access via: My Dundee. Alternatively, this can be found in My Dundee under Organisations > Research Integrity Training Resource (PGR)
  • Pass condition: Complete all video modules and the six section quizzes with at least 80% in each
  • Contact with questions: Doctoral Academy

Information Security Awareness Training

  • Compulsory for: All postgraduate researchers
  • Complete within: Three weeks of your start date
  • How to enrol: You will be enrolled automatically upon matriculation
  • Access via: My Dundee. Alternatively, this can be found in My Dundee under Organisations > Information Security Awareness Training
  • Pass condition: Complete the end of quiz with at least 70%
  • Contact with questions: UoDIT

Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion

  • Compulsory for: All postgraduate researchers
  • Complete within: Three months of your start date
  • How to enrol: You will be enrolled automatically
  • Access via: My Dundee. Alternatively, this can be found in My Dundee under Organisations > Equality and Diversity Module for Postgraduate Researchers
  • Pass condition: Pass the final assessment with at least eight out of ten
  • Contact with questions: Doctoral Academy

New starter information for international postgraduates

Welcome to Scotland! We hope you have a fantastic time at the University of Dundee.

The International Advice Service is a friendly team who can offer you specialist advice on a range of matters relating to life and study in the UK. You can contact them at any time with any questions you have about moving to the UK and starting your work as an international postgraduate researcher. 

If you would like any support with English as a second language, our English for International Students (EIS) team can help you.

Visa compliance

If you are studying at the University of Dundee under a Student visa, there are conditions that you need to meet.

The University of Dundee has a Immigration Compliance team who are there to help you to understand the requirements of your visa. They will be your first point of contact for any questions or concerns you have about your visa. However, ultimately your visa is your responsibility, and failure to meet the conditions of your visa can put your studies and immigration status at risk.

For a full, detailed list of Student visa requirements, please visit the Immigration Compliance page. However, please be aware that:

  • Police registration: you may be required to register with Police Scotland when you arrive in the UK.
  • Document check: our Immigration Compliance team must check your documents each semester to make sure our international student records are up to date.
  • Attendance requirements: you are expected to be on campus and using the facilities available, unless you have approval otherwise. You are expected to meet with your supervisor regularly, and this will be tracked via monthly reports submitted by your supervisor.
  • Absences: if you need to take time off or conduct research outside of Dundee, you must have your absence approved by your School before making any travel arrangements, and you must inform the Immigration Compliance team.
  • Working during study: if you would like to work while you undertake your research degree, you must ensure that the conditions of your visa allow this before starting.

The University of Dundee also has a series of International Advice Service guides and support to help you, covering topics such as the terms and conditions of your Student visa, how to extend your visa, and working after graduation.

New starter information for disabled postgraduates

If you have a disability or a physical, mental or sensory health condition and you think you would benefit from support during your research degree, we would strongly encourage you to contact the University’s Disability Services.

The Disability Services team will treat anything you disclose to them in full confidence, and they are able to help you to determine your support needs and, with your consent, share recommends reasonable adjustments with relevant University staff.

You and your supervisory team: roles and expectations

Your supervisory team will include two or more supervisors: at least one main supervisor and a second supervisor. Some postgraduate researchers have two joint main supervisors rather than a first and a second supervisor, in which case the two main supervisors share the responsibilities of main supervision.

Here is a guide to the roles and responsibilities of you and your supervisory team:

Main supervisor

Your main supervisor will act as an academic lead. They will give you guidance throughout your research degree on the progress of your research, the standards expected, the research methods you need to know, and the regulations and good practice governing your research work (e.g. research ethics, health and safety).

Your main supervisor will meet with you frequently. In your first meeting, it is important that you discuss expectations and confirm how often you will meet and the format of your meetings. For the first three months of your degree, your main supervisor must meet with you at least once every two weeks if you are full-time and at least once every month if you are part-time. After this, they must meet with you at least once a month if you are full-time and at least once every two months if you are part-time. They are responsible for ensuring that the main outcomes of all scheduled supervision meetings are formally recorded.

Your main supervisor will ask you to submit written work as appropriate, and they are required to return your work with constructive feedback in good time. They will also work alongside other teams across the University to support you in your transferable skills training. If your progress in your degree is inadequate, they are responsible for letting you know and for arranging any action necessary to support you and help you to improve.

For a full set of main supervisor responsibilities, please see Section 3.2 of the Research Degree Quality Code.

Second supervisor

Your second supervisor will play a supportive role, consulting with your main supervisor about the guidance you need, offering both of you an independent perspective and providing additional support whenever this is required. They may not be an expert in your exact research area, but they will have expertise in the general field you are working in, and they will take an active interest in your progress. They must join you and your main supervisor for a meeting at least once a semester.

If your main supervisor becomes unavailable for any reason, your second supervisor will act in their place until a new main supervisor is appointed.

For a full set of second supervisor responsibilities, please see Section 3.3 of the Research Degree Quality Code.

You

As a postgraduate researcher, you have the ultimate responsibility for your own original research and degree progression. You must ensure you are familiar with all relevant aspects of the University’s regulations, and that you maintain progress on your research in accordance with the schedule agreed with your supervisors. You should take the initiative in raising any issues with your supervisor and discussing the type of guidance you find most helpful.

It is also your responsibility to discuss your training needs with your main supervisor, to participate in all relevant training programmes, and to undertake at least two weeks/80 hours of transferable skills training per year. 

For a full set of your responsibilities as a postgraduate researcher, please see Section 3.4 of the Research Degree Quality Code.

First meetings with your supervisory team – expectations and training needs assessment

During your first few meetings with your supervisory team, your supervisors should help you get started with your research degree by encouraging an open discussion about what you can expect from them, what they will expect of you, and how any training needs you have will be met.

We recommend that you talk to your supervisory team early about expectations, for example how often you’ll meet, how often you’ll be asked to submit drafts of your work and how frequently they will offer you feedback etc, since agreement at the early stages will help you develop a positive relationship with your supervisors and allow you to plan your work effectively. You may wish to suggest exploring any differences in expectations between you and your supervisor via an exercise, such as Vitae’s ‘Agreeing expectations from the supervisory relationship’ (to access this resource, register for a free Vitae account using your University of Dundee email address).

During your initial meetings with your supervisory team, you will also review your training needs. This process will allow you and your supervisors to highlight the skills you currently have, decide which skills you will need to learn or strengthen so you can successfully undertake your research, and create a plan for how to develop your skills through training or other researcher development activities.

Your supervisors will be able to help you to identify suitable training and development opportunities, both within the University of Dundee and with external groups where appropriate. You can also explore some of the training and development opportunities available in the researcher development section of our research environment guide.

Your programme or funding body may also require you to take a particular training course, or they may provide general guidance on expectations for skills development.

One way of keeping track of your training requirements is to complete an Individual Training Needs (ITN) assessment form. The ITN form follows the Researcher Development Framework, a framework from Vitae that shows the knowledge, behaviour and attributes that are the key to a successful research career. Vitae is a national organisation that supports the professional development of researchers.
You and your supervisors should review your training needs again no later than six months after your start date, and you should update your training needs record on a regular basis (preferably every six months).

Planning your progress

You can find much more information about research degree milestones and how to plan your progress in our ‘research degree planning, progress and monitoring’ guide. In the early stages, please bear in mind that your School should inform you right at the beginning of your degree of any criteria they set for later progress reviews so that you know what you will need to work towards.

Problems with supervisory relationships

The relationship between a postgraduate researcher and their supervisors, in particular with a single main supervisor, is the most important working relationship a postgraduate researcher has. All human relationships have their ups and downs, which in many cases are caused by a lack of communication over expectations. These relationships also evolve over time. In your first year you will have different needs than in your final year, and it is important that you and your supervisors address changing needs in time and make time periodically not only to review your progress and training needs but also the supervisory relationship to which you all contribute.

Sometimes a postgraduate researcher may find it difficult to address concerns they have over the supervision they receive directly with their supervisor or supervisors. Each School has an academic Postgraduate Research Lead (PGR Lead; please note that some Schools may use different job titles for this role) to whom you can turn for advice and support on any aspect of your research degree programme. You can find out who your School’s PGR Lead is by checking our contacts, or emailing the Doctoral Academy or your School’s PGR Office.

Meetings with your Thesis Monitoring Committee also offer an opportunity to raise any concerns you may have with your supervisory relationship. See the guide to TMCs in our planning, progress and monitoring guide for more information about this.

Should your concerns not be resolved at School level, the Enquiry Centre can give you further advice on which team would be best placed to help you. 

Enquiries

Doctoral Academy

doctoralacademy@dundee.ac.uk