Postgraduate research milestones – online management starts August 2020

The postgraduate research (PGR) milestones process will start to be manged in a new online system this summer, starting with the digitisation of Exam Entry and Thesis Submission.

The digitisation of Viva Examination, Early Stage Assessment (ESA) and Late Stage Review (LSR) will follow in later phases, the latter two milestones awaiting the outcome of the regulations review by the PGR Regulations Working Group for the PGR Quality Committee (PRQC).

Digitisation of Exam Entry and Thesis Submission will significantly reduce the administrative burden associated with these two milestones, and go some way to contributing to an improved student experience. Highlights include:

  • Students will be able to upload and submit their exam entry form, thesis declaration form and thesis online, as well as view up-to-date information about their ESA, LSR and Viva Examination milestone status whilst paper forms continue to be used to support these processes.
  • Supervisors and Director of Postgraduate Studies (DPS) will be able to view and complete their exam entry form and thesis submission actions online, with auto notifications of when actions are due, as well as view information about their students, including name, milestone progress and department information.
  • Postgraduate Administrators (PGA) will have an online overview of all their PGR students and their status in the milestones process, decreasing duplicate data store management and email.
  • Examiners will receive a digital copy of the thesis.

Access and support

Access to Postgraduate Research Milestones for both students and staff will be via My Imperial (https://my.imperial.ac.uk) using your College single sign-on. To request access to the new system, please complete a request form from the Access and Training page.

Questions regarding processing examination entry or thesis submission for research degree students should be directed to your Department PGR Administrator or the Registry Assessment Records team at assessment.records@imperial.ac.uk. Details for Assessment Records Team contacts are available.

Technical-related questions about using the system, such as access or browser issues, should be directed to ICT via an ASK request referencing that your query is regarding the My Imperial PGR system.

Training

Upcoming training demos are listed on the Access and Training page, open to all staff members who are involved in the management of PGR milestones.

Training material

There are various step by step guides based on Role.

Training videos

The following two videos provide an overview of the Student, Supervisor, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Registry roles in the Examination Entry and Thesis Submission process. You will need to login using your Imperial username and password. To begin, click on Play.

  • Examination Entry

    • Login 0.00-0.43
    • Student Exam Entry Form submision 0.00-2.13
    • Supervisor approval 2.14-7.40
    • DPS approval 7.40-9.00
    • Registry approval 9.00-10.05
    • Student review 10.05-10.20

Examination Entry Form Process

Exam Entry Form Process

  • Thesis Submission

    • Student Thesis declaration submision 0.00-2.00
    • Supervisor approval 2.01-2.50
    • Student upload of thesis 2.50-3.51
    • Registry approval of thesis upload 3.51-5.23
    • Student review 5.23-5.34

Thesis submission process

Frequently asked questions - General

a. What emails are automatically sent via the system and to whom?

Automated email notifications and milestone deadline reminders will be sent to the relevant stakeholders at key points in the process.

The student will be notified upon:

-       Completion of examination entry and appointment of examiners

-       Acceptance of thesis declaration by supervisor (or Registry, in all cases of non-standard embargo requests)

-       Acceptance of thesis submission by Registry

-       Release of thesis submission by Registry to the appointed examiners

The supervisor will be notified upon:

-       Student entry for examination

-       Completion of examination entry and appointment of examiners

-       Submission and release of student’s thesis by Registry to the appointed examiners

The relevant user/s will also be notified of any outstanding tasks for review via the application.

PGR Admin will be notified upon:

  • Completion of examination entry procedures and appointment of examiners

  • Submission of the thesis for examination

  • Release of student’s thesis by Registry to the appointed examiners

All appointed examiners will receive email notifications upon:

-       Confirmation of appointment

-       Submission and release of thesis

b. Will the changes for Turnitin form part of this development?

Turnitin will be brought into the process for thesis submission in AY 2020-21. Updates to the process will be communicated in due course.

c. Where does the information populate from?

The information and milestones visible in the application will flow down from the Banner student record and will therefore be based on any College-level requirements.

We can see how best to support any department-specific variations once all College-level requirements are developed and released for use.  

d. Will there be any more demos of the new system?

Following testing during w/c 29 June we will ask the question of DPS, Supervisors and PGR Admin whether a further demo opportunity in early July would be helpful for anyone who has been unable to attend or feels a refresher before the mid-July launch would be useful.

e. Will there be step-by-step guidance?

Yes, this will be available from the training materials section on this page.

Frequently asked questions - Students

a. If the exam entry form is rejected, will the same form be re-edited?

Yes, changes will be made to the same form. 

b. Can a student start to complete the forms and save and come back and finish?

Yes, students will have the option to save details and revisit prior to submission.

c. Which form questions are mandatory?

All of the questions within both the exam entry and thesis declaration forms are mandatory. These forms cannot be submitted for processing until all mandatory questions are answered.

d. Will students get an auto reminder to complete the exam entry form?

Yes, students will get email reminders in the lead up to the exam entry and submission deadlines.

e. Will the option to complete be available if they wish to submit earlier?

As per the regulations, the exam entry form should be completed up to four months in advance of submission, but we are aware that this is not always possible (difficulties finding available examiners etc.) so students will still be able to submit on time regardless.

These milestones can be completed earlier than planned, if necessary; however, students are reminded that minimum registration requirements apply prior to thesis submission.

f. Will the student be able to submit their thesis if EEF is not approved?

Yes, students will not be blocked from submitting their thesis, regardless of the status of the exam entry form even if supervisor and DPS have not yet approved the exam entry form. All students will be reminded to submit by the given deadline.

g. Is there a limit on how big the thesis file can be?

Technically there is no set file limit (although we are in the testing stages of this at the moment, as we suspect very large files may have some functional impact) - but we have done some analysis on thesis file sizes and we have no concerns so far.

Any additional illustrative material to be provided to the examiners may be submitted to the Registry Assessment Records Team (assessment.records@imperial.ac.uk) directly.

h. Why are students asked to provide an expected thesis submission date?

Students are asked to provide an expected thesis submission date as part of the Examination Entry Form process. This is purely for administrative purposes, to ensure their examination entry details are prioritised should expect to submit much earlier than the given deadline. This is an indicative date only; this will not be stored on the student record and there is no requirement to submit by this date.

Frequently asked questions - Examiners

a. Can more than one examiner be nominated?

All students must be examined by a minimum of one internal and one external examiner.

Supervisors can nominate multiple examiner types, if needed. The guidance provided on these pages will link to the policy/criteria for appointment, and in what cases we might recommend the appointment of a second internal examiner.

b. Will the form reject an examiner who doesn't meet Imperial regulations?

No the form will not automatically reject an Examiner who doesn't meet Imperial regulations. The Registry Assessment Records team will check that proposed examiners do meet criteria. Any question in this section that results in a ‘No’ selection will have a pop-up warning to say that Registry may come back to ask further questions. In reviewing the nominations, Registry will consider the balance of experience across the panel; as such, failure to meet all appointment criteria outlined in the College policy does not automatically bar individuals from being appointed in these roles.

c. Is there an option to indicate that examiners have agreed to the appointment?

Upon approval of their appointment by the Registry Assessment Records Team, the examiner/s will be contacted to formally confirm acceptance of the role.

The appointment will not be confirmed, nor will the student’s thesis be released, until all members of the panel have agreed to the appointment.

However, supervisors are encouraged to continue liaising with potential examiners in advance of their nomination for appointment. As per current practice, this will be managed outside of the application.

Any departmental variations to this workflow would need to be managed outside the application so, for example, while a department is welcome to continue involving two internal assessors before final review by the DPS, this would need to be carried out separately.

Longer term, any additional requirements in the process can be considered, in accordance with the College regulations and policies.

d. Do examiners still need to be approved by Department Committee, or departmental representatives (other than DPS)?

Current practice surrounding departmental approval of examiner appointments varies across the College. There has been no change in policy, and departments are welcome to continue reviewing examiner nominations as per their current practice (i.e. review by Faculty Education Committee, or internal assessors); however, the DPS has overall responsibility for review and will need to confirm approval via the PGR application.

The College will review the precepts in line with any changes to the PGR regulations.

e. Are there any plans for pre-populating examining experience information?

The pre-population of examining experience for existing examiners is a future development to be considered. For now, supervisors will need to confirm these specific details as they do currently.

f. For external examiners, will the system accept personal email addresses?

We will accept whatever email is provided as part of the process but encourage you to provide their institutional email address.

g. Will hard copies of the thesis still need to be sent to the examiners?

No, only electric copies will be routinely provided as part of this new process.

Any specific requirements or requests for hard copies will need to be discussed with the Registry Assessment Records Team.

Frequently asked questions - Supervisors

a. When might an Industrial Examiner need to be nominated?

All EngD students must be examined by a panel, comprising of an internal, external and industrial examiner. The option to nominate an Industrial Examiner will only be visible to the supervisors of EngD students.

b. Can a supervisor edit the student exam entry details directly?

Supervisors cannot edit any details on behalf of the student but can refer back to the student if any details are incorrect or require further discussion. Supervisors will be asked to comment on the exam entry details at the point of referring this back to the student, although we expect more detailed conversations surrounding thesis title etc., will take place offline.

c. Is it clear that the EEF going to the supervisor is not fully approved?

Yes, the status of the examination entry milestone will not change from Planned to Completed until accepted by the Registry Assessments Team.

d. Does a nominated examiner have to have Imperial experience?

The information visible to the supervisor will confirm that they have to meet the relevant criteria for appointment, as outlined in the College policy. The supervisor can submit the form, even if a nominated examiner does not have Imperial examination experience as long as they meet the relevant criteria.

Supervisors will still be able to nominate individuals who may not meet all appointment criteria, however a pop-up message will appear to inform them that the DPS or Registry may require additional information prior to appointment. In some cases, the appointment of a second, more experienced internal examiner may be required.

e. Once I have approved the exam entry form, is it removed from my supervisor dashboard, or can I see all forms I have approved/rejected historically?

Supervisors will have access to the student overview page, from where they can access details relating to the examiner appointments. An audit trail will also be visible (i.e. the date on which a task was approved/rejected and, if rejected, why).

f. If it is the first viva for the internal examiner at Imperial, will the supervisor be notified or will it be checked by DPS?

As per current practice, the examiner nominations will be reviewed by the DPS (on behalf of the department) and the Registry Assessment Records Team. A decision will be made based on the balance of experience across the panel, and any specific requirements for appointment (e.g. DPS briefing for a ‘new’ Imperial examiner, or appointment of a second, more experienced panel member) communicated accordingly.

g. If the student has more than one supervisor, can the first supervisor delegate to the second, third or the PGR Administrator in the department?

The PG Administrator will be able to re-assign tasks within the application to another member of the supervisory panel, if necessary. However, the main supervisor is expected to oversee the completion of student milestones, including the examiner nomination process and thesis declaration.

h. Will supervisors get reminders to complete the exam entry form?

Yes, automated reminders will be sent to students and supervisors (depending on the milestone and the milestone status), and users will also receive an email notification if they have a task pending review in their application.

i. Can the link in the email to external examiners be mae clearer?

Yes, we will make this more prominent.

j. Why don’t supervisors have to confirm that the thesis sent by the student is correct?

It is the student's decision to submit their thesis, so the supervisor will not need to confirm as part of this process that they are happy with the submission. Any concerns about submission is expected to be raised at the examination entry stage, and any discussions with regards to this should take place directly between the supervisor and student.

Frequently asked questions - PGR Admin

a. Can the supervisor delegate to another supervisor or to the PGR Administrator, or the DPS delegate to the PGR Administrator?

PGR Administrators will have the option to re-assign tasks to other department colleagues, e.g. to a second signatory if the DPS is on leave. The DPS is not able to assign the task itself to the PGR Administrator as the DPS is responsible for review/signing off on the nominees on behalf of the department. 

b. How will PGR Admin see this information?

The PGR Admin Dashboard has two tabs, a Staff tab and a Student tab for full visibility of the nominees, student milestones and where in the process each 'task' within the workflow is.

c. Will the PGR Administrator be copied at every stage of this process?

Following feedback from the PGR Administrators workshop, PGR Administrators will receive email notifications at all key stages in the process, including completion of exam entry procedures and appointment of examiners, and submission and release of a student’s thesis for examination.  

d. Will the PGR Admin receive email notification once the student has submitted their thesis or their exam entry forms?

PGR Administrators will receive email notifications at completion of exam entry procedures and appointment of examiners, and submission and release of a student’s thesis for examination.  

e. Can the exam entry form go to the administrator first for checking before going to the DPS?

Some departments have a panel which independently reviews these forms and raises concerns to the DPS who arbitrates.

This process will need to take place outside the system. The approval route withing the system ultimately lies with DPS.

f. Is the role of PGR Admin now removed with this digitised process?

No, whilst the interactions have moved online, the PGR Admin role of ensuring timely activity, monitoring completion of milestones and supporting local variation is still critical in the PGR lifecycle.

g. Could milestone completion dates feed into local departmental records?

The Banner student record is the single source of truth for student data; the information stored in Banner (including milestone completion dates) is freely available to department staff via Imperial College Analytics (ICA).

Frequently asked questions - DPS

a. Can the DPS delegate to the PGR Administrator?

PGR Administrators will have the option to re-assign tasks to other department colleagues, e.g. to a second signatory if the DPS is on leave. The DPS is not able to assign the task itself to the PGR Administrator as the DPS is responsible for the review and approval of the examiner nominees on behalf of the department. 

b. Can Exam entry forms pass through our PGR Administrator for checking before the DPS?

The examination entry details will be visible to the PGR Administrator and, in consultation with the DPS, PGR Admins can of course feed into this process; however, this will need to be managed outside of the application in the first instance.

Longer term, we can review departmental processes and assess whether a change in workflow is required.

c. Does the DPS have full visibility of student progress within the department?

Yes, the DPS Dashboard has two tabs, a Staff tab and a Student tab to view all status point and actions.

d. How will dashboards look for staff members with dual responsibility?

The DPS will see a list of their supervisees and will also be able to access a list of the students within their department, through one view. Tasks in that view will vary depending on whether they are acting in a DPS or supervisor role capacity. The system will identify the appropriate alternate reviewer in cases where there may be a conflict of interest due to their dual supervisor and DPS role (i.e. approval of examiner nominations on behalf of the department for their supervisees).  

e. How much departmental flexibility will there be, e.g. we require a research plan by month 3?

As the application has been designed for use across all College departments, only College-level requirements are captured at this stage.

Longer term, we can assess whether department specific requirements should also be embedded.

f. Will full details of ESA and LSR be visible for every student for the DPS and PGR Administrator?

The content of each milestone will only be visible as they are transferred from the paper-based process to the online application as part of Phase 3 of this project.

Until then, the milestone status will be visible e.g. Planned/Complete and Due/Completed Date.  

g. Does the DPS need Banner access to answer questions on this form?

Banner Student Enquiry Form access is available to DPS, however, Banner access is not required to use this PGR Milestones application. All relevant information will flow down from Banner.

Frequently asked questions - Assessment Records

a. To approve tasks, will the Assessment Records team login with a personal account for a team account?

Individual, but all tasks will be accessible/actionable across the team.

b. Will we know which Assessment Records individual has approved which tasks?

At present the application is based on user role (as opposed to individual user), so it will not be possible to identify who within Registry actioned a task and when. We can review the longer term approach to this.

c. Will an error message pop up if one team member is working on an action?

Yes, in cases where a colleague is working on a task, the form will be locked and will be read-only to all other users within the team.