Your Early Stage Assessment (ESA) needs to be completed 12 months after your start date (24 months for PT students). All students must undergo an assessment of their research potential to determine whether registration for the PhD can continue. 

The purpose of the ESA is to confirm that you have:

  • an understanding of your field of research and the direction of your project;
  • the potential to pursue independent research.

Results and data presented at this stage may be minimal but should be indicative of your ability to perform at an appropriate level to carry out PhD research. Where relevant, the assessment will also consider whether you need English language support.

The ESA is completed via report and oral assessment with an independent assessor. Optionally your supervisor may also be present at the oral assessment. 

You can download and view an example of the ESA form on the right. You may also find the Early Stage Assessment Guidance useful. The ESA form is created and signed via Docusign; your supervisor and the Senior Postgraduate Administrator will set up and manage this process.  

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Format of ESA

The written report should be structured with the following sections:

  1. The research problem and scope of the project.
  2. A summary of the relevant literature.
  3. Work which has already been carried out.
  4. A clear programme for the pursuance and completion of the thesis.

Your report should be no more than 20 pages in length (font size 11, single spaced). An excellent report may be shorter than these guidelines.

Oral interview/examination

  • Attended by primary and secondary supervisors and independent Assessor.
  • Assessments typically last around 30 minutes, but can be longer.
  • Students may prepare a presentation with PowerPoint or other appropriate media.

Assessment of ESA

Once ready, send your ESA to your Supervisor. They will informally discuss your ESA with you and confirm whether or not they believe it is ready for assessment. They may suggest changes at this stage. They will then ask an Independent Assessor (usually another academic in School) to formally assess your ESA.

Your supervisor will then set a date where you will be sent for the Presentation. 

The logistics of arranging this may take a few weeks so you should aim to send a copy of your ESA to your Supervisor at least two weeks before its due date. 

Your supervisor will contact the Senior Postgraduate Administrator, who will set up the ESA form in Docusign. You will receive an email from Docusign, asking you to enter your information and to attach your ESA Turnitin Similarity Report.  

Graduate School Attendance and English Language Requirements

In addition to fulfilling the above academic requirements for your ESA, there are three further requirements for you to pass your ESA:

If you are unsure how many courses you have completed with the Graduate School, or if you have passed the Plagiarism Awareness Course, please contact the Graduate School on

Generating your ESA Turnitin Similarity Report

Students who started their postgraduate research degree on or after the 28 September 2019 will need to follow the College’s policy on using Turnitin as part of the Early Stage Assessment.

Guidance on how to create your Turnitin similarity report and how to interpret it is available here. If you have any issues with this, please contact the Senior Postgraduate Administrator. 

Once you have your similarity report, attach it to the ESA form where prompted by Docusign.