FAQs for Graduate Research Students 

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Your School will appoint a Doctoral Studies Panel (DSP) for you at the beginning of your programme.  The purpose of the Doctoral Studies Panel is to support and enhance the Supervisor-student relationship, to monitor your progress during the course of your doctoral studies and to provide advice and support both to you and your Supervisor(s).

This is a panel consisting of your principal Supervisor and other advisors (normally two).

The DSP should normally meet within 3 months of the student’s initial registration, to review the student’s Research and Professional Development Plan. The Supervisor should initiate this meeting, and scheduling of subsequent DSP meetings should be the student’s responsibility. In addition to the first meeting at least one additional DSP meeting should be held in year 1 of the student’s registration and a DSP meeting should normally be held at least 2 months before the Stage Transfer Assessment. The student or another member of the DSP may convene a meeting of the panel at any stage (with appropriate notice to all concerned) if it is considered desirable or necessary to address any relevant issue that may arise.

The RPDP (Research Professional Development Plan) needs to be completed prior to the DSP meetings. Students should use the RPDP throughout their programme to help guide their development. The RPDP can be found https://www.ucd.ie/graduatestudies/currentgradstudents/researchphdsupport/researchandprofessionaldevelopmentplanrpdp/

For Research Masters student, the procedure will be similar with a RMP (Research Masters Panel) rather than a DSP.

Your PhD programme is divided into two stages. During Stage 1 you develop advanced knowledge of your area and the research, technical and other skills you require to become an independent researcher in that area. During Stage 2 you carry out original, publishable research while you do this research under supervision, it must be your own independent work.

Transfer Assessment: Between 12 to 18 months from the start of your Full Time PhD you will be formally assessed for transfer from Stage 1 to Stage 2. If you are registered for an MSc (Research) and want to transfer to a PhD you also undergo a Transfer Assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to determine if, during Stage 1, you have acquired the advanced knowledge, research skills and competencies required to carry out the independent, original research required for successful completion of a PhD.

Following its consideration, the STA panel may make one of several decisions:

• that the student progresses to Stage 2;

• that the student does not progress, but may present for re-assessment at a later stage, with a date  set for the re-assessment;

• that the student does not progress, may not present for re-assessment, and exits the programme.

For more information, please see the Policy on PhD Stage 1 Transfer Assessment

UCD recognises that in order for a student to successfully complete a programme of study they may need to take a Leave of Absence from the programme. A leave of absence is an approved extended period of time away from the programme e.g. Leave of Absence should be taking for period of semester (s). No work on the programme can be done during this period.  Please note that if you are being funded and receiving a stipend, you will need to discuss the LOA with your funding agency.

The UCD Leave of Absence policy provides you with further information and information on how to apply.

UCD recognises that for a variety of reasons a student may need to withdraw from their programme and the university. Before you make your final decision, please ensure you speak with your Supervisor to investigate if there is any means that you can continue in the programme.

 To apply to withdraw please see http://www.ucd.ie/students/fees/withdrawal.html

There are two types of extension:

 1. Permission to Continue 

Students who are entering Year 5 FT or Year 7 PT PhD or Year 3 FT or year 5 PT for Masters by Research students must apply for Permission to Continue in the programme. There are no extenuating circumstances with this extension. These are for a period of semester(s) and fees are payable. The student must apply for this at their School Office.

 2. Extenuating Circumstances 

These requests are for a specific period (does not need to be semester length) where the student was unable to attend the programme due to extenuating circumstances and no fees are paid. Supporting documentation must be provided and confirm the period of time you were unable to work on your programme. Common examples of this are medical issues or bereavement. 

Before applying for an extension please first discuss the matter with your Supervisor(s). After discussions with your Supervisor(s), the student must apply for an extension in advance of the thesis submission deadline at the School Office with supporting documents and it must be approved by the relevant School and Graduate School Board. A student is not normally liable for fees. There will be no additional stipend for this period.

See the Policy on Extenuating Circumstances for further information. 

Working Hours

Due to the range of disciplines across the College, there is no such thing as an ‘average PhD week’ and how a PhD student’s week is arranged will depend on a number of factors including:

  • Subject area (very different work patterns will emerge if you work in a lab or do fieldwork for example)
  • Learning style
  • The stage of the PhD: the week will be structured very differently when you are writing up and there will be peak times in activity
  • What you have agreed with your Supervisor.

It is recognised that graduate students are not generally paid employees and therefore do not have contractual working hours; however students should bear in mind that a public servant’s standard working week is 37 hours. A PhD student should be self-motivated to work such hours as are necessary to achieve their objectives over the course of 3-4 years. In cases where a student is funded, there may be additional obligations required by the funding agency in relation to meeting certain milestones that must be taken into consideration when working hours are agreed.

In consultation with the Supervisor(s) it is the student’s responsibility to decide the appropriate working structure for them as early as possible in their programme so that a plan can be agreed that suits everyone. Students are expected to develop a professional approach by attending all meetings and other relevant activities that are advised by their Supervisor and/or beneficial to their programme/research.

Annual leave

Holidays can be taken at any time in each year, but must be agreed in advance with the Supervisor(s), bearing in mind a student’s individual funding terms and any teaching or research commitments. The normal holiday entitlements should be no more than 4 weeks in one calendar year.

In the case of part-time students in paid employment, Supervisors should be informed of the student's annual leave arrangements that impact on the research programme.

Sick leave

If a student feels unwell and needs to stay at home for a day or two, the Supervisor(s) should be informed. If a student is unwell for a longer period of time, they should try to maintain regular email contact with their Supervisor(s) to keep him/her informed of their health and they must provide a medical certificate for the period of illness. In cases where students may be requesting a ‘no-fees extension’ due to illness, relevant supporting documentation must be provided. In some serious cases, it may be advisable for the student to apply for a leave of absence.

Maternity Leave

Where possible, students should apply for a Leave of Absence during their maternity leave. If this causes issues with funding, students can apply for a no fees extension for the period of maternity leave, but must be aware that there is no provision for payment of stipends during this additional time.

All incoming PhD students must take 30 credits of taught modules over their programme. The aim of these taught modules are to facilitate research as well as to provide you with important transferable skills enhancing your career development. Your School or Programme may recommend or require certain modules, please check with your Supervisor. Unless your School or programme stipulates specific courses, you may choose from the full range of modules available throughout the University in consultation and agreement with your Principal Supervisor and your DSP.

To register for modules, you must complete a module registration form which is available from your School after agreement with the module co-ordinator and your Supervisor. This form should be returned to your School office who will register you to your chosen modules.

Being fully registered to a module means that you must attend classes, complete assignment and assessment and you will earn credits for this which will be shown on your final transcript. Students can undertake modules for audit which means attending classes but not doing the assessment or assignments but you DO NOT receive credits for this.

Please note that once registered for a module, if for any reason you do not complete and have not officially withdrawn from this module within 6 weeks, a NG grade received will be entered onto your university record and will appear on your transcript. To withdraw from a module, please contact your School office within 6 weeks of the commencement of the module. NO RETROSPECTIVE CHANGES CAN BE MADE.

For a full list of modules please click the 2016/17 Modules tab on the Course Search page - http://www.ucd.ie/students/course_search.htm 

Visit the Transferable Skills Training Portal for Post Graduate Students web page for a full list of the 2016/2017 https://www.ucd.ie/graduatestudies/currentgradstudents/researchphdsupport/transferableskillstraining/

These modules are excellent for developing your transferable skills but most do not have credits attached.

Students are entitled to apply for RPL against the mandatory 30 credits which must be undertaken during their PhD. This must be discussed with your Supervisor and your DSP. No more than 2/3 of the 30 credits can be used in RPL; however each student must be looked at on case by case basis. Having a Taught Masters will not automatically give students RPL. Due consideration must be taken by the Supervisor and DSP to the needs of the student.

PhD students must complete a minimum of 3 years (FT) / 5 years (PT) before submitting. The Thesis Submission deadlines can be found on http://www.ucd.ie/students/fees/thesis.html

You must be a fully registered student and not owe any fees at the time when your thesis is submitted for examination. You submit to the Student Desk in the Tierney Building as many soft bound copies of the thesis as there are members on your Examination Committee. There are usually three people on the Examination Committee i.e. internal examiner, extern examiner and the Chair of the Examination Committee. For MSc degrees, there are generally two members of the Examination Committee. The members of your examination committee are listed on the ‘UView - Student Enquiry’ Screen on your UCD student SIS Web account under the heading ‘Other Advisors’.

 The copies of the thesis shall be submitted for examination in soft bound format and they must be accompanied by a completed Research Degree Examination Form. See http://www.ucd.ie/students/assessment/thesis_forms.html

 You must complete and sign this form to confirm that the research work is your own work, and you have not obtained a degree in this University or elsewhere on the basis of the research presented in the thesis. This form must also be signed by your Principal Supervisor confirming that the research has been carried out, and the final draft of the thesis, as submitted, has been prepared for examination under their guidance. Your Principal Supervisor must also confirm that the student has satisfied the requirements of the programme, including any taught modules as well as research activity.

Students, in discussion with their Supervisor, can submit their thesis in a number of acceptable formats, for example:

  • A traditional thesis.
  • A collection of papers (including published papers or papers submitted or prepared for submission) describing a coherent programme of research which has been published or prepared for publication in peer-reviewed journals of international standing, accompanied by a critical and theoretical overview of the work presented in the papers.
  • A substantial collection of original creative material, together with a written thesis that contextualises the work within an academic framework.

 The following general guidelines for preparation of the traditional thesis format, as well as any thesis component of any other format, apply. These guidelines may be further supplemented by School-specific guidelines.

1. Method of Production: As these are examination copies of the thesis, they shall be printed on one side of paper. The thesis shall be submitted for examination in softbound format. In order for the candidate to be considered for the award of the degree by the Academic Council Committee on Examinations and the final version of the thesis shall be submitted in hardbound format. On the hardbound version of the thesis, the spine of the thesis shall include the candidate name, the title of the thesis, the year and the degree award (ex. MA, MSc, MD, PhD, etc).

2. Layout: Margins at the binding edge shall be not less than 30mm and other margins not less than 20mm. One-and-a-half spacing shall be used, except for indented quotations and footnotes, where single spacing may be used.

3. Font: The recommended font shall be a sans serif font (including Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma or Trebuchet) and shall not be less than 11pt. Footnotes shall not be less than 9pt.

4. Length: The appropriate length of the thesis shall be agreed between the candidate and the Principal Supervisor in accordance with the traditions of the discipline.

5. Page Numbering: Pages shall be numbered consecutively throughout the substantive text of the thesis, including appendices. Prefacing pages shall also be numbered consecutively, but utilising the Roman numeral format (i., ii., iii., iv., v., etc.). Page numbers shall be right justified at the bottom of the page. If there is more than one volume, each volume shall carry its own pagination

6. Title Page: The title should describe the content of the thesis accurately and concisely. The title page of every volume shall give the following information in the order listed:

  • The full title of the thesis and subtitle, if any.
  • The total number of volumes, if more than one, and the number of the particular volume.
  • The full name of the author (followed, if desired, by any qualifications).
  • The candidate’s UCD student number.
  • That "The thesis is submitted to University College Dublin in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of [Research Masters or Doctor of…(insert as applicable)].
  • The School(s) in which the research was conducted.
  • Name(s) of the Head(s) of School(s) in which the research was undertaken.
  • Name(s) of the Principal Supervisor(s) of the research.
  • Name(s) of the members of the Research Masters Panel or Doctoral Studies Panel (where applicable).
  • The month and year of submission.

7. Table of Contents: The table of contents shall immediately follow the title page. It should list the title of each chapter and the main sections in each chapter together with the relevant starting page numbers

8. Abstract: There shall be a summary abstract of the thesis (of approximately 300 words) immediately following the Table of Contents page(s).

9. Statement of Original Authorship: The following statement of original authorship shall immediately follow the abstract page, “I hereby certify that the submitted work is my own work, was completed while registered as a candidate for the degree stated on the Title Page, and I have not obtained a degree elsewhere on the basis of the research presented in this submitted work”

10. Collaborations: Where the research activity for the thesis was undertaken jointly with others, the name of such collaborators or co-authors must be listed immediately following the statement of original authorship page, including a short description of the nature of the contribution made by each author, including the candidate.


A viva voce (oral examination) is compulsory for doctoral degrees, other than an MD where in many cases candidates present their work in a seminar. The viva voce provides you with an opportunity to defend your thesis and it assists the examiners in deciding whether or not you have met the requirements for the PhD degree. The Examination Committee will examine:

  • The originality of the work described and the theories developed in the thesis
  • Your familiarity with the published work of other authors in related areas
  • Your ability to summarise the work of other authors and to synthesise a theoretical framework within which to position the work described in the thesis

You will need to be prepared for a general discussion of your research area and a detailed explanation of your research and its conclusions. You also must be prepared for the examiners to approach the thesis from a different starting point than you and to emphasise different aspects of the thesis than you considered. You will be given the opportunity to defend your thesis in every respect. You should enlist some help from your Supervisor in your preparation.

There are differing opinions on the value of doing a mock viva voce. Some consider this practice-run helpful in getting you talking about your research and hearing yourself speak. Talk to your Supervisor about this and if you think it would help, ask them and/or other members of academic staff to put you through your paces.

Once the vive voce is competed you will be invited by the chairperson to withdraw from the room so that the examiners can deliberate. The Examiners will complete a joint report which will include a recommendation to: 

(a) Award the Doctoral degree – no corrections required

(b) Award the Doctoral degree – corrections required

(c) Award the Doctoral degree – revision without re-examination

(d) Revise thesis and submit for re-examination

(e) Do not award the Doctoral degree – recommendation that the candidate transfer to an appropriate graduate programme

(f) Do not award the Doctoral degree

In most cases you will be invited, through the chairperson, to hear the examiners’ provisional recommendation once their discussions are complete.

Once you have the verbal approval of the internal examiner that you have met the requirements of the Examination Committee you follow these steps:

 Step 1. Produce a hardbound copy of your thesis

 Step 2. The Internal examiner will sign the Research Degree Final Submission Form to confirm that all the necessary corrections have been completed to the satisfaction of the examiners.

 Step 3. You submit the hardbound thesis to the UCD Student Desk with the signed Research Degree Final Submission Form.

The final step in the process involves the UCD Academic Council Committee on Examinations (ACCE) reviewing the recommendation of the examiners and authorising the award of the degree or otherwise. The ACCE meets once a month throughout the academic year. Once your hardcopy is submitted then the relevant examination documents are submitted for consideration at the next scheduled ACCE meeting. The ACCE decides on the basis of the Examination Committee report to authorise or not to authorise the award of the degree. If you have been successful you will receive, within 10 working days, an official Degree Outcome Letter from the UCD Registrar and Deputy President confirming that your PhD degree has been awarded and with the link to download your official Academic Transcript as a PDF document.