Guidance for researchers

Find advice and guidance for supervisors and doctoral researchers on Coronavirus-related issues.

Postgraduate researchers

We acknowledge that research students are a distinct group of people at Sussex. This advice and guidance is for you.

Doctoral researchers will be able to progress with their studies to differing degrees, depending on the nature of their research. Supervisors should be aware of national developments, to keep in touch with their supervisees and to discuss plans to adapt programmes of research wherever possible. Doctoral researchers and supervisors should take into account the UK government’s current advice on home working and social distancing.

Important: The situation is constantly evolving. Check the Student Hub Coronavirus pages and the staff pages for the latest updates.

Supervision and research plans

While campus is closed for teaching, doctoral supervision should only continue remotely.

Where research activities are impossible (such as where facilities or labs are not available) you should discuss whether it is possible to alter the research project temporarily to enable different activities to take place, under remote supervision.

This could have a significant impact on some PhD projects. In those instances, you should consider contingency plans with your Director of Doctoral Studies. We will advise and seek to support cases wherever possible.

Where a change to the plan of research incurs extra time to study, arrangements for extensions will be considered to allow maximum flexibility, paying due regard to the challenging current global context.


All research trips must be cancelled. If you have a trip booked, contact the University’s insurance team on for guidance on what to do next.

You should seek refunds from your travel provider in the first instance. You may also need to cancel closer to the date you were due to leave.


If you are due to travel out of the UK much later in the year on fieldwork, check the current advice on foreign travel from the University and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) guidance before making any bookings, and delay booking for as long as possible.

If you are on fieldwork, we recommend a return to the UK or to your home country. While circumstances for individuals in different locations will vary, please follow FCO travel advice when considering continuing fieldwork or ending fieldwork early.

If you wish to return to the UK and need help with finding accommodation, the Housing Team will offer help and advice. Email

If you wish to travel to your home or return to Sussex but are not able to cover the costs through your insurance, or cannot amend existing tickets, we will cover reasonable travel costs.

Doctoral researchers currently on fieldwork – and their supervisors – can make use of all University support services. If an overseas location or the current Coronavirus situation is affecting your health and wellbeing, the Student Life Centre can offer support and guidance. For technical questions about travel and risk assessment, contact our insurance team on

There is no need for doctoral researchers already on fieldwork to update OTSSRA forms. Follow all local advice and make sure you can get medical treatment if you need it.

Where you cannot return, are in an affected region and do not have access to medical assistance, contact the Health and Safety team. Email


If you’re currently on fieldwork, insurance remains in place and the University’s insurer (Aviva) will continue cover if you are unable to return home.

As you would expect, Aviva are experiencing high call volumes. However, if you have a medical emergency, contact Aviva on their emergency medical assistance number 01243 621066.

To reschedule any travel, contact the airline or travel provider. With other insurance queries, email

If you do not have insurance because you’re in your home country or took private insurance, our travel insurance policy does not cover medical expenses in your country of residence. All other aspects of cover remain in force.

For more information see the University insurance webpages.

Researcher Development Programme training

All RDP workshops are either being postponed or reconvened as webinars you can access remotely, until the end of April at the earliest.

If you have booked on to a workshop you will be contacted directly. See the listings page for further information and to book a place on a webinar. If you have any questions or concerns email


Pending further updates, events or seminars run by postgraduate researchers should be cancelled or, if possible, converted to an online equivalent. If you would like to reach out to other researchers, or promote online materials, the Doctoral School can help. Email and stay abreast of the Doctoral Connections blog and @SussexDocSchool Twitter for regular news.

The Hive Scholars are moving their activities online and are setting up Slack channels to help the research community through the next few months. Follow @SussexResHive on Twitter for more details.

Sickness and self-isolation

Researchers and supervisors should discuss in advance what to do if one of you needs to self-isolate, and the best use that can be made of that time.

Doctoral researchers must notify their supervisor or Director of Doctoral Studies and their School Office (which might normally be accessed by your Research and Enterprise Coordinator) if they become unwell or need to self-isolate.

If a supervisor becomes unwell, supervisory teams should work together in coordination with the Director of Doctoral Studies to ensure their work is covered.


The current advice from UK Research Councils is that doctoral researchers should not be penalised by unavoidable delays and that UKRI-funded scholarships should be considered for extension, rather than suspension (intermission). This is likely to apply in situations where fieldwork and access to facilities and experiments are restricted.

If doctoral researchers are self-isolating, scholarships will not necessarily pause. If isolation means a researcher cannot complete their PhD in the funded period an extension of the funding can be considered. Remember, however, that different funders have different terms and conditions.

To check about eligibility for sick pay, and for any scholarship queries, contact Amanda Britt by emailing

If a researcher is funded by a research council, normal procedures will apply (up to 13 weeks’ paid sick leave on provision of medical evidence while not intermitting, an extension of the funding end date, and intermission for illness lasting more than 13 weeks). The paid sick leave will extend a researcher’s funding but will not automatically extend the four years of registration.

If an event is cancelled, researchers should seek reimbursement from travel insurers in the first instance. The scholarship can cover costs that are not covered by insurance.

In difficult circumstances, doctoral researchers may wish to consider an intermission from studies or a period of annual leave. You’re entitled to eight weeks of annual leave per year (section 20 of the Handbook for Doctoral Researchers [PDF] applies).

Continuing with study outside the UK

If you’re a doctoral researcher who wishes to continue studying in your home country outside of the UK, whether sponsored on a Tier 4 visa or otherwise, seek approval from your supervisor or Director of Doctoral Studies in the first instance. Make sure you keep monthly engagement records – which can be supervisions or other activities that progress your studies – up to date on Sussex Direct.

If you have a visa


Continuing with study in the UK away from campus

If you are remaining in the UK but away from campus, please arrange remote supervision with your supervisor where possible. Keep monthly engagement records up to date in Sussex Direct.

Submission for a viva

In the current situation, Sussex is moving to online thesis submission. Theses can be emailed in PDF format (or via Box/file sharing software) to

If you are unable to attend your viva in-person, a distant viva using teleconferencing (such as Skype) is possible. Discuss this with your supervisors, who can take it forward with examiners and make a request for a distant viva through the Research Student Administration Office.

If you wish to wait for a time in which a standard in-person viva can be conducted, this will be possible and should be discussed with your supervisors.

Appendix 2 of the Handbook for Supervisors contains more information on distant vivas. In the current situation, requests for distant vivas will be expedited to avoid delays or inconvenience. This includes a change to current policy to consider distant vivas where all four parties (the researcher, examiners and chair) are in separate locations.

See full guidance for distant vivas and thesis submission [PDF 44.3KB].

Collecting belongings from campus

Your belongings will have to remain on campus until the government removes the restrictions on travel and social distancing. We continue to run 24/7 security to ensure students and their belongings on campus are protected and secure.

Contacting your School Office

Rather than visit in person, email your School Office with enquiries about your course. We are working hard to continue your teaching and learning and it’s important you continue to contact us.

See a list of School email addresses.


The Student Life Centre, International Student Support and Student Support Unit are currently providing online services.

Find out how to contact these services at this time.