COVID-19 FAQs for PGRs and supervisors

This blog post is intended to provide specific information for PGRs and research degree supervisors about the impact of COVID-19. We will update it as advice changes and we will add new FAQs when it seems necessary.

Q: Where can I find out updates from the University about COVID-19 (‘Coronavirus’)?

A: The University of Northampton’s Situation Updates page is the primary source of information and updates for colleagues and researchers at the University of Northampton:

Read the rest of this entry

Additional Student Support and Inclusion Services Team (ASSIST)

ASSIST provides exceptional student-centred support to help students with additional or alternative needs and requirements to develop, progress and achieve their full potential. The team supports students throughout their time at university and can help them develop their skills and confidence to get the most from their student experience.

ASSIST provides support for students with: physical impairments, sensory impairments, mental health difficulties, medical conditions, Autistic spectrum disorders and specific learning difficulties, for example dyslexia. The team’s services are available to all disabled students, including part-time, postgraduate and international students, as well as distance learners and students at partner colleges.

ASSIST offer the same support for all levels of study and they have successfully supported a number of research students and academics completing their PhDs.  Mostly their support comprises 1:1 specialist study skills support. If you need support, in the first instance you are encouraged to submit evidence to the ASSIST team, then register and book an appointment for assessment of needs.

Full information on the service, including drop-in times etc. can also be found on the web page:

Update and guidance for planned research and enterprise activities

COVID-19 update: guidance on planned research and enterprise activities

Last updated: 24/9/20

Current position

The University of Northampton’s Situation Updates page is the primary source of information and updates for colleagues and researchers at the University of Northampton:

Given the exceptional, unprecedented situation which is ongoing as a result of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all researchers must reflect on their planned and ongoing activities: this may necessitate pausing, rescheduling or amending activities. Amendments to activities, or proposals for new research/enterprise activities, must be reviewed and approved by the University of Northampton’s Research Ethics Committee and Faculty Ethics Committees.

It is likely that COVID-19 will cause significant disruption for research activities, particularly where:

  • proposed/ongoing research activities require face-to-face contact with participants, particularly those who are at-risk or require self-isolation as per the latest UK Government advice;
  • researchers are themselves at-risk or require self-isolation;
  • proposed research involves international travel;
  • planned research requires visits to settings which are closed or have restricted access as a result of COVID-19.

If you are concerned about the impacts of the current situation on your ongoing/planned research, support is available as follows:

  • for undergraduate or Master’s students doing research projects or dissertations, please contact your supervisor in the first instance. Supervisors – please be in contact with your supervisees at this time;

All researchers planning or doing research projects which involve face-to-face contact with participants must consider: 

  • can the research be paused or rescheduled to such a time as guidance on self-isolation, safeguarding and at-risk communities changes?
  • can the research be conducted remotely or online instead of face-to-face?
  • can the project be adapted to involve different methods or activities? (This crowdsourced resource initiated by social scientists at the University of New South Wales gives some interesting ideas, although these must be discussed with supervisors and may require additional ethical approval:

**Update: new University of Northampton resources and expectations about tools for online research are provided below.

The current and projected situation relating to Covid-19 is complex and rapidly-changing. The default institutional expectation is that most research and enterprise activities should continue to proceed in online or virtual formats. However, it is recognised that, in some circumstances, online or virtual formats may not be appropriate or ethical. It is also anticipated that, if Covid-19 precautions are (hopefully!) relaxed going forward, then increasing numbers of researchers will return to face-to-face research methods and appropriately socially-distanced research visits.

Until further notice, all research/enterprise activities must be fully risk assessed in alignment with current University of Northampton guidelines. All research/enterprise travel, fieldwork or face-to-face work can only proceed with the approval of the most relevant Dean or Deputy Dean (or for LLS/ILT – Head of LLS). As a default position, research/enterprise travel, fieldwork or face-to-face work will not be allowed to commence if:

  • Alternative, remote research methods could be used which will meet the objectives of the research in an ethical manner;
  • The planned work involves international travel;
  • The planned activity can feasibly be postponed.

Risk assessments

Faculties, research institutes and LLS/ILT should ensure there is a clearly communicated four-stage procedure for risk assessing research/enterprise activities where:

1). Each researcher completes a comprehensive risk assessment covering Covid-19 hazards, in alignment with the University of Northampton’s current Covid-19 risk assessment. The risk assessment must include a specific case for any face-to-face research, travel or fieldwork explaining why alternative virtual/remote methods cannot be used. In addition to the generic risks covered in the institutional risk assessment, researchers must clearly consider any additional risks relating to their research/enterprise activities. The risk assessment should include:

  • specific measures to ensure social distancing and safeguarding of researchers and participants
  • use of face coverings, gloves/PPE as required
  • hygiene measures (e.g. use of sanitisers, disinfectant etc)
  • consideration of any specific vulnerabilities, underlying conditions and risk factors among participants
  • protocols/consent for contacting participants in the event of researcher/participant experiencing Covid-19 symptoms
  • consideration of any additional risk assessment/mitigation required by any settings where research is planned to take place
  • consideration of the University of Northampton’s current guidance about travel

The University of Surrey’s Guidance for research involving face-to-face participation during Covid-19 restrictions provides some helpful advisory prompts and practical considerations to bear in mind when preparing a risk assessment for face-to-face research in the context of Covid-19.

2). Risk assessments are robustly reviewed by supervisors, line managers or Faculty colleagues with responsibility for risk assessment, with only those presenting a strong case for face-to-face research proceeding to stage 3

3). Risk assessments are checked and approved by a relevant Dean or Deputy Dean (or for LLS/ILT – Head of LLS)

4). Decisions are communicated and logged as per Faculty processes

Update: resources for online research methods

Online surveys

Any colleague or student who wishes to complete an online survey can now be set up with a log-in for ‘Online Surveys’: a GDPR-compliant, password-protected, user-friendly online survey tool which is widely used in the HE sector.

  • Individual staff or postgraduate researchers can request a log-in by emailing directly
  • Undergraduate or Master’s students can be set up with log-ins. Tutors/supervisors are advised to send a password-protected document or spreadsheet with a list of names and UoN email addresses of those students who require access to

As a condition of use, everyone requesting access should confirm they have read the T&Cs of this survey tool and individual students requesting access will be asked to complete a specific Linkedin Learning online training activity about data protection. Tutors/supervisors who request access for a student group will be required to take responsibility for training/support in use of the ‘Online Surveys’, highlighting the Terms & Conditions to their students and ensuring students have a basic understanding of data protection and copyright. To support this comprehensive instructions/user guides are available at:

When using Online Surveys, data should be downloaded from the online interface and stored as password-protected files ASAP: personal identifiable information must be stored separate to the data once this has happened, and data should be stored and managed in line with principles laid out in the University of Northampton’s Ethics Code and Procedures. Data must not be left live in the survey system long after surveys have closed.

For Data protection reasons, colleagues and students should not be using free online survey tools such as Survey Monkey. ESurv was previously recommended as a free online survey tool appropriate for use by University of Northampton undergraduates: however, be aware that this site has experienced technical problems and disruptions to service in 2020, and its future is not clear.

Online interviews

As a safe, password-protected, GDPR-compliant space for conducting online interviews or group discussions, postgraduates and undergraduates can now be set up with a personal Blackboard Collaborate account by LearnTech. This will enable students to conduct and record interviews in a space similar to the Collaborate interface used by many colleagues for learning & teaching and meetings. To set this up, the process is:

1). Staff member sends (plus CC to a password protected spreadsheet with the account details in the following format: Student Number; First Name; Last Name; Email Address.

In the body of the email, the staff member should also define an expiry date for the account(s). Accounts will not be set up without an expiry date, and the date should be the same for all students on the spreadsheet. If different expiry dates are needed then more than one spreadsheet should be used.

 2). LearnTech will alert staff when accounts are ready, and staff member conveys this information to their students. Students must be made aware by the staff member that their recordings will be deleted and their accounts suspended without warning or reminder on or shortly after the specified account expiry date. Recordings will be completely unrecoverable after deletion. Colleagues should send students this guide, which details how to use Collaborate as a Moderator: Please note that the Learning Technology Team will not be able to provide student training for Collaborate. However, staff may request Collaborate training for themselves from their Learning Technologist, and can then provide their own training sessions for their students if they wish.

3). Once accounts have been created, students can enter their Collaborate accounts by going to and selecting ‘Forgot Password’. It is recommended that students use the Chrome browser when using Collaborate. A password reset request is then emailed to them from (students may want to add this email address to their contacts or safe senders list prior to resetting their passwords to ensure that it doesn’t get sent to their spam/junk email folder). The subject line of the forgot password email is: Blackboard Collaborate Password Reset. Students then select the link that has been emailed to them and enter a new secure password. Students then use the Collaborate accounts to conduct interviews and create recordings as needed, in line with guidance from academic staff and their research ethics committee. Under no circumstances should recordings be downloaded from Collaborate. Collaborate users are responsible for keeping their recordings safe and secure, and failure to do so may make them personally liable for a data breach.

Prior to the account expiry date, students should delete all recordings.

Please note that LearnTech will not extend the account expiry date on student request. If the date is to be extended the request must come from staff, with ample notice given for this request.

All online interviews should be conducted with regard for principles of informed consent and safeguarding as laid out in the University of Northampton’s Ethics Code and Procedures. Note that guidance from the University’s Data Protection Officer is that students or colleagues should not be using phone-based apps to record interviews for GDPR reasons. Similarly, we should not be recording interviews in Zoom/Skype etc

 (although, as a work-around, it may be appropriate to use a Dictaphone to record an online conversation providing all parties give informed consent to this).

Images of Research 2020-21 – Rules and Guidelines

Your ResearchYour image needs, in some way, to connect, comment on or represent your research. You can be as creative as you like to capture the viewer’s imagination.
Unique  Your image should be from a photograph, drawing or painting which you have created yourself, not downloaded from any publicly available image bank.
FormatYour image can be in full colour, sepia or black and white and either landscape or portrait.
ResolutionYour image must be of a high resolution, at least 2-3 megabytes and in either a jpg or tif format so that it prints successfully onto A4. Some mobile phones do not take images of this quality, so try to use a good digital camera (note: you do not need to print it).
Title and descriptionAlong with your image, please write a snappy title and a concise description of your image and how it relates to your research. A maximum of 150 words in plain English (no technical language or jargon).
DeadlinePlease email your image and description to by Monday 21st December 2020. Make sure you email the FULL-SIZE image for best quality.
CopyrightBy entering the competition, you are giving the Graduate School permission to use your entry for exhibitions and publications, in the context of Images of Research.
Want to see more examples?Search for ‘Images of Research’ here on the Research Support Hub for previous year’s entries. For more example from other universities, please Google ‘Images of Research’.


On Monday 22nd February 2021 we are hoping to hold a face-to-face launch, where you can view all the images for the first time. You will be able to vote for your favourite top three entries in the ‘people’s choice’ vote. There will also be an expert judge vote. The selected images will then be used in various University publications. The winner will be announced on Monday 22nd March 2021.

Judging criteria

As a guide, a winning image is one that:

  1. Is visually appealing
  2. Has an accompanying abstract that is well-written, clearly connects with the image and ensures viewers, who know nothing about the topic, will understand and find interest in the research presented.

Images of Research 2020-21 – call for submissions

The call for the Graduate School’s 7th Images of Research 2020-21 competition is now open! If you are a researcher (staff or student) at the University of Northampton and you would like to participate, you will need to produce a unique image that you can either create or photograph. The image should capture the essence or an element of your research, in a visual, artistic or photographic way, with a 150-word summary and a title. A list of rules and guidelines for the competition is attached.

Entries for Images of Research 2020-21 should be emailed to by the closing date, Monday 21st December 2020. We are hoping to hold a face-to-face launch event on Monday 22nd February 2021 (to be confirmed), when voting will open. The winner will be announced on Monday 22nd March 2021.

Do feel free to contact me if you have any questions, otherwise I look forward to receiving your entry. Good luck!

Lecture series – Digital communication and digital humanities

An online series of lectures for PGRs and Early Career Researchers in the area of digital communications and digital humanities. Details can be found here:


University of Northampton Graduate School – 1st overall satisfaction in this year’s Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)

Message from Professor Matthew McCormack, Head of the Graduate School: The Graduate School has some excellent news to share: UoN has come 1st for overall satisfaction in this year’s Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES). Our PGRs have rated us in the top 8 in all categories, including 1st for “resources” and “responsibilities”, and 2nd for “progression”, “research skills” and “professional development”.

I would like to thank the PGRs for completing the survey and for rating us so highly. As always, we will analyse the results carefully and will work with you on any areas where we can enhance what we do. These results are a tribute to the strength of our PGR community, and the dedication of our supervisors, the Graduate School, and all those at UoN who work hard to support postgraduate research.

Guidance on research and enterprise activities during the pandemic  

The University of Northampton’s Situation Updates page is the primary source of information and updates for colleagues and researchers at the University of Northampton:

Given the exceptional, unprecedented situation which is developing as a result of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all researchers must reflect on their planned and ongoing activities: this may necessitate pausing, rescheduling or amending activities that have previously been approved by the University of Northampton’s Research Ethics Committee and Faculty Ethics Committees. Read the rest of this entry

East Midlands Doctoral Researcher (EMDoc) Conference- 9th and 10th September 2020

The University of Northampton is part of the East Midlands Doctoral Research Network, which consists of nine universities who are keen to work collaboratively to share best practice, resources and insights into doctoral research across all disciplines. The EMDoc Conference is a great opportunity for you to discuss and promote your research, as well as meet and network with other researchers from across the East Midlands. In this year’s Conference, you are invited to explore the theme of ‘Sustainability’ through oral and poster presentations.

If you wish to submit a paper or poster for the Conference you will need to contact the Conference organisers directly, please follow the guidance on the attached document. Please also notify Linda Cooper in the Graduate School of your submission ( so that we are aware of all institution submissions. The call for papers closes on Thursday 16th July 2020. Please contact Linda with any further queries.

Annual Research Conference 2020

We are delighted that we have been able to modify the University of Northampton’s Annual Research Conference in 2020 and deliver it online. The Conference includes much of the usual format, although we’ve taken the decision to postpone the ‘Bake your Research’ competition until we are back face-to-face on campus. Read the rest of this entry

David’s top tips for being productive at home

I’ve been having real difficulty concentrating whilst working at home. I find it hard to start tasks, my eyes are sore, a 5-day week feels daunting and I feel anxious when I don’t complete the tasks I planned to do. I miss going to work!

At the Graduate School Drop-In today, we talked to a PhD student about concentration and productivity. We came up with a few practical ideas that I thought I’d share with you: Read the rest of this entry