Your Research Degree

At Edinburgh Napier University, research students work alongside world-class academics, carrying out research that will make a real impact on society and the world at large.

I’m a new research degree student – what do I need to do to get started?

You will already have received information about the registration process by this point, and it’s important that you complete registration as access to IS systems (emails/university networks etc.) will only be set up after you finish registration.

You can follow these steps to access the University’s online services. You will also receive your research student ID card which is sent to your contact address.

Communications from the university go to your student email address so it is really important that you check it regularly to stay up-to-date.

You should meet with your supervisors as soon as possible to talk about getting started on your research and all the practical things you need to know about research study at Edinburgh Napier.

Try to attend the induction events – both across the university and at School level, as they are designed to share all the information you need to get off to a good start. These events also help you meet fellow students within the research community, so you can get to know each other.

How do I work with my supervisory team?

Your supervisory team are here to support you and you should stay in regular contact with them during your degree. You can expect to have a mixture of informal and formal supervisory meetings during your research degree, as well as engagement between meetings via emails or phone calls with your supervisory team.

Each research student has a Director of Studies (sometimes referred to as your ‘DoS’) who is responsible for your academic progress and welfare throughout your degree. Students also have a second supervisor, who may have different subject expertise to your Director of Studies and will help provide academic support to you during your degree. Your supervisory team collectively will provide advice and guidance on your research project, help you understand the university’s procedures, and will monitor your progress towards your target degree.

You also have an Independent Panel Chair, and their role is to meet with you and the supervisory team at formal reviews and they provide an independent point of contact if you have concerns that you need advice on.

Usually, your supervisory team is made of academic and research staff from Edinburgh Napier, but occasionally, teams may include external supervisors.

We use supervisory agreements to help you and your supervisors discuss and agree how you will work together. It helps you decide how often to meet, ways to communicate between meetings, and helps establish agreement about authorship on any published work emerging from your research. It is designed to be revisited at regular intervals to make sure you are working effectively with your supervisory team.

What are the key milestones in a research degree?

Alongside regular supervisory meetings, you will have to complete a series of formal reviews as part of your research degree. This section summarises them, and you can find more detailed information in the Research Degrees Framework (PDF, 1.8 MB) (If you require an accessible version of this document please contact

Determination of thesis topic and programme of study (RD4)

Purpose: To agree your research proposal, programme of study and provisional title
Timing: Completed within the first few months of study. See the Research Degrees Framework of the specific timings for different degrees and modes of study.
Exceptions: Not required if you are registered for a PhD by Published Works

Form: RD4: determination of thesis topic

Confirmation of target degree review (RD5)

Purpose: To formally confirm your target degree
Timing: See the Research Degrees Framework for the specific timings for different degrees and modes of study
Exceptions: Not required if you are registered for a PhD by Published Works

Form: RD5: confirmation of target degree

Biannual progress review (RD6)

You will also have a formal progress review every six months until your thesis has been submitted for examination, and these reviews continue until any required corrections have been approved. Reviews normally take place in March and October each year. You must, in conjunction with your review panel, complete or update a supervision agreement form at each biannual progress review.

Purpose: To formally review your progress and confirm your target degree is still appropriate

Timing: Every six months (in March and October).

Exceptions: None

Form: RD6: progress review
Form: Supervision Agreement form

I need a break from my studies – what do I do?

If you need to suspend your studies, for example you are not well or external circumstances are impacting your ability to continue studying, you must discuss this with your supervisory team at a review panel meeting – which must include your Independent Panel Chair (IPC).

If a suspension is appropriate your supervisors will complete an RD7 on your behalf for approval at your School Research and Innovation Committee. You can find more information about length of time and reasons for suspensions in section 5 of the Research Degrees Framework (PDF, 1.8 MB) (If you require an accessible version of this document please contact

How are research degrees examined?

All MPhil, DBA. Prof Doc and PhD students are examined by having a viva voce (oral) examination during which your examiners will discuss your submitted thesis with you.

If you are registered for a MRes you may be examined on the basis of the thesis alone, although examiners can decide that you should have a viva as well.

You can find out more about the assessment of research degree in section 7 of the Research Degrees Framework (If you require an accessible version of this document please contact

When do I submit my thesis?

We encourage all our research degree students to aim for submission within the standard registration period (which is 36 months for a full-time PhD). You should work with your supervisory team to plan your project to fit into the timeframe available for your research degree, and we suggest you start writing the thesis early in your degree to keep on track for a timely submission.

What do I have to submit for examination?

You need to email the Research Degrees team at copies of:

  • A PDF file of your thesis 
  • A completed Candidate’s Declaration Form (RD15)

Who will examine my thesis?

The examination panel is made up of two academics with subject expertise in your research topic. Usually there is one examiner from Edinburgh Napier, and one external examiner. If you are a member of staff as well as being registered as a research student, your exam panel will have two external examiners. There is also an Exam Panel Chair who ensures the exam is carried out according to our regulations.

Your Director of Studies is responsible for identifying suitable examiners, getting formal approval for the examination panel and setting up the examination arrangements. This should be done at least three months before you plan to submit your thesis. It’s really important to talk with your supervisors about when you plan to submit, so the exam panel can be in place to avoid any delays to your examination.

For approval your Director of Studies must submit a:

  • Completed application for approval of examination arrangements (RD12)
  • Brief CV for each proposed examiner
  • Copy of your thesis abstract

Directors of Study can use our checklist to help with completing the application.

What happens after my viva?

You will receive formal notification of the outcome of your assessment in writing. This includes full detail on any amendments required by the examiners, and information on how, and when you should submit your amended thesis.

Who approves the award of a research degree?

The final recommendation of award made by your examiners must be considered and formally approved at a meeting of the University’s Research Degrees Committee. The date of that meeting will be recorded as your formal completion date.

If your award has been approved by the Research Degrees Committee you are eligible to graduate at the next ceremony for the conferment of awards, providing you:

  • Apply to graduate
  • Submit the final approved copies of your thesis before the graduation ceremony
  • Have no outstanding fees to pay

How do I submit the final approved version of my thesis?

The final version of your thesis should be submitted after the examiners’ recommendation of award has been approved by the Research Degrees Committee (RDC) and before you plan to graduate.

You must submit a digital full-text electronic copy of the thesis to

I’ve got a concern – who should I speak to?

In the first instance you should talk with your supervisors, they are there to support you. Your Independent Panel Chair (IPC) can also be approached and can provide informal advice, for example about working with your supervisors or other concerns you may have.

Our School Research Degree Leaders can help with issues in the School, such as seminars, office facilities and conference attendance. The university Research Degree Team can give advice about general research degree processes and can also provide advice about the submission of your thesis and the examination process.