Ty Crawshay - Treforest - Pontypridd Campus

Covid-19: Research FAQ

Message from Professor Martin Steggall, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research

Whilst we want to welcome everyone onto our campuses as soon as possible, your health and wellbeing remains our top priority. With social distancing requirements expected to continue for some time, we are continuing to adapt how we manage our access to laboratories and other experiment environments. We acknowledge that some research activity cannot be done at home, but our over-riding priority is well-being for all. Being unable to complete research activity at home does not automatically justify return to work.

We are currently reviewing our buildings, specialist facilities and laboratories to maximise our ability to maintain research work and these will be prioritised within strict health and safety guidelines.  Where appropriate, we are working closely with our funders, partners and stakeholders to ensure that all projects continue to progress, collaborate and meet outcomes. We also recognise the impact that this period also has on projects and continue to review a range of funded projects to provide details of impact and associated risks these may incur.

We continue to regularly liaise with funders to receive the most up to date guidance available on a wide range of topics including eligible costs and to scope out potential extensions to projects where there is less activity for the foreseeable future. This way minimising risk to USW and partners and enabling all of us to work collaboratively to fulfil our contractual obligations. We are reviewing what activity can restart on campus in line with Welsh Government/Public Health Wales advice on physical/social distancing. We are investigating a stepwise reopening of our laboratories, however, we must ensure that we protect our students, staff and partners. 

We wish to advise you that work continues, and we are very grateful for your ongoing support through this difficult time. If we can help with any other queries or concerns you may have in relation to projects, partnerships and funding then we would encourage you to contact your project manager(s)/team(s), even if this is to have an informal conversation on current progress.

Further details will be released as our plans take shape, so please keep an eye on the Graduate Schoot website, our Twitter channel and your email.  For now, please be assured that everything will be in place for your work to continue in a safe and secure way. Keep well, stay positive and we look forward to seeing you again soon.


Frequently asked questions

Postgraduate Research Students

Whilst we want to welcome everyone back onto our campuses as soon as possible, your health and wellbeing remains our top priority. With social distancing requirements expected to continue for some time, we are continuing to adapt how we manage our access to laboratories and other experiment environments. 

We acknowledge that some research activity cannot be done at home, but our over-riding priority is well-being for all. Being unable to complete research activity at home does not automatically justify return to work.

We are currently reviewing our buildings, specialist facilities and laboratories to maximise our ability to maintain research work and these will be prioritised within strict health and safety guidelines.  

The University is still required to comply with all legislation put forward by the Welsh Government as well as adhere to all advice offered by Public Health Wales. 

From the 21st September 2020 the process for considering if students and staff can return to campus for research purposes will be devolved to each faculty. Applications to return will be considered at a local level, still in accordance with the legislation and official guidance. 

The University is keen to support the resuming of research activity where possible but face to face data collection will not yet be possible (or permitted, in line with Welsh Government law and guidance). Please see the Research Ethics section.

The University has developed an application process for resuming on-campus research activity, for both staff and postgraduate research students. 

This only applies to staff and research students who feel that they need to return to campus to continue their research.

Please note the following:

• This process only applies to staff and research students who feel that they need to return to campus to continue their research.

• The health and wellbeing of all staff and students remains our primary concern. Thus, the University is not expecting large numbers of staff and postgraduate research students to be returning to campus. 

• The University contends that face to face data collection should not be routinely undertaken and the University will continue to review this position as the Covid-19 guidance, rules and laws are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government. Please note that there are some permitted exceptions described in the Research Ethics Approval section below. 

You should agree an alternative forward plan of work with your Director of Studies to cover the next three months. This may need to be reviewed and a further plan agreed at the end of the three-month period. 

Your plan could include (and is not limited to): desk-based research; writing your literature review, transfer report or chapters of your thesis; analysing your data and planning next steps, planning and writing a journal paper.

Providing a forward plan of work can be agreed with your team you should not need to interrupt your studies for academic reasons. It may become necessary, depending on your individual circumstances, to interrupt your studies for other reasons, for example family, health or financial reasons, and the University will be sympathetic to such requests. You should discuss options with your supervisors in the first instance.

Interruption to Study requests are submitted as ‘Change Requests’ via PhD Manager. If your request is approved, the clock will stop on your registration period and you can resume studies at the end of the interruption period. 

If you are in receipt of a studentship, your bursary payments will stop for the period of your interruption and will resume when you resume your studies. If you are self-funding you would not pay any fees whilst your study is interrupted. An interruption to studies can be considered for a period of up to one year depending on the circumstances. 

Please contact the Graduate School if you would like further advice gradschool@southwales.ac.uk

If you are an International student and you interrupt your studies, you will usually need to return home for the period of the interruption, however you can discuss options with the Graduate School and Immigration and International Student Advice (IISA) Teams.

If there are exceptional circumstances and you need a short break from studies of less than 20 working days, you can apply for a temporary leave of absence which will not affect your visa (if you are an International student), payment of fees or bursary payments. You will require appropriate evidence and approval from your supervisor. Please contact the Graduate School for advice gradschool@southwales.ac.uk


Yes absolutely, but this must happen virtually due to current social distancing measures. It is very important that you stay engaged with your supervisors and meet virtually at least once a month, although you may meet more frequently than this. 

The University recommends using Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business for your supervision meetings. Please record all your supervision meetings in PhD Manager. 


You will have a supervisory team; if your main supervisor is not available get in touch with the other members of the team. If you are worried, please contact the Graduate School for advice gradschool@southwales.ac.uk

You must submit your progress review through PhD Manager when it is due and carefully note any impact of the current situation on your progress. This will be taken into consideration by the Progress Board when they meet. As long as you have been completing work that you have been able to conduct, in accordance with your interim three-month plan, aspects of your work that could not be completed due to campus closure or other impact of COVID-19 will not be detrimental to your progression.

You can still submit your thesis or transfer report through PhD Manager. Your supervisors should read your final version and provide feedback prior to you formally submitting anything for assessment. Requests for extensions to submission deadlines will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Please discuss with your Supervisor and the Graduate School.

When you submit your transfer report you may wish to note anything you would have done or included but were unable to complete due to the impact of Covid-19 on your studies. This will be considered sympathetically by your reviewer and by the Faculty Research Degrees Committee.  If there are aspects of your work that could not be completed due to campus closure or other impact of COVID-19, this will not be detrimental to your progression. 

There should not be any delay in your examination as all viva voce examinations are proceeding remotely by electronic means. If this is not possible and you would prefer to have a traditional face to face ‘on campus’ viva, your viva can be delayed and will be arranged later when it is safe to do so. However, it is not possible to say at this time when that is likely to be, and you should be aware that this may involve a long wait due to restrictions set externally to the University.

You will be meeting remotely with your supervisors at least once per month and you must ensure that these meetings are promptly logged in PhD Manager.

In addition, and in between times, you must ensure that you record a progress update in PhD Manager, such that an engagement is logged at least every seven days. Your progress update may be recorded as a telephone or email update, for example. This will serve as your attendance and engagement scan. This will be monitored in line with the University’s Attendance Monitoring Policy. if you fail to engage with PhD Manager every seven days you will receive a reminder from the Graduate School. Failure to adhere could put your immigration status at risk.

Yes, providing it is safe to travel and you continue to engage full-time in your research and with your supervisors. Your visa will not be curtailed, and you will be able to return to the UK when campuses re-open (providing your visa is still in date when you return).

If you decide to return home, you must inform HOEnquiries@southwales.ac.uk as well as your supervisors and the Graduate School. This is very important. 

We will continue to monitor your engagement through PhD Manager as above. 

Remember: keep studying, keep checking USW for updates and tell us before you go. If you have any enquiries about your visa please contact Immigration and International Student Advice international.advice@southwales.ac.uk

Providing your Annual Progress Review is satisfactory, you will receive an email with instructions to enrol online as usual. If you are an International student, we will need to complete some pre-enrolment checks and we will provide you with details of these prior to re-enrolment. Please contact the Graduate School for advice gradschool@southwales.ac.uk


Please be assured that everything will be in place so that you can begin your study with us in October in a safe and secure way.  


Further details will be released as our plans take shape, so please keep an eye on our website, FAQs and your email. 


We are working through the detail of the plans and will be letting you know how this will affect your study in more detail shortly.

Research Ethics Approval

The University recognises that the advice from UK and Welsh Governments are not wholly in alignment and this can lead to confusion about what is, and is not, permitted during the current Covid-19 lockdown. The position adopted by the University is one that includes the best interests of participants and researchers and follows Welsh Government and Public Health Wales advice and guidance.

Currently (25 June 2020), the University contends that ‘close quarter’ face to face data collection (such as interviews, focus groups, administering of questionnaires, laboratory work with participants, intervention based research with participants, as examples) should not be routinely undertaken and the University will continue to review this position as the Covid-19 guidance, rules and laws are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government.

In terms of permitted data collection, the only exceptions are where: 

1) informed consent and data collection are intended for a controlled clinical environment within NHS premises where full PPE is required and will be utilised. Note that these projects are still subject to USW approval described below, local lockdown restrictions, and NHS restrictions. Further NHS information.

2) informed consent and data collection can take place outdoors

3) the research requires the researcher to attend a location but data collection is not face to face, such as observational research.

4) data collection is intended to take place in England and travel from Wales or any other nation is not required.  

The University does not permit any researcher who is employed by or studying with USW to travel from their home in England to Wales, OR from their home in Wales to England, to collect research data via a face to face method.   


Regardless of these exceptions, data collection must not take place without explicit permission from USW. 

To seek permission in this context of 1-4 above researchers should:

  • review the guidance on social distancing from the Government and USW and ensure that it can be adhered to throughout data collection

  • carry out the official NHS Covid-19 risk assessment

  • contact the Research Governance Manager or Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and provide an overview of the project and intended data collection, a list of all intended research environments, a description of the provisions put in place to ensure compliance with social distancing measures, and include a copy of the completed NHS risk assessment and any other pertinent risk assessment.

The University reserves the right to monitor and review the restrictions it has put in place around research based on the prevailing principles of protect participants, researchers, and the University in accordance with the laws and guidance set out by the Welsh Government.

As of Tuesday 13 March 2020, USW has suspended all research that is carrying out primary data collection via face to face interactions, such as interviews, intervention studies, focus groups or similar. This applies to all data collection locations, both on campus and off campus. Online or telephone-based data collection, provided they have ethical approval for this form of data collection, can still take place. Research studies should be revised to reflect this position immediately. Studies that need to move to on-line data collection will need to seek approval from the relevant Ethics Committee. This suspension will last at least three months and will be revised as the situation evolves.

All research that intends to use in person data collection should either be paused or have its protocol amended to avoid in person human to human data collection and use alternative means if possible, such as online interviews, surveys or similar. We acknowledge that not all research can be modified satisfactorily, and if not then it should be put on hold. 

As UK Government issues calls for Covid19 research activity, responses should be discussed with the PVC Research in all instances. If in doubt, contact Research and Innovation Services on RISe and the PVC Research

Yes, ethics committees will facilitate virtual reviews as much as possible. Studies that involve in person, face to face, data collection may be reviewed during this time but are still not permitted to run. Please contact your Faculty Research Ethics Chair to discuss review:

FLSE: Peter.mccarthy@southwales.ac.uk 


FCI: Howard.williamson@southwales.ac.uk


FCES: Paul.messenger@southwales.ac.uk


A risk assessment should be included with all permitted ethics applications, to acknowledge the precautions that are being taken to minimise risk posed to participants and the research team in relation to Corona Virus. 

For further information and relevant forms, please contact your academic supervisor.

Researchers who hold USW ethical approval and anticipate problems (a delay, pause or deferral of their research study due to recruitment issues, or prevented access to participants, as examples) must notify their Faculty Research Ethics Chair.  

Researchers who are in receipt of external ethical approval (and expect problems) must ALSO notify the relevant external ethics committee of the delays and/or pause to their study. 

The NHS is currently pausing all studies that are not related to Corona Virus research. In most cases the NHS have written to researchers to inform them of this.  

Please notify all external hosts and organisations if you are required to suspend data collection as part of USW instruction.

No, in line with USW guidance around interaction with human participants, research that requires human interaction should be paused or modified to avoid in person human interaction. This includes collaborators, where possible, online or remote working collaboration tools should be used. 

Those in receipt of research funding should contact a member of the Pre or Post Award Funding Team if their study is going to be adversely affected as a result of USW suspending in person, face to face data collection. Initial information suggests most funders are adopting a flexible approach to the delay of activity however, projects are being considered on a case-by-case basis. 

The NHS is focusing its support on research that is Covid-19 based, all current research that is not Covid-19 oriented is being halted.  

All prospective educational (student) research is being rejected until normal services are resumed. Further information for student work is here

KESS Students

Please refer to the Research Ethics section above.  

All KESS supervision teams have already been directed to contact kess@southwales.ac.uk if their study is going to be adversely affected as a result of USW suspending in person, face-to-face data collection, and/or their KESS partner suspending access to their facilities for data collection. The KESS team is seeking further guidance from the programme lead (Bangor) and funding body (WEFO).  As soon as this is confirmed, KESS will relay to all teams.  


Please advise kess@southwales.ac.uk ASAP. These invoices form crucial match funding for all KESS projects. If the partner suggests remote research engagement will cease, this is also to be flagged immediately.  


UK government guidance is changing swiftly. In the first instance, please contact kess@southwales.ac.uk and your relevant Grad School Faculty contact point, so that we can log this information, and provide up-to-date guidance on sickness absence, leave of absence, time sheeting, etc.  


It is crucial that any orders still comply with all USW purchasing procedures and meet the normal ESF eligibility criteria. Please speak first with your Faculty Finance/ Admin team, to ascertain their processes at this moment in time.  

All KESS teams have been asked to develop a three-month forward plan that does not rely on face-to-face or in-person data collection. This may need to be reviewed and a further plan agreed at the end of the three-month period. As long as: 1) this forward plan is agreed between the KESS supervision team, the KESS student and the KESS Partner; 2) the student does not suspend their studies and 3) the student continues to submit timesheets on a monthly basis (now electronically to kess@southwales.ac.uk, copying in supervision team), then there is no reason for the stipend to stop. 

If the project is halted, and/or the student suspends their studies, then the stipend is stopped. It can then recommence, as long as the student is still within the USW maximum registration period and the ESF funding timeframe. For reference, the final date for eligible ESF costs is 30 June 2023. At this stage, there is no guarantee of costs after 30 June 2023 being covered by ESF. Any changes will be notified to all.  

Research Impact

Any queries regarding research impact support should be directed to Lucas Brown lucas.brown@southwales.ac.uk or Donna Szarun donna.szarun@southwales.ac.uk. 

Research and Innovation Services provides advice on managing and protecting IP. 

Staff and students should disclose IP that could be used commercially. Please contact lucas.brown@southwales.ac.uk or donna.szarun@southwales.ac.uk  for a Confidential Intellectual Property Disclosure Form. 

Researchers should be aware that publishing results prior to filing a patent application may mean the results cannot be protected or commercialised.

Contact us

Gradschool@southwales.ac.uk or 

KESS@southwales.ac.uk

Applicants for postgraduate research opportunities should use the above contacts.

Graduate School Manager: Dr Elaine Huntley, (01443) 482881

Head of Postgraduate Research Studies: Professor Paul Roach