Training Programme

This is a traditional Doctoral programme which has been designed to be completed in three years. The aim of any PGR student on the 3-year programme is to complete the research and the writing up within three years. The planning must take this into account from the outset. The University regulations allow for one additional year beyond the third for completing the thesis, called Submission Pending. However, most funding schemes for 3-year Doctoral programmes will end after three years, and will not fund 3-year Doctoral students during Submission Pending.


It is now policy (since Sept 2012 intake) that students must complete within four years! After four years, the registration will beterminated and no degree will be awarded.

There is every incentive to complete this programme within the allotted three years while the funding lasts. It is an absolute requirement that you finish within four year.

Therefore, the great majority time will be devoted to the main task, which is doing research and completing the thesis within three years. However there are other activities that three year PGR students are required to engage in, and yet others that they have the option of engaging in. The courses listed below are designed to help all PGR students in their endeavours. Activities such as laboratory demonstrating, mentoring and public engagement are optional though they encouraged as being conducive to the general experience of being a successful research student and preparing for wider roles when students take up their chosen careers.

The Main Event - Supervised Research

The main part of your time here will be spent learning to be a researcher, by doing research under the guidance of a main supervisor, aided by one or more co-supervisors. You will also be learning the techniques and tools of a particular field. By the time you get to your third year, you should be writing and communicating your ideas, and interacting with a wider research community. You might even know more about your research topic than your supervisor at this point, although you might not be aware of this.

There are a few guiding points which will help you succeed. First, being a Doctoral student is a full-time pursuit. You need to put in the hours. Second, you need to meet with your supervisor(s) regularly. We recommend at least once per fortnight, but weekly is better. Third, it is highly advisable that you work in the School, so that you can interact with the other members of your research group. Don’t just hide yourself in a garret somewhere. Discussion with others is an excellent source of ideas.

At some point, you might find yourself falling into one these traps. You start to feel, “I’m not good enough; I’m not good as these other students”. This is fairly normal; most people go through this at some point. If you start feeling this, talk to your supervisor(s) about it. They might be able to allay your fears.

The second trap is the perfectionist trap. You don’t want to show your work to your supervisor until it is perfect, or you stop seeing your supervisor at all, because you feel there is not enough progress. This is a path to failure. Rule of thumb: when you least want to see your supervisor is when you most need to see your supervisor.

Research Integrity

The University expects the highest standards of research integrity from its research students. These standards are set out in its Code of Good Research Conduct [3].

All PGR students must complete the University’s Research Integrity [4] on-line training.

Those with concerns regarding Research Misconduct [5] can follow the process for reporting them.

Research Data Management

Research Data Management is part of good research practice, improving the efficiency of the research process and making your research more reproducible. There is support available across the University to assist you with this:

  • Planning: Data Management Plans [10] help you plan how you will collect and handle data and are also a requirement of the University for every new research project. You can find the data management planning tool, guidance on writing data management plans and a data management plan review service on the Research Data Management Website [11].
  • Storing: Research Data Storage [12] is available from Research IT services, providing 8TB of replicated storage per project, free at the point of use for funded projects (excluding commercial funders). NB: currently only staff can apply for storage space so ask your supervisor to apply on your behalf.
  • Sharing: Where possible the University recommends using discipline-specific data repositories to share data and you can find repositories for your subject via and Mendeley Data is the University of Manchester’s recommended general-purpose research data repository for researchers without a discipline-specific repository. Records from Mendeley Data are automatically added to Pure [6] and you can manually add datasets shared elsewhere to your Pure profile.
  • Training: here are courses on Research Data Management targeted for each faculty available via My Research Essentials [9].
  • Support: If you have any questions about Research Data Management you can send them to

Mandatory Elements

In this section we list as a collection of things we require you do in order to be considered to be making satisfactory progress as a Doctoral student. Of course, we cannot say that if you do these things, you will get a Doctorate. Ultimately, to achieve a Doctorate, you have to create and carry out a novel piece of research, write it up as a dissertation, and defend that work in front of a panel of examiners.

What is being said here is a list of things which if you don’t do, you won’t get a doctorate (or at least will put your ability to get a doctorate at risk).

Scientific Methods Courses (COMP80131, COMP80122 and COMP80142)

All PGR students are required to take this sequence of three ‘Scientific Methods’ courses at the earliest opportunity. These start in semester one, usually the day before the Research Student Symposium. Timetables for these courses can be found CS PGR information [2]

The titles of these three courses are as follows:

‘Scientific Methods 1’ (COMP80131):
Full title: ‘Scientific evaluation, experimental design, and statistical methods’. See your personal timetable for full details.
‘Scientific Methods 2’ (COMP80122):
Full title: ‘Fundamental aspects of research methodology’. See your personal timetable for full details
‘Scientific Methods 3’(COMP80142):
Full title: ‘Scientific Writing and Impact Studies’ See your personal timetable for full details.

Introduction to Research — Essentials

This course is put on by the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE). You will learn more about this when you attend the FSE Faculty induction. You can also find a schedule for this and other University and FSE Faculty training courses by selecting the “Training Catalogue” from the menu on the left-hand side of eProg.

University and CS Health and Safety Courses

All students are required by the University to pass a Health and Safety on-line course. If you want to be in the Kilburn build out of hours (outside the hours of 6pm to 8am), you will also need to pass the School of Computer Science Health and Safety test. These tests can be found on Blackboard, which can be found at your MyManchester [7] page. Below are the instructions to take both tests.

  1. Log into Blackboard.
  2. Look for the “My Communities” block:
  3. PGR students: you need to click on the “CS-PGR-Welcome” community space.
  4. Now click on the “Health and Safety Course and Out-of-Hours Pass Information” folder.
  5. Complete the test called “Part 1: University of Manchester Health & Safety”: you need to score 100% to successfully complete it.
  6. Complete the test called “Part 2: Health & Safety within the School of Computer Science”: you need to score 100% to successfully complete it.
  7. When you have scored 100% ON BOTH TESTS the “Out of Hours Access” folder will appear.
  8. Click on the “Out of Hours Access” folder.
  9. Read through the guidance document, and complete the “Out-Of-Hours-Pass Test”: you need to score 100% to successfully complete it.
  10. When you have scored 100% on the Out-of-Hours Pass Test, a link called “Out-of-Hours Completion Confirmation” will appear.
  11. Click on this “Out-of-Hours Completion Confirmation” link, and a confirmation page will appear.
  12. Take this confirmation page (either print it out, or show it on an electronic device) and your University of Manchester student ID card to SSO (room LF21) who will issue you with an Out-of-Hours Pass for the Kilburn Building.

Out-of-Hours access is only available during the times shown on the back of your Out-of-Hours Pass. You must have both your University of Manchester student ID card and your Out-of-Hours Pass with you to be allowed to work in the Kilburn Building outside normal hours.

Plagiarism Course

All PGR students are required to complete a short course on plagiarism. See the Section on Plagiarism and Academic Malpractice. This test is also found on Blackboard.


Every student is expect to remain “engaged” with the programme. That means, being very committed to the research, maintaining contact with their supervisor, and participating in the mandatory elements of the programme. Each month, your supervisor is asked whether they met with you as expected and whether they judge that you are engaging with the research. More details on this are given in section.


eProg is the University-wide progression system and skills training catalogue for postgraduate research students. It is used to document your interactions with your supervisors and other members of your support and assessment teams, so its use will be central. It is located at eProg [8].

*You are required to use eProg*. At various points in your programme, you will record your objectives and progress in eProg. For example, quarterly reports on progress are recorded here. When you have successes, such as publishing a paper, attending a conference, participating in a training programme, etc. you should record this on eProg. It is also used by your supervisors to record any issues which they might have, and to record the attendance. Your supervisors and the school will record your progress through eProg, including the yearly review process.

Every student on eProg is on a pathway. Your pathway will be something like

PhD Comp 3YR FT Sept18

which means you are on a 3-year PhD programme in computer science, studying full time, starting in September 2017. If you click on the Pathway menu item, it will show you the milestones for your pathway. If you click on the Progression menu item, it will show a table of links to the forms you need to fill out, as eProg tracks you as you progress. Most forms are filled out by you, following or leading on to discussions with your supervisor(s). However, there are also forms filled out by your end of year assessors, and the attendance monitoring forms are filled out by your supervisor.

There is a facility to add documents and add meetings, and many supervisors will record every meeting in eProg.

As mentioned in Section, you can also access the training catalogue from eProg.

The Graduate and Researcher Development unit runs a number of short courses (one-day, half-day, two-hour) which are relevant to the final stages of the Doctorate, including: “Planning Your Final Year”, “Writing Up Your Thesis”, and “Viva Survivor”.

Thesis Writing

Be sure to leave enough time in your planning to write the thesis. Most people take between 6 and 8 months, depending on how quickly they write and how much of the writing already exists in papers and reports. Your supervisor can give you advice on how to write the thesis. It’s a good idea to use the LaTeXstyle [13] file for University of Manchester Thesis format.


You must submit your thesis within four years (allowing for any interruptions or extensions that you may have been granted). When you are ready to submit your thesis you need to complete a Notice of Submission Form not less than six weeks before submission.This form is available in eProg in the Examination Summary section. You will also need to read Regulations for the Presentation of Theses and Dissertations. Giving notice of submission triggers the process of appointing the examiners, who are then expecting the thesis to arrive on time.

If a thesis is not submitted before the end of the programme or submission pending period, you will not be able submit your thesis without exceptional circumstances.

You must submit an electronic copy of your thesis no less than 3 days before your final submission deadline. You must submit two hard copies to the Faculty Graduate Office by the deadline. The electronic and hard copies must be identical.

If you wish to submit a thesis more than 3 months before the end of your programme (or 6 months if part time) you will require a permission of your supervisor and the University. If you are granted permission to submit early then you will still be required to pay full fees for the degree period for which you originally registered.

The Thesis Defence (Viva)

You will need to defend your thesis in an oral examination which is often called a ‘viva’ (for viva voce). You will typically have two examiners comprising either (i) an internal examiner (a member of academic staff from Manchester who has expertise in your research area) and an external examiner (a member of academic staff from another university or another suitably-qualified and research-active expert), or (ii) two external examiners and an internal independent chair. The internal examiner or independent chair will arrange the date and time of your oral examination. There may also be an independent chair when one of the examiners lacks experience in examining doctorates and in other situations.

In the oral examination you will be examined orally on the content of your thesis and its wider context. After the examination the examiners will make a recommendation to the Faculty PGR Degrees Panel on the outcome of the exam. The examiners may communicate what their recommendation is to you, but it should be clear that this is unofficial and the final decision is made by Faculty.

The outcomes are:

recommend the award and no corrections are necessary.
recommend the award subject to minor corrections being completed.
refer: the thesis is satisfactory in substance but defective in presentation; allow resubmission without the need for a further oral examination.
refer: the thesis is satisfactory in substance but defective in presentation; allow resubmission and require a further oral examination.
refer: the thesis requires further research to be done; allow resubmission and require a further oral examination.
award MPhil on the basis of the thesis presented.
award MPhil on the basis of the thesis presented, subject to minor corrections being completed.
reject, but invite the candidate to revise and resubmit the thesis for the degree of MPhil within six months. A candidate will be permitted to resubmit on only one occasion. A fresh examination of the thesis will be required and may include a further oral examination.
no award be made to the candidate and no resubmission be permitted.

The most common outcome is A(ii). Normally minor corrections required under A(ii) must be completed within 4 weeks of the result being communicated to you by the Faculty PGR Degrees Panel. Likewise with the outcome C(ii) the minor corrections required for award of MPhil must be completed within 4 weeks.

Students with outcomes B(i)–B(ii) and C(iii) normally have up to six months to resubmit their thesis (in the latter case for MPhil). Students with outcomes B(iii) have one year to resubmit their thesis. A resubmission fee is charged.

Viva Advice

Further advice from Prof Bill Buchanan OBE, PhD, FBCS - Professor at Edinburgh Napier University:

Be ready to defend, up to a point. You are unlikely to ever win with a debate with the External Examiner, as they typically have the experience to know when they are right. The Examiner does want to see you putting up arguments against theirs, and not bend. A strategy is often to debate the case, and try different routes of explanation, but then to take on their advice for any changes that would be required.

Draw it out and keep it simple. Drawing diagrams and abstracting is a great way to explain your ideas, so wherever possible try to draw an abstraction to show a key point. Try not to over complex things, as they examiner is often looking for you to article complex ideas in a simple and understandable way.

The simplest things are often the most difficult to explain. Many candidates go into a Viva thinking they will get probed on the complex areas of their work, but end up having to justify an extremely simple concept, that they have taken for granted. An examiner can often spot a weakness in some fundamental areas and probe around that, in order to see how the candidate thinks through a problem. So candidates should also try and be well versed on the fundamentals areas, especially when it involves maths.

Know your examiners. Every examiner is different, and they have their own style. Some go from page to page, others read generally around significant parts of the work. They will generally have expertise in certain areas, so try and understand their motivations in their research, and some of their specialities, as they are likely to draw on these for questions.

Don’t leave it too long for the Viva. The best time for a Viva is straight after you’ve written your thesis, so try and don’t leave it too long for the Viva, as you will forget a few things.

Stay calm and enjoy. It is your opportunity to lock horns with an expert in their field, so enjoy it, as you’ll probably never have the chance to do something like this in your career.

Be humble. A PhD is a long road, and you learn along that road. The end result should setup you up for the even longer road ahead, but you now have all the tools to be ready for a career in research. None of us truly knows the formula for a successful PhD, but the methods applied by examiners and supervisors have stood the test of time, and do actually result in something that can contribute to the body of science.

Remember that you are standing on the shoulders of giants. A key thing is knowing whose shoulders you are standing on, and help the others who could stand on your shoulders.

Enjoy your time! And finally, for a bit of advice, have a look at Ralph Merkle’s time. He invented key exchange while an undergraduate, but his professor rejected his ideas because he didn’t articulate them properly, and Ralph then tried to publish a paper on it, but it was rejected because he had no literature in the paper. So, try and write well ... and perfect the art of speaking directly to the reader, and also follow the rules of research that have been laid down over the centuries, and you’re halfway there.

Optional Opportunities

Research Seminars

The School runs a seminar series, which runs typically on Wednesdays at 2pm in Kilburn 1.4, but it does not run every week. Upcoming seminars are announced over the seminar-distribution mailing list. They can also be seen at the School Seminar [14] webpage. All PGR students are strongly encouraged to attend.

During the first semester, Science in Practice (SIP) seminars will take place in Weeks 1.1 to 1.12 (1 hour per week) on Wednesdays, 5pm – 6pm. These will inform PGR students of the variety research activity within the Research Groups within the School. They will be delivered either by the heads of the research groups themselves, or by suitably-qualified representatives. All research students are cordially invited.

Other training opportunities

There are a number of short courses which are available to you. The Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) and the University run short courses on a number of “transferable skills”, such as “time management”, and skills directly related to your course, such as “academic writing”, “planning the final year”, “viva survivor”. One course is required for all research students, which is “Introduction to Research — Essentials”. You are expected to find the appropriate training to complement your research activity and personal needs.

You can access a catalogue of training courses via eProg (it should appear on the menu list on the left-hand side of the page, when My eProg has been expanded. If you want to see a list of available courses, leave search term blank, but select appropriate training provider. Many of these courses are for staff, but FSE runs courses for its research students.

The Research Computing is a part of the University’s IT Services, which offers computing services to researchers. They offer courses which are sometimes appropriate to research students. Some of these courses may cost the School money, so you will need to get permission before you take them. Talk to your supervisor.

The Manchester Enterprise Centre offers a course in Innovation and the Commercialisation of Research, which may be available to research students. This costs the School money, so, as above, talk with your supervisor.

Conference, Workshop, Summer School Travel

It is not enough for researchers to do great research; we also must go out into our research communities to communicate it. The School provides a small amount of money for each student, which for a 3-year research student is £3K, for travel and the purchase of a machine. The policy of the School for spending this money is as follows:

Guideline 1:

The money follows the student to the supervisor

It is up to the supervisor to decide the best use of the money. The student should not feel that they can spend anyway they like. The money is for the supervisor to use to best enhance the research training of the research student.

Guideline 2:

Every student should be provided with a new machine of the standard school spec or higher

Every student should receive a new machine when they arrive. This should have a specification which is equivalent to or exceeds the School’s standard desktop PC. There is no expectation that this be upgraded in subsequent years, unless the supervisor deems that necessary. Of course, the supervisor may judge that a particular student’s project requires a much higher spec desktop, or other equipment, and may spend more of the budget on that student. We want to avoid students being given three year old machines which happen to be lying around the lab.

If the student is going to use a laptop, consider purchasing a monitor and keyboard to protect them from upper limb disorders, repetitive strain injuries, and so forth. Machine purchases should be discussed with IT services.

Guideline 3:

Every student should have the opportunity to attend at least one conference or workshop

It is an important part of research training that students get the opportunity to participate in conferences and workshops and network with other researchers in their fields. It is preferred that some of these experiences are outside the UK. Although it is reasonable to wait until the student has a poster or oral presentation accepted, this is not a requirement. The supervisor and student might together decide to send the student to a workshop or summer school in an early stage in the student’s research. The fact that a particular student has not managed to get a conference or workshop paper accepted by the end of the doctorate should not preclude the opportunity to attend one.

Public Engagement and STEM ambassadors

The School is very involved in “public engagement”, which means promoting science and computer science to the general public. Our school is particularly involved in two areas. The first is promoting computing in schools. The second is working with the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) to promote science in science fairs and events. MOSI provides training to scientists and science students in public engagement by qualifying them as “STEM ambassadors” (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). As a research student, you should take the opportunity to get trained as a STEM ambassador and to participate in public engagement events. The School’s public engagement are run by Dr. Giles Reger [1].