Information for current research students

This information is provided for current postgraduate students. Further information can also be found on the KLE.

Research training

Research training is a vital part of postgraduate studies. The Research Training Programme of each Research Student at Keele is student-led, recorded and monitored through the Personal Development and Learning plan (PDLP) (see below). The emphasis of the research training for postgraduate students is on skills development rather than modular credits, with all forms of training (eg courses, workshops, formal modules) contributing to the overall training requirements for successful completion of your research degree.

Research training for research students is required by the Universities’ funding council (HEFCE) and the research councils as well as the University, and the expectation is that you will use your Personal Development & Learning Plan (PDLP) to evaluate your needs against the Vitae ResearcherDevelopment Statement (RDS).  Full details of the University’s Research Training requirements are given in Section 9 of the Code of Practice on Postgraduate Research Degrees (PDF, 599KB).

Important changes to the Research Training Framework at Keele were made in August 2013.

Students who enrolled on or after 1 August 2013

Students who enrolled on or after 1 August 2013 are required to demonstrate the acquisition of personal development and employability skills, through various routes including modules, courses and workshops, alongside any compulsory subject specific training required by their Faculty.

  • The emphasis is on student-led training programme set in consultation with the Lead supervisor and monitored and reported through a single (student) PDLP - the student’s PDLP is also the record of research targets and achievements.
  • The PhD requirement is around 200 hours non-subject specific (personal development and employability skills) training over three years (for MPhil, around 60-70 hours in year 1) accrued through any acceptable route (modules, workshops, courses, seminars, talks etc) and at any time during the three years. Note that 200 hours over 3 years is approximately 1 working day per month and that a 10 credit "generic" module is equivalent to 100 hours.
  • Compulsory subject specific training may be set within the Faculty, and may vary according to subject, studentship or course. The appropriate PGR Committee will verify any compulsory subject-specific training set for a particular student or cohort. Such RT must be noted in the PDLP as Compulsory.
  • A Literature review and first year report, which in some circumstances may be combined if that better serves the purpose, are still included in the compulsory requirements for the Annual Progress Review 1 (or Doctoral Progression from Year 1 to Year 2). MPhil supervisors may set (via PGR Committee) the Lit review at 6 months as compulsory.
  • The monitoring of (progress towards) completion of the 200 hours non subject-specific RT is continuous with particular emphasis at Annual Progress Reviews.
  • Credit for prior/equivalent training can be given by PGR Committee and entered in the PDLP in the appropriate section.

Students who enrolled before 1 August 2013

Students who enrolled before 1 August 2013 continue to follow a programme of compulsory credit-based modular research training (60 for PhD and 20 for MPhil programs).  Please contact Lisa Cartlidge or Ann Billington if you have queries regarding this.

Compulsory research training in the Faculty of Natural Sciences is centred around Doctoral Progression, with two supervisor led modules fulfilling the written report requirements of Doctoral Progression.

Doctoral Progression

Doctoral progression is an essential step in the training of PhD students, a check-point to ensure that progress and development are at expected levels according to circumstance and that the Student, the Supervisor, the Faculty, and the University have in place the best possible strategy for successful completion, as soon as possible after 3 years (FT) and within the maximum 4 years allowed.

All PhD students are required by the University to produce a First year report (2nd year for PT), including a forward plan of the research to be undertaken, and a Literature review. This process has been formalised in the Faculty of Natural Sciences such that all  starts from August 1 2015 will be registered on two supervisor-led modules (Modules 40018 and 40019) with clear deadlines, learning outcomes and content guidelines (which are reasonably flexible).  The submission deadlines are set at 10 months for the first year report, 6 month for the Literature review unless it has been agreed by the Lead Supervisor and PGR Director that his can be incorporated in the 1st year report at 10 months.  The course Director (the PGR Director) can give limited extensions to submission dates where reasonable cause and the Lead supervisors support is demonstrated.

Module Handbooks and report forms
Other documentation:

Details about Doctoral Progression can be found in the Annual and Interim Progress Review Handbook.

The Faculty of Natural Sciences Postgraduate Research Committee has responsibility for formally reviewing and monitoring a postgraduate research student's progress.   There are two regular progress review processes which research degree students must undergo: Annual Progress Review (APR) and Interim Progress Review (IPR).

APRs must be completed at approximately 10 months into each year of the degree for the first 3 years (every 2 years for part-time students).  Therefore, there are in total 3 APRs, APR 1,2 and 3.  APR 1 includes Doctoral Progression and assessed by an independent review panel while APRs 2 and 3 are assessed by the supervisory team.  Detailed description and information about APR processes, procedures can be found in Annual and Interim Progress Review Handbookand forms can be found here.

IPRs are done at six monthly intervals; this normally takes place every October and every April.  These should be essentially independent reports submitted directly to the FNS PGR Committee and copied to the Lead Supervisor/student as appropriate.  The forms provide the opportunity to report progress, identify areas of concern, update the research targets and objectives and arrange a formal meeting between the student.  The completed forms are considered by FNS PGR Committee, which can amend grades and follow up with the student and Lead Supervisor if necessary.  Detailed description and information about IPR processes, procedures can be found in Annual and Interim Progress Review Handbook and forms can be found here.

The Personal Development & Learning Plan is THE definitive document and record (for students, supervisors, the FNS PGR Committee and the School) of a students passage from day 1 to completion. It is THE record of supervisor meetings, thesis progress, research targets and objectives with target dates and a record of date achieved (or not), and subject-specific and non-subject-specific training undertaken.

While the PDLP is for the most part essentially student owned, guidance and input from Lead Supervisors (and the rest of the supervisory team) is absolutely necessary, particularly in the setting and monitoring of research targets and objectives.  Supervisors and students are both responsible for keeping the PDLP up to date.  This should be done at each Progress Review as a minimum, and an up-to-date PDLP is a requirement at each Annual Progress Review.

For all Postgraduate Research Students, starting their course from September 2018 onwards the PDLP, will be available online accessible through the e-Vision.  To access the electronic PDLP (EPDLP), you will need to log into your e-Vision account.  The information contained within the EPDLP can be shared with your staff and University Central Services, as appropriate.  Further details and a handbook for using the EPDLP can be found at  

Postgraduate Research Students starting their course before September 2018 can opt in for using the EPDLP if they wish or keep an electgronic copy of their PDLP.  An electronic version of the PDLP is provided below.