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First year assessment

First-year assessment of PhD students. 

The form of the first-year assessment for PhD students is that approved by the Degree Committee of the joint faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine.  A formal report presented by the student should be assessed by two assessors.  Such assessments must be completed before the end of the first year and lead to a recommendation as to whether the student should be transferred to register as a PhD student.

 Objectives of the assessment at this stage should be first, to check that the student has the ability to successfully complete the PhD; second, to sort out the specifics of the project that the student will pursue; and third, to ensure that there are no difficulties with the supervisor/student relationship.

 Timing and Format of student’s first year report. Six months after arrival, the supervisor should remind the student that they will be required to prepare a report on their first year’s work.  At this point also, potential assessors should be chosen and contacted.  They should be reminded that assessment will occur in late July or August.  The report should be no more than 6000 - 8000 words. The student should be discouraged from producing a longer work than this, as they should not take too much time out of their research schedule.  The exact content of the report will be at the discretion of the student, but it should include a broad overview of the field in which the research is taking place, assessment of the achievements of the first year and also assessment of the direction in which the project will progress.

Time limit.  The report must be handed in to the supervisor by the end of the tenth month of study (end of July for October 1st starts). The student should be discouraged from spending more than three or four weeks of part-time work preparing the report.  The report should ideally be assessed within three weeks of being handed in, and reporting on the assessment must be completed by Sept 15th

AssessorsThere should be two assessors.  There is room for considerable flexibility in the appointment of assessors compatible with student needs.  It is often appropriate to appoint individuals who are highly expert in the student’s field of study and who may be outside this Department.  On occasion such individuals may be difficult to find, as there are no fees for the assessment.  Equally it is useful to appoint someone familiar with the methods of work, standards of equipment, etc., within the Department.  This may be the adviser, but could often be someone else.

Assessment.  The assessment should take the form of a meeting between student and assessors lasting perhaps 1–1.5 hours.  Assessors should be aware that this meeting aims to provide the student with guidance as well as assess student performance.  In general it is not appropriate for the supervisor to be present throughout the assessment, unless invited to be so by the student.  However, supervisors will need to consult with the assessors after the assessment, and often this is best achieved by meeting immediately after the assessment.  This is an ideal opportunity for refining the goals of the thesis.

Assessors’ report.  Once an assessment is completed, the assessors compile a report to go to the supervisor.  Previously this report has generally has consisted of a brief review of the assessment on about one sheet of A4 paper. A more systematic form is now being introduced. Whether a free report or a form is used, it should be signed by both assessors.

The possible recommendations from a first-year assessment are as follows: 

i) (most usually) to change registration of the student from “graduate student” to PhD student.

ii) (less commonly) that the student is not yet ready to be registered as a PhD student and should be reassessed in one further term.  (In these cases the student should be given directions to help them to improve their performance, and reassessed at the end of the fourth term).

iii)    (unusually) that the student will not be able to achieve the standard required for a PhD  In these cases the assessors and supervisor should consider the possibility of successfully completing an MPhil degree, and recommend accordingly.

Although a high failure rate in 1st year assessment is not expected, assessors and supervisors are asked to take a careful and realistic view of weak candidates and not to recommend PhD registration if they have doubts about the candidate’s ability to complete.

Reporting the assessment – CamSIS. Supervisors should try to get assessors to produce their report immediately after the assessment. The report should be open to the candidate as well as the supervisor.

The supervisor should attach a copy of the Assessor’s report to the student’s termly CamSIS report and if appropriate tick to confirm they wish the student to be registered for a PhD.  This can then be approved by the  Graduate Office, and forwarded electronically to the Degree Committee