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Research Student Handbook

Student Support and Facilities

Student Support and Facilities

Full-time PhD students may be allocated a space for reading/writing and storing paperwork but this will depend on your discipline. This may be located within an area of your supervisor’s research laboratory that is shared with other research students and/or technical staff, or may be a shared office in a separate building. Students registered on continuation status shall not be entitled to access to a permanent desk.

Masters by Research and part-time PhD students will be allocated a hot desk.

Depending on your specific research topic you may have access to one or more study spaces, research laboratories and appropriate shared facilities (e.g. IT clusters, glass-houses, constant temperature rooms, freshwater and marine aquaria, instrument rooms, molecular biology preparation labs, etc.).

While COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements remain in place, it will not be possible to allow full occupancy, or unrestricted access to some offices. Access to labs and offices will be managed by your department and may be on a rota basis. 

For more information please contact your discipline administrator.

Lone working in laboratories out of normal University hours is not permitted for undergraduates and is strongly discouraged for other members of the College.  Another responsible person must always be within calling distance. Anyone wishing to do practical work in laboratories after 5.30 p.m. or at weekends involving rapidly toxic materials and other hazardous materials or techniques, must arrange to be within call, and preferably within sight, of another person, (i.e. there must be at least two persons on each floor). Individuals must not work alone in the building or on any one floor. No experimental work may be carried out when the University is officially closed (e.g., at Christmas) without the presence at all times in the same laboratory, of a second person qualified in the experimental techniques and safety procedures.

Biosciences – Penryn

Biosciences – Streatham

Geography – Penryn

Geography – Exeter


Sport & Health Sciences

The College will make computer facilities available to research students, although these will not necessarily be for individual use (particularly in the case of part-time students).

There are many open access IT facilities around the Exeter campus.  These are managed by IT Services and are available to all members of the University (a username and password are required). The webpage gives you information on the locations, software available & opening times of the clusters and also provide information on when clusters have been booked for teaching.

Please be aware of the University regulations governing computer use.

In particular you must make sure that you do not introduce viruses to the computer system, so please make sure you know how to scan your disks with Norton Anti-Virus, and do so before accessing files on them.  Please also be aware of licensing laws and do not copy or add software to and from University computers.

Use of Software in Research

There are various software tools to assist you in your research.  If you are unsure of the best solution, please ask, as it is very easy to work either inefficiently or simply waste a lot of time through not understanding the capabilities of the computer technology in relation to your research.

A good understanding of the software can, for example, make the difference between having a machine scan in your questionnaires, or leaving you to type in the lot. Often when there are repetitive tasks, you can make the computer work for you.  For instance, when transcribing an interview, something as simple as making the word-processor automatically switch from one paragraph formatting to another, means that you can keep your fingers on the keyboard – and keep typing.  It’s a small technique but one that can save time and repetitive strain injury reaching for the mouse!

Saving and Backing-up your Work

Most imperative of all is to have a thorough understanding of backing up your work.  Disasters can be unavoidable – but losing your work is always avoidable!  You are provided with access to secure space on the University server to store your work. Access is through iExeter click on the ‘My Files’ tab.

Researching Using the Computer

There are many online databases that you can access using the Internet, which allow you to search for journals and articles in your field.  You can then save or have e-mailed to you the abstracts before ordering the article itself.  The best place to go to for this is the Library’s home page.

Postgraduate research students in CLES are entitled to free black & white printing on campus, but please remember that this is a privilege and costs the College money. Your usage of the printer will be monitored and if it is deemed excessive then you may be asked to cover some of the costs. Please be sensible with the quantity of your printing – for both economic and environmental reasons. Under no circumstances should the printers be used for personal needs.

Please speak to your local discipline office administrator if you have any colour printing requirements.

Basic stationery must relate to your research can be obtained from your local Discipline office.

If you wish to send a letter on College headed paper please see your local Discipline office for pre-printed headed paper and download the appropriate template to use with the headed paper.

The College also has its own inked stamp which staff can use to provide authorization.

All students are automatically members of the University Library Service. For details of services, opening hours etc. please consult the library websites:

Exeter Libraries

Tremough Library, Penryn Campus

Many of the electronic holdings of these libraries can also be accessed remotely via the Web.  If you would like to acquire excellent library skills, the Library and Research Skills modules on ELE provide an essential starting point. If you want to access a thesis online, the university's online repository ORE provides access. Further information can be found here. Your subject librarian can also help you find theses from other institutions. If you are not based in Exeter or want to access resources at another library, the SCONUL Access scheme allows you to.

Inter-Library Loans

Inter-library loan tokens are available on request from the admin office for your discipline. Students will need to submit a request for these and the costs will be charged to their RTSG funding allocation. All postgraduate students are allowed up to 5 ILLs per year. The loans cost £10.50 each. If you require an increased allocation, please speak to your supervisor, or ask the DPGR. If you are submitting an application for a research grant, which will require ILLs, please make sure that you request an allowance for them. Please note that this is a very expensive way of obtaining articles, please endeavour to find the articles you need via other, cheaper routes, i.e. over the internet, local libraries, contacting the author direct etc. before requesting ILL tokens.

The way to acquire books and journal articles differs between campuses, click on the links for further information on ILL at the Exeter Campuses and for Penryn Campus.

Postgraduate Research students should consider themselves part of the normal working staff within the Colleges and therefore have the same access to the tea/coffee/lunch facilities.

It is of vital importance that you have a good level of English in order to complete your studies.  If you have been made an offer of a place at the University conditional upon successful completion of further study in English language, you must follow the courses prescribed and achieve the necessary IELTS score to be able to continue with your studies. The University only requires a minimum level of English for admittance, and it is important that non-native speakers continue to improve their English language skills while doing their research.  It is a requirement of producing a thesis that it is written to a high standard of English. Supervisors are not expected to make major linguistic corrections to a student's written work; it is the responsibility of students to make sure that work is presented in good English. Students are encouraged to have their work proof-read or copy edited in order to correct the English, though not to have it corrected for ideas or academic content.  Any arrangements to employ and pay a copy editor are solely the responsibility of students.

The Academic Copy Editor Register

Errors in grammar and punctuation often cause completion delays amongst doctoral students. To help address this, a fee-based copy editing service has been established, which students have access to during the course of their period of study.  The University of Exeter Academic Copy Editor Register aims to provide such a service.

Exeter Campuses

Help with English language is provided through INTO University of Exeter, which offers a range of insessional classes, workshops and tutorials free of charge to international students at the University of Exeter.  Of specific interest to research students in the College are the following:    

The Research Students' Group is intended for students at post-masters level registered on research programmes. By enrolling in the Research Students' Group, students will be put in contact with other international research students and kept up to date on Insessional provision for research students.

One-to-One Writing Tutorials are provided for the duration of the academic year. They provide students with individualised help with essays, dissertations and other assignments.  Dedicated tutorials are also available for students in some departments.  While most tutorials take place on the Streatham Campus, there is some tutorial availability at St Luke’s.

Academic Writing Workshops cover such areas as academic vocabulary, reading strategies, incorporating reading into writing, the process of writing an assignment, and editing.  The actual study programme will depend on student needs.  There are specific workshops at doctoral level, and these are available in terms 1, 2 and 3

Presentation Skills consists of four workshops which focus on enhancing and developing communicative skills for giving academic presentations.  Activities are designed to develop clarity and coherence in all aspects of presentation skills and participants will be given the opportunity to give a short presentation.  Presentation skills workshops are available in terms 1, 2 and 3.

Language Development courses include tutor-led sessions which will help you develop your language skills and opportunities to work on individualised programmes of study in a supportive atmosphere.  Most students self-select to take a Language Development course, however some students may be required to attend by their departments or be recommended to do so by their pre-sessional tutor. Language Development courses run in both Terms 1 & 2.

Oral Communication Skills (OCS) provides a relaxed atmosphere in which to improve your spoken skills in a wide variety of areas.  The focus is not so much on academic English as on communicating effectively in different social situations and understanding cultural differences, all of which will help you integrate successfully into the cultural and social life of the university.  OCS courses are available in terms 1 and 2.

Current Issues takes a different news topic each week and allows participants to develop their language through discussion and analysis, and vocabulary games.  The course gives students the chance to practise skills useful for academic study; especially seminar discussion and critical analysis.  Current Issues courses are available in terms 1, 2 and 3.

Grammar Workshops aim to identify and work on problem areas of grammar according to individual/group needs. Grammar workshops will be offered in Term 2.

Pronunciation Workshops aim to make students more aware of features of spoken English, in particular the importance of stress and intonation patterns in conveying meaning in English.   The workshops will be offered in Terms 1, 2 & 3. 

Penryn Campus

For English language support on the Penryn Campus, ASK: Academic Skills offer English for Specific Academic Purposes, 1 to 1 Tutorials, Language Exchange as well as General English courses.

University Support Services

Details of the University support services can be found on the Student Services website.

International Student Support

The International Student Support Office offers advice and services to international students on the following issues:

  • Pre arrival information
  • Visas, Immigration, and Visa Extensions
  • Orientation programmes and preparing for life in the UK
  • Supporting diversity events on campus
  • Free English Language classes for spouses and families
  • International eNewsletter
  • Working with student societies and events
  • Workshops

Study Skills Support

Online skills resources are designed to help you develop a range of academic skills including essay writing, referencing, critical reading and getting the most out of lectures.  The resources are interactive, self-paced and contain a variety of activities to support your development.

One-to-One Study Skills Support on the Exeter Campuses

Study skills advisers can provide one-to-one guidance and information on all aspects of academic study and skills for all students, including international students. They are able to help and to advise on the following topics:

  • Essay and report writing
  • Managing dissertations
  • Giving presentations
  • Time management and prioritising
  • Critical reading and writing
  • Revision strategies and exam techniques
  • Referencing and avoiding plagiarism
  • Note making

The service complements any support offered within academic Colleges. Advisors ask all students where possible to attend relevant support and guidance from supervisors and activities in their academic Colleges as well as checking through the online resources. To request an appointment with an Academic Skills Adviser, please use the Student Information Desk Online, accessed via the 'Help and Support' tab in the portal.

Study Support on the Penryn Campus

ASK:Academic Skills are a team of advisors and lecturers who provide support for Exeter University students at the Penryn campus. Information can be provided on everything about academic study, including:

  • Academic Writing
  • Referencing
  • Reading and Notemaking
  • Presentations
  • Exams
  • Time Management
  • Book Online
  • Assignment Calculator
  • Drop-Ins
  • Maths and Stats

Information on health and safety and laboratory safety can be found on the CLES Health and Safety Website. Copies of all completed risk assessments should be forwarded to the Assistant College Manager (Infrastructure and Technical) through the relevant Laboratory Manager or policy lead, to be formally logged. Risk assessments must be reviewed annually and always following any changes to procedures.

Further information can be found on the University's Health and Safety and Environment Office web page.

First Aiders

Lists of First Aiders can be found on the following websites:

Streatham Campus

St Luke’s Campus

Penryn Campus

Dealing with a Fire

  • If you discover a fire - however small it may be - SOUND THE ALARM.
  • Call the Fire Service by dialling 999.  Be prepared to give them the address of the building.
  • Summon help and if possible (without taking personal risk and only if trained to do so) attack the fire with available equipment, turning off gas and electricity.
  • On hearing the fire alarm:
    • Close your window and door,
    • Check adjacent rooms and warn the inhabitants if they have not heard the alarm
    • Do not stay to collect any possessions, just take a coat or similar clothing, if readily available, to keep warm,
    • Leave the building quickly by the nearest available exit and warn the person in charge of any person known to be missing.  Do not use the lifts.
  • Notify Estate Patrol (Exeter) on 01392 72 3999 (3999 internal, anytime 24/7) or Campus Security (Penryn) on 01326 25 1400 (1400 internal, day)  or 07768 55779 (night)
  • Go to the assembly point

Major Accidents

Immediate Action:

Determine continuing danger and extent of injury.  If necessary, evacuate area. Summon help and ensure the following are contacted:

  • The Emergency Services 999 or 112 (9)999 on internal phones), give location, building and postcode if known.
  • A First Aider (if available) At Penryn call 444 for first aid. At Exeter, the Estate Patrol, 3999 on internal phones 723999 on external phones. Penryn on Internal extension 3666 – this diverts to the security team’s mobile number Mobile 07768 557779. There is also a list of the nearest trained first aiders on display in the entrance foyer to each building on campus. The Health & Safety office gives the full list of campus first aiders.
  • If safe to do so, ensure that the injured are accompanied until help arrives.

As Soon As Possible:

University Staff must ensure that the following are informed

  • The Safety Office in Exeter extn 5340 (01392 725340) or Penryn 01326 253616
  • The injured parties Line Manager (who must decide whether to inform the Next of Kin)
  • The Building Safety Officer
  • The relevant Trade Union Representative
  • The HR Division

Details of all accidents and “near misses” must be recorded on a University Accident Report (Green) Form 1 available from the web (download from and at Porters desk or main office and First aid boxes. A copy should be taken by the injured party, one sent to the ACM (I&T), CLES, via the Discipline Health and Safety lead or Laboratory Manager; and the original must be sent to the Health Safety and Environment Office, Queens Building.


Minor Accidents

Immediate Action:

  • Determine continuing danger and extent of injury
  • Summon help and ensure that:
  • A First Aider is contacted.
  • The injured are accompanied until help arrives

As Soon As Possible:

Details of all accidents and “near misses” must be recorded on a University Accident Report (Green) Form 1 available from the web (download from and at Porters desk or main office and First aid boxes. A copy should be taken by the injured party, one sent to the ACM (I&T), CLES, via the Discipline Health and Safety lead or Laboratory Manager; and the original must be sent to the Health Safety and Environment Office, Queens Building.

Laboratory Safety

In addition to specific regulations, some basic guidelines/rules for general safety within CLES Laboratories can be found at

  • There must be no eating, drinking or application of cosmetics in laboratories.
  • Laboratory coats must be worn and be fastened in laboratories. These must not be taken into rest areas and coffee rooms. Laboratory coats should be hung up separately from other clothing.
  • All staff should be aware of suitable clothing for various activity types; for example, open shoes or shorts are inappropriate for certain types of laboratory activity.
  • There may be occasions on which long hair should be tied up.
  • Safety spectacles or visors must be worn when handling acids, alkalis, corrosive or other hazardous materials including microbiological material.
  • Safety spectacles or visors must be worn in solution-chemistry laboratories
  • Safety glassed must be worn in the teaching laboratory at all times by staff and students alike. The only exceptions being when using microscopes or if an approved Risk Assessment has been completed showing that they are not necessary.
  • Suitable gloves should be worn when handling hazardous materials.  Disposable gloves should be changed frequently to avoid contamination.
  • Remove disposable gloves before handling other equipment and books and before leaving the laboratory if possible.  To avoid contamination, one glove must always be removed to handle door-knobs etc.
  • Hands should be washed when leaving the laboratory and before meals etc.
  • Do not work with flammable solvents near a naked flame, or place them in refrigerators or freezers unless these are marked spark-proofed.
  • Mobile phones should not be used in the laboratory.  Personal calls must be taken outside the laboratory.  The only exceptions for phone use is for on-call and when required for specialist technical advice on equipment.  Phones must be turned off particularly when working with flammable solvents
  • The use of IPods and personal stereos is discouraged and must only be used with the express permission of the laboratory manager/PI and when there is no risk of contamination.
  • The presence of children in laboratories is not permitted. If it is necessary for a child to enter the building, this is permitted only on the following conditions:
    - The child is at all times supervised by a responsible adult and is not left unattended, and a Children in Laboratories Risk Assessment has been completed.
    - All responsibility for accidents caused will be that of the parent or person in charge of the child.  The College or the University will not accept any responsibility.

Student Health Centres

You should register with a doctor as soon as you arrive:

Streatham Campus is served by The University Health Centre at Reed Mews

St Luke’s Campus is served by the Heavitree Health Practice,

Penryn Campus students can find information on health and well-being here.

The University of Exeter believes that the diversity of its community is an essential part of its values and enriches employment, research, studying and learning experiences.

The University is committed to a policy of equality of opportunity and aims to provide a working, learning and social environment that is free from unfair discrimination. It aims to ensure that staff, students, visitors and all others associated with the University are treated with dignity, respect, and equity, regardless of inappropriate distinctions, such as age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation (as identified under the Equality Act 2010 as 'protected characteristics'). In addition, the University will comply with all relevant legislation and aims to promote good practice in all aspects of the University. The College wishes to accommodate the complex set of needs that this diversity brings even where this presents a challenge to established teaching practice. In order to achieve its aspirations the College needs students to act in a positive manner to our diversity and for students to let us know through their teachers, personal tutors or their student representatives when they feel that there may be problems. Students may formally bring any equality or diversity concerns they may have to the attention of the College PGR Liaison Forum or to the PGR Manager.

Dignity and Respect: Policy and Advisors

The University of Exeter aims to create a working and learning environment that respects the dignity and rights of all staff and students and where individuals have the opportunity to realise their full potential. The aim of the Dignity and Respect Policy is to promote an environment and culture in which bullying and harassment are known to be unacceptable and where individuals have the confidence to deal with harassment without fear of ridicule or reprisal. The University will not tolerate any form of harassment or bullying and is committed to ensuring that staff and students are able to work and study without fear of harassment, bullying or victimisation, recognising its duty of care to staff, students and visitors under health and safety, equality and employment legislation. The University regards any incident of harassment or bullying as a serious matter and will respond promptly and sensitively to formal complaints and where appropriate take disciplinary action, including dismissal or expulsion from the University.

Staff and students are encouraged to resolve concerns informally through a network of Dignity and Respect Advisors. These Advisors are members of staff from across the University who have volunteered and are trained to undertake the role. They provide a confidential and informal service for anyone involved in cases of harassment or bullying (including those facing allegations about their behaviour).

Advisors can listen, talk through the options available and, if appropriate signpost to other sources of support and advice.

Our online gallery provides contact details for all our Advisors.

Inclusivity Toolkit

The University’s online Inclusivity Toolkit include tools and information to help you play your part in creating an inclusive environment including:

  • Unconscious Bias Training
  • Inappropriate Behaviour – what it is, how to challenge it and where to go for support

Inclusivity Networks and Groups

There are a number of networks and groups at the University, aimed at creating an inclusive environment in which to work and study.

We have an overarching University Inclusivity Group supported by input from:

Athena SWAN

The University is a proud member of the Athena SWAN Charter and has held a Bronze institutional award since November 2011. By being part of Athena SWAN the University of Exeter has committed to the ten Athena SWAN principles. The principles include tackling the Gender Pay Gap and removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career. All departments within the College have achieved Bronze or Silver Athena SWAN awards. Visit the College Athena SWAN website for further details on the College departments’ Athena SWAN activities and key contacts.

Disability Support

Information on the University policies and facilities for people with disabilities can be found via the AccessAbility website. Students who feel they require special assistance should be assessed by the Disability Resource Centre and may be eligible for help for their specific need.  If you have a disability or debilitating illness, it is in your interest to make tell your supervisor/mentor. These people can advise and help you so that you are not disadvantaged and do not experience unreasonable difficulties. The University's policies and support for disabled students can be found at the AccessAbility Centre website.

Exeter Campuses:

There are a few different ways for current students to book an initial appointment with an advisor:

1. Login to SID online → Log an enquiry → Disability Health and Wellbeing → complete the AccessAbility Appointment Form.

2. Telephone SID on 0300 555 0444. The advisors will ask you a few questions to ensure you receive the correct support and will be happy to book you an appointment.

3. Visit the SID desk in the Forum (building 3, 6G on the map) where the advisors will ask you some questions to ensure you receive the correct support and will book you an appointment.

Referrals can also be made by your GP or another health professional.

If you are unsure whether the AccessAbility Pathway is right for you, or have any questions or concerns about accessing support, please attend one of our AccessAbility Drop-in Sessions

Penryn Campus:

To arrange an appointment, log an enquiry via Compass online.

Or you can ring us at the Penryn Campus on 01326 370460 or at the Falmouth Campus on 01326 213735 or email

Mental Health Policy

Education and work are key factors in mental health - both as a contributory cause to mental health problems but also as an important part of promoting a person's sense of well-being, identity and self-worth. It is vital that all of us consider people with mental health needs, in order to provide an effective and timely response and to enable students to continue to participate in all aspects of student life. The University's approach to mental health issues is set out in website on support for students experiencing mental health difficulties. Common sense advice as well as details of local medical facilities (including out of hours help and advice) and local organisations are available on this site. The College will endeavour to accommodate the needs of those with a mental illness. Alerting the College to any difficulties may be done via the medical or counselling services or where your academic work is being affected through a confidential discussion with your supervisors or mentor.

The University is committed to a policy of equality of opportunity and aims to provide a working and learning environment which is free from unfair discrimination and will enable staff and students to fulfil their personal potential. All individuals should be treated with dignity and respect whether at work or study; staff and students have an important role to play in creating an environment where harassment is unacceptable. The University regards any incident of harassment or bullying as a serious matter and will respond promptly and sensitively to formal complaints and where appropriate take disciplinary action, including dismissal or expulsion from the University. Additionally, staff and students will be encouraged to resolve concerns informally through a network of trained Dignity and Respect Advisors.

The College is committed to delivering a high quality service and encourages students to tell us when there is cause for concern and a case for improvement. If problems do arise we encourage you to express them and we will respond to them.

  • In the first instance you should talk to your supervisors, unless the problem involves them or you feel dissatisfied with their response.
  • Contact your pastoral tutor. It is part of their role to ensure that you are happy with your studies and supervision. You may do this in confidence. It is part of their role to act as your advocate if they feel you have good cause for complaint.
  • Talk to your discipline Director of Postgraduate Research. In particular, if you feel that you would benefit from a change of supervisor or pastoral tutor, you should address this request to your discipline DPGR.  Changes will only be made if there is good cause.
  • Contact the PGR Manager who has overall administrative responsibility for all research postgraduates in the College.
  • If you feel that the your Discipline and the PGR Support Office as a whole have failed to respond properly to you, please contact the College Director of PGR.
  • If you have general concerns about your programme of study, you might also speak to a student representative on the Postgraduate Liaison Forum, who can bring your concern before that committee.

The University also has academic complaints and appeals procedures if you feel that you cannot get a satisfactory response from the above.  Separate procedures apply depending on whether you are making a complaint or appealing against an academic decision: