Project Approval

A key activity at an early stage of a research degree is the completion of the project proposal.  Before a student can be allowed to progress with their research, approval of their research project proposal must be obtained from their supervisors, an independent panel, the Head of School (or nominee) and the Dean of Postgraduate Studies.


Project approval must be obtained within three months of initial registration for full-time students and six months for part-time students.


The project approval process is completed online using the ePortfolio system.

Project Proposal Contents

Students should consult with their supervisors when preparing their research project proposal to ensure it is achievable within the available timescale and that sufficient resources are available to support it.  Students and supervisors should also aim to address the criteria against which their project proposal will assessed by the Project Approval Panel (see below).

Ethical Approval

The Project Approval form in ePortfolio includes a section on ethical approval which ask students to provide evidence that ethical approval has been obtained or to give a reason why such evidence cannot be provided.

The process for obtaining ethical approval is overseen by Research and Enterprise Services (RES) and further information, including a link to the on-line ethics form can be found on the RES website.

Approval Process

The approval process involves the following stages:



Students initiate the approval process by entering their research project title in the ePortfolio system and uploading their research proposal plan.  Once all sections of the form have been completed and relevant documents uploaded, the student should submit the form.  The form will then be routed to the supervisor via the ePortfolio system who will be prompted to complete the next stage.  


Supervisors are asked to provide a supporting statement.  In addition, they must confirm the membership of the full supervisory team and provide details of their roles and the percentage split in terms of supervision.

Project Approval Panel

The student and supervisor’s submissions are then reviewed by an independent School/Institute panel, consisting of at least two independent members of academic staff with relevant skills and knowledge.  The student’s research project and plan and the supervisor’s statement are evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Does the project have clear aims and objectives;
  • Does the student possess or can they acquire the knowledge, skills and aptitudes to complete the project successfully;
  • Does the proposed supervisory team possess or can it acquire the skills, knowledge and aptitudes necessary to supervise the project to a successful conclusion;
  • Is the project suitable for the programme of study and for the award;
  • Can it be completed within the timescale for the programme;
  • Are sufficient resources available to complete the project;
  • Is ethical approval required;
  • If the project involves extended absence from the University on fieldwork or work in collaborating organisations, have appropriate arrangements been made to support and monitor the student’s progress?

The panel is required to complete a written report and to make a recommendation to the Head of School and Dean of Postgraduate Studies.  The panel can either recommend the approval of the research project or require the student to re-submit, usually within three months.  Where a re-submission is recommended the panel should provide details of the action that should be taken or the additional information that should be provided.

Head of School/Institute

The Head of School/Institute (or nominee) has the opportunity to comment on the project proposal and the panel’s recommendation before submitting the forms to the Dean of Postgraduate Studies.

Dean of Postgraduate Studies

The Dean of Postgraduate Studies has the final sign off on a project approval.  Once the Dean has made their recommendation, the panel, the Head of School and the Dean’s reports become visible to the student and the supervisor.

Notification of Approval

Students will receive an automated email from the ePortfolio system once their research project has been approved by the Dean of Postgraduate Studies.