As a public body our performance is subject to government scrutiny. One of the performance measures is the number of funded research students who complete their PhD within four years. This is considered an effective measure of whether the student's research training has been satisfactorily completed.

PhD submission rate survey

We capture this information through our annual submission rate survey. The survey is sent to institutions in the autumn and covers ESRC-funded students from three cohort years:

  • students due to submit in the current survey year
  • students who were due to submit in the previous two survey years.

For example, the 2011 survey includes students who began their PhD funding in 2005, 2006 and 2007 (or 2002, 2003 and 2004 for part-time students). Institutions are asked to provide the submission date for each of these students.

The percentage of students who have submitted within four years of the start of their PhD funding (seven years for part-time students) is calculated and fed back to institutions.

We encourage the timely completion of thesis through the operation of our sanctions policy. The current sanctions policy requires institutions to achieve an overall four-year submission rate of 60% for Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) students and 70% for Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) students . Institutions that return a lower rate are ineligible to receive new ESRC research studentships for up to two years.

This policy has dramatically improved the overall submission rate from less than 30% in the early 1980s to the present level of 79%.