Information for Supervisors


From the beginning of session 2007/2008 students have been required to submit one electronic copy and one print copy of their thesis. This change to the regulations, was agreed by Senate in January 2007. Degrees affected are all those where the Library currently receives a print copy of the thesis (PhD, DDS, DSc, EngD, MD, DFA, MLitt (R), MPhil(R), MSc(R), MTh(R), MVM(R), MMus(R), MFA(R)).

Theses are made available online in Enlighten : Theses (subject to any embargoes or copyright restrictions). They are freely available, and are findable via search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Taught PG dissertations and undergraduate dissertations are not affected.

Advantages of e theses

Electronic theses offer a number of advantages. For students the electronic availability of their theses considerably increases access and visibility. Usage statistics for existing thesis repositories demonstrate a high level of interest in accessing theses online. In addition, students have the chance to make full use of the opportunities offered in the digital world, e.g. multimedia, links to datasets etc., should they wish to take advantage of this. For the University, the online availability of electronic theses will permit worldwide exposure of the quality of postgraduate research being carried out at Glasgow. Studies show that prospective students are likely to explore the websites of potential places of study, and are particularly keen to be able to see what work is currently being carried out. Many universities worldwide already require electronic deposit of theses, and have well established online theses repositories. Most UK universities have implemented electronic theses.

What students need to do

Information is available in the Getting started section of this web site giving details of exactly what students need to do.

What Graduate Schools need to do

Information for Graduate School staff.

The role of supervisors

The introduction of electronic theses should not introduce any additional work for supervisors, but there are a number of related issues which it will be useful for you to discuss with your students:

Access to the thesis/requirements for an embargo

The electronic version of theses will normally be made publicly available online.

While this offers many benefits for students, there are a number of valid reasons why it might not be appropriate to make a thesis available online straight away. Students therefore have the option of requesting that access to their thesis is restricted for a limited period of time (normally up to three years).

PhD students funded by Research Councils UK

The Research Councils UK expect a record describing the thesis to be lodged in a the institution’s repository, Enlighten : Theses : as soon as possible after award and a full text version of the PhD to be available within a maximum of 12 months following award. The RCUK Training Grant Guide: states: "Councils recognise that commercial, collaborative or publication arrangements may necessitate a slight delay; the delay can be at the RO’s discretion but we expect the thesis to be deposited as soon as possible. The RCs expect the RO to have in place a documented process for determining where exceptions can be granted to the requirement for publication within 12 months".

When discussing this with your student you should bear in mind that theses are a publication that can be requested under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FoISA). This means that reasons for restricting access to a thesis should  fall under one of the exemptions offered by the Act. A full list of the exemptions is available. The most common reasons for restricting access to a thesis are likely to be:

  • The thesis is due for publication, either as a monograph or as a series of articles;
  • Release of the thesis would prejudice the commercial interests of the student or the University;
  • Release of the thesis would potentially endanger the physical or mental health and safety of an individual or group of individuals;
  • Release of the thesis would involve making available data that was provided in confidence.

You should talk to your students about whether there is likely to be a valid reason for restricting access to their thesis.

Additional access requirements apply to PhD theses with RCUK grant awards acknowledged. RCUK expect a PhD thesis to be available open access within 12 months of the award Restricting Access to your Thesis.

Before depositing their thesis, students are required to complete and sign the Thesis Access Declaration Form. This form asks them to indicate if there is a need to restrict access to the thesis. As the supervisor, you need to counter sign this form to indicate that you agree with the decision the students has made with respect to access to their thesis. The request for an exemption will then be considered by the relevant College/School committee.

You can obtain further advice on the FoISA exemptions from your local FoI co-ordinator or from the Data Protection & Freedom of Information Office (

Inclusion of 3rd party copyright material in a thesis

Electronic theses introduce a new element of complexity by way of 3rd party copyright permissions. Historically it has been accepted within UK higher education that students may include 3rd party copyright material in the print version of their thesis (e.g. images, photographs, long extracts of text etc.) without asking the permission of the copyright holder. This is because print theses are unpublished, and are produced for the purposes of examination. By way of contrast, making theses available online is considered 'communication to the public', and therefore publishing of a sort, although not in the traditional sense. This means that in order to make a thesis available online permission needs to be sought to include 3rd party copyright material.

Students have therefore been asked to try and seek permission to include this type of material in the electronic version of their thesis. A template letter/e-mail that students can send to publishers or authors is available. However, if copyright holders refuse permission, or if it would be too onerous to seek permission (e.g. in the case of something like a history of art thesis) or if students are asked to pay for permission (which they will not be required to do), students will NOT be required to make the e version of their thesis publicly available. There will be no impact on the award of their degree - it simply means that they will not be able to make the full version of their thesis available online. However, they will have the opportunity to submit an edited electronic version for public viewing.

Supervisors will not be required to get involved in this process, but it may be useful to discuss the issue with your students if there are likely to require to include a significant amount of 3rd party copyright material in their thesis.

Further information and advice

If you have an queries about the process or your role in it please e-mail