Research ethics

All research involving human data or material is subject to formal ethical review. For staff and students in the School of Social & Political Sciences, the review process depends on the type of research:

Undergraduate students see below
Postgraduate taught students see below
Postgraduate research students see College Research Ethics Committee
Staff see College Research Ethics Committee


Important Information in relation to Coronavirus and Research Ethics

Due to the rapid growth of the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks, the University Ethics Committee (UEC) and College of Social Sciences Management Group (CMG) have both issued new guidance relating to undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate taught (PGT) dissertations. In short, this guidance stipulates that:

  • There should be NO human subject research.  This applies to all interviews, focus-groups, questionnaires etc, carried out face-to-face, by zoom/skype etc., telephone or by any other medium.  
  • All such research should now stop, regardless of whether it has been approved or is still to be approved.
  • Where a student has already obtained ethics approval and has collected data this may still be used, but no further data collection should take place.

Alternative desk-based options that are still permitted include: secondary analysis of existing quantitative or qualitative data; media content analysis; documentary analysis; policy analysis; and autoethnography. Some of these methods still require ethical review before students are permitted to commence data collection/analysis – e.g. students wishing to conduct an autoethnography need to secure approval using the standard ‘UG and PGT Ethics Application Form’. Research involving the analysis of social media content (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blog posts etc.) and/or secondary datasets (other than UKDS Standard Data) must be reviewed via the ‘Non-Standard Data Protocol’.


Advice for UG and PGT students

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught projects with an original research element that involves human participants or the use of non-public datasets are required to obtain ethics approval for their research before commencing data collection. This includes individual student dissertations and small or pilot projects undertaken in the context of a particular taught course.

Students seek ethics approval by completing an application form and having their supervisor submit the application on their behalf to the School of Social and Political Sciences Ethics Forum (SEF). Application forms are available at the College Research Ethics Committee page at the link above. Visit the College Research Ethics page for detailed guidance and advice, including templates for the plain language statement, consent form and privacy statement.

How to apply

  1. Discuss research ethics issues with your supervisor.
  2. Download and complete the appropriate Ethics Application Form from the College Research Ethics page and ensure that you have included the required supporting documentation (for example: Plain Language Statement, Consent Form, Provacy Statement, Interview schedule etc.)
  3. Send the form to your supervisor and ask for the comments. Remember that your supervisor MUST complete the ‘Ethical Risks’ section.
  4. Your supervisor must submit the application by email for you:

If you need help or are not sure what to do, please ask! Talk to your research supervisor or to your subject area representative in the School Ethics Forum, as listed below.

Advice for supervisors

Most undergraduate and postgraduate taught students need to apply for ethics approval for their dissertation research. If you are a supervisor of dissertation students, your involvement and participation in the ethics approval process is very important. Here are some quick points about what you need to do, and you will find more advice and guidance on the other links on the College ethics webpages:

  1. Discuss research ethics with the student relevant to their particular study area and assist them to fill in the application form – on the CREC website link above;
  2. Add your comments and electronic signature in Section 2 – note that ethics applications will be returned if this is not complete and does not include the appropriate supporting documentation (for example: Plain Language Statement, Consent Form, Privacy Notice, Interview schedule etc). 
  3. In Section 2 you must indicate if the application is ‘low risk’. The College provides guidance to help you determine whether the project is low risk. If you identify the project as low risk, the application can be fast-tracked through ethics approval and will only require one SEF reviewer.
  4. YOU must submit the application form on behalf of the student (whether low risk or not). The relevant email addresses are as follows:

If you need help or are not sure what to do, please ask! Talk to your subject area representative in the School Ethics Forum, as listed below.


For applications identified as 'low risk' by the supervisor, an initial decision should be provided within 15 days from receipt of application.

For applications identified as 'high risk', an initial decision should be provided within 25 days from receipt of application.

Ethics Committee

The School Ethics Forum (SEF) is a subdivision of the College Research Ethics Committee (CREC) and as such, within the School context, have the same powers in relation to ethics applications. They may:

  • Authorise research to proceed without requiring any amendment.  Any such authorisation is granted on the basis of the project as stated on the research submission.  Any changes must be notified to the SEF (see Amendments) and normally approval obtained before proceeding.
  • Require clarification or modification of parts of a research submission.  The amendments will generally be returned to the original reviewers for confirmation.
  • Defer consideration of a proposal if substantial modifications are required or where significant additional information is required until that information is supplied and reviewed.
  • Reject the research proposal in whole or in part.
  • Revoke approval of the research if dissatisfied with the conduct of the research or of the researchers.
  • Refer University students or staff through the University’s disciplinary procedures if issues of concern arise from the research.

In addition, the SEF may call for reports on the conduct of the research during projects and on completion so that they can be assured that projects continue to conform to approved ethical standards. 

Current membership comprises 12 reviewers from across the School, alongside the Ethics Officer/Convenor. We are supported by two colleagues from the School admin team, both of whom work part-time in their ethics role.

Convenor Dr Susan Batchelor
Central & East European Studies Dr Federica Prina
Economic & Social History Dr Felicity Cawley

Dr Niccole Pamphilis

Dr Chris Claassen

Dr Niccole Pamphilis

Dr Neil Munro


Dr Susan Batchelor

Dr Chris Bunn

Dr Alicia Davis

Dr Matthew Waites

Urban Studies

Dr Sohail Ahmad

Dr Michelle McGachie

Dr Tunbosun Oyedokun 

Undergraduate applications & support Lesley Scott
Postgraduate applications & support Aidan Simpson