UCL Library Services


Information for supervisors

From the beginning of session 2008/2009 students will be required to submit one electronic copy and one print copy of their thesis. This change to the regulations, agreed by Academic Committee in August 2008, will affect all students, both those registering now and those continuing students who choose to receive a UCL-awarded degree.

Degrees affected are PhD, MPhil and MD(Res). Taught PG dissertations and undergraduate dissertations are not affected. Theses will be made available online via UCL Discovery (subject to any embargoes or copyright restrictions). They will be freely available, and will be findable via search engines such as Google and soon via the UK's national ethesis repository, EthOS, where UCL students. work will be available alongside that from students at LSE, Imperial, Oxford, Edinburgh, Warwick, Glasgow and other leading research-oriented universities.

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 UCL, the online availability of electronic theses will permit worldwide exposure of the quality of postgraduate research being carried out here. 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 are in the process of implementing electronic theses.

What students need to do

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

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 in the same way that Library users, including people from outside UCL, can request to see the print copy. 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 three years). When discussing this with your student, bear in mind that 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.

Before depositing their thesis, students are required to complete and sign the E-Thesis Deposit Agreement Form, which asks them to indicate if there is a need to restrict access to the thesis. The request for an exemption will then be considered by UCL Registry.

Inclusion in a thesis of 3rd party copyright material

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/email 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 they are likely to require to include a significant amount of 3rd party copyright material in their thesis.

Further information and advice

If you have any queries about the process or your role in it please e-mail the UCL Open Access Team (UCL Library Services).