National Heart & Lung Institute (NHLI)

Current NHLI Research Students - Information

Jump to:

NHLI Research Degree Assessments

Report requirements

NHLI MD(Res) and PhD students are required to submit three reports for assessment throughout their degree. These are:

Students should also meet with their supervisor(s) every April and every October to complete their six-monthly Progress Reports.


In addition to their postgraduate supervisors, each student will have two independent assessors. These will be scientists in academia that have the appropriate knowledge base and expertise to judge the student's progress and offer them advice on their postgraduate project. 

These two assessors will be appointed on behalf of the NHLI Higher Degrees Committee; one suggested by the supervisor and the other by the Postgraduate Research Office. At least one must be from outside the broad research group.

The assessor will read, assess and comment on the Research Proposal, Early Stage Review (ESR) and Late Stage Review (LSR) Assessment and make a recommendation as to whether the student should progress with their degree.  The final decision will be made by the Director of Postgraduate Studies.

In addition to assessing the student's reports, the assessors may provide an external input on the project, with suggestions for specific experiments, methodologies or potential new directions for the research project. In this way the assessors may provide a positive input into the project.

The assessment reports will be made available to both student and supervisors.

Research Proposal

The Research Proposal, which must be written by the student with the supervisors’ assistance, should be 2-4 pages (single-spaced) including figures (optional) with usually no more than 10 references and should be submitted electronically.

The purpose of this proposal is to allow assessment of the intrinsic scientific merit of the project and of the student’s understanding of the project. It must, therefore, contain sufficient detail to allow a decision to be reached.

The Research Proposal should be formulated on the basis of a three year PhD or a two year MD(Res), it should not just describe the work that would lead up to the assessment at 9 months (Early Stage Review). The format should include:

  1. Title of project, name of student and supervisor(s)
  2. Defined hypothesis and aims 
  3. Background to project
  4. Plan of investigation (to include details of the methods to be used; whether they are currently in use within the group or how they are to be established)

The assessors will also review the project at the Early Stage Review and Late Stage Review.

Submission and Feedback

Students should email the Postgraduate Research Office with their Research Proposal by 6 weeks from their start date.

The Proposal will be sent to the student's assessors and assessment reports will be made available to both student and supervisors.  Assessors can download the Research Proposal assessment form here: Research Proposal Assessment Word Document

It is important to note that this process is one of approval and not a pass/fail examination.  Research Proposals that are not approved at initial consideration may only require some modifications to be made in order for approval to be given at a later date. 


There is sometimes, but rarely, a need for the project to be entirely revised.

In such cases where the Postgraduate Degrees Office and Higher Degrees Research Committee does not approve a Research Proposal, the student will normally have only one opportunity to re-submit their document for approval. The request to re-submit will be given a timeline.

Early Stage Review

The purpose of the Early Stage Review (ESR) is to confirm that the PhD or MD(Res) student has an understanding of their field of research and the direction of their project, and has the potential to pursue research. Data presented at this stage may be minimal but should be indicative of the student’s ability to perform.

The Early Stage Review  process includes the submission of a written report no later than 9 months from date of registration, the subsequent oral assessment, the English Test if required, re-submission of report or re-viva (if needed) and attendance at the Graduate School courses, all of which must be completed within 12 months from registration.

If a student underperforms at this stage they may be reassessed within 2 months, and no longer than 12 months from initial registration. For PhD students, the consequences of poor performance include the option to downgrade registration to MPhil.

Written Report

The written report is expected to be 5,000-7,000 words (excluding references and figures, but including an abstract of about 400-words). Word count needs to be put on the first (i.e. Title) page. The report should be written by the student and should contain:

  • Title page with word count, name and CID
  • Abstract
  • Background of the subject
  • Hypothesis
  • Methods
  • Results obtained to date
  • Discussion, including a statement on the originality of the project
  • Outline of future work

It is appreciated that at 9 months there may be little concrete data, but this must not delay the required submission of the report as a clear protocol and techniques to be used should be well established and the student must be proficient in the background and aims of the project and the associated literature. If there are any published or submitted papers or abstracts these should be included (these are not a pre-requisite for the report).

Oral Presentation

The oral examination should take the form of a brief presentation by the student to the assessors (of 10-20 minutes, with the option of visual aids) followed by an assessment to review:

  • Oral presentation skills
  • Capacity for critical but constructive thinking
  • Thorough understanding of the relevant academic discipline
  • Competence in the relevant techniques
  • Awareness of the associated literature
  • Understanding of the hypothesis
  • Research ability
  • Published papers and abstracts
  • Originality of the research
  • PhD/MD(Res) potential
  • Confirmation project is feasible within the remaining registration period (with thesis submission within 4 years)

Submission and Feedback

By 9 months from their degree start date, students should submit to the NHLI Postgraduate Research Office:

  • An up-to-date curriculum vitae (3 paper copies + electronic)
  • A fully referenced report of 5,000-7,000 words (excluding references and figures, but including an abstract of about 400 words). Word count needs to be put on the first (i.e. Title) page. (3 bound copies + electronic)
  • A list of 20 seminars attended (this can include up to 5 sessions attended at Symposia but does not include internal lab meetings and departmental seminars i.e. work in progress seminars).
  • Documentary evidence of attendance at Graduate School Professional Skills Workshops (available from Graduate Schools:

The Written Report will be sent to the student's assessors and assessment reports will be made available to both student and supervisors. Assessors can download the ESR assessment forms here:


Back to top

Late Stage Review

The purpose of the Late Stage Review (LSR) is to confirm that the student has an adequate understanding of the research problem, has the capacity to pursue research, has a critical awareness of the relevant literature on the subject and has a realistic research plan and schedule for completion within the registration period.

Within 18-21 months from their start date, each research student (MD(Res) and PhD) following full-time milestones (by 36-42 months for those following part-time milestones) is required to give an Oral Presentation to their assessors (the same assessors as for their Research Proposal and Early Stage Review) to ensure that good progress is being made with their research.

Students and supervisors are responsible for organising the LSR and therefore must ensure they liaise with the assessors in plenty of time to set a date for the verbal presentation within the 18 to 21 months’ window from the student’s initial registration.

Importantly, students and supervisors should liaise with NHLI’s Postgraduate Research Degrees Office should they encounter any delays or difficulties in arranging the LSR, so that it can help.

Students and supervisors must let NHLI’s Postgraduate Research Degrees Office know of the date of the LSR as soon as it is set so that it can follow through with the assessment form which the assessors should complete to provide feedback.

If a student underperforms at this stage they may be reassessed within 3 months, and no longer than 24 months from initial registration.

Written Report and SThe report summary must be fully referenced and no more than four pages in length (excluding references and figures). If there are any published or submitted papers these should be included. Minor changes to the slides may be made between submitting them to the Postgraduate Research Degrees Office and giving the verbal presentation.lides

The report summary must be fully referenced and no more than four pages in length (excluding references and figures). If there are any published or submitted papers these should be included. Minor changes to the slides may be made between submitting them to the Postgraduate Research Degrees Office and giving the Oral Presentation.

Oral Presentation

The presentation (about 30 minutes) should start by describing the progress which has been made as well as conclude with a plan of future work through to submission.

The presentation should be to open group (e.g. Section, group meeting) followed by a private meeting if requested by student or assessors. Every effort must be made to have both assessors present but can be undertaken with just one of the assessors if the other cannot attend the meeting.

Exceptionally, if both assessors cannot attend an LSR oral assessment with an open group within the 18-21 month window, then a private assessment within the window with both assessors is possible. 

Submission and Feedback

The presentation slides and a report summary should be submitted to NHLI’s Postgraduate Research Degrees Office a week prior to the presentation, copied to the assessors.

The Written Report and Slides will be sent to the student's assessors and an LSR assessment report will be made available to both student and supervisors following the Oral Presentation.

Assessors can download the LSR assessment form here: LSR Assessment Form Word Document

Back to top

Interruption of Studies

It may happen that a personal emergency or other circumstance arises, which requires the students to interrupt their studies. It is vital that the student inform their supervisors immediately, and they in turn the Postgraduate Office, so that the student’s registration and timeline can be suspended until they return and they do not unnecessarily exceed the maximum registration period, assessments and thesis submission deadlines.

Interruption of Studies (IOS) should be put in place for any compassionate leave, maternity and paternity leave, personal emergency, lack of funding, etc.

For fee-paying registrations, no fees are payable for such a period although it should be borne in mind that for full-time students, the stipend will also be suspended for the duration.

Please note that an interruption of studies is independent from any employment procedure carried out with Human Resources.

Note – only in exceptional circumstances can registrations be suspended retrospectively.

Upon returning to study following an IOS for health reasons, Registry will require a confirmation from a medical practitioner that the student is fit to return to their study. If a student has been off sick and has health-related concerns about their return to study, they should contact Occupational Health directly.

Full guidance available from the College website:

Back to top

Study Leave

Some students may be required to collect material or study elsewhere than at the College; part of the time may need to be spent in other places.  Any Study Leave must be applied for using an IC/D form which must be submitted to NHLI’s postgraduate office at least 6 weeks in advance of the period for which leave is sought.

If a student is spending a part of their studies in a laboratory elsewhere, or is doing fieldwork, then they will need to consider the risks involved.  Imperial has an ‘Off-Site Working’ policy which they will need to follow.  Details are available at:

The minimum period of attendance for a research student at Imperial College is normally 12 months of full-time study for both full-time and part-time students (ie Imperial or hospital employees). Study leave is not allowed during the first or last three months of study and therefore students must be in attendance at the College for the first 3 and last 3 months of the course, save in exceptional circumstances specifically agreed in advance by NHLI and by the College.

Adequate supervision must be in place where the student will be taking up their Study Leave prior to any application being approved.

Where Study Leave is undertaken inside the UK, tuition fees are charged at the full rate. Where Study Leave is undertaken outside the UK, tuition fees are charged at the full rate if the period of absence is less than 3 months. If the period of Study Leave outside the UK is 3 months or more, a reduced fee may be charged at the discretion of the department. The fee for the Study Leave period will be charged on a pro-rata basis at the rate for part-time students, with fees being charged on a pro-rata basis as normal for the period of full-time attendance at the College.

Back to top




New procedures on plagiarism and examination offences have been introduced from October 2009

Students are reminded that all work submitted as part of the requirements for any examination (including coursework) of Imperial College London and the University of London must be expressed in your own words and incorporate your own ideas and judgements.

Back to top

Share this on Delicious
Tweet this
Digg this
Stumble this
Share this on Facebook

Current students

NHLI Research Students' Handbook

This handbook provides all the information you would need to know during your research degree. It is continually updated and the latest version can be downloaded here. 

Committed to equality and valuing diversity.
We are also an Athena Silver SWAN Award winner and a Stonewall Diversity Champion.

Athena Silver SWAN Award

Stonewall Diversity Champion