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Update on student research – new eligibility criteria from 1 September 2021

The Health Research Authority (HRA) and the devolved administrations, supported by the Wessex Institute at the University of Southampton, have reviewed their approach to study approval for student research.

The review aimed to ensure students have the best learning experience of health and social care research, and to reduce the time that the HRA, DAs and NHS Research Ethics Committees (RECs) spend advising on and reviewing student applications.

In March 2020 they paused student research approvals to create capacity for urgent COVID-19 research. Now, from 1 September 2021, they are introducing new eligibility criteria for standalone student research.

The new criteria mean that some Master’s level students will be able to apply for ethics review and HRA/HCRW Approval or devolved administration equivalent. Standalone research at undergraduate level that requires ethics review and/or HRA/HCRW Approval (or devolved administration equivalent) cannot take place. Arrangements for doctoral research remain unchanged. Full details are in table one - permitted student research table. We’ve also made it clear when students are able to take the role of Chief Investigator, see table two - which type of students may act as Chief Investigator?

It is possible for students to learn about health and social care research without completing standalone projects. Looking at other ways to build skills and experience better reflects modern research and emphasises team science. View the video of their event ‘Exploring good practice in Student Research’ to hear from course leaders about how successful these alternative approaches have been (registration is required to view) or see the HRA website for further information and ideas https://www.hra.nhs.uk/student-research/.

If you have any queries about the eligibility criteria, please contact queries@hra.nhs.uk.

Table 1: Permitted student research

This table shows the type of stand-alone research projects that students will be able to do from September 2021. Stand-alone research means research where the student designs the study, submits for approval and conducts the project on their own with supervision. Please check what types of research require the different types of review.

 

Type of Review

Undergraduate or equivalent

Masters (or equivalent) students on non-health and care courses or in

university departments not active in health and care research

Masters or equivalent) students on health and care courses in health and care research active university departments

Health and care professionals or trainees on courses in health and care research active university departments

PhD/ doctoral level 

Non-REC*

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Proportionate REC review

No

No

only if no other suitable alternative to obtain educational experience

Yes

Yes

Full REC review

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

*No ethical review is required under the terms of GAfREC. Research involves the NHS/HSC so falls within the scope of HRA/HCRW Approval or Devolved Administration equivalent.

 

Table 2 – Which type of students may act as Chief Investigator

Type of student

Undergraduate or equivalent

Masters (or equivalent)

PhD/ doctoral level 

Act as Chief Investigator

No

No

Yes