As a student of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust it is most likely that you will need to gain some form of ethical clearance before you can begin your research.

Please note that the following guidance only relates to students who are currently registering their thesis proposal or have very recently registered their thesis proposal. If you have already begun your research and have queries regarding ethical approval please email

It is your responsibility as the researcher, to ensure that you have full ethical approval to conduct your study. Please read the following guidance very carefully before beginning your application and ensure that you particularly read and follow the relevant ‘important information’ sections below.

Your supervisor is responsible for supporting and guiding you through this process and therefore you must discuss the options and routes with your supervisor(s) before you decide on the appropriate route.

It can take a long time to gain ethical approval for your project. You may have to apply to several different R&D departments and your application may be sent back for amendments several times. Expected approval time is between 3 and 9 months, but can take anything up to 18 months. Please bear this in mind when designing your project as much as is reasonably possible.

If you are experiencing delays that are through no fault of your own (see bottom of page for definition) you may apply to suspend your studies. Please note that if you suspend your studies you cannot have access to any facilities and are only allowed intermittent contact with supervisors.

Ethical approval routes

There are four routes that are available to you when applying for ethical approval. An overview of the ethical approval process is attached.

Route One: Integrated Research Application System (IRAS)

This is the route for you if:

  1. You are undertaking a social work/social care project AND if:
    1. The research involves withdrawing standard care
    2. AND/OR: The research involves NHS patients or people who use services as research participants.
    3. AND/OR: The research is a social care research project funded by the Department of Health (DH) in England.
    4. AND/OR: There is a legal requirement for REC review of the research (e.g. under the Mental Capacity Act). (taken from
  2. You are undertaking a project involving clinical patients (apart from M80 single case studies)
  3. You are undertaking research within a Local Authority

This is NOT the route for you if:

  1. You are undertaking research other than the NHS and your project doesn’t fall under the criteria outlined above
  2. If you apply to a Research Ethics Committee through IRAS and they tell you that you don’t need ethical approval. You would then need to go through Route Two (below)

IRAS is a single, online application system for applying for the permissions and approvals for health and social care / community care research in the UK.

Process for applying through IRAS

  1. Register with IRAS at
  2. Remember that you are the principal investigator in this instance. Please only add your Director of Studies (1st supervisor)  as your supervisor – if you add more than one supervisor they all have to sign the form before you can submit it so this will delay the process
  3. When completing the form, make full use of the green information icons. Many of your questions will be answered if you click on these icons without having to wait for other people to respond to your queries!
  4. Halfway through the form, it will ask you for an Indemnity Certificate. The Sponsors details are: Professor Michael Seed, University of East London, Stratford Campus, Water Lane. London. E15 4LZ. Email: 
  5. Please ensure the form is fully completed and checked by your supervisor – if they are incorrect and/or incomplete this could affect your ethical approval status and/or delay the application process.

  6. Once your form is ready, IRAS will automatically be forwarded to your sponsor and your DoS for authorisation.

  7. If you require a specific REC to consider your application, please call IRAS to request this. The number will be found on the application form
  8. When you are ready to submit your application, there is no need to meet a specific deadline (unless you have specified which REC you wish the form to go to). Please submit as soon as it is fully completed and your supervisor has checked and gone through it with you.
  9. Once you receive your approval letter from the REC, you must submit your final (unconditional) ethical approval letter(s) and IRAS application form(s) to UEL’s Research Ethics Committee at and cc. and receive a letter from UREC before beginning your research involving human participants and/or data. The normal turnaround for receiving a UREC letter in these cases is 5 working days

You will most likely be required to submit an Annual Report on progress to your Research Ethics Committee. You can use the same Annual Report for submission to your Course Administrator as part of the Tavistock Annual Review process (More information about Doctoral Annual Reviews).

If you have read all of the above information and you need further advice or support with your Research Ethics Committee application through IRAS, please approach your Director of Studies (1st Supervisor) in the first instance. If they are unable to help, please use the following contacts.

  • The green information icons green icon appear throughout the application form and provide help and support if you click on them
  • There are help numbers located at the bottom of your application form – it is advisable to call these numbers before seeking further advice or guidance
  • IRAS guidance
  • IRAS contacts

If you are unable to find the information you need from the above, please contact Emmanuel Rollings-Kamara (NRES)

Route Two: University of East London Research Ethics Committee (UREC)

This is the route for you if you are studying on a UEL validated ProfDoc programme AND if:

  1. You are conducting a single case study and you are on the Professional Doctorate in Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (M80)
  2. You are conducting research within a School
  3. You are conducting research within a Workplace that is not within the NHS or a Local Authority
  4. Most students on the Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation (D10D) will take this route
  5. You are interviewing staff within an NHS organisation or Local Authority. NB if you are carrying out any research within an NHS organisation you must gain Research & Development (R&D) Approval – see above for more information.
  6. You have approached another REC (through IRAS) and they do not view it as research or do not feel that ethical approval is needed from them

This is NOT the route for you if:

  1. Any of the criteria under Route One (IRAS) applies to you
  2. If you are studying on an Essex validated research degree programme
  3. Your supervisor or a member of your course team recommends that you apply through IRAS

Process for applying through UREC

In this instance, your Director of Studies (1st Supervisor) is the Principal Investigator

  1. Find the consent form template on the UREC website. If you wish to amend this you must submit the proposed amendments with the application form before consent is sought
  2. The application form is also found at the above link.
  3. Get the form hand-signed by your Director of studies, yourself and the Dean of School. The Dean of School is Brian Rock. Please contact his PA Fiona Hartnett to get his signature on the form.
  4. Please ensure the form is fully completed and checked by your Director of Studies – if the form is incorrect and/or incomplete this could affect your ethical approval status and/or delay the application process.
  5. Submit your completed, checked and signed form along with any supporting documents to and by the advertised deadlines.
  6. If you send any copies of signed consent forms these should be redacted to remove any information that identifies your subjects, to protect the identity of the participants. However, you must keep the fully signed consent forms as you may be required to provide these as part of the consideration.
  7. If you make amendments to your project during the course of your research, you must inform UREC using the amendments form found at the UREC web link as above.
  8. Receive the unconditional approval letter. Once you have this and you have your registration approval letter you may begin your research. 

For support with your UREC application, please approach your Director of Studies (1st Supervisor) in the first instance. They are responsible for guiding and supporting you through the process.

The following information is available on the UEL Research Ethics Committee (UREC) webpages where you can find:  

  • Application form

  • Information sheet and template consent form

  • Guidance for UREC applications
  • Amendments to your original, approved application
  • Research involving children

Please note that students are required to use their UEL username and password to access the links.  If your account has not been activated and the password changed (which would be their date of birth) the account may need to be reactivated. Students are advised to contact the UEL IT department: 0208 223 2468 for assistance on technical issues.

If you still cannot find the answer to your query please contact

Route Three: Tavistock Research Ethics Committee (TREC)

This route is for students on:  

  1. All Masters/Postgraduate Research Degree courses 
  2. Professional Doctorate students studying with the University of Essex. 

This is NOT the route for you if:

  1. UEL validated Professional Doctorates

Process for applying through TREC

Application forms and guidance documentation can be found at the TREC Moodle site

Research and Development (R&D) Approval

In addition to your Research Ethics application, if you are carrying out research within an NHS organisation, you will need to gain R&D approval from each organisation prior to carrying out research there. R&D approval is not affiliated with any Research Ethics Committees and gaining ethical approval is entirely separate to the process of gaining R&D approval. To apply, you must complete the relevant R&D forms found on the IRAS website.

* 'Through no fault of your own’: Your ethical application form(s) was/were fully completed to the best of your abilities and signed, checked by your supervisor and submitted to the relevant Research Ethics Committee (REC) at around the same time as (within a month of) submitting your research proposal to the Trust Research Degrees Subcommittee, and despite repeatedly trying to get a response from the REC, you still have not heard from them. Not meeting the requirements or standards of the REC where the REC has responded within a reasonable time-frame does not constitute grounds for a suspension of studies.

Where the research involves human participation (i.e. human participants, human material or human data) prior approval from a research ethics committee is mandatory. Applicants should be aware that conducting any form of research involving the above parameters without appropriate ethical approval may result in disciplinary action and/or the cancellation of the research.