Absences, Suspensions and Extensions
Students may suspend (take time out from) their studies for various reasons related to personal or professional circumstances. Students may also, at the end of their studies, request an extension to their deadline for submission. These options are different although the end result is the same in terms of changing a student's expected submission date. Applications for Suspensions or Extensions are made to the Graduate School in your College (links on the right).
Unless you benefit from funding for your studies that applies to your request for additional time or have successfully applied for relevant funding, e.g. UKRI funding or the funded extensions programme run by the university, suspensions and extensions are not funded. When suspended from study, fees are suspended. When extending study at the end of your programme, this is generally outside a fee-paying period.
A matter of great concern for students who have experienced delays and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic is what their options are for extending study. Students always have an option to suspend or extend their studies as is appropriate to their needs and Graduate Schools have processes in place to make these requests and advise on current procedures. All requests are being treated as sympathetically as possible in the current circumstances.
The University acknowledges that PGR students are often unaware of the possibility and the processes for taking sick leave or other leaves of absence due to unforeseen circumstances. This lack of awareness could cause undue pressure that may have a negative effect on the PGR student and affect the quality of their research in addition to their physical and mental health. For this reason, the University strongly encourages PGR students to consider their health and ask for support and/ or adjustments to complete their research study. PGRs should not have any reservations that could prevent them from communicating the difficulties they are experiencing during their course of study. Requests for absence due to a change in circumstances do not negatively affect nor have an impact on a PGR student’s reputation. The University has a duty of care and supervisors are expected to support reasonable requests for a leave of absence.
Please see below guidance on reporting an absence:
Please read PGR Student Absence policy in the PGR Code of Practice (section 7).
A 'suspension' is a time out, often referred to as 'stopping the clock'. This pauses a student's registration and their end date is adjusted accordingly for the period of suspension. Students are normally asked to evidence their reasons for a suspension. There are many reasons why a student may choose to suspend study and these may include circumstances such as ill-health, parental leave, or undertaking a placement or internship. More information can be found in Section 9 of the PGR Code of Practice.
Depending on the funding source, suspensions may or may not be funded or may only be funded in part according to the funder terms and conditions. Students are encouraged to speak with their Graduate Schools about this if this is a concern.
Students may request a period of suspension at any point during their studies, even while in the thesis pending period.
Retrospective suspension requests would be considered only in exceptional circumstances.
An 'extension' takes place only at end of a student's expected period of study. It is the expected submission date that can be extended on request and based on the appropriate application being made (please check with your Graduate School). Extensions cannot generally be requested until close to the end date as that is the point at which a student will have the best idea as to their actual need for additional time, formulate a plan of action and then make a request based on this. More information can be found in Section 10 of the PGR Code of Practice.
Extensions are generally unfunded and all students can request that their end date be extended. Similarly, as extensions generally are given at the end of the period of study, they are outside the fee-paying period (at the end of the funded period or in the period of thesis pending) and require no additional tuition fees to be paid.
Funders are generally sensitive to timely submission so the extent to which you need to support your request may vary to meet funder requirements. However, in the current circumstances where students have been subject to significant disruption due to the pandemic, requests for extensions are being treated as sympathetically as possible.
An exception to the above is the programme of funded extensions that the University has been running since the start of the pandemic. It was agreed that students would be invited to apply for extensions to their minimum period of study and that students could receive exceptional funding for their agreed funded extension and pay no tuition fee for this period.
Minimum Period of Study
It can be difficult to explain clearly and in general terms what is meant by the minimum period of study as individual students are on individual trajectories through their programmes. However, it is important to understand this if you are applying for a funded extension from the University.
A PhD undertaken at a standard full-time load has a minimum period of 3 years. This changes to 5 years at a standard part-time load and may vary if students have had periods of both full and part-time study or periods of suspension. This minimum period may vary between programmes (e.g. a PhD, MSc(R) or an EdD) and for students who may need a longer period of active research.
This may also be referred to as the 'period of supervised study', the 'research period', or the 'period of full- or part-time study'. Once a student has been moved to a 'thesis pending' load and is no longer paying fees (and then by definition no longer engaged in research), they are considered to be outside their minimum period of study and writing up their thesis instead of actively researching.
This may also in some cases be referred to as the 'funded period', where this is relevant, and this varies by funder with students being funded for 3, 3.25, 3.5, or 4 years depending on variables such as funder, programme, doctoral training structure or project. Where funders have provided additional funding during the pandemic, this has generally been by extension to the funded period.
The University put in place a process at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for students to apply for funding to cover an extension to their minimum period of study. Fees are waived for the period covered by the funded extension.
UKRI also put similar processes in place to provide funding for students in receipt of their funding. UKRI funded students were able to either participate in an early process during 2020 to apply for funding with funding allocated to individual grants or in a later process to apply to the central University process with funding allocated from UKRI or University resources.
The University process was agreed upon by the PGR Executive Group (Deans of Graduate Studies, Office of the Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation Services) and allowed students, in groups according to their end date, to apply for a funded extension of up to 6 months. Applications are reviewed at School/Institute, Graduate School, and PGR Executive level, with a final decision on funding communicated to students shortly after the final panel review. It should be noted that where the University is providing the funding, rather than an external funder such as UKRI via the University, the funding should be seen as exceptional and not as an extension of any other terms and conditions of funding.
Students were asked to complete a form, signed off by their supervisors, making a case for an extension and detailing both the disruption they have faced and their plans to mitigate the disruption and/or adapt their projects. It was, of course, recognized that disruptions and delays could take many forms, from a variety of personal circumstances to an inability to undertake planned work in labs or as fieldwork, inability to access resources, etc.
The University Funded Extensions rounds are now closed. The final round of extensions opened on 10 March 2021 with a closing date of 9 April 2021. Decisions were communicated to students during the week commencing 28 May 2021. Approximately 700 students have received a funded extension and £3.5m in funding has been allocated.
Find out more about how the University has supported researchers during the Covid-19 Pandemic.