Absences, suspensions and extensions of your research

If you are unable to study or believe your progress is being significantly disrupted then you must let your school know immediately.

Authorised absences

If you need a short period of absence from your studies, your supervisor(s) may be able to authorise this. You and your supervisor must agree that the absence won't have any effect on your ability to meet deadlines for your research studies, including the transfer deadline and the maximum time limit for the submission of your thesis. Typical reasons for authorised absence include short periods of illness (supported by a doctor's letter) and personal difficulties.

Length of authorised absences

An authorised absence is normally up to four weeks’ duration in one calendar year. This is in addition to the five weeks annual leave allowance you're entitled to per year. If you require a longer period of absence, a suspension of study should be considered.

Returning after an authorised absence

You'll be expected to return to your studies promptly. This will include being able to carry out research effectively, attend the University and present work regularly against a timetable agreed with your supervisor.

If you're not ready to return keep in contact with your supervisor. Longer periods of absence may be dealt with as a suspension of study. If you do not keep in contact for a prolonged period, the University will assume you have withdrawn from your studies and your candidature will be terminated. It is therefore crucial that you discuss your return following absence with your supervisor.

Suspensions and extensions

Both suspensions and extensions to your studies are only granted in circumstances where serious disruption to your studies have taken place. You should seek advice from your school on whether they consider your situation would allow a suspension or extension. Reasons which are unlikely to be successful include:

  •  if you have completed the standard period of study on a full-time basis and are now in the overtime period and in employment and you're making the request on the basis of pressures of work
  • where there is no clear relationship between the amount of time requested and the problem encountered

    Poor academic progress in itself is not reasonable grounds for a suspension/extension.


Suspension of study

A suspension of study is a period of more than one month when a postgraduate researcher temporarily leaves the programme and loses their registration status. During this time you would not be expected to progress your research or pay academic fees. You won’t have access to supervision, the library or other University facilities (such as laboratories). You will still be able to access IT facilities, such as email.

Typical reasons for suspension of study are serious illness, maternity leave or significant personal difficulties. If you feel you need a suspension of study, let your school know straightaway. A period of suspension will not count towards the deadlines for the research degree including the transfer deadline (if this has not taken place) and the maximum time limit for submission of your thesis. This means deadlines will be lengthened to take account of the suspension period.

You will be able to resume your studies when you are medically fit to do so or when you have overcome your difficulties.

Extension of study

An extension of study is a lengthening of your candidature to take account of unexpected or unavoidable disruption to studies which has slowed down academic progress significantly and which you are unable to make up the lost time for. You will not leave the programme and will continue to progress your research.

Typical reasons for extension include recovery from accident or illness, or significant personal difficulties. Requests for extensions will be considered very closely and it's anticipated that the number approved will be small. Requests will normally be made before the completion of the standard period of study and at a point when it’s clear how much of the time lost has been compensated for during the standard period of study.

Your supervisor will work with you to agree a timetable for completion. If the request is made during the overtime period, you will need to explain how much of your thesis is complete and submit a plan for completion of your thesis (which includes milestones) agreed by your supervisor.

Length of suspensions or extensions

The length of suspension or extension requested should be reasonable in the sense that it bears close relation to the problem or difficulties you are experiencing. For example, you would be unlikely to be granted a six month suspension of study for a minor illness.

Periods of suspension are normally granted for no longer than 12 months in the first instance. Any postgraduate researcher commencing their research degree from the academic year 2012-13 onwards will not be granted periods of suspension or extension equivalent to more than two calendar years for a full-time student or three calendar years for a part-time student other than in exceptional circumstances.

Requesting suspensions and extensions of study

Talk to your supervisor if you think it might be necessary to request a suspension or extension to your studies.  You can also get advice from your Faculty/School Postgraduate Research Administrator or Postgraduate Research Tutor.  Make sure you speak to staff in good time when your difficulty arises - suspensions won't normally be backdated by more than one month.

You can request a suspension or extension by completing the relevant form and returning it to your School.  

You should submit documentary evidence to support your request (such as a doctor’s letter if your request is based on ill-health).

All requests for suspensions or extensions of study are considered by your school’s postgraduate research tutor. Where your school supports your request, a recommendation will be forwarded to the Programmes of Study and Audit Group. All requests are subject to approval by the Group and may be rejected. In some cases you may be asked to provide more information before a decision is taken.

Notification of the outcome of a suspension or extension request

If your request is successful, you'll be emailed a letter from Postgraduate Research and Operations confirming details including the revised maximum time limit for your transfer to doctoral study or submission of your thesis. Your supervisor will also receive a copy. If your request is unsuccessful you'll be contacted by either the school postgraduate research tutor or Postgraduate Research and Operations.


You are responsible for checking any implications of a suspension or extension of study on your funding with the scholarship provider or the awarding body.

Registration after suspension or extension

You will need to re-register within 4 weeks of your return from a suspension and it may be the case that you have to register twice in a single academic year. If a case for an extension to the maximum period of study is granted by the Graduate Board, you will need to register for any extension to the candidature beyond one month. There is no fee for the extension. If your end date changes due to a suspension or extension, you will be able to get an updated student ID card with a new completion date at the Student Services Counter free of charge when you hand in your old card at the Student Services Centre.

If you do not keep in contact with your School you may lose the time available to complete your thesis or be presumed to have withdrawn from the University.

International postgraduate researchers

Authorised absences and your visa

Authorised absences do not have any effect on your visa provided they do not impact on the overall time limit for completion of your programme of study.

Suspensions and your visa

If you are granted a suspension you should check your visa requirements. The University is required to report suspensions of study of any duration to the Home Office within 10 working days. The Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance states that if a postgraduate researcher defers (suspends) their studies after they've arrived in the UK and is no longer actively studying, then their permission to stay is no longer valid and they must leave the UK.

Please be aware that if you are granted a suspension of study:


  1. Your visa will be curtailed by the Home Office
  2. You will be required to leave the UK during this period
  3. You will need to request a new CAS and apply for entry clearance before returning to the UK
  4. You should seek immigration advice from the International Student Office


Time limit for leaving the UK after a suspension

Based on the Home Office regulations, we recommend that you leave the UK within 60 days of the start of your period of suspension.

Serious illness with medical evidence advising against travel

In extreme circumstances it is possible to make an immigration application outside the rules. This is complex and should be undertaken with expert immigration advice (outside the University). If you switch to another immigration category you cannot normally switch back to student permission in the UK.

Extensions and your visa

You should contact the International Student Office for immigration advice.