Taking time out from your research

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

You can access more detailed information about suspensions and extensions for PGRs via the Suspensions and Extensions policy which can be found on the SES (Student Education Service) website Regulations, codes, policies and procedures for postgraduate research.

We understand that you may encounter events or circumstances that disrupt your academic progress (for example, ill-health or personal difficulties). In many cases it will be possible to recover any time that is lost; however, for significant difficulties this may not be possible.

If you encounter a disruption, the University will help you to consider your options.  These include a period of suspension or extension of study, which will add more time to your research degree and delay the deadline for thesis submission, or authorised absence which is a break from studies but will not affect your deadlines. 

Please contact your Graduate School as soon as possible and they can offer advice and support. If you are able, it is a good idea to also let your supervisors know of any issues; alternatively the Graduate School can contact your supervisors on your behalf with your permission. It is important to keep an up-to-date record of any challenges or concerns in GRAD in case you need any additional support later on.

If you need support or advice, there are teams across the University who will be happy to talk to you:  
•    Support and Wellbeing 
•    Student Counselling and Wellbeing 
•    LUU (Leeds University Union) help and support
•    Disability services 
•    Information for international students

The Student cases page on the Secretariat website also has useful information on policy and processes.

Authorised absences

This is a short break from your studies (normally up to four weeks duration in a 12 month period, in addition to any period of annual leave) which can be authorised by your supervisor. You and your supervisor must agree that the absence won't affect your ability to submit your thesis on time. Typical reasons for an authorised absence include short periods of illness (supported by medical evidence) and personal difficulties.

Returning after an authorised absence

Once the authorised absence finishes, you should come back to your work as normal, and should be able to resume your research effectively. If you're not ready to return, contact 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 may assume you have withdrawn from your studies. It is therefore crucial that you discuss your return following absence with your supervisor.

Suspension of study

During a suspension of study you temporarily leave your programme for a minimum of one month.  During a suspension you are not expected to progress your research or to pay academic fees. You won’t have access to supervision, the library or other University facilities (such as laboratories), but you will keep access to IT facilities, including email. Your deadlines will be lengthened to account for the suspension period. Typical reasons for suspension of study are illness, maternity leave, or personal difficulties. If you feel you may need a suspension of study, let your Graduate School know immediately. When you can return to study will differ from person to person depending on the circumstances; it may be when you are medically fit, have overcome any personal difficulties or are simply due back after planned leave, eg parental leave. 

Extension of study

An extension of study adds more time to your programme, to take account of an unexpected or unavoidable disruption which has significantly slowed down your progress, and for which you are unable to make up the lost time. You will continue to work on your research and make progress, and your supervisor will work with you to agree a timetable for completion. If you request an extension during your overtime period, you will need to explain how much of your thesis is complete and submit a plan for completion of your thesis, agreed by your supervisor.

Length of suspensions or extensions

The length of suspension or extension that you request should be reasonable and relevant to the problem or difficulties you are experiencing. Requests for suspensions of study will not be granted indefinitely. The minimum period of suspension is one calendar month, and requests are normally granted for no longer than 12 months in the first instance. The University will not normally approve periods of extension and suspension which add up to more than two calendar years for a full-time PGR or three calendar years for a part-time PGR (suspensions for maternity or adoption leave are excluded). External funders, sponsors or professional bodies may also set limits on the length of suspension or extension that you can take.  For more information, please see the policy linked at the top of this page and contact your Graduate School.  

Requesting suspensions and extensions of study

You can request a suspension or extension of study by completing the suspension/extension of study workflow in GRAD: this can be accessed in GRAD via the change request menu. GRAD is the preferred method but if the request is sensitive or confidential and you don’t want the details in the system, please contact your Graduate School first.

You can also get advice from your Graduate School, Director of Postgraduate Research Studies or supervisor.  Make sure you speak to staff as soon as you can - suspensions won't normally be backdated by more than one month.

If you are on a Tier 4 or Student visa, it is your responsibility to inform the university of any periods of absence or change of location.  

Registration after suspension or extension

You will need to re-register within four weeks of returning from a suspension; this means that you may need to register twice in the same academic year. If your maximum period of study is extended, you will need to register for any extension longer than one month. There is no fee for the extension. If you do not keep in contact with your Graduate School and supervisor, you may lose the time available to complete your thesis or be presumed to have withdrawn from the University.

Support and advice for pregnant PGRs

If you become pregnant, we would encourage you to discuss what support you may need for your research at an early stage of the pregnancy. You can approach any member of staff who you feel comfortable with, and we also recommend reading the University’s policy on support for pregnant students and students with very young children

Periods of parental or adoption leave are normally managed under the suspension of studies process (and/or authorised absence). Periods of suspension for parental or adoption leave are not included towards the normal overall limit on suspensions/extensions over a candidature. Suspensions of studies are recorded in whole months, however you can start, or return from, a period of leave at any point in the month, by recording some of the period of leave as an authorised absence in addition to any period of suspension. You can also choose to take annual leave immediately before or after a period of suspension or authorised absence.

If you are on a Tier 4 or Student Visa, please also contact the Student visa advice team for immigration advice.

If you are in receipt of funding, please contact your Graduate School who can discuss possible parental leave pay arrangements with you. 

PGRs who are parents or carers

We believe that being, or becoming, responsible for a child or dependent adult should not be a barrier to your research. The University is committed to being as flexible as possible, whilst, at the same time, making sure that any accommodations made for you will not compromise academic standards. Further information can be found in the policies and guidance page of the Equality and inclusion unit website.

Sponsors and funding

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. If your submission deadline is extended and you are in receipt of funding, please be aware that your funding may not also be extended. You should discuss funding arrangements with your Graduate School if you are granted an extension or suspension.

Data Quarantining

If you are applying for a suspension of study of 12 months or a new, continuing suspension of study which will take you up to 12 months in total you should speak to your supervisor regarding your data in line with the University’s data retention procedures, and requesting an exemption from the data quarantining process. You can find out more information about the University’s Data Quarantine process on the Data Protection information pages on the IT website (requires log in). 

Tier 4/Student Visa postgraduate researchers

Authorised absences do not affect your visa provided they do not change the overall time limit for completion of your programme of study.

If your programme requires ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) approval, and your period of study is extended, you may be required to apply for fresh ATAS clearance. Please consult the ATAS page of the For Students website for more information. 

If you are granted a suspension or extension, you should check your visa requirements and seek support from the Student Visa Advice team.