Open Access and PhD theses

It is now a University requirement that all PGR students registered from the start of the 2008-09 academic year must submit their thesis electronically. This means that the full text of the theses is available via the University’s eTheses repository White Rose Etheses Online (WREO) and the British Library’s thesis repository EthOS. There are many benefits to making your thesis available online, but there are also circumstances in which you might not want your work made open access immediately and therefore might want to set a delay or embargo period. If you are publicly funded you will also need to be mindful of the funder’s open access requirements. Always seek advice from your supervisor on these issues before submission.

What are the advantages of making my thesis open access immediately?

The main benefit is visibility and exposure, due to your work being discoverable by search engines such as Google. This can lead to higher citation counts and increased potential for international and interdisciplinary collaboration. It will also provide a stable, long-term URL that you can use to promote and share your work and allow you to monitor the impact of your research by tracking citations and downloads which you can advertise to potential funders or employers. By allowing full text access you are also better protected against plagiarism. There is even some evidence that making your thesis open access can attract publishers, as they can immediately see the impact of your research. Evidence for open access works attracting higher citation counts can be seen through SPARC Europe’s research.

Students whose PhD, or other research degree, has been publicly funded by UK Research Councils, by the Wellcome Trust, by the European Union and many others are expected by the funder to make their thesis openly accessible as soon as possible after its successful completion. See the Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes 2017-2018 for further information or the funder’s specific guidance on their web pages.

See University researchers talking about the benefits of open access in this video.

Why might I need an embargo period?

Students are permitted to embargo their thesis under certain conditions, e.g. where there are commercial sensitivities . Both print and electronic theses can be embargoed. Faculties have agreed a maximum length of embargo that can be applied without any additional permission. Requests for embargoes that exceed the Faculty thresholds will require Faculty consideration

If you feel that ideas contained in your thesis might provide you with commercial opportunities, please consult the Research Services webpages.

Another reason for seeking an embargo is if you wish to publish from your thesis, either as one or more articles or as a monograph. Some publishers see theses available on institutional repositories as ‘prior publication’ and therefore would not consider them, as there would be little demand for their version. However, other publishers (e.g. Wiley) do not consider this to be a problem, as the thesis would be significantly revised and formatted for publication. As mentioned above, download statistics and citation counts from open access theses can help to convince publishers that a market exists for your research. An early publication plan is helpful in this instance. Individual editors and publishers should be contacted and their opinions sought; if there are potential problems, an appropriate embargo could be applied.

Publishers’ policies on theses and prior publication

Many publishers do not state an explicit policy and you will need to make contact directly to discuss your situation. Below are some links to major publishers and information.  Information correct as of Jan 2018; you are strongly advised to contact publishers yourself to ensure your embargo is acceptable to them if you are planning on turning your thesis into a monograph.

Cambridge University Press

A monograph based on a thesis would only be considered for publication after extensive revision. Therefore, an embargo on the original thesis is not generally an essential requirement.

Edinburgh University Press

A thesis must be substantially revised before publication as a monograph. Therefore, an embargo on the original thesis is not generally an essential requirement.

Liverpool University Press

A monograph based on a thesis would only be considered for publication after extensive revision. Therefore, an embargo on the original thesis is not generally an essential requirement.

Manchester University Press

Theses must be substantially rewritten before being published as a monograph, and embargoes are required to be ‘as long as possible’. It is advisable to contact the publisher directly, to determine what embargo period would be acceptable in an individual case.

Oxford University Press

No specific guidelines are given with reference to PhD theses. However, the history section ‘will not usually consider for publication any book held in its entirety or in significant part in an institutional or commercial electronic depository.’ Contact individual journals or editors to check their policy.

Palgrave Macmillan

Accepts proposals based on theses made available in online repositories, but these must be significantly revised. There is a general expectation that theses should have an embargo lasting 2 years after publication of the monograph. This may vary, depending on how different the monograph is from the original thesis.


No specific policy is available. Please contact the publisher directly for guidance.


Theses posted in institutional archives are acceptable for submission, as long as they are not ‘the same or substantially the same as any previously published work’.

Taylor & Francis

Policy varies from journal to journal - check website or contact publisher for guidance.

University of Wales Press

Monographs must be substantially different from the theses on which they are based. While the publisher respects AHRC’s embargo policies, an embargo period of 2 years is preferred. When submitting a proposal, it must be made clear if the thesis is in a repository and when it will be publicly available.

Wiley (including Blackwell)

Accepts proposals based on theses made available in university archives.