Change of candidature

Changing circumstances may mean that it is no longer appropriate for a student to remain registered according to his/her original candidature. The most common of these changes are as follows:

  • Change of mode of attendance, i.e. from full-time to part-time (and vice versa);
  • Changes to a student's scope of research, degree programme or department.

Students must request permission from their department and faculty to change their candidature using the Change of Candidature (PGR) form.  Please be aware that once an application is submitted to the faculty it will normally take approximately 2 weeks for Faculty consideration and processing, but may take longer depending on the circumstances.  Students will be informed whether or not their change of candidature has been approved.

Before making an application to change any aspect of candidature, a student should consult his/her supervisor for advice. Sponsored students must also check with their sponsors that they are permitted to change their candidature and should not assume that this is the case. There have been instances where sponsors have not permitted any changes to the student’s original candidature be made.

Change of mode of attendance

Students may apply to change their mode of attendance from full-time to part-time study and vice versa, but should be aware of the following restrictions:

  • International students who are studying in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa are not permitted by UK immigration rules to study part-time and must therefore be registered on a full-time degree.
  • Students are not permitted to change their mode of attendance to Remote Location once they have commenced their research degree.  Remote Location candidature must be applied for from the start of the student's degree.
  • Students who wish to change their mode of attendance to University Staff candidate must provide a copy of their University employment contract.  Changes from student to staff candidate cannot be backdated more than 12 months.

Members of University staff who are undertaking a higher degree by research are normally registered on a part-time basis, as they are also employed by the University and therefore not expected to undertake their research on a full-time basis.  There are a small number of exceptions to this rule e.g. students sponsored by Marie Curie, MRC or NIHR, who are expected to register as full-time staff candidates.  This is due to the requirement of their funders that they be registered as staff candidates, but reflects the nature of their status as full-time students.  Full-time staff candidates' registration periods and time limits are the same as for standard students. Full-time staff candidature is restricted to candidates who are required to register in this way, as a condition of their PhD funding, and is not applicable to other types of staff candidates who are employed by the University.

Change of research topic, degree programme or department

Students may apply to make certain changes to their research topic, degree programme or department, but should be aware of the following guidance:

  • Where a student is moving from one department to another, both the current and the new departments should confirm that they are happy with the arrangement.
  • Students are only permitted to commence their new programme of study once they have been formally notified that their change of candidature has been approved by the faculty and their student record has been updated. Students will be emailed a signed copy of their application form after it has been considered by faculty.

Information for international students on a Tier 4 visa

Please note that the UKVI has introduced academic progression requirements for students studying on a Tier 4 student visa. In order for the University to comply with the UKVI’s sponsorship duties, academic departments should only approve changes of programme for students on a Tier 4 student visa if one or more of the following criteria is met:

  • The new programme of study is related to the previous programme of study, i.e. it is part of the same subject discipline and/or it represents a deeper subject specialism.
  • The previous and new programme combine to support the student’s genuine career aspiration.

If either of these criteria cannot be met the student may be required to remain on their current programme of study or re-apply for a new visa from overseas. Any Tier 4 visa student concerned about their change of programme should contact an International Student Adviser.  The University is required to notify UKVI of any changes to the degree programme being studied by a student studying in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa.

In the event of a University audit by UKVI, academic departments may be required to provide evidence of the consideration given to the suitability of the student’s change of programme in the context of criteria above, e.g. through email correspondence with the student and/or notes of meetings or discussions.

ATAS requirements for students changing research topic/degree programme

Non-EU/EEA students who request a change to their research topic or their degree programme may require ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance.  If ATAS is required, it must be obtained before the change of candidature can be approved and students are not permitted to commence their new programme or research topic until proof of new ATAS clearance has been obtained and submitted with the change of candidature application.  For this reason, students are advised to check if ATAS clearance is required and apply for an ATAS certificate as soon as possible.

New ATAS clearance is needed if the research topic has changed from what is stated on their original ATAS certificate. Students who require ATAS clearance in order to change their research topic will need to ask their supervisor for a summary which confirms details about their research, which can be used to make an online application.  Please note that most visa categories are now subject to the requirement to have ATAS clearance for affected courses and to apply for new clearance if the degree programme or research topic changes.  This will affect the majority of students who are subject to immigration regulations and not just those with a Tier 4 visa.

Students should contact International Student Support & Guidance for further information and guidance on the implications of applying to change their research topic, or refer to the aforementioned SSiD web pages for international students.

Further information on ATAS, including a list of the subject areas for which it is required, is available here.

Sponsored students

Students who are sponsored by, e.g. a Research Council or an overseas government should be aware that any changes to their student status will need to be notified to their sponsors and will normally require their sponsor's approval prior to being considered by the Faculty. Students are responsible for requesting approval from their sponsor. This includes requests for the following: leave of absence, time limit extensions, change of mode of attendance, changes in supervisors or research topics, transfers and withdrawals, maternity leave. Students should be aware that this may delay the consideration of their request, which should be submitted in good time.

Research-Council funded students are advised to check the Information for Scholarship Holders web pages for further guidance.