Time limits for thesis submission

Every higher degree by research has a normal and a maximum period of registration.  Postgraduate research students are required to register and pay tuition fees for the duration of the normal period of registration for their degree programme and, wherever possible, should aim to complete and submit their thesis within that period.  For a full-time PhD the normal period of registration is 3 years.

The maximum period of registration is the absolute time limit for submission of the thesis (for a full-time PhD this is 4 years).  The expectation is that all PGRs should submit their thesis within their time limit.  A continuation fee is charged between the end of the normal and maximum registration period. During this period students should normally only be completing the writing of their thesis and should not be undertaking any further research.

The thesis submitted for examination should represent research that may reasonably be expected of a capable and diligent student during the standard period of study. It is therefore essential that projects are undertaken which can be fully completed in the registration period. This includes necessary training, preparatory work, actual research and writing of a thesis and submission.

Extension of a student's registration period (time limit)

The expectation is that all PGRs should submit their thesis within their time limit.  This expectation should be clearly understood by students and departments from the very beginning of their studies, so that the student's research is planned accordingly to ensure timely submission.  If a student reaches their time limit and has not yet submitted, their registration status will automatically lapse and they may be withdrawn from the University and not be permitted to submit their thesis.  A student may apply for an extension to their time limit, but time limit extensions are only granted in very exceptional circumstances.  Under no circumstances should a student be led to believe that the granting of an extension to their time limit is a formality.

In order to apply for an extension a student must complete the Time Limit Extension (PGR) form and the application will be considered on its merits by the student's department and then the appropriate Faculty. The student must clearly state the reason why they have failed to submit on time and demonstrate how they would use the requested extension period effectively in order to complete the writing of their thesis and submit by the revised deadline. Students should provide this information as a Gantt chart to illustrate the schedule of work to be undertaken.  The student's department must decide whether or not they wish to support the student's application and must state the reasons for their decision on the form. 

All extension applications must be considered by the appropriate Faculty, who may support or reject the application. If the application is rejected, it will be forwarded to the Vice-President for Research & Innovation, or his/her delegated authority, for consideration.  The Vice-President may uphold or overrule the Faculty’s decision. If an extension application is rejected by both the Faculty and the Vice-President, the student will not be permitted to continue his/her degree after their current time limit expires and will be withdrawn unless they submit before their deadline. 

 Any application to extend a time limit must be submitted before the student's time limit expires in order to allow time for it to be considered by the Faculty and processed (which may take up to 2 weeks). Students who do not submit an extension request before their time limit expires may lose access to University facilities or may even be withdrawn from the University. If a student is granted a final extension, this will be indicated on the form. If the student does not submit their thesis by the end of their final extension period they will automatically be withdrawn and will not be permitted to submit their thesis after this date.

Extensions to time limits will not be considered for any purpose other than for the completion and submission of a student's thesis.  The difficulties encountered by students who attempt to complete their thesis whilst undertaking fulltime employment are well known, but this is not considered an acceptable reason to approve an extension request.  A request for an extension of time limit beyond the original programme duration should not be made if the request is only to allow the student more time to improve the standard of written English in the thesis.

Students should also take note of any impact an application for an extension may have on professional, disciplinary, or sponsor-related requirements that they may have and they should notify their sponsor if they apply for an extension.

A fee is payable for any period of extension that is granted beyond a student’s initial time limit. The level
of this fee is increased annually and details of the current year’s fee are available here. Extension fees will be loaded on a student’s record when the extension request is approved and will then become immediately due for payment. It is not University policy to waive fees that have been incurred as a result of an extension to a student’s registration period, as the ability to forward plan and manage one's own time are considered important qualities of doctoral researchers.

Extensions for International Students

In addition to the above guidance, international students who consider applying for an extension to their time limit and who are studying in the UK subject to immigration regulations (e.g. those on a Tier 4 student visa) should explore whether they will also need to extend their visa and whether there are any ATAS implications (see below).

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

If a student’s time limit is extended by more than 3 months, and they are studying a course that requires ATAS, they will need to submit a new application for ATAS clearance. This now affects the majority of students who are subject to
immigration regulations, and not just those with a Tier 4 visa.  Therefore, although students in a non-Tier 4 visa category that is subject to the ATAS requirement may not need an ATAS certificate for their visa application, they will need to apply for clearance for the purposes of their time limit extension. Non-EU/EEA students with a Tier 4 visa who wish to extend their Leave to Remain as a student in the UK for some research degrees will require ATAS clearance before they apply to extend their visa. Visa applications made without valid ATAS clearance will be refused. Students who require ATAS clearance will need to ask their supervisor for a summary which confirms details about their research, which can be used to make an online application.

Students should contact the International Student Support Team for further information and guidance on the implications of applying for an extension, 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