Embargoing a thesis

Guidance on the appropriate circumstances where an embargo of a thesis may be necessary.



All research degree theses are expected to be made publicly available as soon as possible following the award of a degree, for anyone to read, download, print, copy and reuse. The University fully endorses the principles of open access and requires all researchers to make their research open access where possible to maximise research impact and to comply with funder policies where applicable.

Public funders recognise that factors such as commercial, collaborative or publication arrangements may necessitate a delay in the process of making a thesis openly accessible, and where this is the case, an embargo may be necessary. The maximum length of embargo permitted by public funders is usually 12 months, other than in exceptional circumstances. Universities are expected to have in place a process for considering where exceptions can be granted to the requirement for publication within 12 months.

Reasons for requesting an embargo

Students are permitted to embargo their thesis under certain conditions, eg. where there are commercial sensitivities or where it is necessary to delay access to a thesis until after publication of results. Students should discuss with their supervisor whether they require an embargo and, if so, for how long. This discussion should take account of the need to ensure that research is made available as soon as possible and a consideration of the benefits that early publication can bring.

Some faculties have their own additional guidance regarding the maximum length of embargo that is permitted, and this should also be taken into consideration. Students should check with their supervisors whether such guidance exists.  Students are reminded that it is not good practice to delay the publication of their research without good cause.

Requests for embargoes that exceed 12 months require faculty approval and must be accompanied by a clear rationale as to why a longer period is required. A form is available to request an extended embargo. Extended embargoes beyond five years will not normally be approved unless there are very exceptional reasons. Examples of this may include where a contract has been signed requiring a longer embargo, or where there is a threat to personal security. Where relevant evidence is available to support a request for an extended embargo, eg. a copy of the contract, this should be attached to the request form.  

If an embargo is required, this must be indicated on the Access to Thesis form, otherwise, the thesis may be made publicly available. Students are responsible for setting any embargo options at the point they upload their eThesis to White Rose eTheses Online.

Failure to set an embargo will result in the eThesis being made publicly available.

Access to Thesis (Word, 39.6kb)Extended embargo request form (Word, 21KB)

Examples of exceptions for granting an extended embargo

Planned publication (details of publication plans should be included)

  • There is often a long lead-time to get papers published in quality journals.
  • Cross-disciplinary research may also take longer to publish.
  • Where we are able to demonstrate that reaching the highest levels of academic excellence also has a long lead-time, and where the thesis contains data likely to be included in future research by the supervisor or collaborator.
  • To account for plans to publish, however, the extension should be for a maximum of a further 12 months and it is expected an agreement has been reached with the publisher that this is acceptable.

Commercial confidentiality (a copy of the contract should be included)

  • Where there are contractual restrictions imposed by a sponsor. This could include industrial sponsors, overseas governments, etc. The contract must specify the details of the required embargo period and it is recommended that, wherever possible, this should not exceed 5 years.
  • Where the research might lead to a commercial application or patent and IP needs to be protected.
  • Where commercial confidentiality is a consideration details should be provided as to how these issues were dealt with at other stages of the research, e.g. ethics review, examination.

Contains personal data

  • The thesis contains personally identifiable or ethically sensitive data.  However, the implications of undertaking research involving identifiable participants should be considered at an early stage via the ethical approval process. Where possible, research participants should not be identifiable within the thesis.
  • Material obtained in the thesis was obtained under a guarantee of confidentiality.

Third-party copyright

  • Where third party copyright has not been obtained, students may submit an edited ethesis, as an alternative to requesting an embargo. They would also need to submit an unedited hard copy.

Could endanger health and safety

  • The thesis contains sensitive material (political or otherwise) which could put at risk the authors or participants if made openly available. However, details should be provided as to the steps taken throughout the research to ensure data security, such as the storage of data and sharing of material, e.g. with supervisors and examiners.

Could prejudice national security

  • The thesis contains sensitive material, which must not be made publicly available. However, details should be provided as to the steps taken throughout the research to ensure data security, such as the storage of data and sharing of material, e.g. with supervisors and examiners.