Time limits and extensions
Information and guidance on how to apply for an extension to your time limit.
The University’s expectation is that projects should be undertaken that can be fully completed and submitted within the student’s tuition fee-paying period (normal period of registration). This includes the necessary training, preparatory work, actual research and writing of a thesis. This expectation should be clearly understood by students, supervisors and departments from the very beginning of their studies, so that the student’s research is planned accordingly to ensure that they submit within their fee-paying period.
In addition, regular and effective monitoring of progress milestones by supervisors and departments throughout the programme of research should ensure that students are able to submit their thesis on schedule.
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reaches their time limit and has not yet submitted, their registration status will automatically lapse and they may be withdrawn from the University and not be permitted to submit their thesis. If a student tries to submit their thesis after their time limit has expired, even if it is by one day or less, they will be required to apply for an extension and no further action will be taken regarding the submitted thesis until an extension request has been received and approved by the faculty.
A student may apply for an extension to their time limit, but should note that extensions are only granted in truly exceptional circumstances. Under no circumstances should a student be led to believe that they will automatically be granted an extension to their time limit.
Students must apply for time limit extensions between a minimum of one and a maximum of three months before their current time limit expires. Students who apply close to their time limit may not be able to submit their thesis if their extension request is rejected. Extension requests that are received more than three months before the student's current time limit cannot be considered, as it will not be possible to accurately gauge how long they need if an application is submitted too far in advance.
Where exceptional circumstances apply, the maximum amount of time limit extension that can normally be granted is two years. Individual and/or cumulative requests for extensions that exceed 12 months (non-Covid) or 18 months (with Covid) will be referred to the Special Cases Committee for consideration. Faculties may grant a shorter extension than the student has initially requested, with any further extensions contingent on evidence that progress has been made during the initial extension.
Extensions should only be considered in response to unforeseeable circumstances that occur that are beyond the control of an individual PGR student, and that adversely affect the student’s ability to submit within the expected time limit. There is no guarantee that a time limit extension will be approved, especially if the circumstances could have been mitigated at an earlier stage, for example by applying for a leave of absence, or by the student modifying their research to enable a doctoral level outcome.
Examples that could constitute truly exceptional circumstances warranting consideration of a time limit extension are as follows:
- Delays in progress due to unforeseeable problems with the degree programme and/or working environment (e.g. moving of offices/buildings, change of supervisor etc.) which are outside of the student’s control. The problem must be reported to the appropriate department at the time it occurs, or as soon as possible thereafter (i.e. within one month), to enable appropriate remedies to be sought before extensions become necessary
- Unavailability or breakdown of essential equipment for an extended period, where a student is unable to continue research and the use of alternative equipment or methodologies is not possible
Where the student encounters difficulties (such as equipment failure) at an early stage of the research project, the expectation is that the student should make every reasonable effort to make up any lost time. Difficulties should be documented and reported so that should the student need to apply for an extension closer to their submission deadline there is evidence to support such a request.
In addition, there are a range of circumstances that would normally be considered appropriate for a student to apply for a leave of absence (LOA) rather than a time limit extension. Please refer to the leave of absence page for further details.
Examples of circumstances where an extension would not normally be considered appropriate are:
- To enable the student to undertake further active/core research and/or other activities that are not directly related to the completion of their thesis.
- To enable the student to undertake non-research activities such as teaching or conference attendance.
- Where there is a history of poor academic progress or lack of engagement.
- To improve the standard of written English in the thesis, or because the thesis requires proofreading.
- Because of paid employment where the request is based on pressures of work.
- Where the student is registered concurrently for more than one degree and the request is based on other commitments relating to the other degree. (Note: approval is also required for a student to be registered for two degrees concurrently).
- Inadequate planning and time management, e.g. where the student has failed to allow sufficient/reasonable time for a supervisor to consider the final draft of the thesis prior to the deadline, or for an external sponsor to approve a final draft of the thesis.
- As a result of holidays, sport, moving to a new house, marriage/honeymoon, or other events that were planned or could reasonably have been expected.
- Where the student has regular and ongoing caring responsibilities.
- Computer or other equipment failure or theft where use of an alternative is possible, or loss of work was avoidable.
- Lack of sufficient funds to complete the degree.
- Lack of awareness of the correct policy and application procedures for requesting an extension.
In terms of requests for additional time due to holidays and weddings/honeymoon, the University's expectation is that this should be taken from the student’s holiday entitlement. Research students sponsored by UKRI may, subject to the agreement of their supervisors, take reasonable holidays, not exceeding 30 days, excluding bank holidays and closure days. Up to a maximum of four weeks’ holiday may be taken at the end of the period of award. These UKRI rules may be used as a guide by all full-time research students not subject to the rules of other sponsoring bodies.
It is recognised that the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected students’ abilities to complete their research to their original plans. The University’s guidance throughout has been that students and supervisors should work together to identify ways in which to maintain progress and, wherever possible, to take appropriate steps to adjust plans to mitigate the impact of Covid-related restrictions, for example, by making changes to the scope of the research project or rescheduling activities. This has also been the advice from UKRI. Where this has not been possible, students have been able to apply for leave of absence.
Students have been encouraged to focus on achieving the requirements for a doctoral degree. The Quality Assurance Agency issued sector guidance in response to the pandemic to reassure students that the outcome of a doctoral submission would be based on core criteria and that the focus is on quality, rather than quantity.
It was further recommended that supervisors should keep a detailed record of the type and duration of impact the restrictions have had on each of their students’ research projects and the extent to which any mitigation was achieved.
At the point of thesis submission, students have the option to provide further details to their examiners to explain the impact and changes made via a 'Covid Impact form'.
In addition to the above guidance, additional funding has been made available by the University, UKRI and Research England for students to apply for additional stipend payments and a fee-free extension to their tuition fee-paying period, depending on their personal circumstances and how far into their degree they were when Covid restrictions commenced.
Nevertheless, it is understood that not all students will have been able to successfully mitigate the impact of Covid-19 to achieve the requirements for a doctoral degree to enable them to submit within their tuition fee-paying period, or possibly even their time limit. Where students request a time limit extension based on Covid impact to complete their research project, cases will be carefully considered and treated sympathetically.
When applying for an extension to their time limit, students will be expected to provide information on the extent to which they were able to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their project, and whether or not they have been successful in applying for additional stipend/fee extension funding. Students will be expected to clearly 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.
Extensions will only be considered for the purpose of completing the thesis and not for the completion of any publications that do not form part of the thesis.
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 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 supervisor and department must decide whether they support the student's application and must state the reasons for their decision on the form.
All extension applications are considered by the relevant faculty, which may support or reject the application. Individual or cumulative requests for time limit extensions that exceed 12 months (non-Covid) or 18 months (with Covid) will be referred to the Special Cases Committee for consideration. Limits to both LOAs and time limit extensions apply equally to students regardless of their mode of attendance. The Special Cases Committee will consider the feasibility of the student’s request, taking into consideration whether the request is supported by the student’s department, the continued viability of the student’s research and the likelihood of a successful submission.
The Committee may request additional information, where required, to help them reach an informed decision, e.g. an evaluation of the student’s progress to-date and a thesis plan. It should be noted that the Special Cases Committee meets once per month; therefore requests for time limit extensions requiring consideration by the Special Cases Committee will take longer to consider and students should be aware that they may not be notified of the outcome of their request for several weeks.
If an extension application is rejected by the faculty and/or Special Cases Committee the student will not be permitted to continue their degree beyond their current time limit and will be withdrawn unless they submit before their time limit.
If an extension application is marked as a final extension and the student does not submit their thesis by the deadline they will automatically be withdrawn and will not be permitted to submit their thesis after this date.
Students are responsible for checking whether an extension application will have an impact on professional, disciplinary, or sponsor-related requirements that they may have. Sponsored students should check first with their sponsor before applying for an extension.
An extension fee is charged for any period of extension that is granted beyond a student’s initial time limit. The level of this fee is increased annually. Please see 'Registration and fees' for further details. Extension fees are 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 forward planning and time management are considered important qualities of doctoral researchers.
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, i.e. those on a Student or Tier 4 student visa, should explore whether they will also need to extend their visa and whether there are any ATAS implications (see below).
If a student’s time limit is extended by more than three months, and they are studying a course that requires ATAS, they may need to submit a new application for ATAS clearance. This affects most students who are subject to immigration regulations, and not just those with a Student or Tier 4 visa. Therefore, although students in a non-Student or Tier 4 visa category that are subject to the ATAS requirement may not need an ATAS certificate for their visa application, they may need to apply for clearance for the purposes of their time limit extension.
Students who are not nationals of countries listed as exempt from ATAS in Appendix ATAS of the Immigration Rules who wish to extend their permission 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 in cases where this applies 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 International Student Support, Advice & Compliance for further information and guidance on the implications of applying for an extension, or refer to the SSiD web pages for international students.
Students can check whether they will require an ATAS certificate by providing course and nationality details on the GOV.UK site.