Working, holidays and placements

Guidance on working at the University and taking holidays for PGR students.


Working hours and holidays

Research students’ working hours and holiday entitlements are not governed by regulation.  The differing requirements of disciplines and types of research will, to a large extent, determine the length of the working day/week appropriate to the individual concerned, and students should be guided by their supervisor and department.

Students should also be aware that there is an optimum efficiency to be achieved by pacing themselves between work and recreation. Some students become so exclusively work-oriented that they take little or no time off, potentially to the detriment of their wellbeing and their work.

Students commencing research degrees may be surprised that they are not entitled to the long vacation periods to which they have become accustomed as undergraduates. Research students sponsored by UKRI may, subject to the agreement of their supervisors, take reasonable holidays, not exceeding 30 days per year, excluding closure days and Bank Holidays. 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 unless they are subject to the rules of other sponsoring bodies. Students requesting annual leave should do so by completing the relevant faculty booking form, or alternative, to ensure that a record of the number of days taken is kept.

Students may apply for a period of leave of absence to cover unforeseen difficulties that may arise during their studies, such as illness or serious personal problems (see Leave of Absence). Students should note that they will not be granted a leave of absence or a time limit extension to cover a holiday.

The employment of research students by departments

The University encourages the employment of research students in a number of capacities (eg as part-time teaching assistants, demonstrators, etc.), provided that this can be undertaken without detriment to the completion of the student's research and submission of the thesis by their deadline. Such teaching helps to develop a broad range of personal and presentational skills which can be of considerable long-term benefit to the student concerned. Research students commonly have recent experience as recipients of teaching and are often well placed to assist in course delivery. Teaching also represents a valuable source of additional income for students.

It must be stressed, however, that the scope for such employment varies widely between different departments and students should not assume that teaching opportunities will always be available.

The University accepts the following broad principles relating to the employment of research students as teachers:

  • Other things being equal, teaching work in departments should be shared out among research students as fairly as possible. No research students will be expected to teach unless they wish to, unless this is a condition of their bursary or scholarship.
  • All research students employed by the University should be assessed for their suitability before appointment.
  • Full-time research students employed by the University in any capacity will be restricted to a maximum of 180 working hours per year, including preparation time and marking. This figure is based on the rules relating to UKRI studentships.
  • The University strongly discourages students from undertaking teaching work during their submission pending period, as it is likely to adversely affect their ability to submit by their deadline. Teaching commitments will not normally be regarded as a legitimate reason for granting a student permission to continue their active research during the submission pending period. Teaching commitments will also not be regarded as a legitimate reason for approving either a leave of absence or a time limit extension, or for the waiving of any additional fees that may be incurred due to thesis submission being delayed.
  • Students involved in teaching should be given a written specification detailing their duties, including the total number of hours required in preparation, class contact hours and marking, the payment involved and the method of payment. University recommended rates of payment should be used.
  • All students involved in teaching should receive guidance and help regarding course content and delivery methods from the member of academic staff concerned and it is good practice for them to attend training courses covering the necessary teaching skills required.
  • Students involved in demonstrating will be given prior experience with equipment concerned and guidance regarding expected results and any potential problems.
  • Each department should have a member of staff responsible for the coordination of teaching undertaken by research students.
  • Responsibility for delivery and examination of modules taught by research students remains with the member of academic staff concerned.
  • Research students formally employed by the University are covered by the University's professional indemnity insurance policy in the same way as other members of staff.

Details of pay rates and how to determine pay for the University Bank are available from the Department of Human Resources (staff login required). Payments will be authorised by departments on the completion of teaching duties or at the end of each semester in which teaching is undertaken, whichever comes first. 

The University offers workshops under the Sheffield Teaching Assistant programme that students can participate in. Further details are available from Elevate. These workshops are available to research students who are also part-time teachers in the University.

The University has developed a protocol to manage the dual relationship that students may have with the University as both students and employees or workers. The protocol clarifies procedures that may be invoked should action need to be taken against a student in either capacity.

Work permission for international students

International PGR students studying in the UK on a Student or Tier 4 student visa are allowed to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time.  The University recommends they should work no more than 16 hours per week to ensure an appropriate study-work balance.  Unlike other students, PGRs are considered to be in term time for the duration of the academic year, except during agreed periods of holiday (up to a maximum of 30 days, plus closure days and Bank Holidays) which must be agreed with the student's supervisor. During agreed periods of holiday, visa-sponsored students can work full-time hours, albeit only if their holiday period covers a full week block, running from Monday to Sunday. If they have a mix of study and vacation days in any given week, they are still subject to the term-time restrictions on working hours for that week.

Immigration regulations require all employers to obtain written proof from Student or Tier 4 sponsored students of their term time and vacation periods.  Further advice on what to do is available from SSiD.


The University believes that doctoral researchers should have the opportunity to undertake a placement if that will benefit their development or career opportunities. Placements in Higher Education traditionally relate to periods of learning activity away from the usual education environment available from the institution during a programme of study.

Partners providing placement opportunities are likely to include business and industry, NHS, charities, public sector bodies such as local authorities or central government. Where placements are with an educational institution, this should provide opportunities for skills development that are different from those obtained in the PhD.

A period of research that is part of the student's programme at an off-campus location would not constitute a placement.  This could include fieldwork, data collection in archives, research attachments at other institutions to learn specific research techniques or to access specific facilities or equipment.

The primary purpose of a PGR placement should be to enhance a student's employability by exposing them to a different working environment.  Placements should take into account individual students' career ambitions.  

Placements must be agreed upon with the supervisory team and should not adversely affect a student's submission deadline.  Students who wish to undertake a placement during their studies which is unrelated to their research topic can apply to reclaim the time taken from their studies for this using the placements application form on this page. Students who are granted permission to undertake a placement are given a registration status which reflects the fact that they are on placement and have their time limit extended accordingly. 

Please note that the students undertaking placements of this nature will not be supervised or monitored by the University during the placement period. This process does not apply to programmes that incorporate an integral placement, or to students who wish to undertake a placement that directly relates to their research.

Unfortunately, due to immigration regulations, this scheme is not open to students on a Student or Tier 4 visa route.

The placements form must be completed before the start of the placement and should be checked and approved by the student's supervisor and returned to the PGR Support Team in Research, Partnerships and Innovation, who will check the student's eligibility and put the application forward for faculty approval.  Once approved, the student's record will be updated to reflect the student's status on placement and to update the student's time limit.

Placement application form