Extension to time limits

The University’s expectation is that projects should be undertaken that can be fully completed and submitted within the student’s funded 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 funded period, wherever possible, and definitely before their time limit. 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reaches their time limit and has not yet submitted, their registration status will automatically lapse and they may be withdrawn from the University and not be permitted to submit their thesis.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 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. Time limit extensions must be applied for before the student’s time limit expires; however, students should not apply for an extension to their time limit too far in advance of their time limit, as it will not be possible to accurately gauge how long they need.

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 unforeseen circumstances could have been remedied at an earlier stage, for example by applying for a leave of absence.

Examples that could constitute truly exceptional circumstances warranting consideration of a time limit extension are as follows:

  • Delays in progress due to unforeseen 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. NB: 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 of time, 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 previous section (Leave of Absence) for further details.

Examples of circumstances where an extension would not normally be considered appropriate are:

  • To enable the student to undertake further primary research and/or laboratory work
  • To enable the student to write papers that do not form part of the thesis, or undertake other forms of work for their supervisor
  • Where there is a history of poor academic progress
  • Difficulties with the standard of English language in the thesis (including delays as a result of proofreading)
  • Consequences 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
  • 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
  • Holidays, sport, moving house, marriage/honeymoon, or other events that were planned or could reasonably be 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 expectation is that this should be taken from the student’s holiday entitlement. Research students sponsored by the UK Research Councils 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 Research Council rules may be used as a guide by all full-time research students not subject to the rules of other sponsoring bodies.

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 supervisor and 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 are considered by the relevant faculty, which may support or reject the application. If the application is rejected, it will also be considered by the Vice-President for Research, or their delegated authority.  The Vice-President may decide to 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 their degree beyond their current time limit and will be withdrawn unless they submit before their deadline. 

Extension applications must be submitted before the student's time limit expires to allow time for faculty consideration and processing (which may take up to two weeks). Students who do not submit an extension request before their time limit expires may lose access to University facilities and may even be withdrawn from the University. 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 refer to Tuition and Continuation 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 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 three 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 are 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 International Student Support 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 is available on the SSiD website (please refer to 'See Also' box).