Extenuating Circumstances and Extension to Time Limit

If you experience significant disruption to your studies and you are unable to make up the time lost within the remainder of your candidature, you may be able to apply for an extension to your time limit, under the University’s Interruption of Study and Extension to Time Limit Policy and Procedure (Research Students):

  • Thesis Completion Stage If you experience unforeseen circumstances during the ‘thesis completion’ stage of your studies that have a significant adverse impact on your progress and it is not possible to adjust to your Completion Plan to enable timely submission, you can apply to extend your time limit by a period commensurate with the time affected.
  • Fees Payable Period In exceptional cases, you may apply for an extension when you are in the fees-payable period in accordance with the Extenuating Circumstances Policy and Procedure (Research Students). An application will be considered only where there is clear evidence at the 9-Month/Annual Review stage that adjustment to your Research Plan to enable submission by your current deadline is not feasible. The University will only deem your circumstances as Extenuating if you can show that they are serious and are having/have had a significant adverse impact on your academic progress or performance.

Grounds for an Extension to Time Limit

Extensions are not granted as of right but will need to be applied for with at least one valid ground and with appropriate evidence.

The grounds for submitting an application for an extension are as follows:

  • Ill health – a serious time-limited illness or a long-term health condition or disability that has worsened or is fluctuating, and adjustments (such as a previous extension) have not or cannot be put in place.
  • Compassionate grounds – a change in your personal, domestic or family circumstances, such as the death of a close family member or significant person, an unanticipated change in caring responsibilities (ill health of a dependent, for example), financial hardship, or being a victim of a serious crime.
  • Exceptional professional commitments (part-time students only) – if you are a part-time student working alongside your studies and your work commitments change unexpectedly and unavoidably. Note that an extension or interruption will not be granted where your submission is delayed as a result of commencing full-time employment during the ‘thesis completion’ stage. Taking up employment is considered a normal outcome of doctoral study and is not justifiable grounds for an interruption or extension since submission of the thesis should be the priority.
  • Professional placements/internships/work experience – if you undertake a placement/internship or period of work experience supported by your supervisor during the fees-payable period of your studies and this is not considered to be integral to your programme and within its planned timeframe.
  • Unavoidable practical/logistical difficulties – if you encounter unavoidable and disruptive difficulties beyond your control that affect your progress for a discrete period of your candidature (the unanticipated unavailability of your supervisor at a key stage in your studies, for example). Any particular concerns or issues around supervision should be reported to your School at the time that they occur as they will not be permitted as retrospective grounds for an extension.
  • Maternity/Shared Parental/Adoption Leave - an interruption of study may be granted in relation to a period of Maternity, Shared Parental or Adoption Leave, as defined in the Policy on Maternity, Adoption, Paternity/Partner and Shared Parental Leave for Research Students. Interruptions of study on the grounds of Paternity/Partner Leave are an exception. Students are entitled to up to 2 weeks’ leave for Paternity/Partner Leave and any leave taken for this purpose will result in an adjustment to the latest submission deadline by a commensurate period.
  • Jury service or compulsory military service.
  • Sabbatical office.


  • The University will not approve an extension applied for solely on the grounds of insufficient academic progress.
  • You must report your circumstances as soon as they occur, or as soon as possible afterwards. An extension to your time limit will not be granted on the basis of unreported circumstances that occurred earlier in your studies, unless you can evidence good reason to argue otherwise.
  • A maximum of 12 months’ extension will be approved at a time. You can reapply with new evidence if new circumstances arise or your current circumstances change or worsen.
  • For students starting their study after 1st October, 2019, an extension will not be permitted where it will result in the total length of your candidature exceeding the overall time limit for your programme. Overall time limits are listed on pp 71-72 Research Degree Regulations.
  • The University will not grant an extension for circumstances that should more appropriately have led to an Interruption of Study. Where an Interruption is applied for an approved, your time limit should be automatically extended, within the rules covering overall timescales for your Programme.
  • You may apply to extend your time limit on more than one occasion, but an application for a further extension should demonstrate new or ongoing circumstances that meet the criteria for an extension and which have occurred in the extended period only.
  • Applications will not be considered where the deadline for thesis submission has passed, unless there is a strong case to justify the late application.
  • An application for an extension should be made 2 to 4 months before your submission deadline, unless you have been granted permission by your School to apply for an extension, exceptionally, during your registered, fees payable period in response to extenuating circumstances reported.
  • Applications received less than 2 months before the deadline 8 will not be considered, unless there are compelling circumstances to justify the late application.

How to apply for an extension

You should discuss your circumstances with your supervisor(s) as soon as possible in order to determine the most suitable course of action. If you would prefer not to disclose the circumstances to your supervisor(s), you should notify another member of the School’s academic or professional services staff, such as the Director of Postgraduate Research or a member of the School Office.

If this conversation determines that an extension is appropriate, you will need to do two things:

1. You should complete an Adjustment to Study (Extenuating Circumstances) Form - Section 1 and provide appropriate contemporaneous supporting documentation in English or Welsh.

This might include medical certificates, a University support service letter, or evidence from a third party. In the case of maternity or adoption leave, suitable evidence may include a MATB1 form, the child’s birth certificate, or evidence of the placement of a child for adoption. Where the request is for shared parental leave, applications must include a statement from your partner regarding their entitlement to maternity or adoption parental leave.

All documents must be authentic and unaltered, and signed and dated by the relevant authority. You are responsible for covering the costs of providing the documents, including the translation, if relevant.

This form and supporting documentation should be submitted to your School’s Extenuating Circumstances Group via your School Office.

2. You and your supervisor should complete an Adjustment to Study (Extenuating Circumstances) Form - Section 2 and submit this directly to the Director of Postgraduate Research.

Writing your form

The University’s rules are very clear that only serious circumstances will be accepted as Extenuating Circumstances. Before you write you form we strongly advise that you read through the Interruption of Study and Extension to Time Limit Policy and Procedure (Research Students), the Extenuating Circumstances Policy and Procedure (Research Students) and the Guidance notes on completing the form.

When writing your form, it is important to explain how your particular circumstances meet the definition above of being serious and having a significant adverse impact on your academic progress or performance. You will need to explain not only what has happened but also when it happened and spell out the effect it had on you and your ability to study as normal, e.g. lost study time, difficulty concentrating and/or retaining information.

When explaining your circumstances, Student Advice recommend the following structure:

  • Explain what the issues are, when they started and if they are ongoing;
  • Explain how the circumstances have affected you (emotionally, physically and otherwise);
  • Explain exactly how this has affected your academic performance.

The decision making process

What happens next depends on what grounds you are applying under.

1. For applications on the grounds of ill health, compassionate reasons, exceptional professional commitments or unavoidable practical/logistical difficulties:

Once you have submitted your form(s), to you School, they will consider the application in accordance with the Extenuating Circumstances Policy and Procedure (Research Students) and provide a report to your School’s Director of Postgraduate Research.

On the basis of the information provided in the application and the report from the Extenuating Circumstances Group, the Director of Postgraduate Research will determine the outcome and any further action to be taken in consultation with you and your supervisor(s). In making their decision, they will take account of

  • the academic viability of the extension,
  • the currency of the research, and
  • a statement from your supervisor(s).

2. For applications on the grounds of maternity/shared parental/adoption leave, professional placements/internships, jury service, compulsory military service or sabbatical office:

These are deemed as special category applications and will not be considered by the Extenuating Circumstances group but go straight to the Director of Postgraduate Research.

In both instances, when the Director of Postgraduate Research has reached a decision, your application will be forwarded to the Registry with a recommendation from your School for consideration by a College Postgraduate Dean.

You should be informed of the decision of the College Postgraduate Dean in writing within 14 days of the decision being taken. This will include any conditions associated with the approval.

Unsuccessful Applications

If your application is not approved, your student record will remain unchanged. Any unauthorised period of absence will be dealt with under the Unsatisfactory Progress or Engagement Policy and Procedure (Research Students). If you do not submit your thesis by your deadline, your candidature will lapse and you will be withdrawn from your programme of study.


If your application for an extension is not approved, or if it is approved for a different duration to the period requested, you may request a review of the decision under the University Review Procedure. A request for review must be made on one or more of the grounds set out in the Procedure and must be received by the Student Cases team in the Registry within 14 days of the notification being sent.

Contact Student Advice

+44 (0)2920 781410