Interruption of Study- Postgraduate Research Students


If you experience significant disruption to your studies you can apply for a temporary break in your programme using the University’s Interruption of Study and Extension to Time Limit Policy and Procedure (Research Students). You will also need to consider the Extenuating Circumstances Policy and Procedure (Research Students)  .


There are specific rules surrounding Interruption of Study applications that you should be aware of (see below). Importantly, you must apply for an Interruption before your absence.


The academic regulations state that if you are going to be absent from your programme for more than 28 days, you should submit an application for an interruption of study. For an absence of 28 days or less you will need to request a Leave of Absence.


If an application for an interruption of study for 28 days or more is approved by the University, the deadline for the submission of your thesis will be adjusted by a period matching the length of the interruption. You will not be required to make a separate application to extend your deadline.


Given the impact that an Interruption may have on your research, we would strongly advise you to speak to your supervisory team, or Director of Post Graduate Research about your interruption, and the length of the interruption that you are considering. You can also contact Student Advice for independent and confidential advice. It is important to be aware that the Extenuating Circumstances Policy and Procedure (Research Students) does allow for a number of adjustments such as a brief postponement to progress monitoring or warning of exclusion/downgrade deadline, or a transfer to part time study. We would suggest considering which adjustment would help most.


The maximum period for an interruption of study is 12 months. A further application that would extend the period of absence beyond 12 months will be considered only where circumstances are compelling.


You should be aware that taking an interruption of study may affect any loan or studentship that you receive. If you have a financial sponsor, they will also be notified by the University of your interruption of study in accordance with the timescales arising from statutory and other requirements. Where there is objective justification, some funders will not permit an interruption of study of any significant period (e.g. where a project must be completed within a specific time-scale). The University’s Money and Funding Advice Service are best placed to advise on the specific financial implications an Interruption would have on your circumstances.


If you are a visa holder, taking an interruption of study may affect your right to remain in the UK; the University is obliged to report any absences of more than 60 days to UK Visas and Immigration. We are unable to advise on Visas, however we would strongly advise you to contact the Student Visa Support Service via 22 518 888 prior to applying for your Interruption of Study.


It is important to note that the regulations state that “An interruption of study is not a usual adjustment when you are in your thesis completion stage”, and - “…however, if you need to take a clear break from your studies for a significant period during the 'thesis completion' stage (for maternity or adoption leave, or you become seriously unwell for a prolonged period, for example), you may apply an interruption of study in accordance with this procedure”. If you need to take an IOS during your thesis completion stage we would suggest seeking specific guidance from either Student Advice or your PGR Manager.  



Your Rights During an Interruption of Study


The University Regulations state that for the period of interruption, you will:


• retain IT login, email and intranet access, including SIMS;

• retain access to electronic library resources;

• have public access to libraries and University buildings;

 • have access to the Students' Union Student Advice;

• have recourse to the student complaint, review and appeal procedures;

 • continue to have access to Student Support services, where ongoing support, such as counselling, has commenced;

 • continue to have access to use the University's Day Care Centre;

• retain access to all Council Tax Certificates which have been issued to you. (Some students on an interruption will be entitled to a new certificate, but this is dependent on the Council Tax Regulations in force at the relevant time.)


 However, for the period of interruption, you will not:


 • receive supervision, either through meetings or correspondence;

• be subject to progress monitoring;

 • be permitted access to laboratories, work or office space in your School, or to work space in the Doctoral Academy;

 • be permitted to engage in training workshops, research seminars or events delivered or facilitated by your School or the Doctoral Academy (Keeping in Touch Days may be an exception);

• be permitted to undertake activities that relate to professional researcher development;

• normally be expected, or be supported, to present your work at conferences, though there may be some circumstances where this is appropriate;

• receive information about employment or voluntary opportunities available during the period;

 • if you are employed by the University, we may also need to suspend your employment contract if you are interrupting on the grounds of ill health.



Grounds for an Interruption of Study


  • ll health – a serious time-limited illness or injury; or a long-term health condition or disability that has been newly diagnosed or has worsened or is fluctuating, for which reasonable adjustments 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), severe financial issues, or being a victim of a serious crime.


  • Exceptional professional commitments (part-time students in fees payable period only) – if you are a part-time student working alongside your studies and your work commitments change unexpectedly and unavoidably. Taking up employment is considered a normal outcome of doctoral study and is not grounds for an interruption or extension when a student is in their thesis completion stage.


  • 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 – unavoidable and disruptive difficulties beyond your control that affect your progress for a discrete period of your candidature. 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.



  • Jury service or compulsory military service.


  • Sabbatical office.


Please note: for students who commenced study in 2019, an interruption of study or extension will not be permitted where this will result in the total length of your candidature exceeding the overall time limit for the programme stipulated in the Research Degree Regulations.  


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:


  • Clearly state the ground under which you are making the application.
  • Clearly state why you are applying.


If you are not applying under the special grounds maternity/shared parental/adoption leave, professional placements/internships, jury service, compulsory military service or sabbatical office you will need to;


  • 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.
  • Explain why you are unable to study.
  • Note if you have a Protected Characteristic (Equality Act 2010) due to ill health or disability


Evidence should be on headed paper, signed and dated, from a recognised authority e.g. a letter from doctor.


Evidence should be in English or Welsh or be translated and authenticated. 


The following are examples of supporting evidence that are commonly accepted:

 • GP letter/medical certificate that confirms the particular illness relating to the extenuating circumstances reported, and the period it affected you, including the effects of any medication or associated treatment;

 • GP letter/medical certificate that confirms the illness of a family member and the period it affected them;

• statement from a University support service if you are known to them and have engaged with support services before the event;

• copy of a death certificate, obituary or funeral service;

 • letter from a relevant third party, e.g. police, social worker;

 • letter from your employer verifying the exceptional and unavoidable increase in your workload commitments


The completed application should be sent via email to your Post Graduate Research Administrator with supporting evidence.


The Decision-Making Process


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


  • 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.


  • Applications on the grounds of maternity/shared parental/adoption leave, professional placements/internships, jury service, compulsory military service or sabbatical office 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.


Your Interruption of Study is formally accepted when it has been granted by the College Postgraduate Dean.


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).


In this case, if you do not submit your thesis by your deadline, your candidature will lapse and you will be withdrawn from your programme of study. You may however be able to submit your thesis and be examined under the  Policy on Late Submission of Research Degree Theses or Procedure for the Reregistration of Former Research Degree Students for Examination




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. If this is a course of action that you are required to consider, please let me know and I will advise further. Noting that there is a short deadline to submit your review, please contact me at the earliest opportunity so that I can get back to you before the 14 days lapses.


Ongoing Circumstances


If you have personal circumstances that are affecting your studies over a long period of time, we recommend that you seek advice from The Disability and Dyslexia Service, who may be able to put adjustments in place to help you study. For ongoing mental health issues, you can speak to the University’s Mental Health Advisers. Disability and Mental Health Advisers can support you and liaise with your academic school to ensure you receive any special provision that might help you. We would encourage you to reach out to these services at the earliest opportunity, and even during your Interruption as it can take some time for reasonable adjustments to be established.


You might also feel that you would benefit from contacting the University’s Counselling and Wellbeing service. They offer a range of ways to support you during your studies: one-to-one counselling and wellbeing appointments, a drop-in service, interactive workshops, groups and self-help resources. We believe that they are still available to support UK-based students who are on an Interruption, although this support may be limited.




To summarise, before submitting an application for an Interruption of Study, we would encourage you to speak to:

  • Your Supervisory Team;
  • The Money and Funding Advice Service;
  • If you are an international student, the Student Visa Support Service;
  • Student Advice Service for independent and confidential advice.


Where appropriate, we would also advise you to seek support from:


Please note, aside from your Supervisory Team, the other services listed above are contactable through the Student Connect Portal, and/or in the Centre for Student Life.