Suspending your studies if you are a doctoral student
How to suspend your studies, the process for returning to University, or if you decide to withdraw.
Suspending your studies
If you are a doctoral student you might suspend your studies for a number of reasons. These include:
- a serious injury, illness or medical condition
- an ongoing physical or mental health condition suddenly getting worse
- significant disruption of personal life
- maternity, paternity or adoption
- election as a Students' Union Officer
- in the case of part-time students only, pressure from other business/employment
- work placements
For a full definitive list, please see Regulation 16 of the Student Regulations.
Getting advice about suspension
If you are thinking about suspending your studies, you can talk about your options in confidence with:
- your Supervisor
- your Director of Studies
- the Doctoral College
- Student Services
If you are suspending your studies for health reasons, it is important that you see your GP early in the process, so they can assist with a medical certificate, which will be needed as evidence in your request.
How to request a suspension
You must seek Board of Studies approval of your suspension. Contact your programme administrator in the Doctoral College to do this. Appropriate corroborating evidence (such as a medical certificate) will normally be required in support of your request for suspension. You can request to suspend your studies for a period of up to 12 months.
Staying registered as a student
You must remain registered as a student while you are away from the University. Maintaining your registration is free and allows you to keep your University email account and access to the University computer network. This will help you communicate with your department.
How suspension will affect your visa if you are an international student
If you are suspending your studies, you should contact the Student Immigration Service to discuss how this will affect your visa status.
If you are in the UK on a student visa, you must be studying to meet your visa requirements. If you hold a Tier 4 visa and suspend your studies, we must report this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and your visa could be cut short.
You must return to your home country during the suspension. When you want to resume your research degree, you will have to apply for a new visa.
Extending your suspension
If you can no longer return on the agreed date, you must contact your Director of Studies or the Doctoral College to discuss this.
Normally only suspensions up to a maximum of 12 months will be granted. (This can be taken in multiple suspensions.) However if there are exceptional circumstances please do discuss this with your Director of Studies.
Resuming your studies
Before the agreed date when you will resume your course, you should contact your Director of Studies and supervisors to confirm that you will return.
If you use the Disability Service and are in receipt of Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) or other-funded support from a Specialist Study Skills Tutor, Specialist Mentor, Note taker or Study Assistant you should contact the Disability Service to arrange for your support to resume.
Student Services can help you assess your needs and talk to you about any ongoing support.
Return to Study
For suspensions approved from March 2019, Student Services will run the Return to Study process for the following categories of suspension:
- Health reasons where the period of suspense is at least three months, or
- Multiple periods of suspense due to health reasons
Once your suspension is approved the Doctoral College will write to you to confirm that you will be offered Return to Study. Student Services will write to you six weeks prior to your expected return date. You will be requested to complete a Self-Assessment form and to provide contact details of your medical practitioner/health professional, as we may need to request medical information. The Self-Assessment form will help you start to think and plan for a successful return. Your answers will also help Student Services identify if you might be entitled to extra support or funding. Following the Return to Study review, Student Services will contact you, your Lead Supervisor and Director of Studies, to detail the outcome and support offered.
If there are significant concerns about your fitness to study, the decision will be referred by the Director of Student Services for consideration under the University's Fitness to Study policy.
Preparing to return to the University
Talk to your Director of Studies and your supervisors about how you should prepare for returning to your doctorate. You should also let your programme administrator in the Doctoral College know when you have returned, and the Student Records and Examinations Office so your student record can be updated.
Returning to the UK if you are an international student
Once you have confirmed that you will be resuming your course, you must reapply for your visa before you can return to the UK.
Permanently withdrawing from your doctorate
If you have decided to leave your doctorate, you must speak to your supervisors and Director of Studies. Before you permanently withdraw there may be options for exit awards that can be explored.
If you have already suspended your studies and no longer want to return, you will still need to speak to your supervisors and Director of Studies.
Getting careers advice if you withdraw from the University
Anne Cameron, the Researcher Career Development Adviser in the Careers Service can advise you about your options including career choices.
How leaving your doctorate affects your visa if you are an international student
Leaving your doctorate may affect your visa status and you may have to leave the UK.
If you are planning to withdraw from your course, contact Student Immigration Service to discuss how this affects you.
How suspending or withdrawing will affect your fees and finances
Suspending your studies can affect your fees, loans and studentship. How this affects you will depend on your circumstances and how far into your course you are.
Student Money Advice can tell you how suspending your studies or leaving the University will affect your finances and what actions you need to take. If you are suspending or withdrawing, book an appointment with the team to talk about your finances.
The Money Advice team can also help you with any negotiations with the University Finance office and other funding bodies.
If you receive a Postgraduate Maintenance payment you should contact the Studentship team before you go on suspense so that they can check the terms and conditions of any funding and any impact going on suspense may have.
You should contact the Student Finance Office to discuss your tuition fees.
The Students' Union can advise you about your legal rights and obligations if you need to leave your private rented accommodation.