When a research student suspends their study, they will no longer have the right to access to University facilities (Library, Computer Network, access to University facilities and spaces) and will no longer receive formal supervision from their supervisory team. A suspension of study effectively places a “stop” on the research student’s research.
Research students who are experiencing financial difficulties should consider transferring to part-time study rather than a suspension of study.
Under exceptional circumstances a research student may be required to undertake a suspension of candidature due to academic, disciplinary, or financial reasons. In such cases the research student will be informed that their study has been suspended and will be notified of the reasons for the suspension. Where appropriate, the research student will be given a return to study date and informed of any conditions that must be met before they can resume study.
A research student may also be required to suspend studies where the University deems that on health grounds it is not appropriate for them to continue with their studies, whether in exercising its duty of care to others, or where it is deemed not to be in the interest of the particular research student. The process to be followed in such circumstances is set out within the Fitness to Study Procedure.
The University gives sympathetic consideration to any request from research students to suspend study and makes every effort to offer appropriate advice. A research student should discuss the situation with their supervisors and relevant members of staff in their Faculty/School before making any decision. International research students based in the UK are strongly encouraged to consult the International Student Advisory Service before making a final decision, as this may have implications with regards to immigration status.
Suspension is approved in three-month block periods i.e., three months, six months, nine months or twelve months. If the suspension is approved, the end date of the candidature period will automatically be adjusted accordingly, and the research student transferred on to the appropriate cohort. Where the suspension is noted, rather than approved, there will be no adjustment to the end date of the research student’s candidature period.
Research students are only normally permitted a maximum of twelve months approved suspension over the total length of candidature. If a period of suspension is greater than twelve months total required, it is recommended that the research student should consider a voluntary withdrawal from the University (see the Guide to Transfer and Withdrawal of Research Students for more information). A research student can always reapply when able to commit to study again, and the University will take previous periods of study into consideration when setting candidature length.
Research students that have exceeded the maximum suspension time allowed, would usually be required to withdraw by the Student Cases Board/the Progression and Awards Board; however, in exceptional circumstances, these research students may be permitted to subsequently re-apply to be re-enrolled at the same stage of the previous research (within a maximum time period of two years from the date of suspension). Only under these circumstances may a research student be allowed a reduced candidature period.
Applications for suspension should not normally be made retrospectively. Where applications are based on grounds that are ongoing, a suspension may be granted backdated, normally no more than one month prior to the date the application was submitted. Only in exceptional circumstances can retrospective suspension be backdated further than one month, contact the Education Services for guidance.
Research students in the ‘writing-up stage’ may be allowed to suspend studies and the end of candidature date will automatically be adjusted to reflect the suspension period. The process for general suspensions will apply and decisions will normally be made by Education Services, on behalf of the Student Cases Board/the Progression and Awards Board.
The following grounds for suspension are typically recognised by the University:
- Health or Medical (including periods of illness exceeding twelve weeks);
- Maternity leave (nine months in the first instance, but can be up to twelve months);
- Jury service or compulsory military service;
- Compassionate (including serious domestic difficulties);
- Technical difficulties (limited to technical difficulties beyond the research student’s control);
- Financial (only for self-funded research students but must consider transfer to part-time study first).
All applications must be supported by appropriate independent evidence that should be attached to the suspension form. Incomplete applications will not be considered, and the form will be returned to the Faculty/School.
- The research student should discuss their intention to suspend with their supervisors and relevant members of staff in their Faculty/School.
- To proceed with a suspension of studies the research student is required to provide information to the Faculty/School and ensure that the grounds for suspension are clearly stated, and the supporting independent evidence is attached. The research student must specify a return to study date.
- The Faculty/School will authorise and initiate a suspension on the Change of Circumstance system and upload the evidence in support of the request. A member of Education Services staff will check the information and supporting documentation and consider the application on behalf of the Student Cases Board/Progression Awards Board. Any applications may, at the discretion of the Education Services staff, be referred to the Chair of the Student Cases Board for the Chair’s determination.
- If the application is supported by sufficient evidence, then the suspension will normally be “approved”. If the request is not supported by such evidence, then the suspension will be either “noted” or “declined”.
- If the suspension is approved, then the research student’s maximum submission date will be automatically extended to reflect the period of approved suspension. The research student’s record will be updated so that all support services are aware of the suspension/extension.
- If the suspension is noted, then the research student’s candidature dates will remain unchanged, and their record will be updated so that all support services are aware of the suspension.
- If the suspension is declined, then the research student and their supervisor will be informed of the decision.
- Education Services will write to the research student by email or letter (copied to the research student’s Faculty/School) confirming the outcome of their application and where the application has not been approved, the reasons for the decision taken. Where the application for suspension is approved, if applicable, the research student’s Sponsor and/or UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will be notified of the suspension.
- If the suspension takes place during a year for which Tuition Fees have already been paid, the Finance Department will recalculate the amount due pro rata to the period of study up to the time of suspension. This is normally calculated on the basis of one twelfth of the annual fee for each full month of study up to the time of the suspension.
If the research student wishes to extend the period of suspension beyond the specified return to study date, then they should submit a further request for a suspension which gives a detailed explanation of the need for the further period of suspension.
If the research student wishes to return to study earlier than the specified return to study date, they should advise their supervisors and Academic Services, so that their record can be updated and return arrangements made at the correct time.
If the research student suspended for health reasons, they must provide to Student Records, as a condition of their re-enrolment, written confirmation from their treating medical practitioner or GP that they are fit to resume their study and/or other evidence which is requested by Student Records/Education Services.
Research students returning from suspension should ensure that they are able to resume their studies and:
- Where they suspended due to personal circumstances, the research student should ensure that the personal circumstances are no longer affecting their studies;
- Where they suspended due to financial concerns, the research student should ensure that they have met, and can continue to meet, their financial obligations.
Where a research student fails to resume study by the specified return to study date, the Student Cases Board/the Progression and Awards Board would normally assume that they have withdrawn from the University and the research student’s record will be closed (see Guide to Transfer and Withdrawal of External Research Students).
The University has a commitment to providing a high-quality research environment and implements quality assurance procedures targeted at monitoring research student progression. The expectation is that the overwhelming majority of research students will submit their thesis or dissertation within the time limit laid down by regulation. A research student’s time limit may be extended in exceptional cases only.
Extensions to the maximum submission date will only be considered if the following criteria are met:
A. The Progression and Awards Board recommendations indicate that the research student has been experiencing difficulties in progressing in a timely manner;
B. The request is submitted to Education Services normally at least three months before the end of the maximum candidature;
C. All supporting documents necessary for an extension request are supplied.
Failure to meet any of the above criteria will result in an extension request being rejected automatically.
Requests for an extension to candidature typically may be made on one or more of the following grounds:
1. Health or Medical;
2. Compassionate (including serious domestic difficulties);
3. Inordinate Professional Commitments (which occurred during the minimum candidature period);
4. Technical difficulties (limited to technical difficulties beyond the research student’s control);
5. Research degree extension requests from Swansea staff members concurrently enrolled on PGCtHE as a condition of their employment, submitted solely on the grounds of concurrent enrolment, will not be granted.
The research student must first discuss the deadline for the submission of their thesis with their supervisor(s) and ensure that all possible steps are being taken to allow them to submit by the existing deadline. If the research student then considers that there is a need for an extension of candidature (and that all necessary criteria can be met), the extension request form should be downloaded from the Intranet and all the relevant sections should be completed.
The following documentation must accompany all requests:
i. A clear statement from the research student explaining their circumstance(s), their progress to date, and the effect of their circumstance(s) upon their progress to date and/or ability to progress.
ii. A clear statement from the supervisors, countersigned by the Executive Dean or nominee, providing an evaluation of the research student’s progress to date, and the situation as a result of the research student’s circumstance(s).
iii. A work plan (agreed by the research student and the supervisors) detailing how the research student will be ready for submission by the end of the requested extension period.
iv. Independent evidence supporting the grounds for an extension (e.g., letter from doctor/counsellor).
The documentation should indicate how the grounds cited have adversely impacted on the research student’s work and progress. General statements that do not link the grounds cited to the research student’s ability to work and progress would not be considered as acceptable evidence.
Where the grounds for extension can be shown to have occurred after the last Progression and Awards Board meeting at which the research student was considered, then criterion 'i’ above may be waived.
The extension request form needs to be signed by both the supervisor and the Executive Dean or nominee (where they are the same person, a second signature should be obtained in place of the Executive Dean or nominee). The completed request should then be considered by the Faculty Postgraduate Research Lead and/or Faculty/School Postgraduate or Research Committee (or a subgroup of one of these) and will either be approved or not approved.
After the request has been considered at Faculty/School level, it must be forwarded to Education Services normally at least three months prior to the maximum candidature date. A member of Education Services staff will check the documentation and determine whether to approve the application on behalf of the Student Cases Board/Progression Awards Board. Any requests may, at the discretion of the Education Services staff, be referred to the Chair of the Student Cases Board for the Chair’s determination.
The request will be vetted for each level at which it is considered, to ensure that the necessary criteria for an extension have been met, and that the documentation is complete. Where the necessary criteria have not been met, the request will not be considered further. Where documentation is incomplete, both the research student and the supervisor will be informed and requested to ensure that complete documentation is supplied.
Both the research student and their supervisors will be informed by email or letter from Education Services of the outcome of the extension request (normally within five working days of the decision having been taken) and where the request has not been approved, the reasons for the decision. Education Services will ensure that the student’s record is updated appropriately and that all relevant parties are informed of the change to the maximum submission date.
The procedures for requesting an extension ensure that all requests are scrutinised at both Faculty/School and University-level. Requests are judged against clearly defined criteria and the process is clear and transparent, therefore the outcome of the extension request is final and cannot be appealed.