PGR Leave of Absence
What is a leave of absence?
A ‘Leave of Absence’ refers to an extended break from a student’s studies where they may be unable to engage with their studies for one month or longer. This allows you to take time off and return to your studies when you are able to do so.
Is a leave of absence suitable for me?
There are a broad range of reasons for which a student is eligible to take a Leave of Absence from study (e.g. personal or family circumstances, health reasons or family issues).
A leave of absence is suitable for research students who are unable to engage with their studies for a period of a month or longer. If you are unable to engage with your studies for a period of less than a month, you may be able to mitigate this by use of the continuation period (often known as the “writing up year”). You should discuss this with your supervisor, if you are able to do so. If you are unable to speak with your supervisor about this, you could instead speak with your TAP or the Chair of the Graduate School Board in your department. Alternatively, you are welcome to discuss your situation with a GSA Adviser.
If you are struggling to engage with your studies, you are strongly encouraged to consider a leave of absence, rather than relying on an extension at a later date. If you do request an extension later, you will need to demonstrate that you were unable to take a period of leave of absence to mitigate any issues you were experiencing at the time.
You would ordinarily not be able to take a period of leave of absence if:
- You are in the first month of your programme,
- You are within three months of your submission deadline, or have already taken an extension to your final submission deadline, or
- You have already taken a total of two years of leave of absence across your programme (unless the additional leave is requested on the basis of Covid-19 or maternity/paternity).
- If there are three months or less until your submission deadline, or you have submitted your thesis and are awaiting your viva, or if you are completing corrections or revision and resubmission, you cannot request leave of absence, and would instead need to request an extension. You can find more information about extensions here.
How long of a leave of absence can I take?
The minimum length of time for which you can request a leave of absence is one month.
PGR students can usually request a period of leave of absence of up to one year, with a maximum of two years’ leave of absence across their programme.
Under normal circumstances, the Special Cases Committee would require a hearing if a student requests leave of absence which totals more than two years across their programme. However, this is waived if you are requesting leave due to maternity/paternity.
The University are also waiving the maximum period of leave of absence across your programme if your request is due to Covid-19, until the 31st of January 2021 (and this may be extended further). If you are making your request after the 31st of January 2021, you are welcome to contact the GSA Advice Service to see if this policy is still in place.
A period of leave of absence can start at any day in the month, but it needs to be requested in whole months. For example, if you requested a three month period of leave of absence starting on the 1st of January, you’d need to return to study on the 1st of April.
How do I request a leave of absence?
If you’re considering this as an option, the process is as follows.
If you are able to do so, you should first discuss your situation with your supervisor. If, for any reason, you are unable to speak to your supervisor, you could instead speak with your TAP or the Chair of the Graduate School Board in your department. You are also welcome to discuss your options with a GSA Adviser – you can book an appointment on the GSA website here, or email us at email@example.com.
If it is agreed/decided that a Leave of Absence may be best, you should then complete Part A on the Leave of Absence Form and email it to your supervisor and copy in your postgraduate administrator. Your supervisor and department will then complete the remaining sections of the form and forward it on for approval.
The form is downloadable as a word document in the “How to Apply” tab of the following webpage:
You should ensure that this is completed before the proposed start date of your Leave of Absence, if possible.
When completing your section of the form, you should include
- A brief description of your individual circumstances, and
- How these circumstances have impacted your ability to study or complete your assessments. Examples might include being physically unable to study because of health symptoms or due to having to prioritise family or employment commitments. This might also include whether your focus, concentration, or time management has been affected by these particular circumstances.
- Do I need to submit evidence with my request for leave of absence?
- If you are requesting a period of leave of absence in relation to Covid-19, you do not need to submit evidence in support of your request. This policy is currently in place until the 31st of January 2021, but may be extended. If you are making your request after the 31st of January 2021, you are welcome to contact the GSA Advice Service to see if this policy is still in place.
If you are requesting a period of leave of absence which is not related to Covid-19, you may need to provide evidence, depending on the reason for which you are requesting leave. The evidence will need to provide independent confirmation of the reason that you need to take a period of leave of absence. Evidence could, for example, be:
- A letter from a doctor or counsellor
- A death certificate or evidence of bereavement (such as a copy of a funeral service)
- A letter from your employer
- A financial statement
You will need to attach your evidence to your leave of absence request, and you will need to submit the original copy of your evidence. Your request will not be considered until your evidence has been submitted.
Things to consider
- You are not permitted to continue work towards your award during your period of leave of absence. This means that you cannot continue to work on your thesis or to conduct research (including fieldwork) during a period of leave of absence.
- You are not permitted to use University resources during leave of absence (i.e. laboratories, accessing supervision or TAPs, attending lectures or seminars).
- You are permitted to use the Library facilities and your University IT account during a period of leave of absence.
- If you are in receipt of funding, this may be affected by a period of leave of absence. Funders may also have limits on the maximum amount of leave you can take, which supersede the University’s normal maximum, and some funders do not allow a leave of absence in the continuation year (they ask it is instead an extension to submission deadline request), so please check your funder’s Terms and Conditions carefully. You are strongly encouraged to discuss the implications of taking a period of leave of absence with your funding provider. Alternatively, you may wish to speak with a Student Adviser in the Student Hub about the implication of taking a period of leave of absence on your funding situation.
- If you are a Tier 4 student, taking a period of leave of absence may also affect your visa status. Tier 4 visa students considering a period of leave of absence are therefore strongly encouraged to contact the University’s Immigration Advice team at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to discuss this.
- If you are resident in University accommodation, taking a period of leave of absence may affect your contract. You are encouraged to discuss this with a Student Adviser in the Student Hub.
- If you are not resident in University accommodation and are a private tenant, you may remain eligible for payment of your rent and bills during the period of leave of absence. You are encouraged to discuss this with a Student Adviser in the Student Hub.
Support available from the GSA Advice Service
You are welcome to make an appointment with a GSA Adviser in order to discuss leave of absence. We can:
- Discuss your situation with you, to help you to work out if a leave of absence is the right option for you,
- Advise you on the process of requesting a period of leave of absence,
- Advise you on the evidence you may wish to submit in support of your request,
- Look over any evidence and let you know if changes may be helpful,
- Let you know if you may be ineligible for leave of absence, and direct you to other processes which may be available to you.
Where can I find further information about leave of absence?
- The University’s rules and regulations relating to Postgraduate Research leave of absence are in the Policy on Research Degrees. You may find it helpful in particular to refer to section 7 of the policy.
- You can find more information about leave of absence on the University website here.
- You can also find information about the changes to the leave of absence process due to Covid-19 and evidence requirements in the PGR Special Cases Contingency Measures here.