Swansea University

Guide to Suspensions and Extensions

Guide to Suspensions and Extensions

Suspensions and Extensions for Research Students

1. Suspension

When a student suspends their study the student will no longer have the right to access to University facilities (Library, Computer Network, work space provided by the College) and will no longer receive formal supervision from their supervisory team. A suspension of study effectively places a "stop" on the student's research.

1.1 Students who are experiencing financial difficulties should consider transferring to part-time study rather than a suspension of study.

1.2 Under exceptional circumstances a student may be required to undertake a suspension of candidature due to academic, disciplinary, or financial reasons. In such cases the student will be informed that their study has been suspended and will be notified of the reasons for the suspension. Where appropriate, the student will be given a return to study date and informed of any conditions that must be met before they can resume study.

1.3 A student may also be required to suspend studies where the University deems that on health grounds it is not appropriate for a student 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 student. The process to be followed in such circumstances is set out within the Fitness to Study Procedure.

2. Requesting a Suspension of Candidature

The University gives sympathetic consideration to any request from students to suspend study and makes every effort to offer appropriate advice.  A student should discuss their situation with their supervisors and relevant members of staff in their College/School before making any decision.  International students 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.

2.1 Suspension is approved in 3-month block periods i.e. 3 months, 6 months, 9 months or 12 months.  If the suspension is approved, the end date of the candidature period will be automatically be adjusted accordingly and the 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 student’s candidature period.

2.2 Students are only normally permitted a maximum of 12 months approved suspension over the total length of candidature. If a period of suspension of greater than 12 months total is required, it is recommended that the student should consider a voluntary withdrawal from the University (see the Guide to Transfer and Withdrawal of Research Students for more information). A 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.

2.3 Research students that have exceeded the maximum suspension time allowed would usually be required to withdraw by Academic Regulations and Cases Board/Progression Awards Board.  However, in exceptional circumstances, these 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 2 years from the date of withdrawal). Only under these circumstances may a student be allowed a reduced candidature period.

2.4 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 Academic Services for guidance.

2.5 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 Academic Services, on behalf of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board/Progression Awards Board.

3. Grounds for Suspension  

The following grounds for suspension are typically recognised by the University:

  • Health or Medical (including periods of illness exceeding 12 weeks);
  • Maternity leave (9 months in the first instance, but can be up to 12 months);
  • Jury service or compulsory military service;
  • Compassionate (including serious domestic difficulties);
  • Technical difficulties (limited to technical difficulties beyond the student’s control);
  • Financial (only for self-funded students, but must consider transfer to part-time study first).

3.1 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 College/School.

4. Application Procedure

  • The student should discuss their intention to suspend with their supervisors and relevant members of staff in their College.
  • The student should complete a Request for Suspension of Study (Research) form.
  • The student is required to complete all relevant sections of the form and ensure that the grounds for suspension are clearly marked and the supporting independent evidence is attached. The student must specify a return to study date.
  • The completed form should be signed by off the Head of College/School or nominee and subsequently submitted to Academic Services.  A member of Academic Services staff will check the documentation and determine the application on behalf of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board/Progression Awards Board.  Any applications may, at the discretion of the Academic Services staff, be referred to the Chair of the Academic Regulations and 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 student’s maximum submission date will be automatically extended to reflect the period of approved suspension.  The student’s record will be updated so that all support services are aware of the suspension / extension.
    • If the suspension is noted, then the student’s candidature dates will remain unchanged and the student’s record will be updated so that all support services are aware of the suspension.
    • If the suspension is declined, then the student and their supervisor will be informed of the decision.
  • Academic Services will write to the student by email or letter (copied to the student’s College/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 the 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.

5. Applications for an Extension to Suspension

If the student wishes to extend the period of suspension beyond the specified return to study date, then the student should submit a further request for a suspension which gives a detailed explanation of the need for the further period of suspension.

6. Return to study

If the student wishes to return to study earlier than the specified return to study date, the student should advise their supervisors and Academic Services, so that the student’s record can be updated and return arrangements made at the correct time.

If the student suspended for health reasons, the student 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 such other evidence which is requested by Student Records / Academic Services. 

Students returning from suspension should ensure that they are able to resume their studies and:

  • Where they suspended due to personal circumstances, the student should ensure that the personal circumstances are no longer affecting their studies;
  • Where they suspended due to financial concerns, the student should ensure that they have met, and can continue to meet, their financial obligations.

7. Failure to Resume Study

Where a student fails to resume study by the specified return to study date, the Academic Regulations and Cases Board/Progression Awards Board would normally assume that the student has withdrawn from the University and the student’s record will be closed (see Guide to Transfer and Withdrawal of Research Students).

8. Extension to Maximum Submission Date

The University has a commitment to providing a high quality research environment and implements quality assurance procedures targeted at monitoring student progression. The expectation is that the overwhelming majority of candidates will submit their thesis or dissertation within the time limit laid down by regulation.  A candidate’s time limit may be extended in exceptional cases only.

8.1 Extensions to the maximum submission date will only be considered if the following criteria are met:

  1. The Progression and Awards Board recommendations indicate that the student has been experiencing difficulties in progressing in a timely manner;
  2. The request is submitted to Academic Services normally at least 3 months before the end of the maximum candidature;
  3. 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.

9. Grounds for Extension

9.1 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 student’s control).

9.2 The following documentation must accompany all requests:

  1. A clear statement from the supervisors, counter signed by the Head of College/School, providing an evaluation of the student’s progress to date, and the situation as a result of the circumstance.
  2. A work plan detailing how the student will be ready for submission by the end of the requested extension period.
  3. Independent evidence supporting the need for an extension (e.g. letter from doctor/counsellor).

9.3 The documentation should indicate how the grounds cited have adversely impacted on the student’s work and progress. General statements that do not link the grounds cited to the student’s ability to work and progress would not be considered as acceptable evidence.

9.4 Where the grounds for extension can be shown to have occurred after the last Progression and Awards Board meeting at which the student was considered, then criterion 1 above may be waived.

10. Procedure for requesting an extension

The student must first discuss the deadline for the submission of their thesis with their supervisors and ensure that all possible steps are being taken to enable the student to submit by the existing deadline. If the student then considers that there is a need for an extension of candidature (and that all necessary criteria can be met), then the extension request form should be downloaded from the Intranet and all the relevant sections should be completed.

10.1 The following documentation must accompany all requests:

i.        A clear statement from the 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, counter signed by the Head of College/School or nominee, providing an evaluation of the student’s progress to date, and the situation as a result of the student’s circumstance(s).

iii.        A work plan (agreed by the student and the supervisors) detailing how the 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).

10.2 The documentation should indicate how the grounds cited have adversely impacted on the student’s work and progress. General statements that do not link the grounds cited to the student’s ability to work and progress would not be considered as acceptable evidence.

10.3 Where the grounds for extension can be shown to have occurred after the last Progression and Awards Board meeting at which the student was considered, then criterion 1 above may be waived.

10.4 The extension request form needs to be signed by both the supervisor and the Head of College/School or nominee (where these are the same person, a second signature should be obtained in place of Head of College/School or nominee). The completed request should then be considered by the College Director of Research and/or College Postgraduate or Research Committee (or a sub group of one of these) and will either be approved or not approved.

10.3 After the request has been considered at College/School level, it must be forwarded to Academic Services normally at least 3 months prior to the maximum candidature date. A member of Academic Services staff will check the documentation and determine whether to approve the application on behalf of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board/Progression Awards Board.  Any requests may, at the discretion of the Academic Services staff, be referred to the Chair of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board for the Chair’s determination. 

11. Decision Timescale

The request will be vetted at 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 student and the supervisor will be informed and requested to ensure that complete documentation is supplied.

11.1 Both the student and their supervisors will be informed by email or letter from Academic Services of the outcome of the extension request (normally within 5 working days of the decision having been taken) and where the request has not been approved, the reasons for the decision. Academic Services will ensure that the student database is updated appropriately and that all relevant parties are informed of the change to the maximum submission date.

12. Appeals

The procedures for requesting an extension ensure that all requests are scrutinised at both College/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.

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