You should discuss any changes to your studies with your supervisor/supervisory team in the first instance. You will need the support of your supervisor and approval of a PGR School Officer to make a change to your studies.
If you can’t work on your research (eg for medical reasons or other good cause), it may be that you need to apply to Senate to take some time out to focus on whatever’s going on. This is called a ‘suspension’. You will need to complete an application form to suspend your studies.
If you are applying to take a break on medical grounds, please be sure to include medical certificates with your application.
In all cases, an application for suspension should be made prior to the period for which suspension is to commence. Suspensions will not normally be approved retrospectively.
Is there a maximum time limit for a suspension?
A request for suspension of studies for more than 12 months is not usually approved. Should a further suspension beyond 12 months be required, a new application must be made. Indefinite suspensions of study cannot be granted.
What happens to my fees during a suspension?
During the period of suspension, tuition fees are not payable. If all fees have already been paid to the University (including tuition, accommodation and Library), you, or your sponsors where appropriate, will receive a refund for any periods of suspension in that academic year. Periods of suspension do not count towards your period of study and your end date will be amended accordingly.
What if I’m a sponsored student?
Research Councils expect doctoral students to have completed within the timeframe agreed at the outset of your studies.
If you receive funding from one of the Research Councils, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance on your suspension application. For avoidance of doubt, you should get in touch with the Engagement Team if you are funded by any of the following:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
If you receive funding from any source other than the above, it is your responsibility to keep any sponsor informed of the reasons for requesting a suspension of studies. This means that you need approval from both the University and your sponsor. Along with your suspension request, you should include confirmation that approval has been sought from your funding body, where applicable.
Can I keep access to University systems while on a period of suspension?
As long as you complete online registration at the start of each academic year, your access to facilities will remain.
What if I’m on a Tier 4 visa?
International students studying at the University on a visa should refer to the terms of their visa when requesting a suspension of studies. If you’re not sure about this, we would recommend that you get in touch with the International Student Advisers (email@example.com) to discuss what impact a suspension will have on your visa.
Do I have to pay Council Tax?
Yes. When you take a break from study you will not be considered a registered student for the duration and are therefore liable for Council Tax.
Examples of good cause for suspensions and extensions
The following circumstances are typical of what may be considered grounds for applying for an exceptional extension or a suspension of studies. The circumstances will either prevent a student from working altogether or severely affect their ability to work effectively.
a. Serious physical or mental illness of the student
b. Death/serious illness of a partner, close family member or close friend
c. Unforeseeable or unpreventable events such as distress or injury caused by a serious accident; the affects of being a victim of a criminal act or the distress or serious disruption caused by fire, flood or other natural catastrophe
d. Serious personal problems such as relationship problems, family crises
e. Unexpected changes to the student’s source of funding (NB: students must ensure that they have the necessary funds before embarking on their degree)
f. Breakdown of essential equipment where a student is unable to continue research and the use of alternative equipment is not possible
g. Delays in obtaining ethical approval where approval has been sought in good time
h. Jury service; military service
i. Maternity or adoption leave
j. Delays in progress due to unforeseen problems with the degree programme and/or working environment (eg moving of offices/buildings, supervisor(s) changes and unavailability etc) which are outside of the student’s control (NB: the problem must be reported to the appropriate School at the time it occurs)
k. Study leave necessary for the degree programme (other than official leave of absence for study at an approved institution or fieldwork)
l. Internship/work placement necessary for the degree programme
The following circumstances will not be regarded as grounds for applying for any extension or a suspension of studies:
m. The student or supervisor was unaware of policy and application procedures for interruptions and/or extensions for postgraduate degrees. It is ultimately the student’s responsibility to ensure that they are aware of all policies and procedures relevant to their degree
n. Further primary research and/or laboratory work
o. Long-term holidays/vacations
p. Inadequate planning and time management
q. Normal pregnancy (excluding statutory maternity leave entitlement)
r. Difficulties with English language (including delays as a result of proofreading)
s. Computer or other equipment failure or theft where use of an alternative is possible or any loss of work was avoidable, except where the work is lost through the failure of University of Aberdeen systems as confirmed by School or University of Aberdeen IT department
t. Change in employment conditions: requests from part-time students who are working while studying may exceptionally be considered where a change in employment conditions was unforeseen. This will not normally be an acceptable reason for students in the submission pending or resubmission periods
In addition to the above, the following circumstance will not be regarded as grounds for applying for an extension:
u. Circumstances encountered during supervised study, which should have been dealt with at the time
The final decision on whether a suspension or an extension is granted or not is at the discretion of the PGR School Officer on behalf of the Senate.