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Appendix 11: Policy on Granting PGR Programme Extensions in Exceptional Circumstances

The purpose of this policy is to guide PGR Special Cases when taking decisions about exceptional circumstances, primarily in relation to PGR programme extension requests, to ensure equity and maintain academic standards. The policy also provides transparency for PGRs who might need to make an exceptional circumstances request.

In all cases, PGRs applying under this policy will be required to provide supporting evidence for the case that they are making and to follow the set procedure

Programme extension requests

The University of York expects that PGR programmes will be completed and submitted with the normal period of enrolment and PGRs  - supported by their supervisors and departments - must plan their programme in its entirety (ie including preparatory work, research and writing of the thesis, any training or other required activities (eg compulsory placements) plus an allowance for contingencies) based on this expectation.

Extensions to a submission deadline are, therefore, granted only in exceptional circumstances, where a PGR's work has been significantly adversely impaired by severe (serious and of sufficient duration), unforeseen, and unavoidable issues, normally of a medical or personal nature. 

A request for an extension may be refused where a PGR was advised to take a Leave of Absence during their programme to deal with an issue, but opted not to do so. 

Retrospective requests will not be considered unless there are exceptional, documented circumstances (for example the PGR was medically incapacitated) that prevented the PGR from requesting an extension at the current time. 

Progression Extensions and Leave of Absence requests

This policy may also be used to guide PGR Special Cases when considering progression extensions (particularly over two months), and Leave of Absence requests that are lengthy and/or where multiple requests have already been made by a PGR. 

Circumstances that are exceptional and may be grounds for an extension

The University recognises that serious life events may impact on a PGR’s ability to make progress and/or complete on time; such circumstances include:

  • Serious medical situations eg hospitalisation or incapacitation through injury, illness, or mental health crisis
  • Close bereavement eg of a partner, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild.
  • Housemates or very close friends may also be considered ‘close’, though evidence of the relationship may be required
  • Victim of a serious crime with ongoing physical and/or mental impact
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments are not yet in place and where this delay is not due to the PGR
  • Difficult personal or domestic circumstances, for example the serious illness of a dependent 
  • Severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (for example on mental health, caring responsibilities, interaction with existing disability).

Circumstances that are not normally exceptional and not normally grounds for an extension

The following may provide grounds for an extension but a PGR will need to clearly demonstrate that the circumstances meet the criteria set out above ie severe, unforeseen and unavoidable:

  • Relationship breakdown
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments have been made
  • Constraints arising from paid employment
  • Significant legal proceedings requiring attendance
  • Inability to access vital research equipment eg due to fire or flood
  • Immediate loss of accommodation eg due to eviction, fire or flood
  • Loss of a supervisor when this is not resolved as per the Policy on Research Degrees.

Circumstances that do not provide grounds for an extension

PGR programmes are, by their nature, challenging and require resilience. The University expects that PGRs will develop strategies, and access support services where necessary, to help them manage day to day difficulties in their work and personal lives. 

PGRs are expected to plan their research to fit within their normal period of enrolment. PGRs are also expected to recognise that research does not always go to plan and therefore to identify, from the outset, possible challenges that might cause delay (eg experiments not working, difficulties in accessing equipment, poor weather in field seasons etc.) and to build in contingency time to accommodate this (whether or not their PGR programme includes a continuation period).

The following will not be considered grounds for an extension:

  • Previous poor academic progress or lack of engagement
  • Pressure of academic work
  • Lack of contingency planning in relation to the research project 
  • Undertaking further research and/or other research-related activities (eg writing papers, conference attendance)
  • Teaching commitments
  • Inadequate planning and time management, eg failure to allow sufficient time for a supervisor to consider the final draft of the thesis prior to the deadline, or for a funder to approve a final draft of the thesis
  • Time needed to improve the standard of written English in the thesis and/or to proofread the thesis (including where a PGR has English as a second language)
  • Computer or equipment failure, including where this has resulted in a loss of work, where use of an alternative is possible or the loss of work was avoidable
  • Making arrangements for the oral examination
  • Where the PGR is registered for more than one degree (requires approval) and the request is based on commitments relating to the other degree
  • Preparation for paid employment including job interviews
  • Normal pressures of paid employment 
  • Getting married, going on honeymoon, or attending a wedding or similar 
  • Holidays
  • Participation in sport or other hobbies, even at a high level
  • Moving house
  • Illness or death of pets
  • Childcare or other ongoing caring issues
  • Financial difficulties, including lack of funds to complete the degree
  • Planned medical procedures
  • Need to travel abroad for medical checkups or planned procedures
  • To obtain or renew a visa
  • Where a PGR has made a complaint against the University and is awaiting an outcome
  • Lack of awareness of the correct policy and application procedures for requesting an extension.


The PGR Special Cases process is an evidence based process. Requests, especially for extensions, are rarely upheld without robust supporting evidence. 

PGRs are responsible for obtaining the necessary evidence. PGRs will not be chased for evidence if they fail to provide it. If a PGR does not provide evidence with their request and does not explain why, the request will be rejected. 

The evidence submitted in support of a request to PGR Special Cases should: 

i. Be from an independent and relevantly-qualified third party source/professional. 

ii. Give direct confirmation of the PGR’s circumstances and the impact on the PGR’s ability to undertake their research/produce their thesis or otherwise engage with their PGR programme. 

iii. Indicate the period of disruption and duration of impact.

iv. Be contemporaneous to the disruption. A doctor or counsellor, for example, may be willing to report a retrospective account given to them by a PGR after the event, but in itself this does not carry weight as evidence.

v. In the event that the professional concerned did not see the PGR during the time period in question, but believes that their condition would have prevented them from engaging not only with their research/thesis/PGR programme, but also with professional support services, evidence can still be considered. The professional’s evidence in such a case would need to explain the extent to which the circumstances would have prevented engagement with professional services.

vi. If the PGR is asking for a decision retrospectively, the evidence submitted must also explain why the PGR was unable to engage with the PGR Special Cases process at the time. In some cases, where the circumstances are sufficiently severe, it may be possible to infer good reason from the evidence submitted. 

vii. Evidence must be provided in English or, where the original evidence is in a different language, with a translation by an independent professional third party into English. Translations by students will not be accepted.   

Policy sections

1. Introduction

2. The criteria for the award of PGR degrees

3. The research environment

4. Selection, admission and induction of PGRs

5. Supervision

6. Responsibilities of PGRs and supervisors

7. Periods of enrolment, changes to PGRs' status and personal circumstances (including illness), working hours and holidays

8. Progress and review arrangements

9. Development of research and other skills

10. Evaluation of PGR programmes

11. Research integrity and ethics

12. Assessment

13. Dissemination of research results, intellectual property rights and responsibilities

14. PGR complaints and appeals

15. Research away from York (excluding PGRs on distance learning PGR programmes)

16. Arrangements for non-York PGRs