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Periods of Study, Holidays and Other Absences

The Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, regulation 4 outlines the minimum, normal and maximum periods of study for a student completing a RDP.  These periods exclude approved temporary withdrawal periods, in line with regulation 5.

In exceptional circumstances, Schools may request a concession to the regulations to seek an extended period of temporary withdrawal, or an extended registration period and thesis submission date by completing the appropriate Research Degree Programmes Exception Request form as linked below:

  1. RDP Exception Request - Temporary Withdrawal Form (Microsoft Word).
  2. RDP Exception Request - Registration and Thesis Submission Form (Microsoft Word)

Download the current practice for handling RDP Exception Requests (PDF). Completed forms should be submitted by email, by the School, to

Approval of a period of extended temporary withdrawal by a School is not guaranteed. Schools reserve the right to decline a request to exceed the cumulative temporary withdrawal limit, on the following grounds:

  • There would be insufficient School resources to support the student when they return.
  • The student's research would no longer be valid on their return.
  • The School is not satisfied that the student would complete their research.

Any refusal of a temporary withdrawal request should be documented by the SPRC. Details of the student's request and reason for refusal should be included, and the student advised of the outcome in writing. 

The following information provides guidelines for staff, and students registered on RDPs, regarding holidays and other absences for postgraduate research students.  Funded students should also refer to their funder’s terms and conditions (or contact the Postgraduate Awards Team, for any implications to their funding arrangements. International students should contact the Immigration Support Service to determine any implications for their visa.

  • COVID-19 Fee Free Periods

    The University has put in place support for current postgraduate research students first registered prior to 31 August 2021, to allow additional time without fees (a fee free period (FFP)) in recognition of the continued impact that the COVID-19 pandemic may have had on progress of a student’s research during the early stages of their programme. Further information about the fee free period and support is available on the Research Student Support Structure page.

  • Holidays

    All holidays should be agreed with the principal supervisor/School in advance. Full-time, registered students are entitled to take up to 40 days of annual leave, including public holidays and University closure days, each year (or pro rata for part-time, registered students). Holidays for incomplete years may be allowed pro rata.

  • Maternity Leave, Maternity Support Leave and Adoption Leave

    The Student Maternity, Maternity Support and Adoption Policy provides advice and guidance on issues related to study, health and safety, and finance to:

    1. Students who become pregnant during their studies; prospective students who are already pregnant when they commence study; students who have given birth within the previous 26 weeks (or are continuing to breastfeed); their partners and those who have recently become parents (e.g. through adoption).
    2. University staff who may have a role in advising students coming to them with these issues.
  • Suspension of Studies – Temporary Withdrawals

    In general, students are expected to complete their RDP in a single continuous period. However, students may request a period of temporary withdrawal - an approved absence from the University for a set period of time - in the following circumstances:

    1. Medical reasons.
    2. Maternity.
    3. Compelling personal reasons that require the student to be absent from the University.
    4. For the purposes of taking up an internship at a centre of excellence or an industrial placement. Normally only one such visit may be considered during the period of the RDP and must not exceed 12 months’ duration.

     Suspensions will not normally be granted for the following reasons:

    1. Employment, temporary lectureships, exchanges, voluntary service overseas or expeditions/sport.
    2. On the grounds of financial hardship due to not completing the RDP within the maximum period of study (i.e. 4 years FTE for the PhD programme).

     The Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, regulation 5 outlines the procedure for considering periods of temporary withdrawal.  Students should discuss a request for a period of temporary withdrawal with their principal supervisor/School in advance of the period of withdrawal requested. Where a temporary withdrawal request may be considered feasible by the School, students/Schools should avail of this procedure to suspend studies earlier in the student's RDP, rather than seek to extend a registration period and thesis submission date towards the end of the RDP.

Code of Practice for RDPs
Main RDP Page
Resource Library
RDP Resources