Graduate School Handbook part four

Information about the admissions process for postgraduate research degrees at UWE Bristol.

Regulations about initial registration, changes to registration and withdrawal of registration

PGR4.1 Initial registration

PGR4.1.1R Normal minimum and maximum periods of registration are as follows:

Degree programme Minimum Maximum
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)(FT) 18 months 36 months
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)(PT) 30 months 48 months
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)(FT) 24 months 48 months
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)(PT) 36 months 84 months
Professional Doctorate (FT) 36 months 48 months
Professional Doctorate (PT) 48 months 72 months
Doctor of Philosophy by publication (DPhil)(PT) 12 months 72 months
Master of Philosophy by publication (MPhil)(PT) 12 months 48 months

PGR4.1.2R Initial registration will take place at the postgraduate researcher’s (PGRs) start date, and PGRs are required to re-register each year until their completion of, or withdrawal from, the award. Annual fees are due at the start of each registration year.

PGR4.1.3R PGRs must demonstrate satisfactory progress at each stage of their award for registration to continue.

PGR4.2 Changes to registration, including suspension and extension

PGR4.2.1R Faculty Research Degrees Committees (FRDCs) are responsible for considering applications to make changes to a PGR’s registration, where supported by appropriate evidence, including:

  • Research project
  • Supervisory team
  • Mode of attendance
  • Registration status (suspension, extension or withdrawal)
  • Extension to individual progress milestone deadlines that do not otherwise affect registration
  • Change of doctoral registration to MPhil (before submission of thesis)
  • Applications from MPhil candidates to withdraw from their MPhil registration and re-apply for registration at doctoral level. 

PGR4.2.2R A PGR can apply for suspension from their registration if they are unable to work on their research degree due to health or other acceptable reasons. The FRDC will not normally approve a suspension of more than one year at a time.

PGR4.2.3R Where recommended by the FRDC, the Research Degrees Award Board may extend the PGR’s registration where there are acceptable reasons, presented together with appropriate supporting evidence and a realistic timescale for completion.

(See also information about personal circumstances at Part 7 of the PGR Regulations.)

PGR4.3 Withdrawal of registration

PGR4.3.1R Withdrawal of registration may be initiated by the PGR or the University at any time on application to the FRDC.  Where withdrawal is initiated by the University the application must be supported by appropriate evidence and comply with the published PGR withdrawal policy.

PGR4.3.2R The decision to withdraw a PGR’s registration is the responsibility of the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) on recommendation from the FRDC.

PGR4.4 Additional circumstances in which postgraduate researchers may be required to leave the award or may be expelled by the University

PGR4.4.1R PGRs may also be required to leave the award by the University for reasons other than those described in the PGR withdrawal policy.  These reasons may include admission on the basis of an application subsequently found to be incorrect or fraudulent and/or that the PGR has acquired a status which renders continuation on the award inappropriate.  For PGRs registered on Professional Doctorate awards where there are concerns regarding their professional suitability or fitness to practice the professional suitability policy and procedure will be used.

Processes governing the expulsion of students of the University, including PGRs, are described at appendix H4 of the University Academic Regulations and Procedures.

Procedures for postgraduate research registration

Procedures outline the responsibilities of the PGR, the Director of Studies/supervisory team and Committees in each instance.

PGR4.5 Initial registration and annual re-registration

PGR4.5.1 Responsibilities for new PGRs at initial registration:

  • Complete provisional registration as per instructions from the Graduate School.
  • Pay fees and any relevant project fees, or ensure arrangements are in place to pay these, if sponsored.
  • Present originals of relevant qualification certificates and formal photographic identification documents to Graduate School, as requested.
  • Inform the Graduate School and their Director of Studies if they are going to be late arriving at UWE Bristol to begin their research studies.
  • PGRs on a student visa or Tier 4 visa should also familiarise themselves with the University’s webpages for international students.

PGR4.5.2 Responsibilities for PGRs at annual re-registration:

  • Complete provisional registration as per instructions from the Graduate School.
  • Pay all fees, or ensure arrangements are in place to pay fees, if sponsored. Annual fees are due at the start of each registration period.
  • PGRs must demonstrate satisfactory progress at each progress review point for registration to continue.

PGR4.5.3 Responsibilities of Directors of Studies at registration and re-registration:

  • Directors of Studies must ensure that PGRs register without delay at the start of each annual registration period.
  • Where a new PGR has informed the University that they are going to arrive late (but does not wish to defer their place), the Director of Studies should discuss what work can be begun prior to arrival to avoid delays in submitting the project for registration (RD1) (DOC).
  • Directors of Studies must provide a 1:1 induction during the initial supervision meeting, covering as a minimum the topics specified on the induction checklist.  The checklist should be signed and returned to the Graduate School, and the Director of Studies and the PGR should both retain a copy.  In addition, PGRs will be invited to a faculty induction and Graduate School welcome event, which they should be encouraged to attend.
  • For re-registering PGRs, Directors of Study must ensure that PGRs are aware of upcoming progress review milestones and the requirements for these.

PGR4.6 Changes to PGR registration

PGR4.6.1 Responsibilities of PGRs:

  • A PGR wishing to change their registration e.g. change of mode of attendance, suspend their studies or extend their registration period must submit a formal request to the Faculty Research Degrees Committee (FRDC), with support from their supervision team. All research degree forms are available on the Graduate School website.
  • All applications for changes to registration must be supported by the Director of Studies.
  • PGRs must provide suitable evidence to support significant changes to their registration, for example, a current doctor’s letter to support a medical condition.
  • Extensions to registration will normally be considered only once the PGR has successfully passed Stage 3 progress review and has entered the final completion stage of their project.
  • Extensions to registration for PGRs are not automatically given; all applications must provide the reason for the delay in completing the project, together with a realistic schedule for completion.
  • Extensions to individual progress milestone deadlines that do not otherwise affect registration are considered via the personal circumstances process and must be submitted in accordance with the guidance available on the Graduate School website.
  • Changes to other aspects of the PGRs research studies such as a significant change in the nature, scope or topic area of the project, or changes in the composition of the supervisory team are also subject to consideration by the Faculty Research Degrees Committee with the support of the Director of Studies, using the appropriate RD form.

PGR4.6.2 Responsibilities of Directors of Studies and supervisors:

  • Directors of Studies and supervisors should be aware of PGRs’ individual registration details and work with the PGR to request any proposed changes to registration, or to other aspects of their research study e.g. changes to the project or supervisory arrangements (see also PGR Part 9 Supervision).
  • Supervisors must consider if any proposed change is appropriate, and in the PGR’s best interest.
  • If appropriate, PGRs should be directed towards help and specialist support services available to them within the University, e.g. the Wellbeing Service, Disability Services, etc.

PGR4.6.3 Responsibilities of the Faculty Research Degrees Committees:

  • When considering approval of changes to registration (change of mode of attendance, suspension from studies, extension of registration period), or extension of individual progress milestone deadlines, the FRDC will act fairly and consistently when making decisions based on the information and evidence provided.
  • When considering requests for a suspension of studies, the FRDC must consider whether it is likely that the PGR will be able to complete the project after the proposed period of suspension.
  • When considering requests for extension of registration, the FRDC will make a recommendation to the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB).
  • Personal information and details of circumstances will be handled sensitively by the relevant FRDC Personal Circumstances Panel; it will not normally be necessary to disclose these to the wider Committee.
  • FRDC personal circumstances panels should be mindful that COVID-19 legacy circumstances may continue to impact PGRs ability to study and in such cases should adjust expectations for supporting evidence for circumstances where this is difficult to obtain.
  • FRDCs must ensure that any conditions of approval are clearly defined, and communicated to the PGR and the Director of Studies.
  • Information about changes to registration periods and progress milestone deadline dates approved by the FRDC will be communicated to PGRs and their supervisors by the Graduate School.

PGR4.6.4 Responsibilities of the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB)

RDAB is responsible for making the final decision about any extension to the registration period or the withdrawal of a PGR's registration altogether. The Award Board will consider the recommendation of the FRDC, in conjunction with the information and evidence submitted by the PGR and their supervisory team.

PGR4.7 Early submission for final assessment

If a PGR wishes to submit for final assessment before their minimum registration period they must apply for permission from the FRDC.

PGR4.8 PhD researchers wishing to change their registration to an MPhil programme

A PhD researcher who is unable to complete their approved programme of doctoral work may apply to transfer their registration to the MPhil programme. This can take place at any time prior to submission of their thesis for final assessment. Applications should be made by the PGR to the relevant FRDC.

PGR 4.9 MPhil researchers who wish to change their registration to a PhD programme

PGR4.9.1 PGRs and supervisory teams should note that there is no process to transfer from the MPhil programme to a PhD registration.

PGR4.9.2 If an MPhil researcher considers their work to be suitable for a PhD, and wishes to change their registration, a new application will normally be required. If accepted, the PGR will then be required to submit an RD1 for the new programme. Where appropriate, the FRDC may discretionally take existing work undertaken on the MPhil into account.

PGR 4.10 Withdrawal of registration

PGR4.10.1 The PGR must be informed of any intention to withdraw their registration by the FRDC, and must be given details of any relevant help and support available to them. For further information, please see the Postgraduate Research Withdrawal Policy.

Note: PGRs who reach the end of their registration (i.e. their maximum registration end date) without having submitted for final assessment and who have not submitted a relevant personal circumstances application will be automatically withdrawn and no award will be made.

Working, holidays and other absences

How many hours you should spend a week on your research

UWE Bristol expects PGRs to spend time on their research appropriate to their mode of attendance. Full-time PGRs are expected to spend between 35 and 40 hours per week throughout the year actively engaged in their research. The majority of this time should be between Monday and Friday during normal University hours to ensure availability of contact with supervisors. Attendance and engagement is monitored via supervisory meetings, and a regular record of scheduled supervision meetings should be kept.

Part-time PGRs are expected to spend approximately 16 hours per week engaged in their research as a minimum. It is accepted that the agreed pattern of study for part-time PGRs will vary according to work or other external commitments and in the case of Professional Doctorates upon any expected attendance patterns specified for the award. However, part-time PGRs must ensure that they are sufficiently available during normal University hours to maintain regular contact with their supervisors.


It is very important that PGRs are able to take reasonable breaks away from their studies for rest and relaxation. PGRs are entitled to take holidays and a maximum of eight weeks in the year including public holidays is recommended for full-time PGRs, pro-rata for part-time PGRs. Students on a student visa or Tier 4 visa must ensure that they remain compliant with the requirements of their visa when taking breaks away from the University.

Holidays/annual leave should be agreed in advance with the Director of Studies to ensure that key research periods are not disrupted e.g. time limited access to resources such as lab equipment. However, Directors of Studies are expected to be reasonable in considering requests for annual leave and to consider PGR’s commitments outside their research e.g. those with school age children. PGRs working in collaboration with non-academic partners are expected to consider their obligations to those partners in planning leave.

Other periods of absence

PGRs should agree any period of absence in advance with their Director of Studies and refer to guidance about suspension of registration or progress milestone deadline extensions in part seven of this handbook if affected by personal circumstances beyond their control.

Parental leave

  • All PGRs are entitled to 12 months maternity leave. The PGR can apply for this via the normal suspension procedure using the personal circumstances form (DOC) and can be given up to one year suspension from their registration;
  • Paternity leave is two weeks for all PGRs regardless of how they are funded, and any requests must also be sent to the Graduate School via email.  Paternity leave payments are not currently available for PGRs. A two week extension to the next progress review submission deadline will be permitted, but no extension will be made to the maximum registration end date;
  • There is no minimum timeframe for a PGR to become eligible for parental leave, and it can be requested at any point during the PGR’s registration;
  • Supervisory confirmation is needed for all parental leave requests;
  • The PGR has the option to return from their parental leave early, but in the case of maternity leave, we would not advise returning to study within 2 weeks of the baby’s birth;
  • The PGR and supervisory team should keep in touch at an agreed frequency;
  • The PGR should notify their supervisory team and the Graduate School of their return date;
  • Students on a student visa or Tier 4 visa making an application for parental leave must also contact the PBS team at for advice as it may impact their visa.

Note: While on maternity leave, PGRs are not entitled to access to resources such as the library, or to supervision other than that required to maintain pastoral contact above. This is the case for all suspensions of registration.

Parental leave pay

The Graduate School policy for maternity pay is as follows:

  • Self-funded PGRs – receive no maternity pay from UWE Bristol
  • Sponsored PGRs – receive no maternity pay from UWE Bristol and should make arrangements to contact their sponsor about their intended leave period and any possible funding
  • Research Council-funded PGRs – as per Research Council guidance
  • UWE Bristol Bursary/scholarship PGRs – full bursary to be paid for up to six months, with the option of taking a further six months unpaid.

Anyone who has received their full UWE Bristol bursary (eg. three years) would be treated in the same way as a self-funded PGR. This means they are responsible for paying any completion fees/tuition fees, and would not be eligible to receive maternity pay. We reserve the right to claim maternity pay back if the PGR does not return to their studies following maternity leave.

Paternity leave payments are not something we currently support for PGRs.

Further information about parental leave can be found in UWE Bristol's Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Adoption and Partner Leave Policy and Procedures (PDF).

Working while registered on a research degree award

Full-time PGRs should not engage in other work (paid or otherwise) that will have a detrimental impact upon the time that they have available to engage with their research studies.  Full-time PGRs in receipt of UWE Bristol or other bursaries particularly may put continuation of their bursary at risk if they are found to have taken on other paid work that prevents them from committing the expected number of hours per week to their research.  Pressure of other work will not normally be considered an acceptable reason to support a request for an extension to a progress milestone or other submission deadline for full-time PGRs.

Full-time PGRs who wish to undertake teaching activities are encouraged to do so where opportunities are available, but must comply with regulations at part six (PGR6.6) about the number of hours that they may teach per year.

International students

Approval for authorised absence for PGRs on a student visa or Tier 4 visa

Situations do arise that require some students to be absent from UWE Bristol: for example, a family emergency in your home country, a period of sickness which requires time away from studies to recover, or time required to undertake data collection/research for a dissertation or thesis.

Approval must be obtained in advance for any authorised absence from the University's Immigration Advice Team and PGRs should discuss this in advance of taking any leave. This is for any time away for a period longer than 14 days and up to a maximum of 60 days. Approval is given on a case-by-case basis and must have support from an academic member of staff such as the Director of Studies. A PGR may be able to receive an authorised absence for up to 60 days but this cannot be granted in all cases.

The authorised absence rule can only be applied if the PGR will not require a visa extension, or require an extension to their research degree maximum registration end date as a result of taking time out from their studies.

Further information about how to obtain an authorised absence is available in UWE Bristol's guidance on enrolment and attendance monitoring.

Working in the UK if you are on a student visa or Tier 4 visa

View more info on International students working in the UK.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the University are both very strict about the type and amount of paid work that students are allowed to do. As part of your visa application, UKVI will require you to demonstrate that you have enough money to support yourself during your studies. Remember that full time means just that – you are expected (and will need) to be able to focus on your research studies full time.

PGR students are considered to be “in term time” for the entirety of their course (until they have submitted their final thesis).

Further visa information for PGRs on a student visa or Tier 4 visa

Registration sessions

Student route visa students must attend a registration session every year to complete Home Office requirements and PGRs will be informed of these details directly by the UWE Bristol Immigration Advice Team. Home Office requirements must be satisfied before the annual registration process can be completed.

General visa advice

  • Immigration Advisers can be contacted for appointments and advice by email , or by telephone: +44 (0) 117 328 3871 (Monday/Wednesday/Friday 09:00-12:00).  You can also book a telephone appointment to discuss a query with an Immigration Adviser. 
  • Part-time international PGRs based in their home country who need to attend UWE Bristol on a short term basis will need to apply to the Home Office for the appropriate visa. Please note that it is the PGR’s responsibility to arrange and to pay for the visa, travel and other expenses relating to the visit.  Questions about visa applications should be sent directly to the UWE Bristol Immigration Advice Team.

You may also be interested in