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PGR Student Absence Policy

PGR Student Absence Policy

PGR Student Absence Policy

It is recognised that during your time as a PGR, you may need to take time off from study, whether that is through annual leave, sickness or leave for other reasons. This page will outline where you can find further information about PGR absence from study and the FAQs should help answer many of your questions. If you are still unsure, we advise that you contact your PGR Support Team to discuss your individual circumstances in more detail. 

The following policies and procedures relate to PGR Student Absence: 

  1. PGR Student Absence Policy (for all PGRs) 

  1. PGR Sickness Absence Stipend Policy (for PGRs with funding) 

  1. PGR Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental Leave funding policy (for funded PGR parents) 

PGR Student Absence FAQs 

Interruption is an entirecessation of academic work for a specific period. Periods of interruption do not count towards the timeframe for completion of the degree and can be considered as a suspension of normal academic requirements. During a period of interruption, a student does not undertake academic study, and will not receive supervision. A student’s registration will be suspended until they re-register and resume their studies. The minimum duration of an interruption is one month. 

Short term absences: students who are absent from their programme for a less than one month are not considered interrupted, and their registration is not suspended during this absence. All short-term absences must be recorded via the PGR Personal Absence Form. Absences of over 1 week must also be accompanied by supporting documentation (i.e. a letter from a medical practitioner).  
Annual leave is calculated in a student’s period of study, and each PGR may take up to 8 weeks of annual leave in a year. Students are encouraged to discuss annual leave with their supervisors and record their own annual leave allowances.  

Maternity/Paternity/Adoption/Shared Parental leave: is leave given to new parents upon the birth or adoption of their child. For further details, please refer to the Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy. 

You should arrange an appointment with the Disability Advice and Support Team to discuss an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) which will outline reasonable adjustments that can be made to your programme to support you in managing your disability. Medical documentation will be required for the ILP. Students with recurring or fluctuating conditions can stipulate in their ILP that they will need multiple short-term absences during a period of study.  

When your ILP is created, your supervisors will receive a copy, and you will be expected to discuss the adjustments with them and revise your supervisory agreement. During periods of absence, you will need to complete thePGR Personal Absence Formso that there is a record of the total time you have taken off during your period of study.   

You will need to apply for an interruption in the usual way, through MyPGR, when the interruption is due to start.If you have disclosed the disability or long-term health condition to the University (through Disability Support and Advice) and have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) in place which recommends that absences related to the disability/health condition are a reasonable adjustment. You may use the ILP as evidence to support the interruption request, rather than a new doctor’s note each time. Medical interruptions will ask for a doctor’s note, but you can write a statement to say that you have an ILP.  

You need to make sure that your ILP is reviewed annually. ILPs which have not been reviewed annually may not be accepted for interruption purposes and you may be asked to provide a doctor’s letter.  

If you have not disclosed your disability to the University via the Disability Support and Advice Team, and have not got an ILP, you will be required to provide medical documentation for each sickness absence period. We strongly encourage you to disclose your disability with the University and create an ILP to ensure that you have the support for study that you need. 

You should apply for the interruption in the usual way through MyPGR. If your medical interruption is for a reason unrelated to your disclosed disability or health condition, you will need to provide a doctor’s letter upon requesting the interruption. See guidance about Interruption & return from interruption for further details. 

You will be contacted several weeks before your scheduled return to study to ask whether you are ready to return or if you wish to request an additional interruption. It is important that you reply to this email so we can support your return to study.  

If you interrupted for non-medical reasons, you will be invited to meet with your supervisors for a ‘return to study’ meeting shortly after you re-register.  

Students will be notified before they return from interruption whether they need to provide a letter from their medical practitioner (considered “enhanced” interruptions). Students considered to be on an ‘enhanced’ medical interruption will be supported in their return to study by the PGR Welfare Support Advisor. All students returning from medical interruption will be required to complete a medical self-assessment form to confirm that they are fit and able to return to study (where required).  

If absence is a reasonable adjustment detailed in an ILP, you will not need to provide additional documentation to return to study.  

Where a student has had multiple short-term absences (not recorded as interruption), which are supported by medical evidence, and which in total are equivalent to one month or more (the minimum threshold for interruption), the cumulative absence time may be added up and the period of study be extended by the equivalent duration. 

Short-term absences will only be considered as cumulative for programme extension purposes if they have been recorded in the PGR Absence Form and are supported by either medical evidence or are recorded in an Individual Learning Plan (ILP).  

For example: 

A University of Exeter funded student has had the following periods of absence during their period of study in one year: 

Total days 
Absence type 
Supporting evidence 
 Eligible for cumulative absence?
Cumulative absence total 
5 days 
No – no supporting documents 
13 days 
Annual leave 
No – annual leave is not eligible 
17 days 
Doctor’s letter 
Yes – short term and supported by medical evidence 
70 days 
No – interruption is not eligible 
22 days 
Yes – short term and supported by ILP 
Cumulative total  
39 days 

The student is eligible for a total of 39 days of interruption based on the cumulative absences that meet the eligibilty criteria.

You should contact your PGR Support Team as you approach your programme or funding end date, to discuss your short-term absences, which have not previously contributed to interruptions. The PGR Support Team will review the absences recorded in the PGR Personal Absence Formand will calculate how much is eligible for interruption based on the eligibility criteria in the PGR Student Absence Policy and Sickness Absence Stipend Policy. PGR Support will inform you of the duration and dates to input into MyPGR and you will need to submit the request trough MyPGR according to their instructions. 

No, it is your responsibility to monitor absences taken during your programme and to request the interruption due to cumulative absences when the total is equal to one month or more. The PGR Support Team will check the PGR Personal Absence Form to confirm how much cumulative absence you are entitled to and will advise about applying for the interruption.  

Your funding will be extended by the same duration as the eligible cumulative short-term absences to a total of 13 weeks in a year. 

Using the example in the table above, there have been 70 days of medical interruption and 70 days of sick pay. The cumulative interruption period will be 39 days, and 21 days will be funded (to the max 13 weeks allowed in a year) and the remaining 18 days will be unfunded. 

No, only absences from 01 Augst 2022 (the date the policy came into effect) can be counted towards the cumulative absence total.  

Short-term sickness absence of up to one month in duration will not normally result in additional payments. Short-term sickness absence should be reported in accordance with the Student absence procedure.Studentship stipend payments will continue to be paid as normal during short-term periods of sickness absence.The funding end date will only be extended for short-term absences eligible to be considered for cumulative absence.  

Yes, the PGR sickness policy does make provision for phased returns to study following interruptions. Students may have up to 4 weeks of phased return to study, where they return at an FTE lower than the FTE that they will return to study at. If this arrangement is used, then the student’s submission due date would only be extended for the period of sick leave taken during the phased return. This should not be used where there is a clear need for the student to move to part-time on a longer-term basis. 

If you need longer than a 4 week phased return to study, you should consider a change to mode of attendance, see Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students, section 7: Changes to Mode of Attendance 

The stipend payments will restart as soon as you resume study and will be paid pro-rata according to the FTE of your phased return. For example, if you return at 0.5 FTE, you will receive a 0.5 FTE stipend payment during the phased return.  

Students may receive a maximum of 13 weeks sickness stipend payment per year so the absence part of the phased return will be funded provided the maximum has not been reached. So, if you return on 0.5 FTE and have not used the 13 weeks sickness absence stipend, you will receive 1FTE stipend during the phased return.  

You need to notify your supervisor andinternal examiner (or NEIC where appointed) that you are unwell. You should copy into the email. If you do not think you can attend the viva, you must inform your internal examiner or NEIC at the earliest opportunity – your internal examiner will inform the rest of the Board of Examiners. Note that you must not discuss any other aspect of your examination with the NEIC or internal examiner. 

You must complete the PGR Personal Absence Formand must provide a sick note from a medical practitioner to verify your illness at the time of the examination. A sick note is required even if you have a disability or health condition that has been disclosed to the University. 

When you are feeling better, you must notify that you are well so that the viva may be rescheduled. Note that the viva will be rescheduled for the earliest opportunity, but there may be a delay due to other commitments of the Board of Examiners. 

The University has established a mitigation systemfor considering the possible effects of an illness or absence for good reason on a submission deadline or assessment relating to a taught module. Professional Doctorate students are also expected to inform their placements/employer of any absences or changes to their clinical placements. 

You will need to discuss your maternity leave with your supervisors, and should refer to the Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and AdoptionPolicy for guidance about managing your pregnancy while studying. You should also complete a Pregnancy and Maternity Support Plan with your supervisors.  

You should apply for your maternity leave 2-3 weeks before it is due to start by submitting an interruption request in MyPGR. You will need to upload a copy of your MAT-B1 form 

If you are funded and eligible for maternity payments under the PGR Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental Leave funding policy, the PGR Support Team will arrange for your maternity payments when the interruption is processed. 

You need to complete the PGR Personal Absence Form and notify yoursupervisors and to confirm how much time off you need. The PGR Admin team will discuss the request with your examiners and will contact you to confirm the submission deadline once it has been approved.   

Note that whilst we are sympathetic to unforeseen circumstances that may occur after examination, extensions to the submission of amendments may lead to the delay in your degree being conferred as the examiners may have other commitments which they cannot move. This will be discussed and considered as part of the request. 

Support for PGRs relating to absences

Below is a list of support for PGRs who might want to seek advice before requesting time off. 

We realise that time off from study can be for a number of reasons, many of which may impact on a student's wellbeing. Therefore we want to remind you of all the wellbeing support available to you should you need it. 

Wellbeing - PGR Education Welfare Advisor

If you have any concerns about your mental health or wellbeing, you can speak to the PGR Education Welfare Advisor confidentially and they can give advice and signpost to further support. 


Spectrum.Life is a employee assistance programme which is also open to PGRs. They provide confidential telephone, video and live chat counselling service to help with things like stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, bereavement and more. It is easy to access through the online portal, is flexible and provides you with choice and clinically approved resources to help you to manage your health and wellbeing at work and at home.

This is a confidential service and information about who has used it, will not be fed back to the University.

A full list of all the wellbeing support available to PGRs can be found on the PGRs Health and Wellbeing webpage.


The International Student Support Office is there to support international students with matters which may affect their visa. Students considering taking a period of interruption or other period of leave should first discuss the potential impact on their visa with the ISSO team.

Further information, including contact information, is available on the International Student Support Website

The Guild Advice Unit (part of the Students Guild) is here to help any student based in Exeter (Streatham and St Lukes) if you experience difficulties during your course. They can offer information and advice on a variety of issues. 

The Student's Union is here to help any student based on any of the Cornwall campuses. They can offer advice about a variety of issues while you are registered on your programme. 

Students who have a disability, chronic health condition or specific learning needs are advised to contact the Disability Advice and Support Team who can discuss your inditidual learning needs and work with you to create an Individual Learning Plan to accommodate reasonable adjustments to study.