Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) allows the University to sponsor a student’s Visa to remain in the UK for a maximum period of 12 months, to aid them in gaining employment in a research area or set up as an entrepreneur for which they would not be able to embark on otherwise. However, as part of agreeing to sponsor students on this, the UK Home Office requires the University to be accountable for the student, now alumnus, once they have completed their studies.

The University is not required or obliged to offer the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) as a Tier 4 Sponsor and has the ability to add conditions and/or requirements to consider students requests for sponsorship under the scheme. Therefore there is not a right of sponsorship under Tier 4 DES and the University is able to choose who it wishes to sponsor as detailed in the 'Requirements to be considered' section of this page.

The scheme allows former students a longer period (12 months) to find work which would qualify for Tier 2 sponsorship, whilst gaining practical work experience in their field of research, as some short term research positions do not meet the requirements for Tier 2 sponsorship. The Tier 4 DES Visa application can only be made from within the UK, it cannot be an Entry Clearance application.

This highly selective scheme is aimed at exceptional PhD students who wish to further their career in their area of research whilst, at the same time, supporting the University by sharing their experiences as an alumnus on the scheme to current students. This would be facilitated through Research conferences and events at the University as well as individual meetings with former supervisors and current students. 

The University will support students who are on the Doctorate Extension Scheme by giving them continued access to their Keele email and web accounts, as well as the services available to all alumni of the University in developing and progressing their career.

The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme allows those sponsored under the scheme to start work full time prior to the new Visa being issued (during the visa application). The Immigration Compliance Team will confirm directly to those sponsored under the scheme when their working conditions change. Until this confirmation, even if a visa application is in progress, those on the scheme cannot work full time and must adhere to the conditions stated on their Visa – usually a maximum of 20 hours per week.

Please note that if you are on the Doctorate Extension Scheme you are not classified as a full time student; for example for council tax exemption purposes. In addition, students who are successful in being selected for the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme are requested to sign and agree to a contract agreement with the University. If those sponsored under the scheme breach terms of this or the condition of sponsorship, then Tier 4 DES sponsorship will be revoked with immediate effect with no right of appeal.


The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) is offered at the University in line with the requirements placed on it by the UK Home Office Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and UK Immigration law. If the scheme is terminated by the UKVI the University is not in a position or able to find alternative sponsorship for students to allow them to work in the UK. In light of this and the regularity in changes in the UK Immigration rules & Tier 4 requirements, if you are at the beginning of your PhD studies it is not possible to guarantee that this scheme will be offered when you come to complete your course of study.

The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme is not to be used to extend a student’s Visa to complete their studies in the UK. Postgraduate Research students who need an extension to complete their studies in the UK may be eligible for an extension for a maximum of 6 months to complete their course in the UK. For more information on this please go to the Tier 4 section and review the information under current students.

If you are interested in participating in the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES), please review the requirements and information in the following tabs along with the downloadable guidance.

If you have any more questions please contact the Immigration Compliance Team by email to visa@keele.ac.uk 

Requirements to be considered

The University will only consider sponsoring students under Tier 4 DES where the student meets the following requirements as set out below:

  • The student (and dependants if applicable) must hold a valid Tier 4 (General) Visa sponsored by Keele University.
  • The student (and dependants if applicable) must be residing in the UK and be in a financial position to make a valid Tier 4 visa application (meeting UKVI maintenance requirements) before a Tier 4 DES CAS being issued.
  • The student must be informed that they can lodge their Bound Thesis with the Library within 28 days of the students expected end date as stated on their original PhD CAS (unless they took a LOA for over 1 month resulting in their Visa being cancelled and a new Visa & CAS being issued). The University will use this to calculate the expected end date of the Tier 4 DES CAS. Students, who will complete their course before this date or have extended their research course due a pre agreed leave of absence where their original Visa was cancelled, will only be considered on a case by case basis.

    For example, if the Course End Date on your CAS for your PhD course which you are currently studying was 01 January, then you must be informed that you can lodge your Bound Thesis with the Library by no later than 29 January. 

    To calculate the expected end date PLUS 28 days; you can use the expected end date on your CAS and add 28 days, we recommend that you use the same free online tool that the UKVI use available from www.timeanddate.com

    Please be aware that the end date of your Visa is different to the end date on your CAS as the UK Home Office (UKVI) usually give all students an additional period of time on their Visa after the point when you should have completed your course for any resits if you failed to complete by the originally agreed end date or to make arrangements to return to your home country. 

  • The student’s visa application must be made after they have been informed that they can lodge their Bound Thesis with the library (a Tier 4 DES CAS will then be issued) but before their bound thesis has been lodged with the library. Students must ensure that they keep in mind the Tier 4 DES Scheme by binding their Thesis and must therefore ensure that it has an appropriate Senate date, allowing time to complete the steps of the Tier 4 DES Visa application process. If a student is not able to complete the steps needed for Tier 4 DES by the deadline of lodging their bound thesis for a specific Senate date, then it will need to be re-bound. Please refer to the Research webpages for more information on Submitting and Binding.
  • Students must submit their Visa application and lodge their Bound Thesis with the Library before the expected end date for Tier 4 DES. If a student lodges their thesis before submitting the visa application or after the expected end date, sponsorship and the student’s CAS must be terminated. 
  • If the student is or has been sponsored by an external organisation for the funding /financial support towards the award of the PhD, Tier 4 DES will only be considered if the sponsor agrees to allow the student to remain in the UK to work in accordance with the requirements of the University and Tier 4 DES.
  • The student must meet the suitability requirements for sponsorship under Tier 4 DES, i.e. that they must fulfil one of the following:
    • To work in a highly skilled profession in a non-permanent position - ideally a licensed Tier 2 employer (individuals cannot work as a Doctor in training);
    • Working as an entrepreneur;
    • Work in a research area - ideally in a related field to their PhD.
  • The student must be in good standing with the University. For example: they must have not been terminated from the University; not received a warning; and not be in debt with the University at the time of a Tier 4 DES CAS being issued. This is not an exhaustive list. The Appeals, Complaints & Conduct team will be consulted with regards to any student being considered.
  • Meet all other requirements of a Tier 4 Visa application as set out by the UK Home Office at the time of application e.g. Students are required to update the University on their current employment, report any changes to their immigration status or leave the UK.
  • Until the student receives notification that they are being put forward to Senate for the award of a PhD, the standard Tier 4 conditions apply (e.g. the students work hours are limited).
  • Any leave issued under this scheme will expire twelve months after course completion date as stated on the Tier 4 DES CAS. There is no option for this date to be extended.
  • Students sponsored under DES by the University are expected to attend at least 2 of the following in addition to enrolling on to Tier 4 DES (providing a copy of new Visa) and their Graduation:
    • One of their Faculty Research/Research Institutes conferences/events during the length of sponsorship under DES;
    • One Alumni event at the University where attendance is formally registered;
    • Meeting with their former supervisor/member of staff from their Faculty Research Office/Research Institute;
    • Meeting with a current research student arranged by their former Faculty Research Office/Research Institute.
  • For each type of event, the student will be expected to inform the Immigration Compliance Team of their attendance to one of these events, as attendance will be monitored.
  • Students on Tier 4 DES are expected to email updates to Immigration Compliance of how they are using the scheme and their experiences to the University quarterly, which can then be published and shared with prospective and current students. These communications will be monitored and if the University does not receive these scheduled updates the student will be terminated from the scheme. 

How to be considered

Current students who wish to be considered for the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) should review the requirements for students to be considered as well as the downloadable (below) student guidance ‘Help text for Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme'.

If you believe that you may be suitable for the scheme at the University then you will need to request to be considered for the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) by completing the Expression of Interest form (download below) and return it to the Immigration Compliance Team, Student Services Centre, Keele University. You will need to ensure that all sections are completed in as much detail as possible and that you have agreement from your PGR Director to you being considered for sponsorship under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme.

If you wish to email your completed express of interest form please send it as an attachment to visa@keele.ac.uk

Your interest will be considered and you will be notified of the outcome, by email, usually within 3 to 4 weeks. If you are successful with your expression of interest you will be provisionally offered sponsorship under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES). You will be given a checklist that you will need to successfully complete and return to the Immigration Compliance Team by the deadline given. If you are unable to successfully complete the checklist to the level expected by Immigration Compliance then your provisional offer will be terminated.

It is important to remember that you have to submit your visa application before you lodge your Thesis with the library; consider these timings when making your submission for your visa. If you lodge your Thesis with the library before you submit your visa application then the offer of sponsorship under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) must be terminated by the University.

Please note that each provisional offer will be specific to the individual student and their circumstances. 


Viva

The outcome of your Viva is key to your ability to be suitable for sponsorship under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. It is understandable that a number of students need to complete minor corrections following their Viva, which may affect the timings and ability for you to take part in the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. However it is important to remember that the primary focus of your time and studies at the University is for the award of your doctorate and that the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme should not distract you from that.

Students who achieve either no corrections or minor corrections may be considered for sponsorship under Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. Students who have major corrections are not eligible for the scheme.

To support students through the process of the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme at the University we have created a flow chart depending upon if you have any corrections to guide you through the process, downloadable below. 

Contact points

Those who are sponsored under Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) have to commit to at least four contact points with the University during the period of Sponsorship (12 months). Two of the contact points are set by the Immigration Compliance team the others are chosen by the former student from a list of approved actives.


Contact point 1

The first contact point will be when the former student sponsored under Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) brings in their new visa (BRP card) and passport in person to the Immigration Compliance Team. At this point, the former student will complete the registration process with the University on to the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) at the University.

Contact point 2

The second contact point is when the former student attends their graduation ceremony (summer or winter) at the University.  The student will need to confirm the date and time of their ceremony to the Immigration Compliance Team by email, at least 2 weeks prior to the graduation ceremony taking place. With this confirmation email those on the scheme are expected to provide a short update (around three paragraphs) on what they are currently doing on the scheme.

The Immigration Compliance team will not intrude on your day but we want to see how you are getting on. We are happy to take some pictures for you. If you agree then these will be added to your update, which we will share with other students. Photos taken by Immigration Compliance will be emailed to you for your own use.

Contact points 3 and 4

The third and fourth contact points are for the former student on the scheme to select at least two of the following:

  1. One of their Faculty Research/Research Institutes conferences/events during the length of sponsorship under DES;
  2. One Alumni event at the University where attendance is formally registered;
  3. Meeting with their former supervisor/member of staff from their Faculty Research Office/Research Institute;
  4. Meeting with a current research student arranged by their former Faculty Research Office/Research Institute.

Contact point 3 should be within the first 6 months of sponsorship, with contact point 4 being over the final 6 months. For each type of event, the former student will be expected to inform the Immigration Compliance Team of their attendance to one of these events, as attendance will be monitored.


If anyone who is sponsored under Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) does not attend all the required contact points and have their attendance logged with the Immigration Compliance Team,  the terms and conditions of sponsorship will be considered to be breached. As a consequence, Tier 4 DES sponsorship will be revoked with immediate effect with no right of appeal; those sponsored would need to leave the UK.

Applying for a Visa

Successful candidates for the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) must make their Visa application with the assistance of International Student Support and the CAS will only be issued to them.

When you submit your visa application, you must provide a copy (in person) of the full application to the Immigration Compliance Team within 2 working days along with the postage receipt. In addition, you must provide the Immigration Compliance Team with all copies of any correspondence from the UK Home Office (UKVI) for them to verify and copy.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

If the study for your doctorate required Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance and if your current certificate is still valid, you are not required to obtain a new ATAS certificate in order to apply for leave under the doctorate extension scheme.

The current Tier 4 policy guidance states that your ATAS clearance certificate remains valid as long as your sponsor and your course details, including length of course as stated on the original CAS, do not change. If your completion date is postponed beyond the details on your original CAS then it is possible that your certificate will not be valid, you will have to apply for fresh ATAS clearance. If you do need to apply for new ATAS clearance, it is important that you state on your application for ATAS clearance that you will be making a Tier 4 application under the doctorate extension scheme and that all your research has been completed. You should provide details of the research you have already completed. It is likely that you would need to obtain ATAS clearance in the following circumstances:

  • your current immigration permission expires before your Viva;
  • your doctorate is formally confirmed as awarded;
  • the "expected end date" on your Tier 4 DES CAS.

UK Home Office (UKVI) time cap on UK study

International students who study in the UK are subject to a time cap on how long they can study in the UK. This is 2 years for study below degree level and usually set at 5 years for Degree level courses (with some exceptions including PhD courses).

Students going on to a course with the expected award of a PhD (or one of the postgraduate research qualifications listed in Annex 5 of the Home Office's Tier 4 policy guidance) are not subject to the 5 year cap on study in the UK, but are subject to an 8 year cap. The 8 year cap does not include any Tier 4 leave granted on the Doctorate Extension Scheme.

Refusals

If your visa application is refused you must inform the University immediately by email to visa@keele.ac.uk  as it will affect your working conditions and rights in the UK. It is unlikely that former students will be able to make a new Visa application.

Visa options after the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

You can only apply once under the doctorate extension scheme, which means you cannot extend it. If you want to return or stay on in the UK after DES you will need to apply to make a new Visa application under a different category.

Additionally there is nothing to stop you applying under a different category (Visa) whilst you are on your Tier 4 DES Visa. However, we would be grateful if you could email us visa@keele.ac.uk to let us know what you have gone on to.

What you are able to apply for is dependent upon your circumstances, for example if you are working in the UK at the appropriate (UKVI determination) level your employer might consider sponsoring you under Tier 2.

We have listed some of the more common options below with a link to the UKVI’s guidance. Please make sure that you check all the details of the category that you are considering in order to ensure that you meet all necessary requirements for applying in the UK (including applying before your Tier 4 DES visa expires). If you do not, the other option is to apply for a new Visa from the country in which you usually live, known as entry clearance.

Employment

Tier 2

UKVI Guidance
(external web link)

Employment / Self employment

Tier 1 (Subcategories of )

UKVI Guidance
(external web links)

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

Tier 1 (Investor)

Employment / Self-employment (Turkish Nationals only)

Turkish Worker Visa

UKVI Guidance
(external web link)

The UKVI information on work Visas can be found online here: www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration/work-visas