Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions from PGR students affected by delays caused by Covid-19.

Keele is completely committed to supporting PGRs as best we can, and we will consider all requests openly and in line with current UKRI and other funder guidelines. There are several options open to you depending on where you are in your programme of study and your personal circumstances.

In all cases please discuss your options with your supervisor or PGR lead.

If your progress has or will be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, you can apply for an extension (this could be a time extension or funding extension, depending on circumstances – see below) and/or a waiver or reimbursement of your continuation fee.

When considering an application for an extension, the University will need to be clear about how this disruption has resulted in a delay to your submission. Prior to application you should record any disruption to your progress in your PDLP.

  • All students (funded or self-funded) who have experienced disruption and have been unable to mitigate their projects, for example disabled students, those with long-term illness, are neurodivergent, or who have caring or parental responsibilities, are able to apply for funding using the phase 2 request form. Applications will be considered based on the point at which the student is applying in their research degree and their individual circumstances. Priority will be given to those students in their final funding year or those approaching their expected submission end date. Funding will be used to allow students time to revise projects as opposed to making up for time lost and the maximum students can apply for is up to 3 months (full-time). These will be awarded on a needs-priority basis as due to financial pressure it is likely that not all cases can be supported. Applications will be invited in two rounds, as part of and at the same time as progress reviews. The first round closed in April and the next round will open in October 2021. Further information including the application forms can be found here.
  • Students may also apply for a time extension only using an extension request form.
  • All students affected by COVID-19 who began their research degree prior to March 2020 with an end of registration date later than September 2020 can apply for a waiver of their continuation fee. Students who moved to continuation after October 2020 can apply for a continuation fee reimbursement. Information on how to apply can be found here.

Factors that will be considered as part of an extension or fee waiver request include: funding, disruption to facilities, external factors including caring and parental responsibilities, student wellbeing, deliverable factors including placement delays, access to supervision, sickness and/or self-isolation and any other related factors which you feel have impacted your progress as a result of COVID-19.

Extensions do not ‘stop the clock’, they simply provide you with additional time.

Anyone receiving stipend payments should refer to their external funder in the first instance, to find out whether additional funding is available before applying to Keele for support.

If you are unable to continue with any form of work related to your research project, or if you become ill or your personal circumstances change, you can request a leave of absence (LOA) at any time. A LOA will stop the clock on your studies and all fee payments will be placed on hold. This means that your research timeline and deadlines are amended accordingly.

It is important to note that no fees are payable for any period of approved LOA but also stipend payments may also be placed on hold, depending on your funder. Some funders are continuing payments during absences for up to 13 weeks within any 12-month period provided they are covered by medical certificates (self-certification is permitted for up to 7 days).

The University will need to understand fully the circumstances giving rise to the request for leave as some discretion can be applied, in certain instances. When considering an application for LOA we will need to be clear about what stage you are at in your research degree programme, including any research training, and arrangements put in place to mitigate any detrimental impact.

Please note international students should discuss a leave of absence (LOA) request with Keele’s Immigration Compliance team prior to submitting, as this may affect your visa status.

You should also review the PGR Code of Practice regarding maximum periods of registration before submitting an LOA.

If you become unwell or are required to self-isolate, please follow the COVID-19 guidelines here.

It’s important to note that any sickness should be reported to your supervisory team and for instances of more than four weeks, we recommended you submit a leave of absence request with medical evidence, to stop your study clock.

Please note international students should discuss a leave of absence (LOA) request with Keele’s Immigration Compliance team prior to submitting, as this may affect your visa status.

You should discuss your situation with your supervisor and alter plans where possible. You should seek advice from the Immigration Compliance Team if an academic extension will affect your immigration status.

Under the current UK Home Office (UKVI) requirements only students in limited circumstances (those who need to repeat a year or have successfully repeated, along with some PhD students) can extend their visa in the UK. Students in other circumstances, for example their placement or programme of studies is taking longer than originally anticipated are not able to extend their Student Visa Route, formerly known as Tier 4 in the UK.

For existing PhD students currently inside the UK, including those being considered for DES, the Immigration Compliance Team are able to consider an extension to your Student Visa Route, formally known as Tier 4 and 4 DES requests. Although the support we are able to give you during this will be done digitally. Information on making a PhD Visa extension or DES request, and the forms to complete, can be found online at www.keele.ac.uk/visa (click the current students tab) and https://www.keele.ac.uk/sas/academicservices/immigration/doctorateextensionscheme/

Additionally, if your course end date is extended by more than three months you will need to apply for a new ATAS Certificate (if applicable) after being notified of the new expected course end date. A new ATAS Certificate would also need to be applied for if you change your course of study/area of research and that course of study/ area of research requires an ATAS Certificate. Please see www.keele.ac.uk/visa (click the ATAS tab).

Students who are nationals of EU countries, the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the United States of America do not need an ATAS certificate.

Note the issuance of a new CAS to extend a Student Visa Route, formally known as Tier 4 is at the discretion of the Immigration Compliance Team at the University. Therefore, an extension to a student’s course does not guarantee automatic Visa sponsorship and is at the discretion of the University.

Please contact Immigration Compliance via email to visa@keele.ac.uk so we can advise you on your options.

We fully appreciate that some students have particularly struggled during the pandemic due to personal circumstances and external pressures.

As part of the University’s commitment to supporting students, funding can now be applied for by individuals in this position. This funding is part of the University’s Phase 2 funding package. Please see the second question above for phase 2 funding information.

We would still encourage you to discuss the difficulties you are facing with your supervisor as it may be possible to agree between you on how to revise your research schedule to accommodate your current situation.

You could also consider a change of status (if currently full-time) to part-time. This would enable you to continue your research but alter your working pattern to suit your personal circumstances. Information on a change of status can be found here.

Alternatively, you could request a Leave of Absence (LOA). Please see the third question above for LOA information.

For funded students, any changes to mode of attendance could result in amendments to the funding you receive, and these arrangements fall within the remit of individual funding providers.

The University has agreed to comply with funder policies linked to COVID-19 and will review any amendments to status positively but advises you that you need to make the most appropriate decision for yourself, taking into account your financial situation.

International students should discuss a leave of absence (LOA) request with Keele’s Immigration Compliance team prior to submitting, as this may affect your visa status.

UKRI have issued guidance to PGR students funded by them about how to handle this period, which can be accessed on their webpage. Please also see the second question above for funding information.

UKRI guidelines also state that unless a student is ill, where feasible they should continue to work on their research project (suitably adjusted as above). If they are in receipt of a stipend, this should continue to be paid.

In the event of sickness, your funder’s rules should be consulted to see whether and/or for how long, you might continue to receive funding.

If you are funded by UKRI (AHRC, BBSRC EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, STFC), award payments may continue during absences for up to 13 weeks within any 12-month period provided they are covered by medical certificates (self-certification is permitted for up to 7 days). Additionally, the studentship may be extended by a commensurate period. Medical absences beyond the 13 weeks will not be funded by UKRI.

Keele’s initial COVID-19 funding extension process (Phase 1), aligned with UKRI guidelines announced in April, and the University has also committed to align with Phase 2 UKRI funding guidelines announced in November. Please see the second question above for funding information for Keele and non-UKRI funded students.

GTA students should discuss the implications of any serious delays with your supervisory team, Head of School, and Faculty Postgraduate Director.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Keele University stipends will continue to be paid whilst you are registered as a full or part time student.

If you are funded by an alternative provider, please seek clarification from your funder directly on future funding support, liaising with the KDA for support if needed.

Travel remains very difficult across the globe and Foreign Office (FO) advice is constantly changing. If it is not possible to cancel booked travel at no cost, students should use University travel insurance to recover costs for trips, where this is possible. For further information please visit https://www.keele.ac.uk/finance/insurance/travelinsurance/studenttravelinsurance/ 

If your travel plans are essential, it is vital that you follow FO advice when doing so, and that Health and Safety risk assessments are completed prior to travel. For further information please visit this web page

All FO travel advice can be found on their website https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice 

If you have used a Keele supplier to book travel, please liaise with the Finance Administrator who assisted with your booking. Suppliers are in regular contact with these individuals, assisting with alternative arrangements and cancellations.

We appreciate this will be a worrying time for self-funded students and individuals with financial commitments. We would like to flag some options to you:

Phase 2 funding now applies to self-funded students. Please see the second question above for further information.

All students affected by COVID-19 who began their research degree prior to March 2020 with an end of registration date later than September 2020 can apply for a waiver of their continuation fee. Students who moved to continuation after October 2020 can apply for a continuation fee reimbursement. Information on how to apply can be found here.

Unfunded time extensions are open to all students.

The income office has agreed to work with students on a case-by-case basis to create flexible payment plans to ease the burden of tuition fees. This would include reduced/additional instalment options and extensions to payment schedules. Our Income Office team is keen to talk to you and understand the challenges you are facing and will work closely with Faculty Postgraduate Research Directors where there are high proportions and cohorts of self-funding students. Please contact the finance team if you have any questions.

The University provides a hardship fund that students can apply for.

The standard turnaround time for decisions is 4 weeks, but we will endeavour to process them as soon as possible.

Applications for the standard hardship assessment will be open as usual - find out more on this web page.

You could request a change of status (if full time), to reduce to part time. This will reduce your fees significantly and will reduce your time commitments which you could then use to take on paid or voluntary work. Please note, international students must discuss a change of status request with Keele’s Immigration Compliance team prior to submitting the paperwork as this may affect your visa status.

For those students approaching thesis submission, the University has implemented guidance for examiners during Covid-19 and designed an optional impact statement for students to include with their thesis submission. Further information can be found here. Please also view the PGR advice pages regarding supervisory support and what to do if your research activity has been affected by the pandemic.

Alternatively, you can request a LOA to take a break from your studies, stop the study clock and place any fee payments on hold.

The University has agreed to comply with funder policies linked to COVID-19 and will review any amendments to status positively, but advise students that they need to make the most appropriate decision for them, considering their financial situation.