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Work restrictions for PhD students

PhD work restrictions

With the Christmas vacation fast approaching, many students will be thinking about working during the vacation period. What does this mean for PhD students, who are required to be in continuous attendance?

The answer to this question is dependent on a number of factors:

  • Whether the student is studying part-time or full-time
  • Whether they are an international student on a Tier 4 visa
  • Whether they have obtained approval for their vacation

For each of these scenarios, there are different conditions and restrictions on the work that a PhD student may undertake.

Obtaining approval for vacations

University term dates do not apply to PhD students, as they are required to be in continuous attendance. Vacation times are authorised at the School or Department's discretion, through the student’s PhD supervisor or the School/Department PGR Administrator.

During their studies, PhD students must not work more than 20 hours per week. This includes any voluntary work they are undertaking. 

PhD students are permitted up to 8 weeks' vacation per academic year, including bank holidays and University closure days. They are able to work full-time during their approved vacation periods, which can be taken at any time within reason. Vacation time is not a given right and its authorisation will depend on the academic progress of the student.

UK and EU students

UK and EU students who have submitted their thesis and are waiting for their viva may work more than 20 hours per week, with written permission from their PhD Supervisor. Due to Home Office regulations, this policy does not apply to PhD students holding a Tier 4 visa.

Tier 4 students

For Tier 4 students, all of the above restrictions are in place until their PhD is completed and awarded.  Tier 4 students who have submitted their thesis and are waiting for their viva must not work more than 20 hours per week.

If a Tier 4 student wishes to take a vacation, they must obtain a letter from the School/Department PGR Administrator to confirm that their leave has been authorised.

There are limits on the type of work and length of employment permitted for Tier 4 students. Please see the Home Office guidance for further information. 

Part-time students (UK & EU only)

Part-time students can work more than 20 hours per week during term-time. They are entitled to 8 weeks’ holiday per year, allocated according to their study pattern. For instance, if their pattern is mornings only, they will receive the equivalent of eight weeks of morning holiday.

Further information

For students, further information on these regulations can be found on our Essentials Combining Work and Study page.  

If you have any queries, please contact:

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