Chapter 18 - Postgraduate Student Absence Policy

  1. Introduction
    1. It is recognised that students can suffer illness or other adverse personal circumstances which affect their ability to attend and engage with their programme of study and/or complete an examination/assignment.
    2. All Postgraduate Research (PGR) students are expected to meet all formal requirements of their studies including assessment submissions, upgrade and examination vivas. If a student is ill or experiencing other adverse personal circumstances during their studies, they should consult their PGR Support team as soon as possible in order to consider the possible effects of such circumstances on students' performance. Students experiencing continued absence due to a long-term health condition or disability should manage their absences with support through the Health, Wellbeing and Support for Study (HWSS) procedures. PGR students who are also members of staff should follow the appropriate HR policy for staff.
    3. PGR students must report all absences (aside from pre-arranged annual leave) using the PGR Personal Absence Certificate and must also alert their supervisors. Students are reminded that many medical practices are unable to provide a medical certificate unless they are consulted during the illness. Students are therefore advised to contact their medical practitioner as soon as possible when a medical certificate is required (see Section 4 below).
    4. Students on Professional Doctorate programmes whose illness affects examinations/assignments or taught elements must also consult the University’s Mitigation system and report their illness via iExeter or as directed by their PGR Support Team.
  2. Submission of absence report
    1. All absences must be reported via the PGR Personal Absence Certificate at the earliest opportunity in order to be considered. For absences longer than 7 days, medical certificates or other corroborating evidence should be uploaded to the PGR Personal Absence Certificate. Students with an Individual learning Plan (ILP) that stipulates short term absences should confirm that they have an ILP when they submit the PGR Personal Absence Certificate. Medical certificates and corroborating evidence will be archived until the end of the year following the student's graduation or leaving the University.
  3. Tier4/Student Visa Holders 
    1. Absences, interruptions of study and changes to mode of attendance can have implications for students' immigration status. Students considering taking an interruption of studies, short-term absence or changing their mode of attendance should seek advice early from the University's International Student Support team. Students should refer to the Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students – Interruption of study for further information and the PGR Student Handbook for guidance about applying for interruption to study.
  4. Absence from programme of study
    1. Students in receipt of funding should discuss the impact of absence on study with their funder directly. Students funded through a Research Council or who receive funding administered by the University of Exeter should refer to the Postgraduate Research Sickness Stipend Payments Policy (see Annex A at the end of this document) and the Postgraduate Research Maternity and Parental Leave Funding Policy (see Annex B at the end of this document).
    2. The following arrangements normally apply in instances of absence from programme of study due to ill health, with exceptions relating to assessments and examinations detailed below.
    3. The reasons for student absences which are eligible for consideration are:

      a. Disability (in accordance with ILP and HWSS recommendations)
      b. Illness
      c. Illness of a dependent or other immediate relative for whom they have caring responsibilities
      d. Maternity, adoption, shared parental leave or paternity/maternity support leave
      e. Medical Appointments
      f. Bereavement or other compassionate grounds
      g. Victim of crime
      h. Jury service
      i. Unforeseen emergencies
      j. Attendance at religious days or festivals
      k. Participation in a national or international sporting event
    4. Absence of seven consecutive days or fewer
      1. For an absence of seven consecutive days or fewer, the student must complete a PGR Personal Absence Certificate and notify their supervisor of their short term absence. This form should be submitted as soon as reasonably possible at the start of the absence. If students take frequent short absences for the same reason, or if short absences regularly coincide with deadlines or milestones, students may be referred to Welfare to consider appropriate support.
    5. Absence of more than seven days
      1. For any absence of more than seven consecutive days the student must provide supporting evidence where possible, for example, an order of service for a bereavement or confirmation of jury service. For absences relating to sickness, a medical certificate from a medical practitioner is required to accompany their PGR Personal Absence Certificate unless the sickness is related to a disability or long-term health condition which has been disclosed to the University, and where an ILP is in place. Students should alert their supervisor to this period of absence.
    6. Absence for one month or more in duration
      1. Where students understand that the severity of their circumstances (including reasons of illness) will prevent them from engaging with their studies for a month or more, an interruption of studies should be considered and discussed with their supervisory team. Professional Doctorate Students must consult their PGR support Office in the first instance and notify their employer. Students should refer to the Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students – Interruption of study for further information and the PGR Student Handbook for guidance about applying for interruption to study. The requirements for Interruption of Studies apply.
      2. Students requesting interruptions which total more than one year in a consecutive period will be encouraged to consider their circumstances and the likelihood of when they will return to study. For continued long-term interruption, students may be encouraged to consider withdrawing and reinstating at a later date, when their circumstances allow for study (see section 14, Reinstatement of Registration, Chapter 5 – Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students)
    7. Cumulative short-term absences
      1. 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 extended by the equivalent duration.
      2. Short-term absences will only be considered as cumulative for programme extension purposes if they have been recorded in the PGR Personal Absence Certificate and are supported by either medical evidence or are recorded in an Individual Learning Plan (ILP). Absences that are not recorded in the PGR Personal Absence Certificate and where there is not supporting medical documentation or an ILP supporting short-term absences will not be considered for cumulative absence extensions.
      3. Students in receipt of funding should discuss cumulative short-term absence on study with their funder directly. Students funded through a Research Council or who receive funding administered by the University of Exeter should refer to the Postgraduate Research Sickness Stipend Payments Policy (see Annex A at the end of this document)
  5. Return to the University following interruption on medical grounds
    1. Prior to resumption of their studies, all students who interrupt due to medical circumstances are responsible for completing a medical self-assessment form and for providing a medical practitioner evidence form where required. Students who have an ILP which supports absence as a reasonable adjustment may not need to provide medical evidence upon their return from interruption.
    2. 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. Students on a standard medical interruption will be supported in their return to study by their supervisors.
    3. The medical self-assessment form will ask the student to provide details of their current state of health and for details regarding further support that they may require.
    4. For more information about interruptions, please see the Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students – Interruption of study. For phased return to study, see section 6 below.
  6. Phased Return to study due to ill health
    1. Students returning from a medical interruption may require a phased return to their studies if they anticipate that they will return to their previous mode of attendance. A phased return to study should not last more than 4 weeks and a fit note should be provided by a medical practitioner, confirming the individual's fitness to work. Phased return to study requests must be approved by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor or nominee. Phased returns to study must be part of a written plan to return to working to the FTE under which the student is returning to study. 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.
    2. If a student would benefit from a phased return to study for a period of more than 4 weeks, they should apply for part time registration via the Changes to Modes of Attendance process (see Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students, section 7: Changes to Mode of Attendance).
    3. University of Exeter funded students who require a phased return to study should refer to the Postgraduate Research Sickness Stipend Payments Policy (Annex A at the end of this document) for further guidance on how their funding will be affected.
    4. Students funded by a Research Council, in receipt of a student loan or funding from another provider should discuss their requirement for a phased return to study with their funder.
  7.  Ability to study significantly affected by a severe, chronic, or fluctuating medical condition or disability
    1. Where a student is persistently absent from their programme of study due to a disability, chronic illness or fluctuating health condition the student should book an appointment with the Disability Advice and Support team to discuss any necessary adjustments for support for study, which should be recorded in an ILP (individual learning plan). Medical evidence should be provided by the student at the time of the assessment and may cover the duration of a student’s study, although if there are changes to the disability or health condition during the period of study a new medical practitioner’s letter must be provided and the ILP updated. ILPs should be reviewed annually. See section 4 above regarding procedures to follow for different length of absences.
    2. Students should contact the PGR Support Team and PGR Welfare Support Adviser, who will invite the student to a Welfare meeting to discuss their situation and any appropriate on-going support such as HWSS, an ILP (if not already in place), Disability Support Allowances (DSA) etc.
    3. Absences of one month or longer should be managed through interruption and requested through MyPGR (see Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students – Interruption of study). If formal submission deadlines are affected (e.g., upgrade, thesis submission, assessments for taught modules), students must request either a deferral, extension or mitigation as appropriate, and will be advised which action to take by their PGR Support Team. Deadlines for work for supervision meetings should be discussed with the supervisory team.
    4. Professional Doctorate students, students on placements and those who have industrial placements as part of their programme should liaise with their PGR Support Office and external partners to discuss individual support outside of the University. Any absence related to a disclosed disability or health condition should be managed in discussion with both the employer and the PGR Support Office and will be managed on a case-by-case basis. Students with disabilities or chronic health conditions should disclose their disability/ health condition to their employer and discuss reasonable adjustments with them. Students are encouraged to share their ILP with their employer.
    5. Students who need extended periods of absence due to a health condition may consider transferring to a part time mode of attendance. The University of Exeter offers a variety of part time modes of attendance: 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8 and 0.9 FTE, and may reflect weekly, monthly, or annual working patterns according to the student’s circumstances and requirements of the research project. Working patterns are flexible and should be agreed between students and supervisory teams and documented in the Supervisory Agreement at the start of each academic year. For further details about changing mode of attendance, please refer to the Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students; section 7: Changes to Mode of Attendance.
    6. Where an absence specifically relates to a disability that is formally disclosed to the University, additional medical certification will not be required. Requests for paid sick leave that relate to a disclosed disability will be considered in conjunction with any Reasonable Adjustments already in place through the ILP. Absences that are unrelated to a disclosed disability will require medical certification as described.
  8. Sickness during pregnancy
    1. If during pregnancy, a student is unable to attend studies due to illness, the normal procedures for sickness absence reporting should be followed.
    2. However, any period of pregnancy related sick leave or interruption beyond the 36th week of pregnancy may trigger the start of maternity leave, in line with the University of Exeter HR maternity policy1. The PGR Support Team may require confirmation from the student’s doctor that they are fit to return to study at the end of the interruption period for maternity leave.
    3. The Faculty in which a pregnant student is based is responsible for risk assessments in relation to their research or study environment. Students and supervisors should complete the pregnancy and maternity support plan (see Annex A of the Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy). Any health and safety concerns should be raised immediately within the appropriate Faculty.
    4. Funded students should refer to the Postgraduate Research Maternity and Parental Leave Funding Policy (Annex B at the end of this document).
    5. Students should refer to the Student Pregnancy, Maternity and Adoption Policy for further information about what to do when they are pregnant or are expecting parents.
  9. Absence from clinical practice, industrial placement or other placement linked to their degree
    1. Students on clinical, industrial or research placements must inform their placement provider of any absence as soon as possible.
    2. Any absence related to a disclosed disability or health condition should be managed in discussion with both the employer and the PGR Support Office and will be managed on a case-by-case basis. Students with disabilities or chronic health conditions are encouraged to disclose their disability/chronic health condition to their employer and discuss reasonable adjustments with them. Students are encouraged to share their ILP with their employer.
  10. Professional Doctorate Taught elements only: submission deadline or assessment affected by absence
    1. The University has established a mitigation system for considering the possible effects of an illness or absence for good reason on a submission deadline or assessment relating to a taught module (for thesis or upgrade submission deadlines, please see sections 11 & 12 below). Professional Doctorate students must inform their placements/employer of any absences or changes to their clinical placements.
    2. If students fail to attend a module examination or other unauthorised absence related to their Professional Doctorate, action will be taken in accordance with the Taught Student Attendance and Engagement Policy and the Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement Procedures.
  11. Student absence before a viva voce examination
    1. If a student is unwell or absent due to severe and unexpected circumstances within five working days ahead of the viva or upgrade viva and knows that they are unlikely to be able to attend the viva, they must notify the Chair of the examination (the internal examiner or NEIC where appointed) and the PGR Administration that they are unable to attend, and request that the examination is rescheduled. Students must complete the PGR Personal Absence Certificate and provide supporting evidence (such as a letter from a medical practitioner, police crime number, death certificate etc). This is required in all circumstances where an examination is postponed within 5 working days, even if the absence is related to a disclosed disability, chronic illness or fluctuating health condition where a student has an ILP.
    2. The PGR Administration team will notify the Board of Examiners and will liaise with the student and Board of Examiners to make arrangements for rescheduling the examination. The examination should be rescheduled for as soon as possible and no later than one month after the student’s to return to study.
    3. Students who have disclosed disabilities or fluctuating health conditions who are concerned about potential disruption to a viva voce examination should contact Disability Advice and Support to discuss an ILP and reasonable adjustments for the examination. 
  12. Student absence during a viva voce examination
    1. If a student is unwell during a viva, they must alert the Chair of the examination (the internal examiner or NEIC where appointed) that they are unwell and unable to continue with the examination. The Chair will postpone the examination, making note of the time that the viva is halted and at what stage the examination is at.
    2. The student must provide a letter from a medical practitioner to confirm their inability to proceed with the examination. This is required for all circumstances where an examination has been halted due to student illness, even if the illness is related to a previously disclosed disability, chronic illness or fluctuating health condition where a student has an ILP. The Chair (internal examiner or NEIC where appointed) will liaise with the PGR Administration Team to reschedule the viva for as soon as possible and should be no later than one month after the student’s return to study.
    3. Students who have disclosed disabilities or fluctuating health conditions who are concerned about potential disruption to a viva voce examination should contact Disability Advice and Support to discuss an ILP and reasonable adjustments for the examination.
  13. Student absence before a deadline or milestone not including thesis submission (including upgrade submission or viva, USPE deadlines or deadlines agreed for supervisory meetings)
    1. If a student is unwell or absent due to severe and unexpected circumstances within five working days ahead of a milestone or deadline (e.g. upgrade submission, USPE deadline etc) and knows that they are unlikely to meet the deadline, they must contact the PGR Support Office and their supervisors to notify them of their absence and to request that the deadline is rescheduled. Students must complete the PGR Personal Absence Certificate and provide supporting evidence (such as a letter from a medical practitioner, police crime number, death certificate etc). This is required all circumstances where a deadline is postponed within 5 working days, with the exception of when the absence is related to a disclosed disability, chronic illness or fluctuating health condition and where an ILP is in place. The supervisors will notify the upgrade panel or PGR Support Team as appropriate and will liaise to make alternative arrangements for the deadline. The deadline should be rescheduled for as soon as reasonable after the student’s return to study.
  14. Student absence after submission of the thesis/dissertation
    1. Students who are absent following thesis/dissertation submission are required to complete the PGR Personal Absence Certificate and must notify the PGR Administration team of their absence. The examiners will be notified, and deadlines will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students are reminded that absences leading up to the viva or prior to submission of minor or major amendments may lead to delays in the viva taking place or in the award of their degree due to the possible impact on examiners’ workload and time planning. See Section 14 below about students failing to engage with the University following submission.
    2. Students may be referred or continue to receive support through HWSS after submission of their thesis.
  15. Unauthorised absence
    1. Students who are absent from their programme (including, but not limited to, viva examinations, USPE deadlines, HWSS meetings, supervisory meetings etc) without notifying the University of their absence will be considered to be on an unauthorised absence from their programme.
    2. Students within their period of study (prior to thesis/dissertation submission) who do not respond to communications from the University will be started on the Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement procedures.
    3. If a student has not engaged for 3 months or more following submission, resubmission, or the deadline for submitting amendments; and where there is no evidence of why they have failed to engage; and where the University has made reasonable attempts to contact and engage the student, action will be taken to de-register the student (See “Students deemed withdrawn”.)
    4. Professional Doctorate Students who fail to attend a module examination or other unauthorised absence related to their Professional Doctorate, will be subject to action in accordance with the Taught Student Attendance and Engagement Policy and the Unsatisfactory Student Progress and Engagement Procedures.


1Refer to https://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/employment/parents/leave/maternity/ for the HR maternity Policy

 


Last Updated August 2022

 

Annex A Postgraduate Research Sickness Stipend Payments - Policy for University-funded postgraduate research students

 

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Student eligibility criteria for receiving studentship stipend payments during periods of sickness absence, including interruptions on medical grounds
3. Types of sickness absence
4. Stipend payments for cumulative short-term absence
5. Identification of eligibility
6. Process for application for continued studentship stipend payments during a period of interruption on medical grounds
7. Returning from a period of funded leave
8. Confidentiality

 

  1. Introduction 
    1. The following policy relates to the payment of studentship stipends during periods of sickness absence including interruption on medical grounds and applies to postgraduate research students1. All students are equally considered irrespective of fee status.
    2. Updates to this policy in sections 3.3 and section 4 take effect from 01 August 2022. Applications relating to funding under these circumstances will only apply to periods of absence from 01 August 2022 onwards (retrospective applications will not be eligible).
    3. The remainder of this policy applies from the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year, and applications for funding under this policy for all other sections will only apply to periods of interruption taken from the 2021/22 year onwards (retrospective applications will not be eligible).
    4. Where this policy differs from that of a student’s funder the terms and conditions of that funder should take precedence, and students are advised to check their terms and conditions accordingly, and contact the relevant PGR Support Team for further information as needed. See also section 4, below.
    5. Students should also refer to the Postgraduate Student absence Policy, and the interruptions procedure in the ’Statement of Procedures: Periods of Registration and Changes to Registration Status for Graduate Research Students.’
    6. This policy should be read in the context of the responsibilities of supervisors, pastoral tutors and students set out in the ‘Code of Good Practice: Supervision of postgraduate research students’.
    7. Further information to support PGR Health and Wellbeing is available on the Doctoral College webpages.
  2. Student eligibility criteria for receiving studentship stipend payments during periods of sickness absence, including interruptions on medical grounds
    1. The following groups of students are not eligible for receipt of studentship stipend payments under this policy:

      a) Self-funded students;
      b) Postgraduate research students who are sponsored directly by an external organisation must follow the regulations of the funder. If the funder does not provide additional funds, the University is not liable to provide any payments under this policy. As such students are advised to carefully check the terms and conditions attached to their funding prior to accepting that funding, and to refer back to those terms and conditions as necessary;
      c) Students in receipt of bursaries2 or awards covering tuition fees only;
      d) Students who have been in receipt of funding (as specified below), but who are or will be outside of their funding period at the point at which their period of sickness absence commences;
      e) Students who are employees of the University or who undertake work paid via the claims payroll will not be eligible for receipt of studentship stipend payments under this policy on those grounds. Employees may wish to refer to the University’s staff ‘Sickness Absence webpages’. Students who undertake work paid via the claims payroll may wish to consult the ‘Terms and conditions for individuals paid by claim’;
      f) Students who are paid a salary as part of their employment, e.g. students who are employed by an industrial partner, public service, or other employer rather than receiving a studentship stipend and should refer to their employer’s staff policy for paid sickness absence.
    2. Students who fall into the categories above, and who have financial concerns about taking a period of interruption are advised to contact the Students’ Guild or the Students’ Union for advice and support.
    3. Students in receipt of studentship stipend funding from the following sources are eligible for receipt of studentship stipend payments under this policy:

      a) Students who receive Research Council funding;
      b) Students who receive University of Exeter funding;
      c) Students who are funded via funds allocated and administered by the University of Exeter;
      d) Students who are funded via a research grant paid to the University of Exeter (except where the funder has a specific sickness absence policy in relation to studentships, which will take precedence).
    4. Students are eligible:

      a) whether registered on a full-time or part-time basis;
      b) from the point of initial registration on their programme;
      c) where the first day of the period of interruption falls within the funded period;
      d) to receive studentship stipend payments at their full stipend rate* whilst interrupted on medical grounds for up to 13 weeks (inclusive of phased return) within any 12-month period3, and may do so on more than one occasion. The total funding available to the student will be extended accordingly.
  3. Types of sickness absence
    1. Short-term sickness absence of up to one month in duration will not normally result in additional payments (see section 4 of this policy regarding stipend payments for cumulative periods of short-term absence). Short-term sickness absence should be reported in accordance with the PGR Student Absence Policy and should be recorded in the PGR Personal Absence Form. Studentship stipend payments will continue to be paid as normal during short-term periods of sickness absence.
    2. For sickness absence of one month or more in duration students should to apply for an interruption of studies (see section 6, below). Exceptionally, when it becomes clear within one month of reported commencement, that a period of sickness absence that initially appeared to be short-term will extend for one month or longer, an interruption of studies may be applied for with the interruption being recorded and payments being made in accordance with the date of commencement of the period of sickness absence providing that the sickness absence in question was reported at the time in accordance with the PGR Student Absence Policy.
    3. Where a sickness absence specifically relates to a disability or long-term health condition that is formally disclosed to the University, whereby Wellbeing Services are in receipt of a medical practitioner’s letter and an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) has been created, additional medical certification is not required for each period of interruption. The ILP should be reviewed annually, unless there are changes to the disability or medical condition, in which case a new medical practitioner’s letter should be provided to Disability Advice and Support and the ILP should be updated. Requests for paid sick leave that relate to a disclosed disability will be considered in conjunction with any reasonable adjustments already in place through a students’ ILP. Absences that are unrelated to a disclosed disability will require medical certification as described. Absences related to an undisclosed disability will require medical certification as described.
  4. Stipend payments for cumulative short-term absence
    1. Where a student has had multiple short-term absences (not recorded as interruption), which are supported by medical evidence, are recorded in the Personal Absence Form, 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 funding and period of study be extended by the equivalent duration.
    2. Cumulative short-term absences of over one month will be recorded as an interruption on the student record, which will be administered in liaison with the PGR Support Team.
    3. Short-term absences will only be considered as cumulative for funding extension purposes if they have been recorded in the PGR Absence Form and are supported by either medical evidence or are recorded in an ILP. Absences that are not recorded in the PGR Absence Form or where there is not supporting medical documentation or an ILP supporting short-term absences will not be considered for cumulative absence extensions to funding
  5. Identification of eligibility
    1. For offer letters sent out from the 2022/23 academic year the terms and conditions specified in a student's offer or award letter should include reference to a student’s eligibility to apply for University administered sickness absence studentship stipend payments. Where offer and award letters do not make specific reference to eligibility (which may be the case for students who entered prior to the 2022/23 academic year) the criteria specified in this policy should determine whether a student is eligible for receipt of studentship stipend payments under this policy.
    2. Where there is a conflict between the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions specified in this procedure, and the terms and conditions set out in a student’s offer or award letter, the terms and conditions set out in the offer or award letter take precedence.
    3. In any instance where a student’s eligibility is not clear the relevant Faculty’s PGR Support Team should be consulted in the first instance.
  6. Process for application for continued studentship stipend payments during a period of interruption on medical grounds
    1. To be eligible:

      a) Students should apply for, and have approved, an interruption in accordance with the requirements set out in the ‘Statement of Procedures: Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students, Interruption of Studies’;
      b) The application should not be made retrospectively (however, see 3.2, above);
      c) The application must be made on medical grounds, with medical certificates to cover the period of time in question.
    2. Subject to the time periods stated in the ‘Statement of Procedures: Periods of registration and changes to registration status for graduate research students, Interruption of Studies’, students may apply for a longer period of interruption than 13 weeks. However, beyond 13 weeks payments will be put in abeyance until the student has re-registered on their programme of study.
    3. If a student meets the eligibility criteria (2.3-2.4, above) and has a medical condition that is significantly impacting their ability to study but is unclear how this process might apply to them, they should seek advice as early as possible from the relevant PGR support contact.
  7. Returning from a period of funded leave
    1. Some students may benefit from a phased return to their studies following a period of interruption on medical grounds. Stipend payments during a phased return are part of the 13-week sick pay allowance and will be paid at the pro-rata rate during the phased return. The end date of their funding period will not be extended. For example, a student receives 11 weeks of sick pay at their usual FTE rate and can apply for 4 weeks phased return. The remaining 2 weeks of sick pay will be pro-rata over the 4 weeks of phased return.
    2. Students who consider they may benefit from this should get in touch with their PGR support contact as early as possible prior to their expected date of return, and should note that:

      a) A phased return will require approval from the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor or nominee;
      b) A phased return will only be viable where clear medical evidence is available to confirm a student’s fitness to return to study;
      c) A phased return must only be used where it is part of a written plan to return to working full-time at the student’s previous FTE within no more than four weeks from re-registration, developed in consultation with Wellbeing Services;
      d) A phased return is distinct from a formal application to change mode of study, but if that is considered to be a more appropriate solution students will be advised accordingly. Where reduction in hours of study for longer than a month might be applicable, a reduction in FTE should be considered.
  8. Confidentiality
    1. Students should note that every effort will be made to respect the confidential nature of any disclosure of information on these grounds. However, in order to manage financial arrangements with regard to payments during a period of leave the University may need to disclose to external funders that the student has notified the University of their intention of applying for a period of interruption, which would result in continued payments under this policy, where the external funder has responsibility for provision of funding.

1For the full list of eligible programmes please refer to Ordinance 7. Title of Degrees, sections 7.3 & 7.4

2A bursary is a single payment, normally made at the beginning of the degree, to help towards payment of tuition fees and/or living expenses.

3The 12 month period is measured from the first day of interruption on medical grounds.

*The full studentship stipend rate is stipulated on the student’s offer or award letter, however, where a student has changed their registration status subsequent to this (e.g. changed from full-time to part-time registration) payments under this policy will reflect the amount of studentship stipend they were receiving in accordance with their registration status at the point at which an application for a period of interruption to cover a period of sickness absence is made, with the exception of students who have changed registration status (e.g. from part-time to full-time) within the 52 week period prior to the commencement of leave on these grounds for whom payment will be calculated on a pro-rata basis. Students should consult the relevant Faculty’s PGR Support Team to check the arrangements for their individual award.

 

 

 

 

 

Annex B - Maternity leave, paternity/maternity support leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave stipend payments - Policy for funded postgraduate research students

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Student eligibility criteria
3. Types of leave
4. Identification of eligibility
5. Process for application for a period of funded leave
6. Confidentiality
7. Returning from a period of funded leave

  1. Introduction 
    1. The following policy relates to the payment of studentship maintenance stipends during periods of maternity leave, paternity/maternity support leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave and applies to postgraduate research students1. All students are equally considered irrespective of fee status.
    2. This policy is an appendix to the ‘Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy’. Students should also refer to the interruptions procedures specified in the ‘Statement of Procedures: Periods of Registration and Changes to Registration Status for Graduate Research Students.’
  2. Student eligibility criteria for receiving maternity leave, paternity/ordinary maternity support leave, shared parental leave, and adoption leave stipend payments
    1. For the purposes of this policy, “ordinary maternity leave” is defined as the first 26 weeks of maternity leave. The second 26 weeks is “additional maternity leave” which combine to a total of 52 weeks maternity leave.
    2. The following groups of students are not eligible for receipt of stipend payments under this policy:

      a) Self-funded students;
      b) Postgraduate research students who receive an externally funded stipend directly from an external organisation must follow the regulations of the funder. If the funder does not provide additional funds, the University is not liable to provide any payments under this policy. As such students are advised to carefully check the terms and conditions attached to their funding prior to accepting that funding, and to refer back to those terms and conditions as necessary;
      c) Students in receipt of bursaries2 or awards covering tuition fees only;
      d) Students who have been in receipt of funding (as specified below), but who are or will be outside of their funding period at the point at which their period of leave would commence.
      e) Students who are employees of the University or who undertake work paid via the claims payroll will not be eligible for receipt of stipend payments under this policy on those grounds. Employees may wish to refer to the University’s staff ‘Parents and Carers webpages’. Students who undertake work paid via the claims payroll may wish to consult the ‘Terms and conditions for individuals paid by claim’.
    3. Students who fall into the categories above, and who have financial concerns about taking a period of maternity leave, paternity/ ordinary maternity support leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave are advised to contact the Students’ Guild or the Students’ Union for advice and support.
    4. Students in receipt of annual maintenance stipend funding from the following sources are eligible for receipt of stipend payments under this policy:

      a) Students who receive Research Council funding;
      b) Students who receive University of Exeter funding;
      c) Students who are funded through funds allocated and administered by the University of Exeter;
      d) Students who are funded via a project funded by a research grant paid to the University of Exeter.
    5. Students are eligible:

      a) whether registered on a full-time or part-time basis;
      b) from the point of initial registration on their programme;
      c) where the first day of the period of leave falls within the funded period, or in the case of maternity leave where the expected date of confinement falls within the funded period and for adoption leave where the date of adoption falls within the funded period;
      d) to receive stipend payments under this policy on multiple occasions.
  3. Types of leave
    1. Paid maternity and adoption leave:

      a) Up to 52 weeks of leave. The first 26 weeks (“ordinary maternity leave”) will be paid at the full stipend rate*, after which the following 13 weeks will be paid at a level commensurate with employee entitlements to statutory maternity pay;
      b) for a further period of unpaid leave of up to 13 weeks. The paid and unpaid periods of leave must be taken consecutively.
    2. Paid paternity/ maternity support leave:

      a) For up to 2 weeks of paid leave at the full stipend rate*. These may be taken at any time during a partner's pregnancy or within three months following the birth. Leave must be taken in one go. A week is the same amount of days that you normally work in a week - for example, a week is 3 days if you only work on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
    3. Paid shared parental leave:

      a) For up to 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave. The first 24 weeks will be paid at the full stipend rate*, after which the following 13 weeks will be paid at a level commensurate with employee entitlements to statutory maternity pay. Further information can be found on the government website;
      b) For a further period of unpaid leave of up to 13 weeks.
  4. Identification of eligibility
    1. For offer letters sent out from the 2017/18 academic year the terms and conditions specified in a student's offer or award letter should include reference to a student’s eligibility to apply for University administered maternity leave, paternity/maternity support leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave stipend payments. Where there is a conflict between the eligibility criteria specified in this procedure, and the terms and conditions set out in a student’s offer or award letter, the terms and conditions set out in the offer or award letter take precedence, unless there is a clear conflict with the eligibility criteria specified above, which would led to a student being treated less advantageously than other students in receipt of comparable funding. Where offer and award letters do not make specific reference to eligibility (which may be the case in some instances for students who entered prior to the 2018/19 academic year) the criteria specified in this policy should determine whether a student is eligible for receipt of stipend payments under this policy. In any instance where a student’s eligibility is not clear the relevant Faculty’s Postgraduate Research Office should be consulted in the first instance.
  5. Process for application for a period of funded leave
    1. Maternity, shared parental and adoption leave: Stipend funding to cover a period of maternity, shared parental or adoption leave will be released to cover a period of interruption for maternity, shared parental or adoption leave. As such the student must have a period of interruption of the relevant length approved in order for the funding to be extended commensurately. Students may be required to supply evidence to support the request for continued stipend funding under this policy. Sources of evidence will normally be those set out under the equivalent staff procedure, however specific advice as to what information must be supplied will be provided to the student at the time, upon request. Students may also be required to provide sufficient notice of their intention to take a period of interruption on these grounds. For example, to apply for shared parental leave a student must give notice at least 8 weeks prior to the period of interruption, and as such students should discuss their intentions with staff as early as possible (see section 4.4 of the ‘Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy’ ).
    2. Paternity/Maternity Support Leave: Students will not have this period recorded as an interruption. A manual adjustment to this date will be made by the Faculty, and a commensurate extension to the funded period will be made. To be eligible for this extension of funding a student must have disclosed their intention to take a period of Ordinary Paternity/Maternity Support Leave ahead of the period of leave (see section 7.2 of the ‘Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy’).
  6. Confidentiality
    1. Students should note that every effort will be made to respect the confidential nature of any disclosure of information on these grounds (see section 5.7 of the ‘Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy’). However, in order to manage financial arrangements with regard to stipend payments during a period of leave the University may need to disclose to external funders that the student has notified the University of their intention of applying for a period of interruption or extension, which would result in continued stipend payments under this policy, where the external funder has responsibility for provision of funding.
  7. Returning from a period of funded leave
    1. If a student receives stipend payments from the University under this policy, the University may reclaim all or part of the payment if the student fails to return to study for either a period of at least three months following the period of leave (or a pro-rata period of time for students transferring to part-time status upon their return), or, if a student is returning at the end of their period of study, does not complete their programme of study within the three month period (or a pro-rata period of time for students transferring to part-time status upon their return).

 


1For the full list of eligible programmes please refer to Ordinance 7. Title of Degrees, sections 7.3 & 7.4.

2A bursary is a single payment, normally made at the beginning of the degree, to help towards payment of tuition fees and/or living expenses.

*The full stipend rate is stipulated on the student’s offer or award letter, however, where a student has changed their registration status subsequent to this (e.g. changed from full-time to part-time registration) stipend payments under this policy will reflect the amount of stipend they were receiving in accordance with their registration status at the point at which an application for a period of interruption to cover a period of maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave is made, with the exception of students who have changed registration status (e.g. from part-time to full-time) within the 52 week period prior to the commencement of leave on these grounds for whom stipend payment will be calculated on a pro-rata basis. Students should consult the relevant Faculty’s Postgraduate Research Office to check the arrangements for their individual award.

Back to top