Intermission for postgraduate research students

Intermission (temporary withdrawal/leave of absence) provides you with the opportunity to take a break from your studies.

The following advice is intended to help you consider whether a period of intermission is right for you, and to support you with your application for a period of intermission, as well as supporting your return to studies after your intermission period.

In this article:

Thinking about intermission

Intermission (temporary withdrawal/leave of absence) provides you with the opportunity to take a break from your studies.

Normally, this is for reasons beyond your control (eg. health or personal problems) although other reasons are permitted. An intermission is approved for a defined period of time, after which you would return to your studies. A request to intermit needs formal approval and requests are governed by our University regulations and guidelines.

Things to consider

Before deciding that an intermission is the best action for you, speak to your supervisor to make them aware of the circumstances that are leading you to consider intermission. They will be able to signpost you to advice and guidance and will be able to talk through your options.

If you are considering intermitting, there are some practical things you need to consider:

Do you need intermission - what options could you consider? 

Change to part-time study (change of mode of study)

Part-time is 50% of the full-time standard period, and could be the enabler for you to continue with your studies (whilst also working and/or undertaking caring responsibilities, for example).

Students are required to undertake periods of part-time study in multiples of two terms, before requesting a change to full time study (two terms of part-time study equate to one term of full-time study). The standard/completion period and thesis submission date will be adjusted pro-rata.

Students are not normally allowed to transfer from full-time study to part-time study in the final term of their standard period or during their completion period.

Student visa-sponsored students should consult with the International Services Team, before making a request, to ensure a change does not breach Home Office requirements.

Once you have decided that you want to change your mode of study, you will need to make a formal request, using the online change of mode of study form, which will need to be approved by your department and the Dean.

Seek approval from your supervisor for “authorised leave”

You can take up to six weeks of authorised leave for short-term needs. This time is not added to your standard period, you simply have authorisation for the temporary leave and are not expected to engage with your studies during that time (though you can still stay in touch with your supervisor and team, of course).

Academic and research issues

You will need to discuss your plans to intermit with your department. You should speak to your supervisor or another member of departmental staff, such as your graduate director or administrator. Check your departmental handbook if you aren’t sure who to speak to.

Think about whether your intermission will impact upon your research project plans adversely, such that you may need to review and re-plan access to research data or sources and whether you need to update or reapply for ethical approval.

For postgraduate research students, periods of intermission are approved on the basis of our University terms and not weeks or months. The date for the start of your time away, and the date when you are due to return, will be linked to the structure of our academic year and will be based on standard term dates.

Intermission is not normally permitted within the first year of study – if circumstances mean that you need to temporarily intermit, you would effectively be deferring your PhD until the next academic year and would have to restart your studies (and pay fees for the full standard period).

UKRI-funded students and UoE scholarships have access to up to 13 weeks funded sickness absence within a rolling one-year period. Please contact the Postgraduate Research Education Team for further, individual, guidance and support in relation to funded sickness absence for studentship and scholarship award holders.


If you intermit from your studies up to 28 days after your term has started, you will not be liable for any tuition fees. If you intermit after 28 days you will be liable for the standard fee for all terms for which you have been registered, including the instalment for the term in which the intermission takes place. See our fee liability information (.pdf) for more details.

Once your intermission has been approved you will not be liable to pay fees for the period of intermission. If you have paid the whole year’s tuition fee to the University, and you start a period of intermission before the start of the summer term, you can choose whether to have your unused fees refunded or left on account for your return, at which point you would only pay the balance of any increase in the fee for the year in which you return. For further information, please contact your Student Services Hub.

If you return to study in the next academic year, the tuition fees may have increased by a small amount and you will be liable to pay tuition fees at the current rate in the year in which you return. Tuition fees are normally published at least 12 months in advance of the start of the academic year. On return from intermission, you are still counted as a "returning student", not a new student.

If you are intermitting for financial reasons, you will still need to pay fees upon return. NB: if you have any accrued debt, this will remain, and you would be expected to clear this debt before re-registering after your period of intermission. If you are a funded student, for example, you hold a studentship award or have a financial sponsor - you should check the terms and conditions of your funding and what the implications of intermitting may be.

US Loans recipients

If you are in receipt of a US Loans, please be aware that a University approved intermission is not the same as an Approved Leave of Absence under 34 CFR 668.22(d).

You may be subject to our Return of Title IV Funds Policy (.pdf). Please contact our Funding team at for advice on your individual circumstances.

Student status and welfare benefits 

While you are intermitting you will be partially registered. This may affect your eligibility for benefits and exemptions.

Welfare benefits

If you are a partially registered student who is entitled to welfare benefits see our information on benefits and intermitting for more advice. If you are partially registered, you are not entitled to apply for welfare benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support except in certain circumstances.

Council tax

If you are a partially registered student, whose normal pattern of study is full-time, then you are eligible for a council tax certificate with which to claim a student discount or exemption from the council tax. See our further information about council tax exemptions and certificates for more advice and where to order student documents to provide to your local council.

Implications for your accommodation contract

University accommodation

Once you have completed the withdrawal process please advise Accommodation Essex via the Student Services Hub. Provided we agreed to your early departure request and you have left your accommodation by the agreed departure date and returned your keys, as per our these terms and conditions, your tenancy will end on:

  • the expiry of one calendar month from your departure date
  • the date the accommodation is re-let, whichever is first to occur

If you decide to leave your accommodation and return your keys before we have received confirmation of your withdrawal/intermission, and we have not agreed to release you from your contract, you will still be liable for the rent until confirmation has been received. A request for a refund of any accommodation charges you have paid in advance can be made after the process is complete.

Privately rented accommodation

If you are considering moving out of your rented property when you intermit, we strongly recommend that you take advice from SU Advice before making your final decision. A tenancy agreement is legally binding and it is rarely possible to leave the property without the agreement of the landlord. This can be a particular problem for you if you are an international student, as you may need to leave the UK.

Support availability

If you have a disability or other specific support arrangements, you should investigate how/whether these will be available to you on your return from intermission. Please contact your Student Services Hub for further advice.

How to intermit

Before you decide to take a break from your studies, there are a number of things to consider before you intermit. You are strongly advised to discuss your request with your department before completing the online form below. This should speed up the process once the form has been submitted.

Before you complete the form

Please read the following information and the notes for guidance for PGR students, before filling out the form:

What happens when you intermit

Once approval for intermission has been given, your registration status will be changed to partial registration, which means that you will no longer be entitled to supervision or to attend any modules or training events. See the information below 'While you are away' for more details.

Please note that, if you are partially registered, you cannot do voluntary or paid work for the Students’ Union, stand for election or hold an official position within the Students’ Union.

Students who required immigration permission to study in the UK  

If you hold non-student immigration permission, you must ensure that you comply with any visa conditions during your period of intermission. You may be asked to provide evidence of your immigration permission before resuming your studies after your period of intermission. The International Services Team will email you if this is required.

While you are away

You will continue to have access to your Essex email account, and the University will use this to remain in contact with you. Please make sure you continue to change your password when prompted. If you forget your password or can't login contact our IT Helpdesk.

Keep an eye on your Essex email account as we will e-mail you about aspects of your return to your studies, and there will be opportunities for you to sign up to relevant mailing lists so that you can keep in touch with what is going on at Essex.

There will also be University Facebook groups that you may want to sign up to.

You are also advised to keep alternative copies of any essential documents from university IT account in case you inadvertently allow your account to lapse.

Library access

Intermitting students have full access to online resources but are unable to borrow physical items from the shelves. Any items currently on loan from the library should be returned as soon as possible before intermitting begins.

For more information, please contact the Library.

Submit a request form

Once you have decided to intermit you need to submit your request to intermit for approval. Your request will be considered by your department and, if required, also by the relevant dean.

Returning from intermission

You will find it helpful to start planning your return to your studies a few months before you are due to start back at the University. You should check your Essex email account regularly for information about returning.

You will have taken a break from your studies for reasons that may be very personal and challenging. There are a number of people at the University who you can contact about any of your concerns before returning so that you can focus on settling back into your studies. As you plan your return to the University, there are some practical things you can do when returning from intermission and reengaging with studies.

Academic preparation

If you haven’t already done so, you should contact your supervisor to arrange a first meeting and to discuss how you will pick up your research. You should also contact your graduate administrator, to see whether there have been any changes in your school, department or centre.

Students who have returned to study from a period of intermission have told us that they found it useful to do some pre-reading. So we recommend that you start some reading before you come back to help get you up to speed. You might want to start reading some articles in your area. Perhaps you could discuss ideas for some initial reading with your supervisor.


You should make sure that your funding is in place for your return to study. If you took a break from studies for financial reasons, it may be a good idea to seek financial advice before you return.

If you are receiving a scholarship, you need to check the terms and conditions of your scholarship with the scholarship’s administrator.

If you have a sponsor who is supporting your studies, you need to make them aware that you are resuming your studies and check their terms and conditions. You will need evidence of their funding in order to register.

If you have an existing debt to our University, you will not be allowed to register until it is cleared.


All returning students need to register. If you are returning:

  • at the start of the academic year (October), you will be contacted by email with information about registering.
  • at the start of the Spring or Summer Term (January or April), you will be sent an email before you are due to return with further information and inviting you to undertake online registration.

You will need to pay the relevant tuition fees and register. You can complete online registration.

Returning from medical intermission and demonstrating fitness to return to study

If you took a break from studies for medical reasons, you will need to provide the appropriate evidence before you can register and restart your course.

This evidence will usually be in the form of a letter or report from a relevant medical professional confirming that you are fit to study, and will need to be in English, or a certified translation provided. You can ask your doctor or advanced nurse practitioner to complete the medical evidence to return from intermission form (.pdf). Please return this to Please note that you will need to have recently seen your doctor so they can provide the evidence.

If you are registered with the University Health Centre, and need us to ask for medical evidence on your behalf, we will need a completed consent to disclose form. You can find this in the support tab in MyEssex under 'Your Wellbeing'.

Contact your Student Services Hub if you have any queries about the kind of evidence you might need to provide.

Support availability 

If you have a disability or other specific support arrangements, you should contact your Student Services Hub and/or any other relevant services to ensure that these are in place for your return to your studies.

Students who required immigration permission to study in the UK

If you hold a student visa, see the section sponsored students (student visa) above.

If you hold non-student immigration permission, you may be asked to provide evidence of your immigration permission before resuming your studies after your period of intermission. The International Services Team will email you if this is required so, please read and respond.


Postgraduate research students returning from intermission are treated as returning students. If you are a UK student, you will probably need to look for off-campus accommodation. You can find information about accommodation in the Colchester area at SU Homes.

Returning from intermission and re-engaging with studies checklist

  • Make contact with your supervisor and department/school.
  • If you are a student visa-sponsored student, liaise with International Services regarding your CAS request and student visa.
  • If you are returning from a period of medical intermission, check if you need to provide fitness to return documents before returning.
  • Liaise with the PGRE Team if you have any questions about registration.
  • Pay the relevant tuition fees and register.
  • Take a look at the Proficio courses on offer to see if there are any to prioritise as you re-engage with your studies.
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Postgraduate Research Education Team