International Student Support

Doctorate extension scheme (Tier 4)

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) enables completing PhD students to seek work/undertake employment for a 12 month period upon completion of their PhD.

You must apply before you officially complete your PhD. You should start planning for your DES Tier 4 application 1-2 months before you are due to submit your thesis. The University will only issue a DES CAS once you have had your viva and either passed unconditionally or submitted any corrections. Please email our International Adviser Team for advice 1-2 months before you are due to submit your thesis.

 In order to be able to apply under this scheme:

  • You must have current immigration permission which allows you to apply in the UK under Tier 4. You must have a current Tier 4 visa. If you have left the country and returned to the UK on a student visitor visa or a general visitor, you are not eligible to apply.
  • You must be studying for a PhD qualification or for one of the doctorate qualifications listed in Annex 6 of the Tier 4 policy guidance as acceptable postgraduate research qualifications. The research Master's degrees (MRes and MPhil) listed in the same annex are not acceptable for the Doctorate Extension Scheme
  • You must be applying within 60 days of the expected end date of a course leading to the award of a PhD
  • You must apply in the UK
  • You cannot apply after you have completed your PhD. Your degree is formally completed when the exam board and Senate approve your examiners’ recommendation to award you your degree so it is essential that you submit your DES visa application before this date. If you are unsure about when this date will be, you should check with the Research Student Administration Office.

You will be making a Tier 4 visa application for the Doctorate Extension Scheme. For details about how to apply please go to the section on our website, Making a Tier 4 visa application in the UK.

Some PhD students decide to leave the UK and return for their viva on a student visitor visa. However, if you decide to do this it would not be possible to apply for the Doctoral Extension Scheme visa (as you need to have a current Tier 4 visa).

If you are currently financially sponsored by a government or an international scholarship agency, or if your financial sponsorship ended within 12 months prior to you making your DES application, you will need your sponsor's permission to remain in the UK. Your sponsor must confirm in writing that they have no objection to you continuing to remain in the UK (paragraph 56 of the Tier 4 policy guidance). We recommend a letter which meets the criteria in paragraph 202 of the Tier 4 policy guidance, but instead of detailing the amount of money your sponsor will give you, you should ask them to say that they have no objections to you remaining in the UK. 

If you are coming up to your visa expiry date, or are about to have your viva it is very important that you discuss your options with an International Student Adviser in plenty of time, as there are some circumstances where the University policy will not allow a CAS to be issued for the scheme. Please contact us if you wish to discuss your situation by emailing immigration@sussex.ac.uk.

What is my expected end date?

The immigration rules define the 'expected end date' as 'the date the PhD is expected to be formally confirmed, by the sponsor, as completed to the standard required for the award of the PhD'. You will need to contact the Research Student Administration Office to discuss your dates and request a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) at researchstudentoffice@sussex.ac.uk.

Your twelve month period of leave under the scheme will begin from the expected end date that we put on the CAS.

Normally we will only be able to issue a CAS for the scheme after your viva has taken place and:

  • you have passed unconditionally, or
  • you have been advised that corrections are necessary and have submitted these corrections

Successful applicants will remain under the sponsorship of the University during the twelve month period. It will be necessary for holders of this visa to remain in touch with the University as we will have monitoring and reporting duties to fulfil for UK Visas and Immigration.

The visa granted will be under Tier 4, and can’t be extended. However, you may wish to consider switching into a work category before your DES visa expires, such as Tier 2. Please see full information on the Doctorate extension scheme on the UKCISA website, and the UK Visas and Immigration Tier 4 policy guidance.

International Student Support

E international.support@sussex.ac.uk
T +44 (0)1273 67 8422