Find out how changes to your studies may affect your student visa and who you contact for more information.

Types of changes

If you make any changes, this may affect your time limit on how long you can study in the UK.

Transferring to another course

The action you need to take depends on the kind of course you’re transferring to and how long the course is.

Changing to a similar course

If your new undergraduate or Masters course is the same level, length and subject group as your previous course, you don’t need to make a new student visa application. However, we need to tell UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) of the change, but this will not affect your current visa.

If you switch to a course which needs ATAS clearance, you must get this clearance before we can approve your course transfer – even if you had it for your old course.

PhD students

It may be possible to change your PhD course without having to apply for a new student visa. If you want to change your PhD, email

Changing your course level

If you started an undergraduate course and you want to progress to an integrated Masters degree, you will need to make a new student visa application before you start your new course.

You should also check if you need ATAS clearance for your integrated Masters. If you do, you’ll need to get this before you apply for your visa.

If you are moving to a lower-level course (such as dropping the Masters element of an integrated Masters or moving from PhD to MPhil), you’ll need to apply for a new visa from outside the UK.

This is because UKVI does not regard moving to a lower-level course as academic progression.

You must get your new visa before you switch course.

If you’re upgrading your level of study, you’ll usually need to apply for a new visa.

Changing to a different course

If you’re changing to a course in a different subject group (for example, moving from an arts subject into a science subject), this will affect your visa. Get advice before you apply for the transfer – email

If you’re changing to a course and cannot complete it within your existing visa (for example, transferring back to the start of the first year), email

This does not apply to adding or removing a year abroad or work placement as part of your course.

See more about changes to your course.

Adding or removing a year abroad or work placement

If you want to add a placement or study abroad year to your course, you’ll need to apply for a student visa to cover the rest of your studies.

There are various options available to you and things to consider, such as the time limit on your studies.

Contact us to discuss what is best for you.

If you want to remove a year abroad or work placement, this is OK. See our guidance on completing your course early below.

Find out about placement options and changes to your course.

Completing your course early

Your visa may be curtailed (cancelled) if you finish your course early.

This includes if you are:

  • a PhD student and you complete your studies before the end date on your CAS.
  • removing a year abroad or work placement from your course.

If you complete your course early we need to tell UKVI. Your visa will then be reduced in length, usually to within four months of your new course end date.

Important: You cannot re-enter the UK on your existing visa once we have notified UKVI. This is because of immigration regulations around lapsing leave. If you want to apply for the Graduate visa, you must stay in the UK on your student visa until you have applied for and received your Graduate visa.

See what to do if you’re coming back for graduation.

Studying in a different location: research students

If you’re doing a PhD and you want to change where you study, temporarily or permanently, you need to let us know.

We are required to fulfil our sponsor duties by monitoring the engagement and attendance of all international research students on Student visas. This includes anytime when you are undertaking study at a partner research institution, on fieldwork, away collecting project data or attending conferences in relation to your research.

You must have your time away from the university authorised. Your supervisor/school will do this, and will agree a plan of how attendance will be monitored during the period you are away.

As a postgraduate student on a student visa, you need to be in the UK unless on fieldwork, authorised absence or a period of annual leave.

If you are spending a period of time away from the university, you must complete one of the following forms:

  • Fieldwork application form: The University must report to UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) within ten working days that you will be undertaking fieldwork and, therefore, will not be at Sussex for that duration. This is recorded as a ‘change in study location’ but does not have any impact on your visa.
  • Change of study location form: This is used if you change your primary site of study eg return home to complete your thesis etc. The University will withdraw sponsorship as remote study is currently not allowed on a Student Route visa. Please note the implications a withdrawal of Student visa sponsorship can have for your eligibility to apply for the Graduate route visa in the future. You should contact an International Advisor if you have questions about the Graduate route visa or your options to be sponsored again under the Student route, following withdrawal of sponsorship.
  • Authorised absence form: You should complete this form if you are a Student Route visa holder who plans to take a period of authorised absence that does not exceed 60 days for medical or compassionate reasons, and where the University continues to maintain sponsorship.
  • Holiday/annual leave request form: As a research student, you are entitled to 40 days annual leave each academic year.
  • Temporary intermission form: When intermission is approved, the University is obliged to report this to UKVI. UKVI will curtail (cancel) the current visa and you should return to your home country and should apply for a new Student Route visa before you resume your studies.

The above forms can be found on our forms page.

Writing up

We are able to sponsor postgraduate students who are writing up a dissertation or thesis.

If you live in the UK whilst writing up, there must be regular contact with your supervisor and you must keep your contact details up to date on Sussex Direct.

If you choose to write up your thesis/dissertation outside the UK, you must complete a change of study location form and the University will withdraw sponsorship. This is still considered remote study and is currently not allowed on a Student visa.

Postgraduate research students: maintaining contact

You must meet with your supervisors in person at least once a month to discuss your progress. The meeting between you and your supervisor must take place, where possible, in person and be recorded on Sussex Direct.

Undergraduate and Masters students

If you’re an undergraduate, you might end up studying at a different university as part of a year abroad. We process this in the same way as doing a placement.

If you’re studying a Masters, you can only do a placement if it’s an integral part of your course.

You need to apply for a placement through the Careers and Employability Centre at Sussex.

Important: Make sure you fill out a form supplied by Careers before you start any placement.

Resitting an exam or repeating a year

If you have not successfully passed a module, you may be offered the opportunity to resit one or more assessments.

Any visa restrictions around this depend if you’re studying an undergraduate or Masters course at Sussex.

If you’re doing a PhD, find out about extending your PhD.

More resit and sit information.

Undergraduate students

If you need to resit an assessment, you can normally do this before you go into your next year. This does not affect your visa status.

If you fail your resit, we may offer you to:

  • repeat the academic year and pay for it, or
  • have to temporarily withdraw from your studies and return to resit assessments the following year.

If you temporarily withdraw before your final year, your visa is cancelled and you must leave the UK.

You will need to apply for a new visa in your home country before you return to Sussex.

If your exams take place in the:

If you are a final-year student and you need to come to Sussex to resit an assessment (such as an exam), but you can’t do this within your current visa, you must leave the UK and return on a standard visitor visa.

If you do not need to be at the University to do the assessment (such as an essay submission), you may be able to submit it from abroad. Check with your School office.

Masters students

You can normally stay in the UK up to your current visa expiry date (under “continuation” status) if you have to resit an assessment.

If you don’t need to attend the University for your assessment (such as an essay submission), you may be able to submit it from abroad. Check with your School office.

If you need to come to Sussex to resit an assessment (such as an exam), but you can’t do this within your current visa, you must leave the UK and return on a standard visitor visa. You’ll need a letter from us outlining your current student status and details of your resit. Submit this with your visa application.

Repeating a year

If you need to repeat a year of your course, you may or may not need a new visa. This depends on what year you are repeating.

If you do need a new student visa, you can apply from outside the UK or inside the UK.

Email to find out what to do.

Tip: There is a time limit on a student visa, depending on your level of study.

Extending your PhD

Your aim should be to complete your PhD within four years.

In exceptional circumstances you can ask for an extension to your course and, where necessary, an extension to your visa.

Exceptional circumstances include:

  • illness
  • accident
  • personal circumstances
  • maternity, paternity or adoption.

Find out how to request an extension.

If you get an extension

If you want to stay in the UK during your extension, you’ll normally need a new visa.

You can request a CAS from the Research Student Administration office. Email

Start the process at least three months before your visa expiry date to avoid any issues.

You can apply for a visa inside the UK or apply for a visa from overseas. If you’re applying in the UK your visa application must be submitted on or before your visa expiry date.

Extending your visa after submitting your thesis

We will not normally issue a CAS if you have already submitted your thesis and need to extend your visa.

The exception to this is if you’re applying for the Graduate Route.

If you have submitted your thesis and are not applying for a Graduate Route visa, you must leave the UK before your visa expires.

If you need to return for your viva, apply for a standard visitor visa. You don’t need to be on campus to submit corrections – you can do this from outside the UK.

Important: If you receive official financial sponsorship, or have done within the past 12 months, you need consent letters from your sponsor for a visa extension.

Completing your PhD overseas

Many people decide to complete their PhD outside the UK – for example, in their home country.

This is fine but you will need to return to the UK on a standard visitor visa for your viva. Email once your viva date is set so we can give you the documents you need to apply for a visa.

You may also wish to come back for your graduation ceremony.

If your circumstances change, and you wish to return to study full-time in the UK, email

Becoming a Students’ Union sabbatical officer

You can take a year out from your studies to be a Students’ Union officer.

If you’re an undergraduate, your sabbatical normally happens between years of study, for example, between academic years 2 and 3.

You can also do a one- or two-year sabbatical at the end of your course.

If you’re a postgraduate student, you may need to break your studies mid-year to do a sabbatical.

If you’re a PhD student, email to check how this might affect your course.

In any case, we will continue to sponsor you under your student visa.

You don’t need a new student visa to do a sabbatical year; you just need to apply for a new visa to complete your course.

Find out more about becoming a full-time Students’ Union officer.

For visa advice, contact us.

See more from Change of circumstances