Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme offers students completing a PhD with the opportunity to apply to stay in the UK on a Tier 4 Visa for 12 months. Graduates are expected to use this time to seek and take employment in their field, or to find work with a Tier 2 employer.

You will not be allowed to work as a doctor or dentist in training, or as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. All other UK employment is permitted. The University will continue to sponsor your visa permission to be in the UK and will provide you with a CAS letter to support your application.

You can find further information regarding this scheme on the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.


You can apply for a visa under this scheme provided you:

  • Are currently inside the UK
  • Are within 60 days of completing your PhD programme (but have not yet done so). Your programme completion date will be the date that your final thesis will be recommended for award by the Research Degrees Committee. The deadline for submission, and the subsequent committee dates can be found on the USC/PSC Deadline Dates page. Your one year visa will start from this end date and it cannot be changed, it is therefore important that this is as accurate as possible
  • Have current leave as a Tier 4 student.
Application process

When you know the date of the Research Degrees Committee when your recommendation for the award of PhD will be approved, you should request a Doctorate Extension Scheme CAS letter from your School. This CAS can only be assigned within 60 days of the Research Degrees Committee date. When this has been created it will be sent to you via e-mail. Your School will also inform ISA that they have created this CAS for you.

The application process is the same as that for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa and you will be required to complete the Tier 4 Student online application, and submit all of the usual documentation required - this includes financial evidence and where appropriate, consent from your financial sponsor to allow you to participate in the scheme. For further information about the supporting documentation required please see our Tier 4 Student Visa webpage.

Tier 4 guidance advises that you do not need to apply for ATAS if you are submitting an application for leave to remain under the Doctorate Extension Scheme.

When you are ready to submit your application you must arrange an appointment with the ISA to have your application checked and sent to the Home Office by the University. Failure to do this may result in the sponsorship being withdrawn. When you meet with a Global Student Adviser you will be asked to sign a Statement of Intent which will outline your responsibilities whilst you hold the visa.

Maintaining contact

You will be required to meet two recorded contact points throughout the year. It is essential that you maintain contact with the University whilst on this visa and failure to do so may result in your visa being cancelled. Both contact points will take the form of an e-mail to which you are required to respond. The first e-mail will be sent after your visa has been granted and will provide you with information about our Careers Advisory Service and how they can help you prepare for seeking and securing UK employment. The second communication will be sent approximately six months later by ISA.

Your responsibilities

As well as maintaining contact with the University by responding to our communications, you are responsible for ensuring that you abide by all rules associated with your Tier 4 Visa and that you inform the University of the following:

  • Any change of address, telephone number or e-mail address
  • If you have left the UK permanently
  • If you have switched into a different UK visa category i.e. Tier 2 (General) long-term employment visa.

You should contact ISA to inform them of any of these changes:

Global Student Office, Hugh Nisbet Building, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS

Key information

International Student Advice

+44 (0)131 451 4015