Program Deferral Requests

Definition of a Program Deferral

An interval of time when a student is unable and not expected to make progress in their program of study due to extenuating circumstances. The time of the deferral is not counted toward the maximum number of years allowed in the program.

Details pertaining to a Program Deferral

While enrolled in the program there may be situations in which students are temporarily unable to continue their program. One alternative for the student is to request a deferral in order to suspend the program requirements for a period of time. The maximum length of one deferral is one (1) year. In special circumstances, students may reapply for a second year of deferral during their time in their program.

A deferral is typically reserved for situations when extenuating circumstances are present, such as serious health conditions, pregnancy, significant caregiving responsibilities, adoption, unexpected military service or deployment, and participation in a political election, executive position on AUGSA or required jury duty. Having multiple competing responsibilities is not sufficient to be considered extenuating circumstances.

The length of time of the deferral is not included in the time period for completion of the program and deadlines will be adjusted accordingly.

During the deferral, the student will have limited access to the program, University, and supervisory resources.

No program fees or tuition fees will be charged for deferrals.

Factors to Consider before Requesting a Program Deferral

All deferral arrangements must be discussed as early as possible with the student's supervisor (or in the case of course-based programs with the graduate program director) so that appropriate adjustments can be made prior to the start date of the leave.

If the student holds any awards/scholarships at the time of the request of the deferral, they must check the criteria of the award/scholarship to determine whether the award can be deferred or interrupted and discover the necessary process to seek deferral or interruption of the award/scholarship.

Students should make themselves aware that the deferral may cause some of their courses to be 'stale-dated'.

Students whose research involves ethics approval and agency access approvals need to be aware that the AU REB and the pertinent agencies approval to conduct their research ceases when they are no longer a currently registered student. They cannot conduct their research during this time and they will have to resubmit their ethics/access applications upon their return to study.

The maximum length of a deferral is one (1) year. In special circumstances, students may reapply to their graduate program director for a second deferral during their time in their program.

The student needs to make themselves aware of any costs related to the program deferral. No program or tuition fees will be paid by the student during the deferral.


  1. The student shall submit the Request for Program Deferral form (PDF) to their supervisor (or graduate program director if they do not have a supervisor). The request should include the following:
    • Reasons for the request;
    • Length of deferral requested;
    • Pertinent documentation related to the deferral request (e.g. if a medical leave, provide a letter from a qualified health practitioner).
  2. After discussion with the supervisor (or graduate program director) the supervisor indicates their recommendation with any pertinent comments in a letter to the graduate program director (including the student's completed form).
  3. The graduate program director submits the form with their recommendation and the accompanying documentation to the Dean, FGS for information.
  4. The graduate program director or designate will advise the Graduate Administrative Assistant of the deferral and they will place a special notation on the student's record.
  5. If a student requests a third year of a deferral, approval must be obtained from FGS.

Approved at FGS Faculty Council December 13, 2013.