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Time limit (cap) on study

With effect from 6 April 2012, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has imposed a limit on the length of time that can be spent studying in the UK, under a Tier 4 (General) student visa, or the “old style” General student visa.

The time-limit or ‘cap’ is relevant to students who have previously undertaken study in the UK.

If you think the time limit may affect you, please contact the International Student Support & UKVI Compliance team or Telephone + 44 (0)1274 236900    

Below degree level study - 2 year time limit

The UKVI reduced the cap on study at below degree level from three years to two years in August 2015. Students 18 years old and over cannot spend more than two years in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student studying below degree level. This two year limit applies to studying both a single course and several courses as a Tier 4 (General) student. This includes any course (i.e. Foundation year, pre- sessional English Language or Access courses) where the exit qualification is below NQF level 6.

Degree level study, 5 year time limit

The 5-year time limit includes courses that lead to a qualification at Undergraduate and Masters level degrees. At the point of making a Tier 4 (General) student visa application at degree level or above, the UKVI will consider all previous time that was spent studying as a Tier 4 student or the 'old style' General Student visa.

With effect from August 2015, the time spent studying if the purposes of the cap is calculated on the period of leave granted as a student. 


4-year undergraduate degree

The time limit or 'cap' is extended to 6 years for students who previously completed a degree level course in the UK that was 4 years long and who are applying to study a Masters degree at a Higher Education Institution. This includes courses with a placement year.

However this does not include courses which were originally of three year duration but took longer to complete due to re-sits / repeats.

PhD Exemption

If your Tier 4 application is to study a PhD, there is no limit while you are studying the PhD.

However if you have already completed a PhD in the UK, any new Tier 4 application is subject to an 8-year limit (including courses below degree level).

This does not include Tier 4 leave granted under the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES).