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Durham University

Graduate School

Restricting Access to Your Thesis

The University of Durham is a designated public authority under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This Act gives a general right of access to all information held by the University, including information held in the Durham University e-theses repository. As a matter of normal practice we will only make your material available in accordance with the restrictions you have placed upon it. However, if someone specifically asks to see your thesis, we must give them access unless it qualifies for an exemption under the Act.

A number of possible exemptions may apply:

  • the material is due for publication AND the publisher has requested access to the thesis be restricted OR the author is actively seeking to publish this material without substantive changes to the text;
  • release of the material would substantially prejudice the commercial interests of the University or any person;
  • the material includes information that was obtained under a promise of confidentiality and disclosure would constitute an actionable breach of confidence;
  • the material contains personal information about you or a third party for which disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act or otherwise endanger the health and safety of you or a third party.

If you believe that there is a valid reason why you need to restrict access to your thesis, by applying an embargo, you should complete the Restricting Thesis Access form and then talk to your primary supervisor. Requests must now be authorised by both your primary supervisor and the departmental Director of Postgraduate Research who will be required to sign the form to indicate that they agree to your request.. You must indicate on the form which exemption you are claiming, and why you feel this exemption is applicable. However, if a specific request for your thesis is received before any applied embargo expires, the University is still obligated to consider the request and act in compliance with the Act. Compliance may include disclosure of your thesis.

Embargo periods

Restrictions are usually granted for a limited period of time, normally up to a maximum of three years, but can be considered for renewal on request unless the research is RCUK-funded. Please note that it is your responsibility to request a renewal in good time as a thesis will automatically go live in the e-theses repository. This will happen after the number of years you requested the embargo to last, and on the same date as the request was granted. Any extension request must be accompanied by clear evidence supporting the request (e.g. providing a copy of the publication contract). A maximum renewal of a further two years can be requested. Requests must be approved by the departmental Director of Postgraduate Research.

Under the RCUK rules and regulations, RCUK-funded students may apply for access to their thesis to be witheld for no more than 12 months (see below for further information).

If a restriction has been applied to your thesis, it will not normally be made available for public access until the embargo has expired. However, the title of your thesis and the abstract will be made available via the e-theses repository.

Intending to publish?

The most common reason for requesting a restriction is because the author intends to re-publish all or parts of their thesis in a journal article or monograph. Authors are advised to confirm with their publisher that they require access to the thesis to be restricted, before completing and submitting the Restricting Thesis Access form. Feedback both from publishers and other institutions suggests that deposit of a thesis in a repository does not generally affect future publication opportunities. This is because publishers do not consider this to be 'publication' or because they would expect a thesis to be substantially re-written prior to publication.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has some information on their website about selected publishers' policies regarding accepting journal articles derived from theses which previously had been deposited in a repository.

Submit 'Restricting Thesis Access' form

The form should be submitted to the Curriculum, Learning and Assessment Service along with a completed Higher Degree Entry form and two soft-bound copies of the thesis. It is important that this form is submitted with your Higher Degree Entry form before your viva so that there is time for your request to be considered. It must be signed by both your primary supervisor and departmental Director of Postgraduate Studies (or be accompanied by emails confirming their agreement).

RCUK-funded students

Students who are fully or partially funded by one of the UK Research Councils must conform with the RCUK policy on open access (as set out in the Training Guide).The policy applies to any student funded or partially funded by one of the following: AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC and STFC.

There are two key requirements:

  1. The full text version of the thesis should be available from an open access repository no longer than 12 months following the award of the doctorate. Authors who identify themselves as RCUK funded on their submission form will normally only be allowed to request an embargo of a maximum of 12 months.
  2. The research must acknowledge the support of the funder. Some advice on standardised wording to acknowledge funding can be found at:

Further information: RCUK Training Grant Guide (paragraphs 37-39)

Conditions of Research Councils Training Grants: