Restricting access to your thesis

It is a requirement of your award that an electronic copy of your final thesis be deposited in the University of Birmingham eTheses repository. By default, your thesis will be made immediately publicly accessible under the conditions of the licence you select upon deposit. Making your thesis accessible in this way allows other researchers, policymakers and practitioners worldwide to discover, read and cite your work, raising your profile and enhancing the impact of your research. If your research was funded by a public or charitable organization, you may also find that one of the requirements of your grant is that your thesis is made publicly accessible.

On rare occasions there may be legitimate reasons, to delay (embargo) or permanently deny public access to your thesis. The University of Birmingham is bound by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and as such has based criteria and reasonable periods  for restrictions on what may be legally defensible under the act.

Funder Requirements

Many funders make it a requirement of postgraduate research (PGR) funding, that a copy of a thesis is made openly available within a designated period from graduation. For example, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) state:

We expect that a full text version of the thesis should be available no longer than 12 months following award of the doctorate. We recognise that commercial, collaborative or publication arrangements may necessitate a slight delay at your discretion, however we expect the thesis to be deposited as soon as possible. We expect you to have in place a documented process for determining where exceptions can be granted to the requirement for publication within 12 months. (UKRI Training Grants Standard Terms and Conditions of Training Grant, Para 11.5)

It is the responsibility of you and your supervisor to ensure that these conditions are met, that any exception is kept as short as possible, that it meets one of the conditions described below and the reasons for restricting access beyond the normally allowed period are fully documented.

Applying for restricted access

Where one of the following criteria applies, you can request restricted access by completing the relevant form. See the table and guidance below.

In most cases, you will also need to have your request approved and countersigned by your supervisor and in some cases your College PGR Lead. They will be responsible for confirming that the relevant criteria for the restriction are met and where necessary, that the University holds the necessary evidence to lawfully uphold the restriction.

The completed form must be uploaded at the same time you deposit your thesis to eTheses, so please ensure you have allowed sufficient time to secure your supervisor/PGR lead’s authorisation ahead of any deposit deadline.

Theses deposited without a restricted access form will automatically be made publicly accessible.

Legitimate reasons for applying restricted access
 Reason (see form for more detailed criteria) Maximum embargo Application form
 Intention to publish   12 months  Form 1 (PDF - 1.11 Mb)
 Publication agreement in place with a publisher   5 years  Form 2 (PDF - 3.53 Mb)
 Prejudicial to ongoing University research project  4 years  Form 3 (PDF - 1.39 Mb)
 Contractual obligation to a sponsor or partner   As per contract  Form 4 (PDF - 1.25 Mb)
 Prejudicial to commercial interests / patent pending  4 years  Form 5 (PDF - 1.24 Mb)
 Data protection / personal information  As required  Form 6 (PDF - 1.48 Mb)
 Security, national defence or international relations  As required  Form 7 (PDF - 1.28 Mb)
 Detrimental to safety, physical or mental health  As required  Form 8 (PDF - 1.77 Mb)

Guidance for completing a restricted access request

If you are not intending to restrict access to your thesis, you do not need to complete a restricted access form.

To restrict access to your thesis, prior to depositing it on eTheses:

  1. Check that your thesis meets one of the conditions detailed in the table above and on the relevant form.
  2. Familiarise yourself with thesis access conditions required by the funders acknowledged in your thesis and ensure you are able to meet those requirements.
  3. Ensure you have discussed your embargo with your supervisor and left sufficient time to complete the form and obtain the required authorisation.
  4. Download the correct form depending on the reason you wish to restrict access.
  5. Complete your details in Section 1 of the form and sign the declaration.
  6. Complete Section 2 and ensure you have provided the evidence required to demonstrate why an embargo is required.
  7. If your request requires further authorisation, ask the relevant person(s) to review the evidence you have provided, sign and date the relevant field in Section 2, and then return the form to you.
  8. When you deposit your final thesis to the eTheses repository, upload a completed copy of this form at the same time.
  9. When library services contact you to confirm your deposit has been processed, they will confirm the embargo duration and end date.

Incomplete forms, including those lacking the correct authorisation or evidence and those requesting embargoes beyond the specified maximum length, will be returned and may result in delays to your graduation.

Explanation and definitions

Bibliographic information: With the exception of restrictions related to security, defence and public safety (access forms 7 or 8), bibliographic information about your thesis will automatically be made available via the eTheses repository even if access to the full text is restricted. 

Some restriction categories also offer the choice to either fully restrict access to your thesis abstract, or provide a redacted version. Redacting or restricting access to an abstract is only appropriate where the original abstract contains confidential or sensitive information, or its public availability could be detrimental to a patent application.

Max Embargo: Depending on the reason for the restriction, there is usually a maximum embargo period. This is the length of time access to the thesis remains restricted. You are free to select a shorter period than the maximum if it is more appropriate. Embargoes longer than the maximum embargo period will not be granted.

Embargo Duration: The number of years your thesis should be restricted for. Library Services will calculate the embargo end date from the last day of the month of your graduation. This means embargoes usually run from 31 July or 31 December and are lifted on 1 August / 1 January respectively.

Extensions Permitted: Under some circumstances, it may be permissible to request an extension to the embargo, usually on production of further evidence. Please note that Library Services will automatically make theses publicly accessible at the embargo end date. It is your responsibility to contact library services ( at least 28 working days prior to the end date of any embargo period should you wish to request an extension.

Copy Requests: Depending on the reason for the restriction, members of the public may be able to request access to a copy of the restricted thesis. If such requests are approved, the requestor will complete a copyright declaration which confirms the copy supplied will only be used for personal, non-commercial use. Please indicate under the relevant option on the form, how such requests should be handled. Your options are:

  • Library Approval: Library Services will automatically approve and supply a copy of your thesis, for personal use only, to a requestor (such supply should not contravene publisher agreements, where that is the reason for a restriction).
  • Author Approval: Library Services will attempt to contact you to confirm whether access can be granted on a case by case basis. If you do not respond within 28 days, Library Services will automatically reject the request.
  • Nominee Approval: You may nominate your supervisor or another member of academic staff to make decisions about access to your thesis (this may be appropriate where the reason for the restriction relates to a contract with the University, or ongoing research at the University). In those circumstances, Library Services will contact the Nominee initially for a decision. We will only contact the Author if the Nominee is no longer contactable.

Note that where a thesis is restricted for security, defence or international relations reasons, access requests will be automatically denied.

To allow us to make contact, please provide an email address that you will continue to check regularly after the date of your graduation.  


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