Skip To Content

Athabasca University

Program Deferral

Definition of a Program Deferral: An interval of time when a student is ‘inactive’ and not expected to make progress in their program of study. 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 MA-IS program there may be situations in which students are temporarily unable to meet the program requirements. 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 care giving 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 MA-IS 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 MA-IS Office 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. MA-IS program students are strongly encouraged to either withdraw from or complete any “in progress” courses prior to applying for a deferral.

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 the MA-IS Office 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.


The student shall submit the Request for Program Deferral form (PDF) to the MA-IS Office . The request should include the following:

  1. Reasons for the request;
  2. Length of deferral requested;
  3. Pertinent documentation related to the deferral request (e.g. if a medical leave, provide a letter from a qualified health practitioner).

The graduate program director will notify the MA-IS Office, who will place a special notation on the student’s record and notify the student of the Director's decision.

The graduate program director will submit the letter with their recommendation and the accompanying documentation to the Dean, FGS for information.

If a student requests a third year of a deferral, approval must be obtained from FGS.

Students are to notify the MA-IS Office when they are ready to resume their MA-IS studies.

Updated July 03 2018 by Student & Academic Services

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.