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Interrupting your studies (taking time out)

Interrupting your studies (taking time out)

If you are experiencing health, personal issues or financial issues which are impacting on your ability to study, get advice as soon as you can about your options. Your academic school, the Advice and Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service and the Learning Development team can all offer you support depending on your circumstances. This may result in you being able to continue with your studies at Queen Mary so you would not need to interrupt.

However, if you do decide that you need to take a break from your studies, at Queen Mary we call this ‘interrupting’ your studies.

How do I apply for an interruption of study?

You must get permission from your academic school, so speak to your personal tutor or academic adviser about why you feel that you need to interrupt, whether this will be allowed, and if so, when would be the best time for you to return. There is a Student Support Officer in most academic schools who is usually your first point of contact for this type of issue.

You will need to complete an Interruption of Study form.

The form requires you to state your date of interruption (your last date of attendance) – see the section below How will my Student Finance be affected by interrupting? for information about the implications of this date for your Student Finance, and the Tuition Fees and Refunds section of this guide to see how this would affect your fee liability.

When is the deadline?

There are strict deadlines for interrupting which apply to standard programmes, but arrangements for certain programmes are different - please check with your academic school.  If you are a medical or dental student, the official deadlines for interrupting differ according to which course you are studying and which academic year you are in. Check with the Student Office at Whitechapel .

The deadline for submission of the interruption form for most programmes is the day before the start of the assessment periods. In the 2020/21 academic year the standard interruption deadlines for courses that start in September are:

  • 6 January 2021 if you do not wish to sit the Semester A exams  
  • 5 May 2021 if you do not wish to sit the Semester B exams 

If you miss the deadline but feel that you are unfit to sit exams or submit coursework due to medical or personal circumstances, you need to consider making a claim under the university’s Extenuating Circumstances policy. Full guidance on this policy and how to submit a claim is explained in the Advice and Counselling Service advice guide ‘Extenuating Circumstances’.

Alternatively you could sit the Semester A exams in January and then interrupt before the start of Semester Bin which case for the 2020/21 academic year you should interrupt by Friday 22 January 2021. Interrupting before the start of semester B reduces your fee liability as explained in the Tuition Fees section of this guide. However this also affects and reduces entitlement to the Student Finance England Maintenance Loan and/or grants.  See the section below How will my Student Finance be affected by interrupting? 

If you do not interrupt you remain liable to pay your tuition fee and if these are not paid in line with the fee payments dates, you will enter the deregistration process.  If your fees are paid but you do not attend your course and later formally interrupt your study, you will need to discuss the interruption date with your School.  It may be possible to backdate this to your last date of attendance and your fee liability may be retrospectively amended. However if your interruption date is backdated and you have received Student Finance England Maintenance Loans or supplementary grants for a period when you have not been in attendance, these will become overpayments.  Student Finance England will ask you to repay the overpayment. See the section below 'How will my Student funding be affected'.

Interrupting during the summer vacation - If you complete the whole academic year but decide during the summer vacation that you need to take time out and return to your studies at a later date (for example due to health, personal or financial reasons), you would need to obtain permission from your Academic School and submit an Interruption of Study form. You can do this anytime during the summer vacation – the normal interruption deadline does not apply in this situation.

How long can I interrupt for?

This will depend on the reason why you are interrupting, for example if it is due to health reasons, then it depends on how long you need to recover before you will be well enough to resume studies. You can only resume at the start of a semester, not part way through. 

You may interrupt for a maximum of two years in total; interruptions for a period longer than this will be granted only in highly exceptional circumstances and with the express permission of the Queen Mary Academic Registrar.

If you interrupt for more than 2 years, Student Finance England may treat you as a new student when you resume your course and your eligibility for funding would be considered under the eligibility rules in place at the time. If you began you course before September 2016, this may result in the loss of the Maintenance Grant.

On the interruption of study form you need to write your planned date of return.  When you are allowed to resume depends partly on what point in the year you interrupt. For example, if you sit the Semester A exams in January and then interrupt, you will have completed the assessments for Semester A and can only resume at the start of semester B the following year. Whereas if you interrupt before the Semester A exams, you should have the option to either resume your studies in September and re-take Semester A or resume in January to sit your January exams.

You must discuss and decide your interruption and date of return with your academic school and submit an Interruption of Studies form. 

What do I do with the form?

You need to submit the interruption of study form to your academic school by the deadline (see above). Your school will then need to sign the form to say that your interruption of study and proposed return date have been approved. Ask your school for a copy of the completed form. Your school will then scan the form and send it electronically to Queen Mary Registry. Once the Registry have processed your interruption, they will either send you a letter or an email confirmation. You can also check on Mysis that the interruption has been processed.

What if I miss the deadline for interrupting?

If you miss the interruption deadline but feel that you are unfit to sit exams or to submit coursework due to medical or personal reasons, you need to make an extenuating circumstances claim to your academic school. This will involve getting documentation to give to your school as evidence to support your claim. For information about the process of submitting a claim for extenuating circumstances, and about what documents are acceptable as evidence, please read the Advice and Counselling Service advice guide Extenuating Circumstances

If you have only narrowly missed the interruption deadline and you have evidence of compelling reasons why you couldn’t meet it, for example if you were in hospital, you can talk to your academic school about whether they can exceptionally process a late interruption.

How will my Student Finance be affected after I interrupt?

Normally you stop being eligible to receive Student Finance from whatever date of interruption you state on your interruption form. This date should be your last day in regular attendance, but if you stopped attending Queen Mary sometime before you decided you wanted to interrupt, your academic school may agree to backdate your interruption of study. If your interruption is backdated, this will normally mean that you have been overpaid Student Finance – see the section, Will I have to repay my Student Finance grants and loans? later on in this advice guide.

Some students can continue to receive Student Finance after their interruption date, in the following circumstances: 

    1. The interruption form asks you to tick a box to indicate the primary reason for your interruption. You should only tick one of the five boxes (Medical / Health; Personal; Financial; Academic Difficulties; Other). If the reason for your interruption of study is health-related, make sure you tick the ‘Medical / Health’ box on your interruption form, so that Queen Mary reports this as the reason when they inform Student Finance England (SFE). If you tick this box, your Student Finance entitlement should automatically be extended to 60 days beyond your date of interruption. This means that if you normally receive grants and / or loans from SFE, you will remain entitled to your Student Finance entitlement for the 60 days after your date of interruption.
    2. You can request that SFE exercises its discretion to continue to pay you Student Finance beyond the first 60 days of your interruption of studies if you are interrupting due to ill-health, or from the date of your interruption if you are interrupting for other reasons. See the later section of this advice guide How will I support myself financially?, which has information about applying for discretionary Student Finance. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service for advice before applying for this discretionary funding, as the rules are complicated. 

    Your tuition fee liability is also affected by the date of interruption – see the later section of this guide Tuition fees and refunds for more advice about this.

    Will my Student Finance be affected when I return from an interruption?

    Some elements of student funding could be affected. If you need to re-take any period of study (for example if you interrupted in the middle of semester A, you will need to come back at the start of semester A, which means re-taking a period of study), then you need to check that you will be eligible for a Tuition Fee Loan (and Maintenance Grant although this grant is only available to pre-2016 starters ) for the re-take period. If you normally receive the Maintenance Loan this should remain available providing you will be attending your course. See the section of this advice guide Re-taking a period of study in attendance for information about this.  

    If you began your course before September 2016 and interrupt for more than 2 years, Student Finance England may treat you as a new student when you resume your course.  You may loose your entitlement to receive the Maintenance Grant (available to pre 2016 starters only) and your eligibility for funding would be considered under the eligibility rules in place at the time.

    I am an EU/EEA/Swiss national, how will interrupting affect me?

    The same rules apply as explained above. However, in addition although interrupting studies and returning to the same course does not normally affect eligibility for student funding we are still waiting for the UK Government to announce the new funding rules and provide guidance for the 2021/22 academic year following the end of the Brexit transition period. We expect some changes to be made and will update our EU/EEA funding guidance once information becomes available.

    Your fee status for your course at Queen Mary will be unchanged if you interrupt your studies in the 2020/21 academic year and return to your current course.

    You should also read our EU/EEA information about Brexit to check if you can apply for Settled or Pre-Settled Status.  You may intend to leave the UK during your period of interruption or you are already outside of the UK and if you already hold or you obtain Settled or Pre-Settled Status it's important to consider how your absence from the UK could affect your long term options and right to live in the UK in the future. Our guidance has further information about this. If you are not eligible for Settled or pre-Settled Status or do not hold another UK immigration status that allows you to reside in the UK, you will require Student Immigration Permission to resume your course. 

    Do I need to do anything before I return from an interruption?

    You should check with your academic school well in advance of your resumption of study date to ask whether they will need you to provide any information before they can allow you to resume. For example, if you interrupted for health reasons, the school might need you to provide medical evidence that you are now well enough to study.

    If you interrupted due to ongoing ill health, a disability, specific learning difficulty, or mental health condition, contact the Queen Mary Disability and Dyslexia Service several weeks before you are due to resume. They can advise you about any extra support you may be eligible for, and if you have contacted them early enough, this can then be put in place in time for your resumption. 

    You will need to apply for Student Finance - it is advisable to do this several months before you resume. If you are resuming studies in January, contact a Welfare Adviser about when to apply.  


    Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.

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