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Changes to your studies – interrupting, withdrawing, re- sitting, transferring

Changes to your studies – interrupting, withdrawing, re- sitting, transferring

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to plan and fund your postgraduate study, you may encounter unexpected academic, financial or personal difficulties which can disrupt your studies. Try to get advice as soon as possible so that you can understand your options and make an informed decision about what to do.

This section outlines the academic and financial options which may be available to you if your circumstances change during your studies. Once you have read this information, if you need advice about your own situation, please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.

Feel like leaving?

Many students have doubts about whether they can continue with their studies. You might feel that you have rushed your decision about doing postgraduate study, or feel that you would be more suited to a different programme. Postgraduate study can be very different to undergraduate study – course fees may be higher and the workload more intense. Sometimes personal or financial circumstances mean that you can’t give your studies the attention that you would like to.

Whatever your reason for considering leaving, or taking some time out, staff at QMUL can support and advise you. It is important not to rush into a decision until you have really thought about it. Talking to someone who is used to advising students about these issues, might help you to consider options you did not know about.

Think about your decision

  • Are you really struggling with the course, or do you just lack confidence about your ability?
  • Is your course really the problem? Maybe other problems are getting in the way.
  • Do you feel pressured to study a subject that you don’t really enjoy?
  • Do you need to know more about other courses or career options before you can make an informed decision?
  • Is this the right time for you to be at university at all?
  • Are you are worried about keeping up with your academic work, writing essays or preparing for exams?
  • Are you finding it hard to motivate yourself to do your research?

If these questions sound familiar, it can be useful to get help and support before you make your decision:

Think about the practical implications of your decision

  • How easy will it be to find work if you leave?
  • How will you support yourself financially?
  • How will you pay back any loans that becomes due once you have ceased full-time study?
  • Will you need to repay any funds to your financial sponsor?
  • How do you complete the university’s administrative formalities if you leave your course?
  • Would it make more sense to try and interrupt your studies rather than leave?
  • What are your options for resuming postgraduate study in the future?

Before you make a decision, it is vital that you get accurate information about these issues and consider all the practical and financial implications involved. This is especially important if you are receiving sponsorship or funding towards the cost of your studies.

Taking time out (‘interrupting’)

You might decide that you need to take a break from your studies for personal or medical reasons. At QMUL, this is called ‘interrupting’ your studies and it is fairly straightforward, as long as your academic school agrees. Speak to your supervisor, personal tutor or academic adviser first, to discuss why you feel that you need to interrupt, and to agree when would be the best time for you to return.

How can I interrupt?

Taught postgraduates

You need to complete an interruption of study form. Collect one from the Student Enquiry Centre on the ground floor of the Queens’ Building, Mile End campus, or from the Student Office at the Whitechapel campus. Alternatively, you can access the form and guidance notes online.

Your academic school or institute will need to sign the form to say that your interruption and proposed return date have been approved. Your school will submit the completed form to the Student Enquiry Centre for you. The deadline for interrupting is normally the last working day before the university’s revision week. In 2018/19 the deadline is Thursday 18th April 2019.

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’.

Research postgraduates

You can usually interrupt your studies for up to one year initially. A maximum total period of two years interruption is permitted during a programme of study, with good cause. In very exceptional circumstances longer interruptions may be permitted. The minimum period of interruption is one month and interruptions must be in multiples of whole months. A period of interruption does not count towards the minimum or maximum period for the research studies programme. You can download an interruption of study form and detailed guidance notes which explain the procedures for interrupting.

Paid interruptions of QMUL Research Studentships

There is a QMUL policy on paid interruptions of research studentships. [PDF 16KB]

Research Studentship funded students are allowed up to 4 months’ paid maternity leave and the termination date of the studentship will be extended by the same period. A further period of up to 8 months’ unpaid maternity leave can also be requested. Up to two weeks’ paid paternity leave is permitted, but the termination date of the studentship will remain unchanged. A student can also request a further period of unpaid leave as an interruption of study.

Research Studentship funded students are permitted up to 13 weeks’ paid leave due to illness. Medical certification must be submitted to the Research Degrees Office if you are absent due to an illness of more than 2 weeks. Note that any period of paid leave is considered part of your normal period of funding, and not paid in addition to it. Therefore if you need to apply to extend your completion date as a result of this period of ill health, the last few weeks of your studies will normally be unfunded.

Following an interruption of studies, the studentship termination date may be adjusted in accordance with the QMUL Graduate School Director’s guidelines.

Annual Leave

Research Studentship funded students may be entitled to paid annual leave of up to 30 days. Check with the Research Degrees Office what your entitlement is. If you are considering interrupting your studies for the minimum period of a month, you may wish to consider taking this as annual leave so that your termination date of funding is not affected.

For more information about your options contact the Research Degrees office. You may also wish to refer to the Academic Regulations 

What about my tuition fee liability if I interrupt or withdraw from my studies?

See the Tuition Fees section of this advice guide for more information.

What happens to my funding or welfare benefits if I am interrupting or re- sitting out of attendance?

If you are receiving a government Postgraduate Loan for Master’s Study, you are not normally entitled to receive any further loan payments after your date of interruption, until you resume study. However, SFE does have discretion to continue making payments during an interruption if they consider it appropriate to do so given your circumstances. If you feel that you would not be able to manage financially without continuing to receive loan payments, please contact a Welfare Adviser for advice about applying to SFE for discretionary funding. However, bear in mind that there is no re-take funding for the Postgraduate Loan, so if you continue to receive payments during an interruption, this money won’t be available to you when you resume studies – this is explained the Retaking a period of study in attendance section of this guide.

Where you resume study after an interruption of two years or more (whether this is a continuous period or a cumulative total of shorter interruptions), further payments will only be released where you provide evidence of a compelling personal reason for having been absent.

If you receive funding through a sponsoring agency or organisation, check directly with them how interrupting your studies or re-sitting out of attendance may affect your funding. If you receive funding through QMUL, see the section above for instances where you may continue to receive funding for maternity/paternity leave, ill health leave and annual leave.

If you are not eligible to continue to receive your student funding while you are interrupting your studies or re-sitting out of attendance, you will normally need to work to support yourself during this period, and/or rely on support from family or friends. You may be able to claim welfare benefits in certain circumstances – see below.

Welfare Benefits

If you normally study on a full time course, you will not normally be eligible to claim welfare benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance or Housing Benefit while you are interrupting your studies or re-sitting out of attendance. This is because the welfare benefit rules consider you to still be a full time student during this period, and most full time students are not eligible to claim. However, there are some exceptions where students can claim:

If you are re-sitting exams out of attendance and you need to give up work a few weeks before your exams so that you can revise, you may be able to get help from QMUL’s Financial Assistance Fund. See the earlier University Hardship Funds section of this advice guide for more information, or contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.

What university services can I use while I am interrupting or re-sitting out of attendance?

Academic school

Check with your academic school what contact you can expect to have with academic staff during a period of interruption or re-sitting out of attendance. Some schools have specific support in place to help students to remain engaged with their studies and to remedy any academic issues that have affected progression. You could also contact the QMUL learning development team if you need help planning your revision.

Research students should not work on your research during a period of interruption.


You will automatically be given access to the library with limited borrowing rights.

IT Services

Your access to IT Services will remain the same while you are interrupting or re-sitting out of attendance. However, if you do not use your email account for a long time, you will be sent an email asking if you want to keep the account open. If you do not respond to this email, and you are not enrolled, your email account will be disabled.

University residences

You are not eligible to live in university residences while you are interrupting your studies. You must contact Housing Services as soon as you have your interruption of study date approved and provide them with a copy of your QMUL Interruption of Study form.

You will have to complete a Notice of Intention to Vacate form (NIV) giving 28 days written notice of your intention to leave university residences. You will remain liable for residential fees for the full 28 days, and once this period has expired and you have returned your keys, your liability to pay residential fees will cease. If you would like to move out sooner, and if Housing Services find another student who can move in to your room before the 28 days expire, you may not need to pay your residential fees for the whole 28 day notice period.

If you are re-sitting out of attendance, you cannot normally live in university residences during that period. However, you can apply for a room in university residences for the re-sit exam period, but this is subject to availability. If you feel there are exceptional reasons why you need to live in university residences throughout the academic year, you should discuss your situation with QMUL Housing Services.

Disability and Dyslexia Service

Even if you have not previously been supported by the Disability and Dyslexia Service, you can still contact them for support while you are interrupting or re-sitting out of attendance.

Advice and Counselling Service

You can still use the Advice and Counselling Service while you are interrupting or re-sitting out of attendance.

Re-taking a period of study in attendance

You are not normally allowed to re-take a period of study in attendance, because students are expected to interrupt their studies if they are not fit to engage with their studies effectively. However, if you have an extenuating circumstances claim approved by the university, you might be granted a re-take in attendance as part of your claim.

If you are receiving a Postgraduate Loan for Master’s Study (PGL) and you need to re-take a period of study which you have already received a loan payment for, re-take periods will not be funded. For example, if you interrupted part way through semester one in the 2017-18 academic year, having received one of your three PGL instalments, if you resumed in September 2018 you would not be eligible for the first PGL instalment in the 2018-19 academic year. You would only be eligible for the second and third instalments in January and April 2019.

If you are granted a re-take in attendance, you must make sure that you have enough funding for this, as you will usually have to pay tuition fees for the re-take period.

If you are interrupting due to compelling personal reasons, it is worth considering whether you would be financially better off withdrawing, because you may then be able to get a full PGL if you restart a course in future – see the section of this guide on ‘What happens after I withdraw’.

For more information about the university’s extenuating circumstances claim process, see the Advice and Counselling Service advice guide Extenuating Circumstances.

Transferring to a new programme

Contact the Head of School for the programme you would like to join at QMUL or the admissions department of a new university if you wish to leave QMUL, to ask how you should apply for a place.

If you are taught student and you have been given permission to change programmes within QMUL, you will need to complete a Change of Programme form.

Research students should contact the Research Degrees office about a change of programme.

To leave your current course in order to go to a new university, fill out the relevant form here:

Contact the Research Degrees Office to see if you can transfer your research council funding to a different university.

If you are receiving a Postgraduate Loan for Master’s Study, and you are transferring to another eligible course, you can continue to receive the remainder of your loan entitlement. Your new course provider will need to inform Student Finance England of the transfer. If you transfer from an eligible course to an ineligible course, your Postgraduate Loan eligibility will end from the date of transfer and you should not receive any further payments. Previous payments made when you were attending the eligible course will not be reassessed. Any loan payments made subsequently from the point of transfer to an ineligible course will be treated as an overpayment, and collection of the loan overpayment will be sought prior to the Statutory Repayment Due Date.  

Withdrawing from QMUL

This means leaving QMUL completely. To return to a course at QMUL in future you would need to apply as a new student.

Taught postgraduates

You need to complete a ‘Withdrawal from university’ form available from the Student Enquiry Centre on the ground floor of the Queens’ building, Mile End campus, or the Student Office at the Whitechapel campus, or online.

Your academic school will need to sign the form to say that your withdrawal has been approved and they will submit the form to the Student Enquiry Centre.

Research postgraduates

You need to complete a ‘Withdrawal from University’ form available from the Research Degrees Office or online.

You will need to discuss this form, and your proposed withdrawal from QMUL, with your supervisor or director of graduate studies. Make some copies of the completed form for your own records before submitting it to the Research Degrees Office.

What happens after I withdraw?

If you receive formal funding or sponsorship, write to whoever provides your funding to tell them that you have left university completely. Include a copy of the university withdrawal form and keep copies of everything you send.

If you were receiving a Postgraduate Loan for Master’s Study, all future payments will be cancelled from the date of withdrawal. You will be allowed to keep the loan payment which you have already received for the payment period in which you withdraw, i.e. this will not be treated as an overpayment. You would only have an overpayment if SFE had made a payment to you after your date of withdrawal, for example because they were not notified early enough to cancel your next payment. Any overpayment will due to be repaid before the statutory repayment due date, unless you can demonstrate that to do so would cause you financial hardship.

If you later decide you want to start a new Masters programme, if you are able to demonstrate that you were unable to complete the previous Masters due to compelling personal reasons, then SFE has discretion to award you one further Postgraduate Loan for a new programme. Our understanding is that this provision would also apply if you are re-starting the same course which you previously withdrew from, as long as you can show that you had to withdraw due to compelling personal reasons.

Withdrawing from your course completely means you are no longer a student. You would normally be eligible to apply for Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction under the standard benefit rules. See the Welfare Benefits section of this advice guide for more information.

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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