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.
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 Queen Mary 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.
- 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:
- Contact the Advice and Counselling Service for advice and support with practical, financial or personal issues.
- The Emotional Wellbeing section of the Advice and Counselling Service website has resources you might find helpful.
- Make an appointment to see your supervisor, personal tutor or academic adviser for help thinking through your options
- Find out about study skills support at Queen Mary.
- Visit the Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre to find out about other courses or career options.
- 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?
- What about your liability to pay rent if you leave your accommodation?
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.
You might decide that you need to take a break from your studies for personal or medical reasons. At Queen Mary, 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.
If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national and you intend to leave the UK during your period of interruption or once you withdraw from your course, you should read our EU/EEA information about Brexit as 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.
How can I interrupt?
You need to complete an interruption of study form - you can access the form and guidance notes online or 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.
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.
There are strict deadlines for interrupting which apply to standard programmes, but arrangements for certain programmes are different - please check with your academic school. 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 were:
- Tuesday 6 January 2021 if you do not wish to sit the Semester A exams
- Wednesday 5 May 2021 if you do not wish to sit the Semester B exams
If you miss the deadline but feel 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 B, in which case you should interrupt by Friday 22 January 2021.
Further information about assessments can be found on the Academic Registry Interrupting Your Studies page.
On the interruption of study form you need to write your planned date of return, which you will need to agree with your academic school. 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 can resume your studies in September if you wish to and re-take Semester A.
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 Queen Mary Research Studentships
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 Queen Mary Graduate School Director’s guidelines.
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.
See the Tuition Fees section of this advice guide for more information.
If you are receiving a government Postgraduate Loan for Master’s Study or a Doctoral Loan, you are not normally entitled to receive any further loan payments after your date of interruption, until you resume study. However, Student Finance England has the 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 Student Finance England do not provide any re-take funding, so if you continue to receive loan payments during a period of interruption, this money won’t be available to you when you resume studies – this is explained later in the Retaking a period of study in attendance section of this guide.
If you interrupt your studies close to the payment date of your Master's or Doctoral Loan, you are likely to receive the payment even though you have interrupted because SFE will probably not be notified in time to stop the payment. SFE will normally allow you to keep the payment, but remember that you won't be able to get that same instalment again when you resume studies, in that case you may want to save the payment and use it when you resume.
Contact a Welfare Adviser if you are interrupting due to compelling personal reasons and are considering whether you would be financially better off withdrawing. Students who withdraw because of compelling personal reasons may be able to get another Student Finance England Masters Loan or a Doctoral Loan if they re-start a course in the future. Also see the section of this guide on ˜What happens after I withdraw.
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 Queen Mary, 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 but only in certain circumstances – see below.
Research Postgraduate students who resume study after a period of suspension of two years or more (continuous or cumulative periods of suspension) will only get further payments of their Doctoral Loan is they have a compelling personal reason for having been absent from the course for that period of time. Evidence of compelling personal reasons will be required. Note that this evidence is required for continuous suspension periods of two years or more and also where separate suspension periods add up to two years or more.
If you normally study on a full time course, you will not normally be eligible to claim welfare benefits e.g. Universal Credit 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 have a disability or ongoing medical condition or you are a parent, you may be able to claim welfare benefits while you are re-sitting or interrupting. If you are already in receipt of welfare benefits, these should continue while you are re-sitting or interrupting your studies. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service for more information. You may also find it helpful to refer to our advice guide Extra money for disability and ill health and our web pages for students with children.
- Students who interrupt because they are ill, or to care for someone else, may be entitled to claim certain benefits for a limited period after they recover or caring responsibilities end but they are waiting to return to university. It may also be possible to claim Carer's Allowance during a period of interruption if you care full-time for someone and are not required to complete course work, sit exams or engage with your course during this time. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service for more information.
- If you have attended your programme for the duration normally required to complete it, but you have to re-sit your final examinations or re-submit your dissertation, and you are no longer required to actually ‘attend’ university, you should be able to claim welfare benefits in accordance with the normal eligibility criteria. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service if you are having difficulty claiming.
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 Queen Mary’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.
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 Queen Mary 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 of 6 items.
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. Contact IT Services with any queries about your email access.
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 Queen Mary 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 Queen Mary 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.
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.
You cannot receive a Postgraduate Master's Loan payment for any re-take period.
If you are granted a re-take in attendance, you must make sure that you can financially support yourself and pay your tuition fee. You usually have to pay tuition fees for the re-take period.
If you have already been paid the full amount of Masters Loan or Doctoral Loan, you cannot get any further payments of this loan when you resume study so you must make sure that you are able to meet the cost of any tuition fee due and can support yourself financially.
If you did not receive the full Masters Loan you are entitled to receive the remaining balance once you resume your study. Instalments will continue as usual but only from the point they were suspended.
- You interrupt in November 2019, part way through Semester one, having received just one of your three loan instalments
- You resume in September 2020,
- You would not be eligible for a loan instalment in September 2020 as you have already receive this instalment. SFE do not fund repeat periods. However as you did not receive the next two instalments of loan you would be eligible for the second and third instalments in January 2021 and May 2021.
Where you resume study after an interruption of two years or more (whether this is a continuous period or the cumulative total of shorter interruptions), further loan payments will only be released where you provide evidence of a compelling personal reason for having been absent.
Students wishing to transfer to Queen Mary should contact the Admissions Office and will need to provide evidence of qualifications. If currently studying another course evidence of this must also be sent e.g. transcript if grades achieved and an academic reference including predicted grades.
If you are a current Queen Mary student on a taught Postgraduate course and you have been given permission to change programmes within Queen Mary, you will need to complete a Change of Programme form.
Research students should contact the Research Degrees office about a change of programme.
If you wish to transfer to a new course at another University, contact the Admissions department of the new university to ask about their procedures.
The Queen Mary procedures can be found on the Postgraduate Admissions page.
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.
This means leaving Queen Mary completely. To return to a course at Queen Mary in future you would need to apply as a new student.
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.
In 2020/21 the general withdrawal deadlines are:
- Tuesday 6 January 2021
- Wednesday 5 May 2021
Alternatively you could sit the Semester A exams in Janaury and then withdraw before the start of Semester B, in which case you should withdraw by Friday 22 January 2021.
However always check the deadlines with your School as these may vary for some courses. If you miss these deadlines you can still withdraw but your last date of attendance on the withdrawal form cannot normally be backdated to before the exam period.
Also read the information in this guide about Tuition Fees.
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 Queen Mary, 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.
Also read the information in this guide about Tuition Fees.
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 or a Doctoral Loan, all future loan payments will be canceled following the date of withdrawal. You will be allowed to keep the loan payments which you have already received for the payment period in which you withdrew, 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 notified too late to cancel your next payment. Any overpayment will need 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 or Doctoral programme and you are able to demonstrate that you were unable to complete the previous Masters or Research Degree due to compelling personal reasons, then SFE has discretion to award you one further Postgraduate Loan or Doctoral Loan for a new programme. Our understanding is that this provision would also apply if you are re-starting the same course from which you previously withdrew as long as you can prove to Student Finance England that you withdrew due to compelling personal reasons. They will need to consider your evidence. You must also be studying the new course in its entirety.
Withdrawing from your course completely means you are no longer a student. You would normally be eligible to apply for Welfare benefits such as Universal Credit providing to meet 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.