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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 information is for Home (England domiciled) students or EU students paying the home rate of tuition fee. 

However, some European nationals may pay the home rate of tuition fee but may be in the UK with student immigration permission.  These students should also read the immigration information in the Interrupting, leaving or withdrawing from Studies guide for international students as this has information about the immigration implications if you interrupt or withdraw.

The information in this guide explains how Student Finance England funding is affected during a period of interruption, how overpayments are recovered and funding entitlement on return to study.  This information is relevant to students in receipt of Student Finance England only.  If you are receiving funding from Student Finance Walesthe Scottish Awards Agency or from Student Finance Northern Ireland please contact them directly to check how your funding will be affected as the rules differ.

All International students, including EU, EEA or Swiss students who pay the international rate of tuition fee and who move to the UK with Student Immigration Permission, should read our guide for international students about Interrupting, Re-sitting or Leaving Your Course. This includes information about the immigration implications if you interrupt or withdraw.

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals returning to study following a period of interruption should also refer to our guidance about How to stay in the UK after 31 December 2020 to check eligibility for the EU Settlement Scheme.  If you do not meet the requirements for this scheme and you are outside of the UK, you will need student immigration permission to return to the UK to complete your studies.  Our International pages have comprehensive information about the student immigration options and requirments.  

The following sections outline 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 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.

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?
  • 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.

Tuition fee status and student funding implications for EU/EEA/Swiss students

Withdrawing or transferring to a new course could affect your future eligibility for student funding and eligibility to pay the home rate of tuition fee as the Student Finance England eligibility rules and the Fee Status eligibility rules have changed for courses that start in September 2021 onwards. These changes mainly affect EU, other EEA, Swiss nationals and relevant family members.  

Your fee status and student funding entitlement should remain unchanged if you began your course in September 2020 or earlier and you interrupt and return to the same course at Queen Mary as students who began their course in the academic year 2020/21 or earlier continue to be eligible according to the SFE eligibility rules that were in force prior to September 2021.

If you withdraw and start a new course, your SFE funding entitlement will be assessed under the new SFE eligibility rules. 

SFE guidance explains that if a student transfers to another course, the 2020/21 eligibility rules apply regardless of the duration of the student’s period of study providing the period of study is not terminated and where the student transfers course once on or after 1 August 2021.

Taking time out (‘interrupting’)

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.

How can I interrupt?

Taught postgraduates

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.

A student may normally interrupt for a total of two calendar years across their programme of study. You can read further information in the Interruption Policy Guidance.

Please be aware that most programmes now have two assessment periods, one in January following Semester A teaching and one in May following Semester B teaching. The deadline for submission of the interruption form for most programmes is the day before the start of these assessment periods.

Taught Masters students who start their course in September and who who want to interrupt after the May exams but before their project period can do this once the exam period is over. The deadline for interrupting in these circumstances is 30 June 2022. 

There are strict deadlines for interrupting and there may be differences depending on your course especially for courses that start in january. Always check the deadline for submission of the interruption form with your Academic School.

The Queen Mary Academic calendar has information about assessment and exam periods. 

If you miss this deadline you will normally be entered for examinations/assessment and would need to talk to your School/Institute about submitting extenuating circumstances if you are unable to attend/submit work. Where students are entered for assessment they will also be automatically entered for reassessment at the next available opportunity.

However, if you have only narrowly missed the interruption form submission deadline and feel that there have been exceptional circumstances that have affected your ability to submit this in time please discuss this with your School/Institute or with Student Records.

Alternatively if you complete Semester A and sit the exams it may be possible to interrupt before the start of the next Semester. Interrupting before the start of Semester B may reduce your fee liability as explained in the Tuition Fees section of this guide.   

If you do not interrupt you remain liable for 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 to use your last date of attendance and your fee liability may follow this.  

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 the point in the year you interrupt and if you interrupt part way through a Semester. For example, if you interrupt partway through a Semester, you may be required to return at the start of that Semester in the following year.  If you complete the Semester, you may be required to return at the point you interrupted and continue onto the next Semester. 

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 Queen Mary 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 Queen Mary 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 interrupt or re-sit out of attendance?

Funding

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 may receive the payment even though you have interrupted because SFE may not have time to stop the payment. SFE are likely to ask you to repay this.  If they don't request repayment then remember that you won't be able to get that same instalment again when you resume studies, so  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 start a new 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.

Students who resume study after a period of suspension of two years or more (continuous or cumulative periods of suspension) will only get further remaining payments  of loan if 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.

Welfare Benefits

If you are enrolled on a full time course, you will not normally be eligible to claim welfare benefits while you are interrupting your studies or re-sitting out of attendance. This is because the welfare benefit rules still consider you to 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 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. For further information please refer to our our web pages for students with children
  • If you already receive Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit on the grounds of ill health or disability, you may be able to continue your claim while you interrupt.  However it is not straightforward to make a new claim for Universal Credit if you are already a full time student and are claiming on the grounds of ill health or disability. You must be in receipt of Personal Independence Payment and your work capability has to be assessed as part of the Universal Credit application process and it's complicated for students to get this assessment made. For further information please refer to our advice guide Extra money for disability and ill health and our web pages for students with children. You can also Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service to discuss your circumstances.
  • 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 may 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 the Queen Mary Financial Assistance Fund. See the earlier University Financial Support 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 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.

Library

You will automatically be given access to the library with limited borrowing rights of 6 items.

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. Contact IT Services with any queries about your email access.

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 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.

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.

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. 

Resuming your study following a re-take or interruption of study

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.

For example:

  • You interrupt in November 2020, part way through Semester one, having received just one of your three loan instalments
  • You resume in September 2021,
  • You would not be eligible for a loan instalment in September 2021 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 2022 and May 2022.

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. 

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss student please also see the section Tuition fee status and student funding implications for EU/EEA/Swiss students

Transferring to a new programme

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. 

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss student please also see the section Tuition fee status and student funding implications for EU/EEA/Swiss students

Withdrawing from Queen Mary University of London

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.

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.

Please be aware that for most programmes there are two deadlines for submission of the withdrawal form.  These are the day before the assessment period in January and the day before the assessment period in May.  If you miss these deadlines you will normally have to be entered for examinations/assessment and would need to talk to your School/Institute about submitting extenuating circumstances if you are unable to attend/submit work. 

Alternatively you could sit the Semester A exams and then withdraw before the start of Semester B. 

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. 

You can find information about assessment period dates in the Queen mary academic calendar.

The date of withdrawal also affects your tuition fee liability.

Taught masters students who withdraw before the first day of semester 2, are liable to pay 50% of the total annual tuition fee for that academic year. If they withdraw from studies on or after the first day of semester 2, they are liable to pay 100% of the total annual tuition fee for that academic year.

 

Also read the information in this guide about Tuition Fees.

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 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.

Research students tuition fee liability for the current academic year will be calculated on a pro-rata basis, based on the  withdrawal date that is agreed with their supervisor, academic school and the Research Degrees Office (RDO). Once this date is agreed, and the withdrawal from is submitted to the RDO, they should contact the Queen Mary Fees Office for advice about their tuition fee liability: fees@qmul.ac.uk  There is more information about how the pro-rata fee is calculated in the Tuition Fee Regulations.

Also read the information in this guide about Tuition Fees.

What happens to my funding if 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.

Withdrawing from your course completely means you are no longer a student. If you are not working or have a low income you may be eligible to apply for welfare benefits such as Universal Credit providing you meet the standard benefit rules. See the Welfare Benefits section of this advice guide for more information.

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.

Withdrawing from your course completely means you are no longer a student.  As your funding will stop, if you are not working or have a low income you may be eligible to apply for welfare benefits such as Universal Credit providing you meet the standard benefit rules. 

Can I receive Student Finance England funding for a new postgraduate course?

Normally Student Finance England Postgraduate loans are not available for a second postgraduate programme.  However if 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 a further Postgraduate Loan or Doctoral Loan for a new programme. This can only be awarded once. 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.

How to apply

Once you have made the Postgraduate Loan application for your new course you should send Student Finance England evidence of the compelling personal reason for leaving your last course along with a covering letter explaining your request.  There is no definitive list of compelling personal reasons that can be accepted. You will usually need evidence of the Compelling Personal issue that caused you to leave your last postgraduate course. The list below is a guide only. If you are starting a new course at Queen Mary a Welfare Adviser from the Advice and Counselling Service can explain what documents you will need as this will vary according to your individual situation. You do not need to have these documents before you contact a Welfare Adviser, but this list might help you to start thinking about preparing your application:

Your own letter to your funding authority, to explain:

  • What circumstances affected your ability to study effectively
  • When your difficulties started and how long they affected you
  • How these circumstances affected your ability to study effectively
  • How your situation has changed, or will have changed, so that these circumstances are unlikely to adversely affect you when you start a new course

Your Welfare Adviser can advise you about this letter, but it can be helpful if you have prepared a draft to show them.

A letter from a professional person or agency to confirm the difficulties that you had and the effect they might have had on your ability to study effectively

This letter might be from a doctor, other health professional or a counsellor. The letter should explain the difficulties that you had, and clearly detail the effects of these difficulties on your ability to study on your last course. It is also important that the letter explains when your difficulties occurred, and that this is the relevant period for your compelling personal reasons claim. For example, if you were studying in the 2019-20 academic year, and you are claiming that you left during that year due to ill health, the medical evidence will need to confirm that your ill health occurred during the 2019-20 academic year, and at what point during that year.

If you have been getting medication, treatment or therapeutic help for your difficulties, it is helpful for this to be explained in the letter, and how this is helping you, so it is clear that you are taking steps to address the difficulties you have had. If the person writing the letter feels they are able to, it is useful for them to confirm that you are likely to be able to study more effectively because of this help.

If you have not received help or support from a professional, a letter from a friend or family member who knows about your difficulties may be enough, although some kind of formal documentation will often be required. A Welfare Adviser can also help you decide who might be the best person to write this letter for you. 

 


Disclaimer:
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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