Page:Taking time out from your course (Leave of Absence)

Taking time out from your course (Leave of Absence)

During the course of your studies, you may need time off your course for various reasons; such as illness, pregnancy, bereavement, personal problems. The University uses the term ‘Leave of Absence’ for approved breaks lasting more than a week or two. 

Before deciding on whether to take leave of absence you also need to consider the academic, practical, immigration and financial implications of leaving university. Further information is provided in the relevant subsections below.

Useful information on leave of absence can also be found on the university website

For Taught students (undergraduate and postgraduate) leave of absence is usually on a year or semester basis. For Research postgraduates, length of leave of absence is more flexible. 

A leave of absence is usually only granted for up to a year at a time, however it may be possible to arrange longer if necessary.

During a period of leave of absence you remain registered as a student but are not required to attend university or undertake any course work/exams. 

Leave of Absence is worth considering if -

  • You need time to deal with health, personal, childcare or financial issues that are interfering with your studies. 
  • You are changing course but cannot start the new course immediately.  
  • You just need some time away from the pressure of University to consider your options.
  • Pregnancy- If you are wanting to take leave of absence due to pregnancy please see the university pregnancy policy here for more useful information. 
  1. Talk to your personal tutor or another appropriate staff member and explain why a break would be helpful, to help decide if this is the best option for you. It may be that other support can be put into place to help support your difficult circumstances instead of having to take leave of absence. You can discuss your situation with an adviser at the Student Advice Centre to find out your options.
  2. Check if any significant changes to your course are planned.  These may affect you when you come back.
  3. Complete a Leave of Absence form. You may be required to provide evidence of your circumstances. Please note: if you are changing course and need leave of absence for that reason, you need to complete a different form which can be found here.
  4. You will then need to get the form signed by an appropriate staff member in your department, such as your personal tutor, under/ postgraduate programme manager, under/postgraduate support officer. If you are not sure who to get it signed by; you can take it to the School office where you will be advised of the most appropriate person.
  5. Your department will then submit it to the University Taught Programmes Office to be processed.
  6. Once your application has been processed, you will receive an email from the university to confirm this. The start date of leave of absence is usually the date you have indicated on the form and had approved by your department.
  7. The university will then inform the relevant funding body that you have taken leave of absence. If you are funded by Student Finance or NHS, please see the relevant section below for implications on funding.

For Postgraduate Research students there is a different procedure in place for applying for leave of absence. Please click here for further details.

If you are an international student on a Tier 4 visa, there are additional procedures and visa implications that need to be considered. Please see the Immigration section below.

  • If you wish take leave of absence on medical grounds, you will need to get a doctor’s letter detailing your health condition and confirming that leave of absence is appropriate
  • The University may also recommend you take leave of absence if it is concerned that you are not fit enough to be doing your course. If you disagree, the University will consider medical evidence, and decide if you are required to take leave of absence.
  • Student Services will contact you towards the end of your leave of absence with information about registering again.
  • If you are entitled to Student Finance, you should make an application for funding at least 3 months before you are due to start back, to ensure that you receive your payments on time.
  • If your leave of absence was on medical grounds: you will need to provide a medical certificate / letter from your own doctor/ UHS to confirm that you are fit to return to studying, before the university will allow you to register. Please click here for more information. If you are a Faculty of Medicine student, the University may also ask for an Occupational Health report.
  • Useful information on returning from leave of absence can be found on this university webpage.

It is important to consider the financial implications of taking a leave of absence before you make your decision:

Your fee liability will differ depending on the point of the year that you take a leave of absence. Full details on fee liability and refunds at different points of the year can be found here.

The following information only applies to Home Undergraduates who are entitled to Student Finance England Funding.  

Although the general principles are the same, if you are a student funded from Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales, or NHS funded, the situation may different. Please speak to a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre for more information.

(i) Student Finance Funding Entitlement

If you take leave of absence after you have registered (even if you have only attended a few days), then you will usually be considered to have used a full year of funding entitlement by Student Finance, and although you are entitled to an extra year of funding from Student Finance (+1/gift ear), in some situations this may have been used up meaning you are left without full funding (please see examples below).

If you do fall into this situation of having to pay one or more years fees yourself, you may still be able to get full funding if you can demonstrate that the reasons for transferring your course, or changing university, are due to compelling personal circumstances such as illness, bereavement or family problems. Please speak to a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre, if you think this applies to you, and we can help you to make representations to Student Finance.

Student Finance funding entitlement is calculated based on the following formula:

Length of course + 1 = (  ) – Previous study = Remaining full funding entitlement 

So if you go on leave of absence after attending, that year will be classed as previous study. However if your leave of absence starts from the beginning of the year it won’t.


Example 1:

Student currently in Level 1 of a Maths degree, takes a leave of absence (LOA) a few months into his first semester completing. They return to University the following September to start Level 1 again. Their funding entitlement is calculated as follows:

Course length = 3 years + 1 year = 4 - 1 year of previous study (LOA year)  = 3 years full funding remaining. 

So this student would be covered for the rest of their course.

Example 2:

Student currently in Level 2 of a 4 year Law degree. They complete second year and then take a leave of absence (LOA) for the whole of the next academic year (September- September). They return the following September after their LOA to start 3rd year. Their funding entitlement is calculated as follows:

Course length = 4 years + 1 year = 5 – 2 years of previous study = 3 years full funding remaining. 

This student’s leave of absence year doesn’t count as previous study as they didn’t register to attend; it was a full year leave of absence. So this student would be covered with full funding for the rest of their course and still have their +1 year intact.

Example 3:

Student starts a course in Geography, fails first year and then has to repeat first year. 

They start second year, and take a leave of absence in December of that year, and return to university the following September to restart their second year. Their funding entitlement is calculated as follows:

 Course length = 3 years + 1 year = 4 - 3 years of previous study =1 year full funding remaining

This student has 3 years previous study because; 1) Level one, 2) Level one repeat, 3) started second year then went on LOA.

The student requires two more years of funding (2nd and third year) in order to compelte his degree. As he is only entitled to 1 year, Student finance will pay this in his final year, for Level 2 repeat year the student will have to pay their own fees and will only be entitled to a maintenance loan. 


Student funding rules can get very confusing and complex. If you are unsure about your situation, please come and speak to a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre.

(ii) Student Finance - Overpayments

  • Once your leave of absence has been processed, the university will inform Student Finance of your leave of absence and the start date.
  • If you take leave of absence before then end of the year, Student Finance will generate an overpayment for the period for any days they have paid for beyond the leave of absence start date. 
  • If you took leave of absence on medical grounds, you will be entitled to receive student finance for 60 days after your leave of absence start date.
  • Student Finance will contact you to make arrangements to pay any overpayment back or they may claw it back from the next years funding entitlement. They usually do this in the case of maintenance grants (pre-2016 students only), and usually for maintenance loans they will agree to defer the collection to the end of your studies or add it onto the final student loans debt outstanding and collect in the usual way.
  • You should not normally receive any further Student Finance payments for the remainder of the leave of absence.
  • You would not normally be entitled to welfare benefits as you would still be classed as a full time student. Please see our benefits pages for more details.
  • There may also be overpayments of University bursaries, which you may be required to pay back.
  • If you find yourself in financial hardship due to not receiving student finance during leave of absence or because of the overpayments incurred due to leave of absence, you can make a request to Student Finance England to allow continued funding during leave of absence due to the financial hardship caused.

In this situation, you will need to demonstrate your financial hardship to Student Finance by providing 3 months bank statements, and evidence of continued financial commitments such as rent for the rest of the year (tenancy agreement, which should show that you are liable for the full years rent), and any other significant financial commitments that are relevant.

Please speak to a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre if this applies to you, and we can help you to make representations to Student Finance.

If you experience financial difficulties during leave of absence, you can also make an application to the University Financial Support Fund.

NHS funded students who take leave of absence for medical reasons are required to take 60 days sick leave before they can be officially granted leave of absence.  Funding only continues during these 60 days. The NHS will not pay bursaries for leave of absence for illness beyond 60 days or other reasons, aside from maternity leave.

Students who take leave of absence for maternity leave are entitled to their bursary throughout their leave of absence for a period of up to 45 weeks.

NHS bursaries are paid in monthly instalments and are always recovered if overpaid due to Leave of Absence.  You should always notify the NHS of your intention to take leave of absence and your intention to return to your course.

Most full time students taking leave of absence are not entitled to receive benefits, unless one of the following applies:

  • You are entitled to claim benefits while they are studying. E.g. lone parents or disabled students;  
  • You are receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA); you can continue to receive it on leave of absence.  You can claim ESA if you are receiving Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment or have paid enough national insurance contributions;
  • You have taken leave of absence due to illness or to care for someone. If this applies to you, you will be able to claim some benefits from the date that you recover from your illness, or your caring responsibilities cease, until you return to your course, up to a maximum period of 12 months. Please see a money adviser at the advice centre if this applies to you.

You are likely to still be liable for rent for the remainder of your contract, even if you return home after your leave of absence. Please see the ‘Housing’ section below for further details.

Home Postgraduate Students starting their Masters course on or after 1 August 2016, can apply for a Postgraduate Loan from the Student Loans Company.

If you receive a PGL and take Leave of Absence, future payments will stop until you resume the course, at which point you will get paid the remainder of your loan. As with undergraduate loans, you would continue to recive funding for a period of 60 days of medical Leave of Absence.

Repeat years are not usually funded unless you have compelling personal reasons.

In certain situations of financial hardship, or where you have compelling personal reasons, you can get continued funding during Leave of Absence.

Please speak to a Money Adviser at the Student Advice Centre if any of these situations apply.

Different rules will apply to those on teacher training, NHS funded courses and social work students. Please see a money adviser at the Student Advice Centre if this applies to you.

If you are a Postgraduate Research student, you may be funded for your research. If you are intending to take a leave of absence this may affect your grant funding. You should speak to the funding administrator for details on how it affects you.

If you go on leave of absence you are usually still liable for your rent for the remainder of the housing contract. 

You may wish to stay in Sheffield and work part time to pay your rent or if circumstances mean you are in significant financial hardship, you may be able to request discretionary funding during leave of absence, as explained above.

You want to stay in your accommodation

Taking Leave of Absence makes no difference to your right to remain in your accommodation.  You will still be exempt from Council Tax and can still be disciplined by the University.

You want to leave your accommodation

The University will charge you rent until the end of the payment period during which your Leave of Absence starts.   Different types of contracts have different payment periods.  To find out which date applies in your case, check the Residence Contracts Terms and Conditions booklet which is available as a download on the University website.

If another student takes over your room before the end of the payment period during which your Leave of Absence starts and you have already paid to the end of the payment period, the University will refund any overpaid rent to you.

You want to stay in your accommodation

Taking Leave of Absence makes no difference to your right to remain in your accommodation.  You will still be exempt from Council Tax and cannot be evicted by your landlord simply because you have temporarily suspended your studies.

You want to leave your accommodation

Nearly all housing contracts in the private sector are fixed term (so they last for a fixed period of time such as 6 or 12 months) with no get out clause for the tenant.  Unfortunately, this means that your landlord can (and almost certainly will) insist that you continue to pay your rent right up to the end of your contract, even if you are no longer living in the house.

The way most students get around this is by finding a replacement tenant.  Most landlords will accept a replacement but you need to get their permission first.  The replacement must be someone who is acceptable to the landlord (normally this means another full time student) and, if the contract is a joint tenancy, acceptable to the remaining joint tenants as well.

For more information about getting out of housing contracts click here.

If you are an international student on a Tier 4 visa, then going on leave of absence will have significant visa implications.  In most cases if you need to take more than 60 days leave of absence you will need to leave the UK and then apply for a fresh Tier 4 visa to resume your course at a later date.  Please visit this university webpage for further information.

You must contact International Student Support for further advice about your situation before you apply for Leave of Absence. 

Last Updated: August 2016

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