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 -
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 receive funding for a period of 60 days of medical Leave of Absence.
In certain situations of financial hardship, or where you have compelling personal reasons, you can get continued funding during Leave of Absence. However, over the course of your Masters, you will not receive any more than the maximum PGL amount available so the amount paid in future instalments (upon resumption of study) will be adjusted accordingly. Note that repeat funding is not available for a repeat year or part year of a course that the student is currently undertaking.
In any case, it is highly recommended that you book an appointment with a Money Adviser at the Student Advice Centre to ensure that you fully understand the financial implications of taking a leave of absence.
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: January 2018