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Leave of absence

How do I request a leave of absence?

A leave of absence is an authorised break in a student’s studies.  You can request a leave of absence from your studies for a documented medical or personal reason. The University may, on occasion, require you to take leave of absence if you need to follow a variant programme (i.e. take modules in a different order to that specified in the Degree Programme Table) or as a result of receiving fail grades. 

If you are considering requesting a period of leave please use the links below to explore a range of information that is provided to help you make this decision. Please note that Leave of Absence will not be applied retrospectively.

You may also find it helpful to contact the Student Support Service who can offer advice and support and perhaps enable you to continue your studies without a period of leave.

If you have any questions about the process please contact the Student Programmes team or alternatively you can drop into the Student Hub (Queens Court entrance, Cottrell), where staff will be happy to advise you further.

If, after you have spoken with your personal tutor/academic advisor or Programme Director and read the guidance below, you wish to request a period of leave, please complete the Leave of Absence form ARO 033 and return it to Student Programmes or hand it into the Student Hub (Cottrell 2A1).

Why do I need to speak to an academic advisor first?

Depending on your circumstances there may be alternative solutions to help you continue your studies without the need for a leave of absence, your personal tutor will be able to help you identify alternatives and refer you to the appropriate colleagues to seek further help. If it is decided that leave of absence is the appropriate course of action, your adviser of studies or your programme director can advise you on the appropriate time to return to your studies.

How long can the leave of absence be?

Leave of absence can only be requested for whole semesters. You can request a leave of up to one year (in the first instance). The amount of leave you can request depends on your circumstances and programme of study. Each programme of study has a maximum cumulative period of leave of absence permitted and this is specified in the programme regulations.

If you are a full-time student, leave of absence for one semester is not usually possible and you will be expected to return at an appropriate point in your programme, normally the start of the same semester the following year. i.e. if you request leave of absence for the autumn semester then you would return in September the following year to re-start the autumn semester, if you request leave of absence for the spring semester then you would return at the start of the spring semester the following January.

If you are a part-time student, one semester’s leave of absence may be possible but this will depend on your degree programme. Your Programme Director/Adviser of Studies will be able to advise on this.

If you have failed modules or your situation is not covered above, your programme director, adviser of studies or the Student Programmes team can provide more information on what is possible in your case.

When should I submit my request?

Wherever possible, requests for leave of absence should be made in advance of the period in question. The process for requesting a leave of absence is the same no matter when you make the request, however, the documentation you need to provide and the financial implications will depend on the timing of your request.

What information do I need to provide, and when?

Before Enrolment

You can request leave for the next academic year, you will return to university at the start of the same semester the following year. The Leave of Absence form ARO 033 should be completed and submitted via email to Student Programmes (studentprogrammes@stir.ac.uk).

In the first 2 weeks of a semester

If you have started the semester and want to request leave for the rest of the year, the Leave of Absence form ARO 033 should be completed and submitted via email to Student Programmes (studentprogrammes@stir.ac.uk)

Applying between week 3 and reading week

Beyond the end of week 2, your request will have financial implications. Details of the university’s refund policy can be found here. If you have any questions it is recommended that you seek advice from the tuition fees team before submitting your request.

Applying after reading week

eave of absence is only granted in exceptional circumstances after reading week. The Leave of Absence form ARO 033 should be completed and submitted via email to Student Programmes (studentprogrammes@stir.ac.uk) together with medical or other appropriate independent supporting documentation of the circumstances which are preventing you studying. The deadline to apply is the last day of teaching in the semester requested.

If you do not have supporting documentation then you must explain why you are unable to provide it. In this situation, your request will need to be considered and approved by the Academic Panel. To have your case considered by Academic Panel, forward your Leave of Absence form ARO 033 and in the “Additional Information” box, provide a short statement (not more than 1 side of A4) detailing your reasons and explaining why you are unable to provide supporting documentation. The Academic Panel will consider your request and the Student Programmes team will let you know the outcome in due course. Please note that Academic Panel meets monthly

I’ve started my dissertation – does this matter?

Students requiring additional time to complete their dissertation as a result of extenuating circumstances should normally request an extension to their dissertation submission date.

Where a leave of absence is granted after commencing the dissertation, you will be expected to repeat any teaching associated with the dissertation and start a new topic on your return, this might result in a period of repeat study which will have financial implications.

I am taking a module which started last semester – does this matter?

You will need to return at the start of the module and repeat the module in its entirety.

Will this impact my fees?

You should be aware that unless requested in advance, taking leave of absence is likely to have fees and funding implications. Details of the university’s refund policy can be found here. If you have any questions it is recommended that you seek advice from the tuition fees team before submitting your request.

Will this impact on my visa?

If you have a Tier 4 student visa you should be aware that taking a leave of absence may have consequences for your visa. Please contact the Student Immigration Team to discuss this before submitting your request.

I’ve just failed a module and have been offered reassessment, does this matter?

University regulations require you to complete any outstanding assessments at the next scheduled offering, this means you will be expected to take your resit exam or coursework reassessments whilst on leave of absence. If your circumstances mean that you do not think you will be in a position to take your outstanding reassessment, please specify this in the Additional Information box in the Leave of Absence form ARO 033 as it will affect when you return to university.

If you have any questions on what is required for the reassessment please liaise with the relevant Faculty. You can find the exam timetable for specific details of your examination(s) here.

If you do not pass your resits/coursework reassessment whilst on leave of absence, then a progression decision will be made (taking into account all of your academic history) and if you are permitted to continue your studies, you are likely to need to return to university earlier than initially planned so please contact the Student Programmes team if you find yourself in this position, as soon as you have your results.

I had a deferred exam request granted but I now want leave of absence – does this matter?

Depending on your circumstances it may be possible for you to still take the outstanding deferred exams from last semester and leave of absence in the coming semester. Please indicate in the Additional Information box in the Leave of Absence form ARO 033 whether you still want to take your deferred exams or not as this will affect when you return to university. Such requests will be considered on a case by case basis, and the Student Programmes team can let you know what is possible.

I’m taking a module on an assessment only basis, does this matter?

University regulations require anything undertaken on an assessment only basis to be taken at the next scheduled offering, therefore you are expected to complete the module(s) you are repeating on an assessment-only basis whilst on leave of absence.  It is not possible to repeat modules on an assessment only basis when you return. Please liaise with the relevant Faculty if you have any questions about what is required of you.  If you do not pass the module, this may impact on when you can return to university.

I failed everything last semester, does this matter?

Your overall academic progress will be taken into account when your request for a leave of absence is considered. If you are permitted to continue, a period of repeat study is likely to be required and your request may need to be considered by the Academic Panel. Please provide an explanation of your results in the Additional Information box in the Leave of Absence form ARO 033, and if possible attach supporting documentation of any extenuating circumstances.

Who are the Academic Panel?

The Academic Panel is a small group of senior academics who take decisions on the more complicated cases. The panel consists of a pool of members with 2 representatives from each Faculty. The panel meets monthly and only 3 members of the pool attend each meeting, anything presented to them will be considered with the utmost confidentiality.

How will I know if my request has been successful?

All requests are considered on a case by case basis and you will normally be informed of the decision within 10 working days. The student programmes team will send the confirmation to your student email account. The Academic Panel meet on a monthly basis. If your request is submitted to the Academic Panel, you will be notified of this and informed of the decision within 3 working days of the meeting.

It’s been more than 10 working days since I submitted my request and I’ve not heard anything?

On occasion, the Student Programme team may need to discuss your request with others so this may delay the process. Your leave of absence will take effect from the date of your request, but if you are concerned, please call the Student Programmes team for an update: 01786 466685

My leave of absence has come to an end and I am not able to return to university.

If, toward the end of your period of leave of absence, you do not feel fit or able to return to your studies you should contact the Student Programmes team as soon as possible. You will be provided with advice and guidance to help you decide if a further leave of absence or another option is the next step for you.

What will happen to my student loan whilst I am on leave of absence?

You should speak to your loan provider or funder before you apply for a leave of absence to assess what the impact would be on your student loan. You can also speak to the Student Money Advice team within Student Support Services for guidance.

Can I still use the library whilst on leave of absence?

Yes.

I am in university accommodation – what impact will leave of absence have?

If you go on a leave of absence you need to leave university accommodation. Your liability for rent ceases on the day you hand the keys back to accommodation or on the date your leave of absence commences whichever is the later. If you owe rent, it should be paid before leaving and any overpayment will be refunded. In all cases, you will be liable to pay a release fee as notified within your Occupancy Agreement.

I am in private accommodation - what impact will leave of absence have?

You will need to consult your contract regarding your liability for payment of accommodation fees and breaking the lease  (please also see council tax below).

How does leave of absence affect my council tax liability?

You should be aware that if you take a leave of absence during the academic year you may no longer be eligible for Council Tax exemption. You should check this with your local Council.

I spoke to my adviser weeks ago but have not heard anything since?

You need to send your Leave of Absence form ARO 033 to the Student Programmes team, staff cannot apply on your behalf.

I am a parent/next of kin and what to contact you on behalf of a student – what should I do?

Please contact the Student Programme team: 01786 466685 or by email studentprogrammes@stir.ac.uk, and they will advise on your next course of action.

Can I claim job-seekers allowance or other benefits whilst on leave of absence?

Students on a leave of absence are still considered to be ‘a student’ in terms of the Department of Work and Pensions. In most cases, students are not entitled to a job-seekers allowance or any other benefits whilst on leave of absence but there are some exceptions.  If you have questions about benefits please make an appointment with one of the Money Advice Team by emailing ask@stir.ac.uk, or calling in at the Student Hub. (Cottrell 2A1)

Can I work during my leave of absence?

There are no barriers to you taking up paid employment while on a leave of absence if you are fit and able to do so.

Why might my leave of absence request be denied?

Your leave of absence request may be denied for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • You have not met the university’s minimum progress requirement, and have been unable to satisfy the Academic Panel that you will be successful in your studies if permitted to return.
  • You have already had the maximum leave of absence permitted. If you are not yet in a position to return, the leave of absence cannot be extended.  Unfortunately, it may be that it will be necessary for you to withdraw from the programme and apply to return at another time.
  • You have requested a leave of absence with a return date that does not fit the programme structure, in this situation the Student Programmes team will provide you with information on alternative possibilities.

Postgraduate Research

If a student is prevented from carrying out their studies by illness or for personal reasons, they should inform their lead supervisor as soon as possible. If the absence is for less than one month then the student should notify their supervisory team.

Where a student expects to be unable to engage in their studies for more than one month, then they should request a leave of absence and upload any relevant evidence to Research Compass (under ‘formal stuff’). Leave of absence may be granted to account for circumstances beyond the control of the student, for example, ill health, family or financial problems. The period of leave (normally at least a month) should be as short as is necessary to deal with the circumstances and will not be backdated for more than one month.

Students approaching the end of a period of leave of absence which has been granted for health reasons may be required to produce a letter from a medical practitioner confirming that they are fit to return to studies. If towards the end of a period of leave of absence the student is not fit to return to studies, then a further leave of absence should be requested before the first one ends.

Students must not be engaged in their studies during any period of leave of absence. The student's maximum period of study (i.e. 48 months for a full-time PhD student) will not change but the maximum submission date will be extended accordingly. A student returning from a leave of absence is not permitted to submit their thesis for examination within three months of their return to study.

Any funding body rules on extensions and suspensions will be additional to those of the University. The student and supervisory team must ensure that, where relevant, the approval of any funding body is obtained.

Students on Tier 4 Visa

The University of Stirling is required to notify Home Office (UK Visas and Immigration) of those students in receipt of a Tier 4 Visa who take a leave of absence. See Student Administration’s Tier 4 Visa Students web pages for further information.

Research Students

Home Office policy guidance issued on the 28th November 2014 states that students are expected to complete their studies within the period of their current visa irrespective of any authorised leave of absence periods granted by the University. Therefore the University is now unable to issue a CAS to students seeking an extension to their Tier 4 visa due to an authorised leave of absence taken after the 28th November 2014. If your visa expires before you are due to submit your thesis you will be required to complete your studies from overseas. The Immigration Manager can provide visa advice should you need to return to the UK for meetings with your Supervisor or for your viva. In the meantime, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at tier4visastudents@stir.ac.uk.

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