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. Leave of absence means that you are not in attendance at the university for the semester in question.

How do I request a leave of absence?

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, and the last date to apply is the end of teaching.

You may also find it helpful to contact the Student Support Service which 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 the Student Hub, 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 either email it to Student Programmes or upload it via the portal using the link: I want to -> Upload a Student Services Document.

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.

f 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. The deadline for submitting requests is the end of teaching for the semester in question as defined here.

What information do I need to provide, and when?

Before Enrolment

You can request leave for the next academic year or calendar year, and 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).

After enrolment and up to the end of reading week/middle of semester

Once your course has started, requesting a leave of absence will have financial implications. The Leave of Absence form ARO 033 should be completed and submitted via email to Student Programmes (studentprogrammes@stir.ac.uk)

Applying after reading week/middle of semester

Leave of absence is only granted in exceptional circumstances after reading week/middle of semester. 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 or have prevented you from studying. The supporting documentation must be independent i.e. it cannot come from a member of university staff, your family nor friends and it must cover the period in question. As a result of COVID-19 illness, or other medical grounds for which you are unable to obtain supporting medical documentation from the NHS, due to the unprecedented demand on the service we will, for this period only, accept requests prior to the leave of absence request deadline without supporting documentation. If you are unable to provide any independent supporting evidence then you must explain why this is the case in your Leave of Absence Request Form.

Applying after the end of teaching

It is not possible to request leave of absence retrospectively. Applications received after the end of teaching will not be considered. In this situation it may be possible to request leave of absence for the coming semester and to repeat the semester which has finished, next year.

I’ve started my dissertation – does this matter?

If you require additional time to complete your dissertation you must discuss your circumstances with your dissertation supervisor before submitting a Leave of Absence Request Form.  There are several options open to you in this situation, some of which may have financial implications. 

If your Leave of Absence is approved you must not undertake any work on your dissertation whilst on leave of absence. Further information can also be found on our Assessment Policy and Procedure page, under Paragraph 95.

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 taking a leave of absence can have an impact on your fees and funding. Details of the university's tuition fee policy can be found here. If you are requesting a leave of absence before you have completed enrolment you will not be liable for fees for that enrolment period. If you are requesting a leave of absence after you have enrolled for the academic year you will be liable for tuition fees. The liability is linked to when in the academic year you request a leave of absence and not related to which modules or semesters you have completed. It is likely that if you request a leave of absence part way through an academic year you will pay more for your course overall. 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 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.

Before deciding whether to take any reassessment offered, you should be aware that university regulations permit a maximum of 2 registrations for a module.  If you have previously failed the module(s) in question and it is a compulsory module in your degree programme you will not be able to continue on your current programme.

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 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.

Can I request Leave of Absence from one module and continue with others?

No, leave of absence means that the student is not studying in the semester in question.  If you are struggling with your workload please discuss your situation with your Adviser of Studies/Programme Director.  If you do not complete a module this year repeat study is likely to be required and this may have financial implications.

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 we endeavour to inform you of the decision as quickly as possible. During busy periods, there may be a delay in responding to your request, but we appreciate your patience. 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.

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. See more information about the library.

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 want 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 Support Team by emailing ask@stir.ac.uk.

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.
  • You completed the semester, and final marks were confirmed by the exam board

How will Leave of Absence affect my Academic History?

If you request leave of absence in advance or within the first 2 weeks of teaching, any modules you had selected earlier will be removed from your Academic History for the semester(s) in question.  All that will display is “Approved Leave of Absence” against each semester.

If you request leave of absence after the first 2 weeks of teaching, the modules you had started will show a final grade of NC (not completed), and “Approved Leave of Absence” will appear against each semester.

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 visas

The University of Stirling is required to notify Home Office (UK Visas and Immigration) of those students in receipt of a Student visa who take a leave of absence. See Student Administration’s 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 Student 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 internationaladvisor@stir.ac.uk.