Tania Hardisty, from our Advice and Money Team, helps to explain what you need to consider if you are thinking of taking time out of your course…
Do you feel you are struggling to cope at the moment? Perhaps you are thinking of taking time out of University, or even considering leaving? Perhaps you have been unwell, or something unexpected has happened? Taking an Interruption of Studies (IOS) may be just what you need…
Here at the Advice and Money team, we see a lot of students who are struggling to cope with their studies, or general life at University. They may have physical or mental health difficulties, family issues, a financial crisis, pregnancy or a caring responsibility. Sometimes they get to this time of the year, and realise that this course is just not right for them. If this is you, you are not alone.
Whatever the reason, if you are thinking about time away from your studies, then you will need to apply to the University for an Interruption of Studies, or IOS.
Can I take an Interruption of Studies?
Officially, the University Academic Regulations state that you can take an IOS for one of the following reasons:
- Ill health
- Sabbatical office (if you are elected for a post in the Students’ Union)
- Work experience
- Maternity or parental leave
- Exceptional professional commitments
- Study abroad
- Compassionate grounds eg bereavement
- Financial hardship
- Academic grounds
An IOS is usually taken when you need to be absent from your course for one of these reasons, for more than two weeks. It is not normally for more than 12 months, but there are exceptions, and these would need to be agreed with your Academic School.
Questions students commonly ask about taking an Interruption of Studies
You will probably have a lot of questions and here are those commonly asked by our students. For any other questions please do not hesitate to contact us in the Advice and Money team.
- Where do I go for advice?
We would recommend that you come in and see an adviser from the Advice and Money team to discuss your situation personally. If, for example, you are considering interrupting for financial reasons, we can advise you on maximising your income, and applying for emergency funds or trust funds that you may not know about.
All contacts with us are completely confidential, and we will not disclose details of your visit to your tutors, parents, or any other enquirer from outside the Student Support Centre, without your permission*.
- Who should I tell in my Academic School?
We would advise that you do speak to your academic School about your IOS. They will need to approve it when you apply for it, and it will help them if they know you are considering this as an option. You will also need to discuss the course structure with them, and ask how this will work when you come back.
- If I take time out, when will I come back?
This varies from student to student. You might find you want to take a whole year out and pick up where you left off, if the course allows. Or you might want to take a few weeks or months out, for example, if you are recovering from being ill or are bereaved. This is best discussed with your academic School.
- What are the funding implications?
As a rule, your student funding (Loans, Grants, Disabled Student Allowance etc) stop from the date you interrupt, until you return. When you apply for the IOS, and your academic School approve it, it gets sent to the Registry department at the University and they will automatically contact your funding body (Student Finance England/Wales/Northern Ireland/SAAS) to tell them you have interrupted. You are also welcome to do this yourself directly.
Your funding body then re-calculate your funding entitlement for the year, and write to you about any overpayment – this is money already paid to you at the beginning of that term, but which was allocated to the weeks after you interrupted. You will usually be asked to repay this, but you can negotiate with your funding body if you are not in a position to do so.
If you are interrupting for reasons of ill health (physical or mental) and the University has confirmed this, your funding body will allow you to keep 60 day’s worth of your Maintenance Loan and Grant (if applicable) to help cover this initial period when you interrupt, but may not be well enough to support yourself (this does not apply to the NHS Bursary). After this, it is not usual to receive student funding while you are off, but there are rare circumstances where funding bodies can use their discretion to allow a student to be funded for a time. The advisers at Advice and Money can help you with this.
- How will this affect my tuition fees?
The amount the University charges for your tuition fee at the time you interrupt depends on the date on which you do so. You will either be charged 25%, 50%, or 100% of the fee. For details of the cut off dates for fees, see Tuition Fees If you normally get a Tuition Fee Loan and/or Grant, then you will be allowed to keep this, to the value of the fee you are charged.
- What do I do about my halls of residence?
If you are in University halls, you will need to speak to your Residences Manager. You cannot stay in halls of residence during your Interruption of Studies. However, you will only pay rent until the day you return your keys, or when the Interruption appears on SIMS – whichever is later. You can ask for any overpayment to be repaid to you.
- What if i’m in privately rented accommodation?
If you are living in privately rented accommodation, you are free to stay on. However, without your student funding in place, this could be financially tight. You will need to plan ahead, either with a means to support yourself, or by finding a replacement tenant, and moving out.
- Will it affect my Council Tax status?
You do remain exempt from Council Tax whilst on an Interruption of Studies.
- Can I apply for benefits whilst on an Interruption of Studies?
Students on an IOS cannot usually receive State Benefits, although there are cases where they can. For example, if you interrupt for reasons of ill health or caring responsibilities, you may be able to apply for Employment Support Allowance/Disability Living Allowance/Housing Benefit between the time you recover and when you return to your studies. We would advise that you seek specialist advice in this situation.
- What if I am an NHS student?
Normally your NHS Bursary will stop from the first day of your absence. You would not usually continue to receive your Student Loan during your IOS.
If you are taking the interruption to have a baby, then the NHS Bursary funding can be continued for up to 52 weeks.
The NHS takes care of the tuition fees for you.
Applying for an Interruption of Studies
We hope that you speak to your academic School and/or to the Advice and Money team before applying. You can then apply for an Interruption of Studies through SIMS online. The date you apply will be used by your funding body to determine the date on which your funding is stopped. It is also the date used by the University to work out how much your tuition fees are. If you apply for an interruption during a formal assessment period, your academic School will not process it until after this period is over.
Withdrawal from University
Maybe you have decided that you want to leave the University altogether. Many of the issues for this are the same as for taking an Interruption of Studies. The main differences are that you can apply for State Benefits, you lose your exemption from Council Tax, and you will carry with you a year (or more) of what is called ‘previous study’. Your funding body may also get in touch with you about starting to repay your student loans (subject to your income being high enough), if you withdraw from your course.
This issue of previous study will only affect you if you decide to take up Higher Education at a later stage. As current regulations stand, each year that you have been in Higher Education, whether or not you completed the year, is subtracted from your future funding entitlement. If you have left your course for reasons of ill health, or other personal reasons, you can have this year of study ‘cancelled out’ when working out your future entitlement, but you do need medical or other evidence. For more detailed information on the future implications of withdrawing from your course, see an adviser at Advice and Money
*We are bound by our confidentiality policy, and this means that if we feel that you, or anyone else is at risk of harm, there are rare occasions where we would have to share you details outside of the Student Support Centre.
For more detailed information about either interrupting your studies, or withdrawing, see Changes to your Studies.
We realise that making a big change to your course, and your life, can be frightening and bewildering. Remember that the Student Support Services at Cardiff University are here to help. You do not have to make this decision on your own.
Our Team are available to talk through any questions you may have. Please drop in at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus or Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus or contact us: Telephone: 02920 874528 Email: email@example.com
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Tania, Advice & Money Team
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