Guidance for staff if a student considers suspending their studies
Advice for academic staff for when a student is considering or needs to suspend their studies, and how to get support from other teams within the University.
Reasons students suspend their studies
Students may need to suspend their studies for several reasons:
- academic (related to undertaking further assessment)
- physical or mental health
- personal or family issues
- sports opportunity
- maternity/paternity/adoption leave
Going into suspension can have a significant impact on many aspects of a student’s life. Students should be encouraged to seek the appropriate advice from the relevant services before making a final decision about whether or not they should suspend.
Academic staff are not expected to advise a student on all concerns they raise, and should refer the student to the appropriate services. Students will often have queries about, or not appreciate, how suspension will affect their situation with respect to their academic progress, funding, housing situation, disability support, or support for physical or mental health issues, and for visa holders, their immigration status.
Please note: this advice is relevant to all academics but PGR Supervisors should follow their normal procedure to get a suspension approved.
Meeting with the student
The Director of Studies (DoS) or Personal Tutor should arrange or invite the student to a meeting as soon as possible. If a meeting is not possible then contact should be made via email or telephone in order to ensure that the correct information is gathered and the student has been provided with the opportunity to get specialist advice.
This meeting will allow you to discuss in confidence with the student, their academic progress and circumstances affecting their studies. Staff should discuss possible options for the student in relation to their studies, which can include alternative options to suspension.
These options could include:
- individual mitigating circumstances (IMCs)
- referral to specialist services, such as Student Services, Academic Skills Centre, Student Accommodation, Careers
- reasonable adjustments
We recommend sending students the Guide to Suspending Studies which provides important information and guidance on key areas at the pre-suspension, during suspense, and return to University stages.
Refer to specialist services for advice
A student may disclose circumstances to an academic member of staff which are affecting their studies, where specialised advice and guidance would be beneficial. The following services are available which students can be referred to:
- Student Services (Counselling & Mental Health, Disability, Wellbeing, Money Advice)
- Student Accommodation
- Careers Service
- Student Immigration Service
- Student Experience Officers (SEOs) within Faculties
- Skills Centre (Academic Skills, MASH)
- Student Finance Office (tuition fees)
Staff should signpost the student or make the appropriate referral themselves with the permission of the student. Staff can do this by providing the student with the contact details of the relevant service, or by calling or emailing the service to initiate contact on behalf of the student.
We strongly recommend all students seek advice from Student Money Advice (Student Services) before suspension to understand the impact on their funding and future studies.
International students will be required to meet with the Student Immigration Service (SIS) for visa advice.
What to do if a student decides to suspend
PGR Supervisors should follow their normal procedure to get suspensions approved.
Students must meet with their Director of Studies (DoS) to request a suspension. The Director of Studies will need to complete a Changes of Circumstances form, which the department/faculty administration is responsible for generating from SAMIS. It is vital staff complete the form accurately and record the correct reason for suspension. Advice is given on the form with respect to the importance of providing accurate dates. Once completed, the department will send the form to the Student Records & Examinations Office (SREO) to update the student’s record and notify UKVI/SLC. Instructions are given on the form.
The student and DoS will then receive an email confirming the suspension. This will also include the date when the student is expected to resume their studies and any conditions for their return.
Returning to study for students in suspense for health reasons
If a student is returning to study following suspension for mental or physical health reasons, there is an additional process and guidance for staff. Students may need to prove that they are fit to study, or meet any other conditions that have been set. Student Services will contact the DoS to agree to start the Return to Study Process and write to the student approximately two months prior to their return date.
Process for returning to study for all students
Even though students are expected to make contact with their DoS to confirm their intention to return, it is recommended that an appropriate member of staff within the student’s department contacts those students who are due to return from suspense to ask them to confirm their intention to return. This gives an opportunity to provide the student with any information and advice relevant to their return in a timely manner.
If students have additional return to study queries, the DoS should refer them to the relevant service for advice and guidance.
Student Services are open all year round if you have any queries regarding students going into suspense and the different support available.