Return to study at university

This information applies to England and Wales.

If you have taken some time out of college or university and you would like to return to the same course, start by contacting your tutor. Taking a break from university is sometimes called:

  • interruption of studies
  • leave of absence
  • suspension of studies

If you feel that you can continue your studies, the university should make reasonable adjustments to help you.

Reasonable adjustments in college and university education

When you decide that you're able to return to your studies, you may have to complete:

  • a Return to Study form a few months before your planned start date so that the university can arrange any support that you may need
  • a medical declaration or health check

These may be on the same form or they could be on separate forms. Your university should give you plenty of time to get any medical evidence if you need to provide it.

Financing your studies after a break

If you had DSA before you took time off

You may need to reapply for Disabled Students' Allowance before you restart your course. DSA can help pay for specialist equipment and support as well as travel costs.

If you had student finance before you took time off

If you are returning in the same academic year, you can restart payments when you return.

Ask your university admissions service to tell Student Finance when you will start your course. Ask your university to confirm in writing that your break from studies has been recorded and sent to Student Finance.

If you are returning in a new academic year, you will need to apply for finance again. Find out more at Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales.

Warning If your university asks about your health

You might choose to tell your university about your health. You may want to talk to them about reasonable adjustments that will help you to return to your studies.

You only need to tell the university about your health if you are studying for certain professional qualifications. For example, courses such as medicine or social work. For courses like this, your university may ask you to do a Fitness to Practise assessment.

Help with returning to your studies

Your university Student Welfare Officer should be able to give you support for your health and wellbeing. Their contact details should be on your university's website. They can also give you information about:

  • finance
  • accommodation
  • start of term or induction events

Your university disability service should be able to give you advice on:

If you were studying before the pandemic, it's likely that your university or college is operating a little differently.

For example, some classes may be remote. Speak to your university disability service if you find this difficult to access.

Talk to your tutor

Arrange a meeting with your tutor to talk about the best options for restarting your studies. You may talk about:

  • what support you need to take part in the academic and social activities of your course, such as tutorials at a time of day that suits you or a separate exam room
  • what you need to get back on track with your course, such as a reading list or home study materials
  • if there are any assessments due soon after you return
  • an agreed start date
  • what happens if you need to take further breaks in your studies

Fitness to Study

Sometimes, a university may ask a student to attend a Fitness to Study assessment. This is rare. It happens when the university has serious concerns about the student's health. It should only happen when the university has made reasonable adjustments to help you return to your studies.

Fitness to Study assessments

Warning Your university must consider reasonable adjustments

All universities have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled students are not disadvantaged. These adjustments will be different for each student. They could include:

  • changes to your environment, such using accessible classrooms or private study areas
  • personal support, such as notetakers or interpreters
  • assistive technology, such as communication aids or digital recorders
  • changes to your timetable, to give you enough time to rest or extra time to complete exams
  • access to information in different formats
  • lecture capture, including recordings you can review later
  • speech to text for video conferencing

Adjustments for disabled students (Disability Rights UK)

You should discuss your needs with your university’s disability service. Do not assume that they will know what they need to do to help you. The university should talk with you about what is possible and what will benefit you. Make your requests in writing and keep a copy of any emails or letters.

If your university refuses to make reasonable adjustments, this could be discrimination.

Disability discrimination in college and university

Last reviewed by Scope on: 10/07/2024

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