academic advice

Taking a Study Break

You may take a break from your studies for a number of reasons, as we know that unexpected events may take place in your personal lives which will impact on your ability to fully engage with your studies. This may be due to things such as an unexpected severe illness, maternity or a difficult pregnancy, family bereavement or financial hardships which are outside of your control.

This is a decision that each student needs to make for themselves, however you should be aware that there could be academic, professional and financial consequences for taking a break and it is extremely important to know these prior to making this decision. 

I have decided to take a study break. What do I need to do?

The first step when considering a study break is to talk to your course leader to discuss your options and any potential impact this will have on your academic progress in the future.   

We recommend you speak to SMART to understand any impact on financing your learning.

Once you have discussed your study break and have the approval of your course leader to do so, you should contact the Hub to request that you are placed on a study break. You should include written confirmation from your course leader that you have spoken about this matter in this email, and also inform the Hub as to  how long you want your study break to be. 

What impact will this have on my course?

It is important to know that you cannot necessarily take a study break and return to your studies at the exact same place you were when you left. For example, if your break began midway through the academic term or year, you will likely need to return and retake the whole term or year over again. 

If you went on a break just before your assessments were due, you cannot return and simply submit the work. You would need to re-enrol and take the module over again, including attending classes. If you have submitted and passed some (but not all) of the components on a module these completed components will not be ‘carried forward’ for when you return. You will need to retake the whole module.

It is not always possible for a student to be permitted to take a break from their studies. This may be because of external regulatory requirements, time limits on completing the course or because the course is being discontinued at the University. Your course leader will be able to inform you if any of these apply in your case. 

What will happen with my tuition fees?

There are set ‘fee liability points’ in each academic year which, once a student has passed these points, they are liable to pay that percentage of their tuition fees, even if they then go on a break. The ‘fee liability points’ reflect how far you are in your course. For undergraduate students there are 25%, 50% and 100% ‘liability points’ throughout the academic year. For postgraduate students there are 50% and 100% ‘liability points’.

For example, for an undergraduate student:

1.    If you take a break after the first ‘liability point’, but before the second, you will be liable to pay 25% of your total fees for the year.  
2.    If you take a break after the second ‘liability point’, but before the third, youwill need to cover 50% of your fees.
3.    If you take a break after the third ‘liability point’, you will need to pay the full cost of your tuition fees.

You can find the ‘liability points’ for the current academic year here. If you are coming up on a fee liability point it will be important to consider your options as quickly as possible. If you decide you do need to take a study break you should make sure you request it before that date passes.

Once you have passed the 100% fee liability point you will be liable for the full tuition fees for that academic year, even if you go on your study break before the year is officially over. When you return, you will need to pay to retake the modules you still have outstanding.

You may wish to speak to the Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART) for further clarification on the financial implications of taking a break and whether it is likely to impact on things such as your access to Student Finance in the future. SMART can be contacted via the Hub.

What about my outstanding assessments?

Depending on when in the academic year you take your study break, your assessment attempts from that year may be either carried forward for when you return (so are not considered to have been ‘used’ already) or they will be ‘lost’ by you.   

This will mean that when you return and repeat the module, this will be your final chance at trying to pass it.

If you take a study break after your initial assessment deadlines have passed, but before your resit attempts, you will be expected to engage in your resit assessments  even if your break request has already been actioned.

If you are unable to engage on any of your outstanding assessment attempts as outlined above, you will need to submit an extenuating circumstances application for both your initial and resit attempts so that when you return to your studies your repeat modules will not be capped. You can find out more about extenuation, including how to apply for it, here.

How long can my study break be?

You can request a study break of either 6 or 12 months, however your return date must coincide with the beginning of the academic year or semester, depending on your academic situation. In exceptional circumstances the University may grant a study break of 24 months, but you cannot request that initially. You would need to contact the University towards the end of your 12 month break to request an extension to it.

What is the difference between a study break, deferring and withdrawing from my course?

A study break is an approved break from your studies, generally agreed to with your course leader and with an estimated date of return. 

When a student withdraws from their course there is no expectation at the time when, or if, they will return to their studies. A student who has withdrawn can still decide to return and continue their studies at a later date if they decide they want to, provided it is permitted by University regulations and requirements. University of East London’s regulations currently state that a full-time student must complete their degree within four years. Time taken by a student for a study break does not count towards this time. The period that a student was withdrawn does.

A student can generally only defer very early on at the start of the course (before the first fee liability point in their first year, which is generally in the first or second week of the academic year). If a student wishes to defer after this point they will need to withdraw instead.


I am pregnant and want to take a study break

If you want to take a study break due to your pregnancy, you will need to speak to your course leader as soon as possible. Pregnant students have additional support available to them therefore it is important understand this fully in order to make an informed decision about what will be the best for you. For more information, visit:


I am an international student and want to take a study break

Students on a Tier 4/student visa will need to consider the implications on their student visa if they take a study break. Generally, if an international student takes a study break (regardless of the reason for it) their student visa will be cancelled, and they will be required to return to their home country. When an international student then wishes to return to complete their degree, they would need to apply for a new student visa. It is therefore very important that a student in this situation speak to the International Student Advice team at UEL before making any decisions. They can be contacted at




Case examples


Luis is a second-year architecture student whose caring responsibilities change unexpectedly during his studies. In early January he decides he wants to take a study break. After looking into it he realises he was already passed both the fee liability point and the assessment liability point for Semester A. Knowing this, he decides to try and complete his Semester A assessments which are taking place in January and actions his break after they were complete. Luis passes these assessments and takes a 12-month study break. When he returns to his course he only needs to complete Semester B of his second year.


Aysha is in her final year of a psychology degree. In March she experiences a significant decline in her mental health. In mid-April she tells her course leader that she is unable to engage in her studies. She finds out that she is past the fee and assessment liability points for Semester B but realises that she is not able to engage with any of her assessments. She submits an extenuation claim for the initial and resit attempts of all her assessments, so that when she returns to her studies her repeat modules will not be capped.


Natalie begins her first year of a fashion design course. Two months into the semester, Natalie loses a loved one. This has a huge impact on Natalie and she is unable to engage fully in her course. Natalie speaks to her course leader and finds out that she is passed the 25% fee liability point but before the first assessment liability point for that year. Natalie decides to take a study break until the following year, to give herself time to grieve and recover. Natalie only has to pay for 25% of her fees for that academic year and, as she has not yet passed the assessment liability point, does not need to apply for extenuation for any of her assessments. When she returns the following year she will still have all her assessment opportunities available to her.