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I have to leave my course before the end – what do I do about my higher education funding?

By David Malcolm

Friday 22 March 2013 Higher education

Not everything goes according to plan. You may need to suspend your higher education studies or end your course completely. If so, here’s what you need to do in relation to the funding you get from the government.

What do I do if I suspend my studies?

If you need to leave your course for personal or family reasons, but intend to return to the same course at a later date, you should notify whoever provides your funding (eg Student Finance England). If possible you should give them an approximate date for when you mean to return to your course. Your funding provider will suspend your financial support until the time you start to attend the course again. However, if you don’t expect to return to your course for a long time (years), they may take it that you’re withdrawing from your course rather than suspending it.

If you have an institutional bursary you should inform your university or college that you’ve suspended your studies. They will advise you about the correct action to take.

If you suspend your studies but return to the course during the same term, you may still be charged for tuition fees for the whole term. Grants for living costs aren’t usually paid to you during your time away from the course. However, your funding provider may take your reasons for suspending your studies into account and continue to pay your loan – but remember, they aren’t obliged to do this.

If you’re funded by the NHS in England or Wales and become pregnant, you can continue to get your bursary payments through a period of maternity leave. Contact the NHS Bursaries office in England or Wales for more information, and see Can I continue to get higher education funding if I need to take time off due to pregnancy or adopting a child?

What if I have to suspend my studies because I’m ill?

If you become so ill that you’re unable to study, the first 60 days of your absence due to illness don’t affect your entitlement to support. If your absence due to illness extends beyond 60 days, your university or college usually notifies your funding provider (eg Student Finance England), and they stop further loan and grant instalments being paid to you.

However, if you don’t want to withdraw from your course and you’re likely to face extreme hardship because your loan and grant instalments aren’t being paid, speak to your university or college, and they may be able to assist you with hardship funding, or by speaking to whoever provides your funding about extended loan instalments.

Your university or college’s policy with regard to bursaries may be different – you should ask them for details.

What if I withdraw from my course altogether?

If you withdraw from your course and don’t intend to return to it, you should notify your funding provider (eg Student Finance England) immediately. You’re only eligible to receive grants and loans while you’re studying for a course, so the funding ceases when you stop.

If you’ve received an institutional bursary, you should inform your university or college that you’ve withdrawn so they can take the appropriate action.

Related topics

Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

I’m changing my course – how does this affect my higher education funding?

I’ve undertaken a higher education course before – can I get funding again?

This information was updated in June 2019. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.