Leave of Absence

This article is for leave of absence and is intended as a helpful guide that should be read alongside the leave of absence policy, for related processes see Extensions, Extenuating Circumstances or Leaving Uni 


A Leave of Absence is an agreement between you and the University to suspend your studies for a given period of time and an alternative to withdrawing from the university. You should put in writing your request (and evidence in support) to the Programme Leader/Manager. Before considering taking a Leave of Absence, careful consideration should be given to the consequences and future difficulties that this may cause, such as a lack of continuity, or pressure on time at a later stage or the financial and fees implications.

Unsure if you should request an Extension, a Leave of Absence, Extenuating Circumstance or withdraw?

If you are experiencing challenging circumstances which are having or is likely to have a profound and sustained impact on your studies and wellbeing then it might be worth taking a leave of absence from your course.

If however the circumstance is only for a short or limited period, you should consider extenuating circumstances but bear in mind the university’s fit to sit policy.

Where circumstances have a minor or brief periods of impact an Extension can be used where an additional 72 hours would compensate for any disruption caused by circumstances usually outside of your control that are unforeseeable and unpreventable.

In the most serious of circumstances, if you feel you cannot return to your course, or would be unable to do so within the predefined time limits you have to complete your course, you might consider withdrawal but you should try to talk through this option with friends, family, course staff or with an advisor.

Reasons students might consider a leave of absence
including but not limited to;

  • Medical: serious illness or injury.
  • Bereavement or serious illness of close family relatives
  • Traumatic experience
  • Carer responsibilities
  • Family responsibilities
  • Financial

generally your extension should only last as long as required to offset any impact of a situation but within the following limits;

  • You must be registered with the University and have completed the first semester/term of your first year of study
    • Otherwise you should withdraw from the university and reapply through normal admissions processes except in exceptional circumstances endorsed by the Dean/Deputy Dean/Head of School/Head of the University of Sunderland in London or their nominees and approved by the Deputy Academic Registrar.
  • You must apply for a Leave of Absence before the leave period commences
    • Absences that has occurred prior to a Leave of Absence being approved should be managed through the Absence Management Policy
    • Substantial period of an unauthorised absence may lead to warnings, impact to completing your studies successfully or withdrawal from the university
  • You must demonstrate a firm intention to return with the approved period of leave stating clearly the expected start and return dates
  • You must acknowledge that you are aware of financial consequences, with respect to
    • Student Loans Company
    • University fees
    • accommodation charges
    • University bursaries, and
    • state benefits e.g. Council Tax

A Leave of Absence should be for no more than one year. This will allow you to re-join your course at the same point in the teaching from which you left. For periods less than a year you should speak with your Programme Leader to consider an appropriate timing of return.

Before you submit a request you should check what impact a leave of absence would have.

Speak with your tutors
Your tutors will be able to talk to you about the impact a leave of absence will have academically, and if there are any deadline to when you must complete your course of study. They may also help explore if other options are more appropriate to resolve an issue or the impact of an issue.

Speak with a Student Union Advisor
Sunderland University Students’ Union has an advice service, consider speaking to an Advisor as they may also help explore if other options are more appropriate to resolve an issue or the impact of an issue.

Speak with Student Financial Guidance Team
A Leave of Absence can have an adverse financial effect, the student financial guidance team can provide information regarding Student Loans Company, University fees, accommodation charges, University bursaries, state benefits e.g. Council Tax, and financial support from external agencies.

Speak with University Wellbeing Team
If wellbeing issues forms part of the reason you are withdrawing, consider speaking to the University’s wellbeing team. If needed they can work with you to create an action plan and appropriate referral support, as well as work out how you can be supported when you return.

Speak with International Student Support Team
If you are an overseas students you must meet with the International Student Support Team to ensure that visa regulations are upheld. You must leave the UK within two weeks from the Leave of Absence start date and may not return until two weeks before the end of the Leave of Absence.

Once you have gone through the necessary preparations, you will need to complete a leave of absence form with your Programme Leader and return it to the Student Gateway at either City Campus or St Peter's Campus, or you can email your form digitally to

Accessing services
during your leave, you have the right to hold a campus card and to have access to University’s student support facilities (excluding accommodation). You will not be provided academic support as you should not be undertaking academic work during your absence. 

If you fail to return at the agreed date
or if you require a further leave of absence the combined leave of absence should not exceed 1 year, the University will make attempts to support you in a return to study; If you do not engage or are unable to return, the University may withdraw you from your course.

Wellbeing mid-year contact
if you have taken a yearlong leave of absence due to a wellbeing issue, the University Wellbeing Team will normally contact you midway to see if there is any further support you need to return at the end of your leave of absence.

Nearing the end of your leave
generally about 6 weeks before you are due to return;

  • You will be sent a return to study form which you need to complete
    • Including a declaration that there are no ongoing support needs not already discussed with appropriate University departments
    • and confirmation of your fitness to return if you left due to medical reasons. You can get a fitness certificate from your GP.
  • Your programme leader should talk to you about reintegrating into the course and with your new course mates
    • with an induction and update on any changes to the course
    • If the university has any concerns about health, wellbeing or safety, you may be required to provide additional evidence upon request.
  • If you do not wish to return
    • on the agreed date and you would like to extend your leave, you will need to make a new application for a maximum combined period of leave of one year. Otherwise you may be withdrawn and would need to reapply through normal admissions processes- a place on the course is not guaranteed.
    • or if you do not wish to extend your leave you will need to withdraw promptly, you are responsible for fees incurred until the withdrawal form is submitted

Outstanding financial issues with the university
it is your responsibility to ensure that all outstanding tuition fee debt owed to the University is paid in full before the agreed return date, if you are not up to date with your tuition fee responsibilities. You must contact the University’s Finance Department to arrange payment. If you are having financial difficulties speak to the student financial guidance team for help.

Unhappy with the handling of a request
If you feel that staff have not acted fairly, professionally or correctly with regards to your request then you may wish to submit a complaint. You may wish to speak with an Advisor at the University of Sunderland Students’ Union to explore your options and how best to approach this.

Page last reviewed: 01/03/2019
Next review due: 31/08/2020