Leave of Absence

What is a Leave of Absence?

A ‘Leave of Absence’ is an extended break from studies where a student may be unable to engage with their studies for a prolonged period of time, usually 4 weeks or more (and usually a maximum of one year at a time). This allows them to take time off and return when they are once again able to study. They would usually return at the point where they left off, but in the following academic year. A Leave of Absence may be most applicable where a student is:

  • Unable to engage in teaching and learning in the summer term.
  • Also unlikely to be able to study and undertake assessments in late summer i.e. if their personal circumstances are likely to have a significant and continuing impact on their studies for the foreseeable future.

Where the impact on a student’s ability to study is temporary and short-term, submission of an exceptional circumstances claim may be a more appropriate option, to request an extension (for written coursework) or a deferral of exams or assessments. Information about the University’s Exceptional Circumstances process can be found on their website.

It is advisable to discuss your situation and possible options with your academic supervisor or other member of staff within your department. You can also contact the Student Hub for advice and guidance on taking a leave of absence, and confidential advice and support is also available from the advice services at YUSU and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) – contact details can be found further down.

Reasons for taking a Leave of Absence

There is a broad range of reasons for which a student is eligible to take a Leave of Absence from study. For example:

  • They may have a medical or personal exceptional circumstance that’s making it hard for them to engage with and concentrate on their studies.
  • They’re changing from one course to another and restarting their studies the following academic year.
  • They’re resitting their exams ‘out of residence’ during the forthcoming academic year.
  • They have financial or motivational reasons such as undergoing a period of maternity leave or work experience.

What does the process involve?

Firstly, it is advisable for students to talk to their supervisor – to speak to them about options going forward, and whether a Leave of Absence may be suitable for the student and their individual situation. If it is agreed/decided that a leave of absence may be best, students should then complete Part A on the Leave of Absence Form and email it to their supervisor.

The Leave of Absence form is available on the University’s website, or via e:vision.

A student’s supervisor and department will then complete the remaining sections of the form and forward it on for approval. The form is downloadable as a Word document at the bottom of this webpage. If possible, students should ensure that this is completed before the proposed start date of their leave of absence.

It is important to note that evidence will be required to support a student’s Leave of Absence request. Evidence should be appropriate for the type of leave. For example:

  • For medical leave, students must provide medical certificate or a letter from a doctor or certified / accredited medical professional.
  • For compassionate leave, a death certificate or other dated evidence of bereavement, or a letter from a counsellor or Open Door practitioner, for example.
  • For maternity leave, confirmation of maternity.
  • For leave on personal reasons, suitable evidence to match the personal circumstances – for example, a letter from an employer, solicitor or other appropriate third party.
  • For financial leave, a financial statement.

Leave of Absence requests that also include a request to repeat study from earlier in the academic year (i.e. Autumn and/or Spring terms), will need evidence that demonstrates both the student’s circumstances and the impact on their ability to study during the period that they would like to repeat. For example, independent medical evidence and attendance records from that period. A statement from a student’s supervisor – further validating the impact on their studies during that period – would also be useful.

In brief, in the student’s section of the form should include:

  • A description of individual circumstances.
  • How these circumstances have impacted the student’s ability to study or complete their assessments. Examples might include being physically unable to because of health symptoms or due to having to prioritise family or employment commitments. This might also include whether a student’s focus, concentration, or time management has been affected by these particular circumstances.
  • Supporting evidence.
  • The proposed length and start date of the leave of absence.

Additional Information

As noted above, students are advised to submit a Leave of Absence request prior to the proposed start date and prior to assessments if possible. Retrospective claims for repeat of study of the summer term can be considered, and without supporting evidence, but it would be necessary for the student to provide good reason why they might not have been able to submit an exceptional circumstances claim or Leave of Absence request prior to this point.

Please note too that, as students are not able to receive student finance while on a Leave of Absence, eligibility for student finance will be based on the last date of engagement with studies – this, in turn, may impact on access to and eligibility for further student finance. You can contact the Student Hub for advice and guidance on financial matters.

For students in their final year of study, if requesting a Leave of Absence after the last date of teaching, a programme extension rather than a Leave of Absence may be required. If you’re not sure, it is advisable to speak to your supervisor or department to discuss options.

Postgraduate Researchers

For Postgraduate Researchers, extension and Leave of Absence processes are a little different:

  • PGR students can request an extension to your submission/resubmission deadline if you are within three months of that deadline, by completing the PGR ‘Change of Plan‘ form.
  • As with any extension request, supporting evidence will be required.
  • Extension requests of up to three months can be considered and approved by the Research Student Administration Team without requiring support for the request from a student’s supervisor or department. If approved, they will be notified of the change to deadline/s.
  • Requests for extensions of more than three months would need approval from the University’s Special Cases Committee, whilst also requiring consultation with supervisors/departments before being approved.
  • As noted elsewhere in this document, it is advisable for students to discuss their circumstances and the impact on their studies with their supervisor – to help them inform options that they may consider, and the support that they are able to get from their department.
  • Where the disruption to a student’s studies is likely to be significant and ongoing, and/or where their ability to proceed with their research is restricted, a Leave of Absence is an option that can be considered.

Further information and guidance on extension and Leave of Absence options for PGR students is available on our PGR extensions webpage, our Leave of Absence webpage, and the University website.

Practicalities and Considerations

Students on a Leave of Absence would normally not:

  • Be expected to continue studying while on a break from their programme.
  • Be able to continue living in University accommodation and would need to complete a ‘Request to Vacate form available from Accommodation Services;
  • Be permitted to use University resources (attend lectures, seminars, supervision or thesis advisory panel meetings, or work in a laboratory) for the duration of their absence.
  • Be required to pay tuition fees – though they would also not be able to receive student finance.

Students on a Leave of Absence would normally:

  • Be able to access University IT Support services – including continuing to have access to their UoY email account.
  • Be able to access Library resources, including full borrowing rights.
  • Be able to access advice and support from Careers Services, Student Hub, and the Students’ Unions (and participate in student union societies as an ‘associate’ member).
  • Be able to seek employment and volunteering opportunities.

There are a number of further practical considerations involved in taking a break from studies, and a range of advice and support to help understand and consider options.


The Student Hub has a number of specialist financial advisers who can discuss the financial implications of taking a Leave of Absence. This might include: when a student’s finance ends and eligibility for student finance on a student’s return to study (particularly if repeating study or if a student’s period of absence takes them beyond the usual eligibility threshold); tax (e.g. council tax) and eligibility for benefits/funding. Please also note that if a student receives funding which is not from the Student Loans Company, this may also be affected by a period of Leave of Absence. Student’s are strongly encouraged to discuss this with their funding provider. The Student Hub can be contacted via their self-referral form on the University website.

Visa status

For Student Visa holders, taking a period of Leave of Absence may also affect their Visa status. International students considering a period of Leave of Absence are therefore strongly encouraged to contact the University’s Immigration Advice team at immigration@york.ac.uk in order to discuss this.


If a student is a resident in University accommodation, taking a break from their studies may affect their contract. If they have a tenancy agreement in private accommodation, they may be subject to a notice period to break the contract or may be required to find a replacement tenant.

Return to Study

Sometimes there are requirements to meet to be permitted to return from Leave of Absence. These conditions are usually either:

● Academic – a requirement to undertake and pass outstanding assessments in order to progress to the next stage of a programme of studies OR

● Medical – where an absence has been taken for medical reasons, confirmation, in the form of a supporting letter from a medical practitioner, that the student is now fit to study.

Further information, advice and support

University services for advice and support are still available online, such as the Student Hub and Open Door.

Student Union advice services are able to offer independent advice and guidance to students about the Leave of Absence process, via email, phone or virtual appointments.