SOAS University of London

Student Advice and Wellbeing

Interrupting/changing or withdrawing from your course

If you are thinking of interrupting, changing or withdrawing from your course, please read this guidance. There may be specific academic, financial or personal circumstances that have prompted your decision.

This information is intended as a map to the process, listing some of the questions it may be useful to ask yourself and others before your final decision. It also helps you to plan for the consequences of that decision.

What do you want from interrupting/changing/withdrawing?

Take time to think positively about what you want to result from the decision. Whatever decision you make, it is important that it is constructive.

It may be tempting to act quickly or find a quick solution, but it will be important to think of all the implications for your decision.

Academic considerations

If you are unhappy with the course itself, take time to consider what has led to your disappointment, for example

  • you may feel you have chosen an unsuitable course
  • you may be disappointed with your relations with other students or 'student life' in general
  • you may be feeling that SOAS, or London, or the UK, is not the place for you to study
  • you may feel you are struggling with the academic demands, perhaps for academic reasons or because personal circumstances are affecting your academic performance

If you are determined to make a change, you need to weigh up all your options:

  • Transfer course
  • Take time out from your course, usually called taking leave of absence or interrupting
  • Continue with the course with increased support (see list of who to talk to)
  • Withdraw from the course

Further considerations may include

  • some courses are taught only in alternate years, and may not be available in the year you come back from your leave of absence. If this is an important consideration, you should consult the Undergraduate Tutor in the Department concerned about the availability of courses.
  • If your leave of absence involves repeating or re-starting a year of study when you come back, you will need to remember that you will be with a largely different group of students on your return. This could be a disadvantage if you find your current classmates a particularly supportive group.

Tuition fees

Students who withdraw may be eligible for a partial refund of fees, depending on when they leave the course. For full details of fee liability and the refund policy, visit the Registry website

If you are an undergraduate whose tuition fees are paid to SOAS through a Tuition Fee Loan from Student Finance England or SAAS, and you withdraw before 1 December, SFE/SAAS will not pay any fees to SOAS, but you will still be liable, as per the refund policy above.  If you withdraw between 2 December and the end of term 3, the SLC will only pay SOAS the relevant amount of fees that you owe for the time you have studied at SOAS.

Students who are sponsored by SOAS for a Tier 4 student visa, who withdraw from the course, can claim a fee refund by showing evidence that either

  1. your Tier 4 visa for study at SOAS has been cancelled by the British Embassy or High Commission in your home country, or
  2. you have switched to a new UK immigration status that does not require SOAS’s sponsorship
Undergraduates: Maintenance loan, maintenance grant, and other grants from Student Finance England/Student Loans Company

If you withdraw from your course, you can keep any Maintenance Loan already paid to you, and it will be added to your Student Loan account. You will not receive any further Maintenance Loan for your current course. If you interrupt, your Maintenance Loan (and any grants you are eligible for) will be suspended until you re-start the course.

If you are receiving the Maintenance Grant or other grants, and you withdraw or interrupt part-way through the term for which the grants were paid, you will have an overpayment. We advise that you contact Student Finance England to arrange to repay the overpayment. If you have interrupted your studies at SOAS rather than withdrawn completely, you may wish to ask for the overpayment to be deducted from your next grant payment when you resume your studies.

We advise that you arrange to speak with our Finance/Immigration advisor to discuss whether and how withdrawing from your course or interrupting your studies will affect your future entitlement for student support.

You are normally allowed one “false start” or repeat year on the same course or a new course, for which you would still get your full entitlement of funding.

More than one repeat year, or more than one year of previous study on a different course, will usually impact on your funding entitlement. There are some exceptions if there are “compelling personal reasons” for needing more than one repeat year, but we advise that you discuss this with the Finance/Immigration advisor before you decide to interrupt or withdraw.

SOAS Bursary

The SOAS bursary is paid at the end of January to all eligible undergraduate students. If you withdraw after you have received the bursary, you are not required to repay it. For more information about the bursary, see Scholarships and choose “Undergraduate SOAS Bursaries”

Access to Learning Fund

Any grant from the Access to Learning Fund is paid in respect of the full academic year, regardless of when in the year you apply. If you withdraw part-way through the year, you would not normally need to repay any grant from the Access to Learning Fund.
You cannot normally apply to the Access to Learning Fund for help with living costs during a period of interruption, unless you have specific study costs, such as travelling to SOAS for re-sit exams.

Other sources of funding (bank loans, scholarships, etc.)

If you withdraw from your course, or interrupt your studies, we advise that you speak directly with your funding provider for advice on how your funding will be affected.

We advise that you also notify your bank that your studies will be ending later than planned, or that you have ended your studies. This is especially important for students who have a Student Bank Account


You cannot normally claim any extra welfare benefits during a period of interruption, unless you are entitled to claim benefits throughout your studies anyway, for example if you are a lone parent or disabled. For students who are eligible to claim, we advise you report your change of circumstances to the Benefit office.

A recent change in the law means that some students who are interrupting their studies due to ill health or a disability can apply for Employment Support Allowance during the period of interruption.

Ask one of the Finance advisors more about claiming benefits during an interruption.


If you are living in SOAS student housing managed by Sanctuary Students, and you withdraw from your course or interrupt your studies, you would also need to move out of your university housing, normally within 28 days. Please see your tenancy agreement for more information or speak to our Housing advisor.


If you have a Tier 4 visa, and you stop or interrupt your studies at SOAS, you and any dependants will normally need to leave the UK, unless you have switched to a different immigration status that allows you to stay in the UK without being a student at SOAS, such as a worker or spouse. If you are transferring to a new Tier 4 sponsor, you wll generally be expected to leave the UK to apply for a new Tier 4 visa from outside the UK.

We advise that any Tier 4 or Short-Term Student Visit visa holder who plans to interrupt their studies or leave their course makes an appointment with an Student Immigration Advisor to discuss any immigration implications of their decision.

SOAS is required to report to UK Visa & Immigration (UKVI) regarding any Tier 4 visa holder who withdraws from their course, or interrupts their studies.

Who to talk to?

Your academic staff: your personal tutor, the undergraduate tutor or one of your lecturers about your concerns. If you wish to interrupt your course you will need the agreement of the department and to discuss whether you may need to repeat part of the course following the interruption, if you have missed or fallen behind with work. If you wish to change course or withdraw they will need to know and may also have a useful perspective to offer

The Registry: for all matters concerning procedures for interrupting, transferring or withdrawing including fees and academic requirements.

Your Department Office: each Department publishes a statement of policy on applications for periods of leave of absence:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Languages and Cultures
  • Law and Social Sciences
Student Services

The Finance and Immigration advisors can advise implications for current and future funding, and immigration issues.

Wellbeing service

if you are unclear or confused about the decision and would like some time to explore your options or doubts confidentially.

Mental Health service

if you are struggling with your wellbeing and you would like to find out about further support available whatever your decision may be.

Disability & SpLD service

if you are a student with a disability and factors associated with your disability or the provision available at SOAS have contributed to your considering interrupting, changing course or withdrawing. It may be that there are more specific arrangements that can be made to make aspects of the course and student life in general more accessible.

Careers service

To talk about about different options, whether work or alternative study options, Careers Service.

The Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT)

if you feel that you need to develop better study strategies, contact the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT).

The Students' Union

for general guidance and clarification; talking to your peers who have similar experiences may assist in your decision Student Union.

What SOAS facilities am I entitled to if I interrupt or leave my course?

  • Library
  • SOAS email accounts remain valid for students who have been granted leave of absence.
  • Student Advice and Wellbeing: some limited services are be available during a period of interruption, particularly in the period before returning. It is not possible to provide regular counselling during an interruption of 6 months or more. All students can be helped to access counselling facilities outside SOAS as required.