Things to consider if you’ve started university in 2020 but feel like you want to drop out

unhappy student sitting outside with her books

Dropping out, moving home, deferring and transferring – these are some of your options if you don’t feel like university has got off to a great start this year

It’s been a strange start to university this year – online classes, cancelled Freshers Week events and coronavirus lockdowns have left lots of TSR members feeling unhappy with their student experience so far and unsure if they want to continue.

Dropping out is a really tough decision to make, especially in a general atmosphere of such uncertainty and ever-changing rules and restrictions.

You’re the only one who can judge what’s going to be best for you, but here are some things to consider when you’re weighing up whether or not to stick with uni this year.

Should you drop out of university completely, or would another option work better for you?

Students drop out of university every year – even when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic – so you’re definitely not alone in having these feelings.

If you’re struggling to decide whether to continue on your course, this article covers some things to consider before dropping out, as well as running through the practical steps you'll need to take to leave university.

It’s a decision you need to think through very carefully, and that you should discuss with your university, family and friends. And don’t forget, you’ve got other options too.

student watching online class at home

Move home and take your course online

If you like your course and it’s definitely something you want to do but you’re not enjoying your living situation because of Covid-19 restrictions, you could consider moving back home and continuing your studies online.

You still won’t be able to meet up in big groups or go clubbing at home, but at least you may have some friends living in the local area and, if you can get out of your housing contract, you might even be able to save a fair chunk of rent money.

You’d have to check if this would be possible with your course first – but with increasing numbers of universities moving all their teaching online, this could well be an option.

Suspend or defer your studies

If online learning isn’t for you, you could try pausing your studies until next year – although bear in mind that there are no guarantees there won’t still be some coronavirus restrictions in place by then.

You’ll need to speak to your university to find out if they’ll let you do this. There’s no guarantee they’ll say yes and, even if they do, you might still have to pay part of your tuition fees for this year.

university students working on tablet together

Switch universities or courses

You might be considering dropping out for reasons completely unrelated to Covid-19 – maybe you’re just not sure that this is the right course or university for you.

You might be able to change your course, or even your university. If you think you might want to transfer, you’ll need to speak to your department officer or course tutor to run through all your options.

The actual process of transferring will vary depending on the university, but you’d probably have to fill out some kind of application and maybe go to an interview.

At some universities, term doesn’t start until mid-October, so if you want to make the switch before then you could look on Ucas for term dates and see if there’s an option for you to apply to a different university through late Clearing.

group of uni students sitting on steps together

Will I get refunded if I drop out or move back home?

If you think you might want to drop out, defer or just move back home, you’re probably wondering how much money you’ll be able to get back from your tuition fees and accommodation costs.

There isn’t a blanket rule for this, so it will depend on the university or landlord, but here are a few things to be aware of.

If you drop out, defer or transfer – how much will you get back in fees?

If you decide to leave or defer university, you might still owe some tuition fees.

How much you owe will vary depending on the university. Some, like the University of Leeds, let students cancel their university contract within 14 days of teaching starting. At others, leaving during the first term may cost you 25% of the year’s fees.

You’ll be able to find out how much it will cost by checking through the contract you signed with the university or getting in touch with your university’s finance team for advice.

The higher education regulator Office for Students also recently said that universities should consider giving students partial refunds if their course is disrupted by Covid-19 and they aren’t happy with the quality of their online learning.

If you feel like this applies to you and that you should be getting a partial refund, you’d need to first speak to your university. 

Then, if you can’t agree on a resolution you’re happy with, you can escalate your complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).

student looking at laptop

If you leave university or move back home, check your student housing contract

First of all, take a look at your housing contract to check what kind of agreement you’ve signed – it will either be on a fixed-term or a periodic one.  

If you’re in halls, you’ll probably have signed a fixed-term agreement. This means that you’ve agreed to stay in your accommodation for a set amount of time, most likely a full academic year.

There’s a chance that you could have a break clause in your contract. A break clause lets you end your contract early, on a certain amount of notice. For example, if you have a month-long break clause you’d be able to leave the contract on a month’s notice.

Another option is to ask the accommodation provider to let you leave your contract early.

A periodic agreement runs from one rent period to the next, and allows you to give notice to quit within that period. 

If you’re confused about your housing contract and what it all means, you could get in touch with your university’s support services.

And if you’re at university in Scotland, new legislation has been passed there to allow students to permanently leave their student halls on 28 days’ notice if it’s for a reason related to Covid-19.

There hasn’t been any similar legislation passed in the rest of the UK, though, where students still need to negotiate with the landlords themselves.

Get in touch with Student Finance England

If you decide to drop out, defer or transfer you’ll need to get in touch with Student Finance England to let them know.

They’ll then figure out how much money you were entitled to based on the number of days you attended your course and send you a letter to let you know the new amount.

Depending on how quickly Student Finance England are informed, you may end up getting overpaid and needing to return some of the money – if this is the case, Student Finance England will get in touch to let you know how to do it.

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