UCL News


Degree problems: what to do if you don't progress to your next year

14 August 2017

Sometimes the most important things are the most difficult to read, and so it is with this article.

Degree problems: what to do if you don’t progress to your next year

The period after you discover you haven't progressed to your next year in your course is understandably a really difficult one, and takes time to adjust to, not least if you don't know what steps to take next.


In this article, UCL experts and students answer some of the most crucial questions regarding not progressing, and offer some really useful advice for students wondering what short term and long term steps they need to take to get back on track.

What should I do as soon if I discover that I've failed?

Dr Julie Evans, UCL Brain Sciences Faculty Tutor recommends going to see your Programme Director/Course Tutor as soon as possible.

It's a course of action that Sinéad Dennehy, the Student Support and Wellbeing Coordinator, describes as being vital as course tutors will be able to tell you when you can re-sit your failed examinations, and can make sure you're provided with responses on your exam performance, and even annotated exam papers. A lot of students don't ask for this really important information and miss out on valuable feedback.

Dr Evans makes a really important point that students fail for a reaso. She explains, "Every UCL student has the potential to succeed, it's important to find out why they haven't succeeded in this case, in order for any 'going forward' plan to be formulated. Students need to consider whether they are on the right course, and seek advice about possible reconsiderations"

She also think it's vital that you ensure you have the motivation to come back and graduate. The earlier you can contact academic staff regarding further action the better and make sure you are in constant contact and ask a lot of questions.

What should I do in the meantime?

Building up your resume through work experience and courses, and doing charity work are only some of the many ways you can make the most of having to take an extra year to complete your studies.

Not progressing on your course does not mean that your whole life has to come to a standstill, and it's a good idea to fill your time with productive activities that will enrich your learning.

What is a learning agreement?

This is a contract you draw up which allows you to continue on in your studies and sets criteria to enable you to achieve and get back onto track. While not complying to the contract potentially lead to you being barred from assessment, the contract is really there to support you and help shape your behaviour in a positive way, so it's a good idea to make the most of it.

How can I reduce my stress?

A really important point of contact is the Student Support and Wellbeing team, who will support you both practically and psychologically. You can find full details on the support they offer on their new website.

Dr Evans advises that, in addition to sourcing support, producing a plan of action is very useful - just make sure you stick to it. Plan your time wisely and speak to your course tutor about different options and advice.

How do I tell my parents/carer/family/friends I've failed?

This is a difficult question to answer, especially as each individual case is different, but your best points of contact are your course tutor and UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team. They will best be able to advise you on your own specific case, in addition to supporting your welfare. They have helped countless students before, and will have both the experience and knowledge to support and advise you.

What happens if I'm a UK/EU student receiving student finance funding?

Katy Foster, UCL Student Funding Welfare Officer, has some really useful points to make about this issue.

If you are coming back just to re-sit exams, you will not be eligible for any student finance funding throughout the year.

However, if you are required to come back and repeat some study and will be charged fees, you can receive student finance support in the form of a tuition fee and maintenance loan, plus any supplementary grants.

Katy explains, "Students who are eligible for student finance funding are entitled to funding for the duration of their course plus one 'gift year'- if a student has to repeat a year for academic reasons then their repeat year will use up their gift year funding."

During the gift year, you receive full student finance support, but when the 'gift year' is done, it cannot be used again. If you need to repeat again in future you will only be able to receive maintenance loans and supplementary grants (students who started their course before 2016 will only be able to get a supplementary grant however- no tuition fee loan or maintenance loan).

On the other hand, if you have 'compelling personal reasons' for having to repeat a year, such as a physical or mental illness, ensure you provide evidence to Student Finance. Evidence could include a letter from your doctor or other professional examining how this affected your study. Student Finance may then decide to award you an extra year of funding for your repeat year and this would mean your 'gift year' is left intact.

Masters students with a Postgraduate Loan from Student Finance will not however receive any repeat funding, or have the option of a 'gift year' even for compelling personal reasons.

What one message should I take away from this article?

Dr Evans outlines the most important takeaway point: speak to academic staff and follow their advice. This is the first and most vital course of action.

With special thanks to: Dr Julie Evans, Katy Foster, Sinéad Dennehy, Elizabeth Petrova, Nafisa Wagley, Fiona Spencer, Helen Marsh, and Ash Talwar.