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Support for pregnant students

UCL is committed to supporting pregnant students throughout the course of their studies.

This guidance includes information about:

UCL's guiding principles

Our approach is informed by the Equality Act (2010) and by the guidelines produced by the Equality Challenge Unit. Information about your pregnancy will be treated sensitively and will be passed on only on a need to know basis and with your consent. UCL members of staff will provide you with relevant information to enable you to make informed decisions and will not attempt to unduly influence your decisions with regard to your pregnancy or studies.

We will work with you to develop and deliver a pregnancy support plan to ensure reasonable adjustments are made and your needs are met during your pregnancy, following the birth and when you return to study.

To identify any relevant risks associated with your study programme and to manage these risks for your protection, UCL will complete a Risk Assessment with you. The main risks are associated with physical activity or exposure to some chemicals, radiation and biological agents.

If you choose not to inform UCL of your pregnancy, where we have genuine concerns about your health and safety, we can approach you to discuss matters related to your pregnancy.


Support from UCL

You are encouraged to inform your Personal Tutor, Departmental Tutor, Programme Tutor, or in case of research degree students, Principal Supervisor of your pregnancy as early as you can in order to allow us to support you in the best way possible. You are under no obligation to do so, but do bear in mind that we cannot assist you with your learning, access and assessment arrangements if we do not know.

Following that initial conversation, further meetings will be arranged at relevant points throughout your pregnancy to ensure that the support in place is sufficient and that any maternity-related illnesses or complications that might develop are taken into account. Support plans will need to be reviewed prior to assessments or examinations, field trips, an industrial placement or study abroad period and prior to your return to study.

You can also arrange a meeting with UCL Student Support and Wellbeing to discuss your pregnancy and receive advice on the support which is available to you. This will be an informal meeting and you may like to include a member of staff from your academic department who can provide information about your studies and the options available to you there. You can arrange a meeting with UCL Student Support and Wellbeing by completing our online appointment request form or by email.


Overseas (non-EU) students

It is unlikely that you will be entitled to maternity benefit and UCL recommends that you return home unless you have sufficient funds to remain in the UK. If you have financial sponsors you need to inform them of your circumstances and agree an appropriate plan of action. You need to be aware that airlines have different policies but may not allow pregnant women to travel beyond 36 weeks (or 32 weeks in the case of a complicated pregnancy).

If you require a visa to study in the UK, you will not be able to extend your visa for reasons relating to pregnancy and maternity. We strongly recommend that you contact UCLU Rights and Advice to discuss your immigration status in more detail.


UCL allocated accommodation

UCL has limited family accommodation which you are eligible to apply for and this will be offered to you subject to availability. If you are staying in UCL allocated accommodation and decide to interrupt your studies for reasons relating to pregnancy or maternity, your accommodation contract will end when you begin your interruption of studies and you will not incur any additional costs for leaving your accommodation early.  You can contact UCL Student Residences for more information.


Maternity-related absence

It is up to you to decide when to start your maternity-related absence. If you wish, you can study up to your due date, where practicable. You should discuss and agree this with your department in advance. You are required to inform your Personal Tutor, Departmental Tutor, Programme Tutor or Principal Supervisor of the date on which you intend to start your maternity-related absence at least 15 weeks before your baby is due.

The period of your maternity-related absence is also up to you to decide. UCL recommends that you take at least 6 months to a year’s interruption in order to allow you to focus on your health and your new baby. At the very least, you will be required to take two weeks’ compulsory maternity-related absence from study, or at least four weeks if you are on a placement away from UCL, to ensure your own health and safety following the birth.

If we are concerned about your proposed return date, we may ask you to provide evidence from your GP or health worker that you are fit to return to study.


Access to UCL systems and facilities 

Your registration status at UCL will remain unchanged during the time of your maternity-related absence. You will have access both to the UCL physical library and to the electronic resources.

Your UCL ID card will remain valid to ensure you have access to your department. You will also be able to continue using your UCL email account and need to remember to update your password when prompted so that it doesn't expire.


Assessments and examinations

If you wish, you can continue working towards your assessment deadlines or sit examinations even if these are near or at the time when you are due to give birth. To ensure UCL puts special examination arrangements in place for you, this may include special examination facilities, rest breaks, a more comfortable and supportive chair, please email your request  at least six weeks before your examinations are due to take place.

If you are concerned about sitting examinations or meeting assessed work deadlines, or if you have a pregnancy-related health condition that is exacerbated by stress, you are required to seek advice from your midwife or doctor. If your midwife or doctor advises against you sitting an examination or trying to meet the assessed work deadline, please discuss this with your Personal Tutor, Departmental Tutor, Programme Tutor or Principal Supervisor as soon as possible. They will be able to discuss if there are any other options for you.

If you happen to be experiencing significant pregnancy-related problems during the examination period or up to a deadline for assessed work, please raise the matter with your department. Staff there will be able to consider the options for you.


Paternity-related or parental absence

If your partner is expecting a child, you are encouraged to notify your Personal Tutor, Departmental Tutor, Programme Tutor or Principal Supervisor as early as you can. Where possible, they will work with you to allow you to attend antenatal appointments with your partner. If your partner develops any complications with her pregnancy, or any maternity-related illness, you should notify UCL so that we can help to support you.

If you wish to take paternity-related or parental absence you need to notify UCL in writing at least 15 weeks prior to your partner’s due date. However, early notification is always preferable particularly if the period of leave coincides with any planned assessment or key stage of your research.

The start date and length of your paternity-related or parental absence will be agreed in discussion with your department. Absences of longer than two weeks will require you to interrupt your studies.


Students on a placement or studying abroad

If you become pregnant while abroad

If you find that you are pregnant while you are on an industrial placement or studying abroad, you should contact your placement tutor or the Study Abroad Team in the first instance. UCL staff will assist you to access advice and support that allows you to make informed choices about your studies in light of your pregnancy, even while you are away from UCL. We will work with you and your host organisation or institution to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made where necessary.

If you are on a student visa, you will need to consider how this could be affected by your pregnancy. You may need to extend your stay abroad or curtail it early and return at a later date.

You will be covered by the UCL Travel Insurance Policy, however, the usual restrictions for travelling against medical advice apply. Please read the Travel Insurance Policy wording carefully.

If you become pregnant before you are due to depart

If you find that you are pregnant in the lead up to departure for your year or semester abroad, you should discuss this with your Study Abroad Tutor or the Study Abroad Team as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made to support you, as outlined earlier in this document.


Adoption

If you or you and your partner are matched for adoption, you are encouraged to notify your Personal Tutor, Departmental Tutor, Programme Tutor or Principal Supervisor as early as possible. If you are the primary adopter, your department will work with you to agree a support plan, including required absences, in line with the advice above for students who are pregnant. If your partner is the primary adopter, support will be provided in line with the advice for partners of pregnant students.