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Suspending at Oxford

By Annie M

This year I suspended from Oxford University- considering the usual connotations of the word “suspended”, you may expect this to be a bad thing; however, it is actually a good thing if you were in a situation like me.

Suspension at Oxford isn’t a punishment for bad behaviour; instead, it's a chance to prioritise your health. Typically, suspension is done for medical reasons at Oxford and it is a break from your studies that lasts for one year, although this can be extended. If you're facing health issues, this can be a great chance to rest and reset, with the opportunity to return next year.

Coming to Oxford, I had a heart monitor off three days before, surgery scheduled for the end of the month, and my mental health issues were unmediated due to my heart issues. I had spent a year trying to psych myself up to get here – then I just crashed. I was getting flare ups, I couldn’t effectively engage with lessons or those around me, I felt overwhelmed, my mental health plummeted and it was all just wrong.

This just wasn’t the right time for me

I wanted to drop out badly because it felt like my health had gotten the better of me, but who could give up Oxford? I explored other options and learned about suspension, which was the decision I ended up taking. Now I’m back home, I am incredibly grateful that I was able to suspend, and the process was really easy - if you are considering suspension, here are some things to think about.

Why do you want to suspend?

  • If you believe that your issues cannot be helped by the university and require medical attention, then suspension is the right choice. However, getting a student support plan in place is a good idea if you want to “test the waters” before deciding to suspend – plus you will most likely need one coming back anyway!

  • If you email the Disability Advisory Service and inform them of any difficulties, you can have a meeting with an advisor and they can make non-medical adjustments for you in the classroom and in exams. They can also signpost you to others that may help such as the counselling service.

How to suspend?

1. Email the Disability Advisory Service outlining why you believe suspension would be the best option for you and they will signpost you to the right people to contact for your college.

2. Suspension is very quick and you do not have to stay at the university while it is happening, you can be sent home and sort it out online. They will probably do a zoom call and confirm your suspension, and send a letter following shortly. They may ask for medical evidence too.

3. You will have to inform student finance that you are no longer a student and you can either pay back your money, or you can keep it and have reduced payments the following year so it “equals out”.

4. When you want to return, you will need a medical assessment confirming that you are fit enough to come back.

That is it! The university were incredibly kind and understanding to me and they handle most of it themselves. Suspending doesn't signify weakness or inadequacy; it simply means that right now isn't the best time for your journey, and that's okay.


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