Student Advice

Dropping out or transferring universities

Ben Maples  · Jun 20th 2024  · 6 min

It’s a frustrating experience when university doesn’t live up to your expectations. Here’s all you need to know about transferring or dropping out of university and what you should consider.


If you get to university and find it's just not right for you, know you're not alone! When last reported, 5 in 100 students drop out in the first year of university, and 2 in 100 transfer universities. University is challenging and you might feel the course or uni isn't the right fit for you. If this happens, you have a couple of options - let's walk you through them.

Why you might transfer or drop out of university

Everyone's situation is unique, though you'll find that there have been many students in a similar situation to you. It may be that you feel overwhelmed or you've changed your mind about the course, your circumstances have changed or the uni just doesn't feel right. These are all valid reasons for why you may consider leaving university.

If you're thinking of transferring or dropping out

There are no right or wrong answers for leaving your university but take your time to understand how you're feeling and the options available to you.

Talk to someone

If you're struggling to adjust to life at university, there is always student support available who you can talk to about how you're feeling. If you've made friends on your course or in student halls, reach out to them - maybe they're struggling to adjust too and you can support each other. It's good to talk to someone else about how you're feeling to offer a new perspective and help weigh up your options.

Take some time to think

Don't do anything too quickly! If you've had a bad day and are thinking of giving up, don't act just yet. Take some time to breathe, think about your options and revisit when you're in a calmer headspace.

Understand the effects on your uni transcript

If you're thinking of changing in the middle of the university year, you won't receive a grade or qualification for completing the year. Is it possible you could stick it out for the year? Are you bothered about receiving a qualification or is the issue too big to continue? Think about what's best for you.

Do your research

If you're considering transferring universities, understand the transfer policy at your current university and the one you want to attend. Whether transferring or dropping out, you'll want to consider the following:

  • Finding new student accommodation at your new university may be challenging
  • It may be tough to re-apply through UCAS, especially if you have yet to pass the current academic year
  • Transferring may not be an option. You may need to re-apply all over again in the next application cycle
  • You may be required to repeat your new university's first year
  • You may need to cover your accommodation costs unless someone can take your place

Transferring universities

How to drop out of university

Every university will have a process for this. You will likely need to speak to your student advisor and they will guide you through the steps. This will normally involve meeting with a member of the university to sign off your declaration of withdrawal and arranging the payments of any outstanding fees - your tuition fees and accommodation.

Student finance when you're dropping out

You'll also need to stop your student finance including maintenance loan and tuition fee loan payments, as well as any grants and bursaries you receive. To do this, contact Student Finance in your country to cancel. The Students Loan Company will tell you how much to repay.

Maintenance loan

You may need to repay some straightaway if it covers time after you left the course. Anything else you'll have the usual payment plan which will see you paying back your loan once you start work and earn over a certain amount.

Tuition fee loans

You'll need to repay at least some of your tuition fee loan for the year you started.

You'll need to pay back:

  • 25% of the loan for the year if you suspend or leave in term 1
  • 50% of the loan for the year if you suspend or leave in term 2
  • All the loan for the year if you suspend or leave in term 3

As with the maintenance loan, you'll only start repaying this once you earn over the threshold amount.

How to transfer universities

Transferring universities may answer some of the challenges you're having at your university. You'll want to identify a course you want to study and contact the university admissions team to understand how you apply.

The admissions team will ask for your "transcript" of credits you've received at the university as well as information about the subject you're studying. From here, the university will be in touch with more details.

Transferring in your first year

Students who are moving in their first year are considered to be a "false start" and this is the most common time to change universities. If you are transferring in your first year, you must be aware that you may need to re-apply altogether and restart university at the start of the next academic year. This will also mean, if you don't complete your first year, your credits won't be transferred over.

Some universities do take students in January, so if you are unsure that your uni or course is right for you, think about whether you're likely to secure another place this year.

Transferring in your second year

If you've managed to stick it out for your first year, you'll receive a grade for your first year and be able to transfer your credits over. This will mean you'll more likely be able to start your course in the second year. Of course, if the course is completely different, the university may not consider your course credits as relevant to the new course, so be sure to consider this.

Transferring courses

It might be that you absolutely love your university but the course just isn't right. In this situation, you can speak to your student advisors as they can see if there are other course options available at the university. However, it's unlikely that your course credits will transfer if the course is completely different to the one you're studying. You may have to re-apply at the start of the next academic year.

Student finance when you're transferring universities

If you have decided to transfer and have a university locked in, speak to Student Finance, explain your situation and ask them to adjust your tuition fee loan payments. If you're transferring to university but leaving your current course mid-term, you will still need to pay the full-term tuition fees.

It's good to be aware of the "Plus One" rule. This refers to Student finance covering three years of tuition fees "plus one year". So, if you move universities and have to start your first year again, this will be your second year of student finance. Therefore, if your course is longer than three years or you decide to extend your course to four years, that final year will no longer be covered by student finance.

There is some flexibility to this if you have to transfer universities due to personal circumstances. This would fall under mitigating circumstances and Student Finance may support you further.

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