Careers Service

Leaving University early

Sometimes things don’t go to plan and you find yourself thinking of leaving university or the decision has been made for you. Here you'll find advice on things to think about, what to do next and how to get more help if you need it

Although this can be an unsettling time it is important to focus on the positives of your time at Edinburgh and what the future holds. Finishing university early can be positive, especially if you have been struggling with your course or not enjoying the experience.

Practical steps to take  

Check to see if you have gained an award

Even if you have not finished your course you may have obtained a qualification, depending on the credits you obtained, for example:

Undergraduate students

  • Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE)

  • Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)

  • Ordinary Degree

Postgraduate taught students

  • Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert)

  • Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip)

Adding these to your CV will remove the issue of a gap and demonstrate a level of academic success. You can see their equivalences on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) website:

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework

To find out if you have achieved an award either check EUCLID or contact Student Administration:

Student Administration

Reflect on your time at Edinburgh

During your time at the University of Edinburgh you will have had lots of valuable experiences and developed key skills which will help your career. Try to reflect on what has not worked to ensure you are clear on why you are leaving the university. Don’t be tempted to leave your time at Edinburgh off of your CV. You should include it and be prepared to talk to recruiters about why you left early and - crucially - what you have learned from the experience.

International Student?

If you are studying on a Tier 4 visa then it is important that you contact the Student Immigration Service to let them know that you are leaving university.

Student Immigration Service

If you are going to return to another country you may want to look at our information about working outside the UK:

Regional guides


Looking forward, what are your options?

Getting a job

The majority of jobs do not require a degree. However, you may need to look at entry level jobs and aim to work your way up through the organisation. Graduate training schemes are unlikely to be an option for you without an honours level degree. This is usually also the case for postgraduate level study.

Scotgrad advertises 3- to 12-month placements with Scottish organisations, some of which are open to HNC and HND graduates (equivalent to Cert HE/Dip HE).


Jobcentre Plus is the government-funded organisation which aims to help people get jobs or employment-related benefits.

Jobcentre Plus

If you are not sure what sort of job you want to do look at Career Assessments and Career Planner on our Career Planning webpage. MyWorldofWork also has useful tools and information.

Career Planning


Staying in education

If you are considering another university course make sure you research the institution thoroughly. Universities vary greatly in many ways including how they approach teaching and their culture.  Try to speak to current students. Don’t forget the Open University as sometimes it is possible to study part-time and “top up” the qualification you have achieved at Edinburgh.

It is important to check what funding you have remaining as this may have been affected.

Student Awards Agency for Scotland

Student Loans Company

You may have decided that university education is not for you, but still want to get a qualification. You could consider a vocational course. These are often delivered through Further Education colleges or professional bodies. Some vocational courses are offered by providers such as LearnDirect.


Taking time out

You may want to take some time to consider your options after leaving university. This can be a useful thing to do whether you decide to stay at home or take some time to travel. Our resources on taking time out will help you get started:

Taking time out