Changes to your studies

Certain changes to your studies, such as changes to the length or level of your programme, resits and repeats, and breaks from study can affect your Tier 4 visa. 

It is important that you seek full advice and guidance from the International Student Advisory Service if any changes happen. 

You can find full information about your rights, restrictions and responsibilities here:

Rights, restrictions and responsibilities

Changes to your programme

If you wish to make changes to your programme of study, you may need to go home and apply for a new Tier 4 visa before you can make the change.

You can change your programme in the UK without needing to apply for a new visa if:

  • You are changing to the same level, or a higher level of study at the same institution; AND
  • You can complete your new programme within the validity of your current visa; AND
  • Your new programme represents academic progression from your previous programme.

You must return to your home country and make a new Tier 4 application if:

  • You have not completed your most recent programme of studies and you wish to move to a new institution
  • You need extra time to complete your current programme of studies, UNLESS:
    • You are applying to resit a course or exam, or you have previously repeated a course or exam in relation to your current programme
    • You wish to undergo a work placement or period of study abroad, or you have already done so, and you need extra time to complete your studies
    • You need extra time to complete your current PhD studies
    • You are applying for more time to move to the higher level of an integrated programme (for example, BEng Chemistry to MChem)
  • You wish to study at a lower level than your most recent programme, for example:
    • You have been studying a PhD and change to an MPhil 
    • You have been studying an Honours degree and change to an Ordinary degree
  • You wish to make changes to your programme which will require more time to study BUT you have not successfully completed your most recent programme, for example:
    • You are studying an MPhil and you progress to a PhD without receiving the MPhil qualification

You can find further information about academic progression and changes to study at the links below.

Tier 4 visa requirements

UKCISA - Protecting your Tier 4 status

Breaks from study

If you need to take an interruption of studies, the University can continue to sponsor your visa if:

  • The interruption is no more than 60 days
  • You can resume studies immediately
  • You can complete your programme within the original timeframe

Your Tier 4 visa will remain valid. 

You must not work in the UK using your Tier 4 visa during an interruption of studies.

If you need to interrupt your studies for more than 60 days the University is normally required to withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa, even if you are ill or pregnant. You will be given 60 days to leave the UK or apply to remain in another visa category. In some circumstances, such as serious illness or injury, the University may be able to continue sponsorship of your visa if you will still be able to complete your programme within the original timeframe. Please make an appointment to speak to an adviser if you would like to discuss this.

You will normally need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa to return to studies.

You are strongly advised to speak to an International Student Adviser to understand all of your options before you take an interruption from your studies.

Resits and Repeats

You are allowed to take any course or exam a maximum of three times (the original course/exam plus two resits). 

In exceptional circumstances, you may be permitted to take a fourth attempt.

Repeat with attendance

If you are required to attend classes/lectures/etc. during the semester, then your Tier 4 visa will remain valid.

You may be enrolled on a part time basis only if:

  • You are repeating a course or courses which you have already undergone
  • You are fully engaging in studies
  • Your programme, as a whole, remains full time

Exam only

If you repeat on an exam only basis – i.e. you are not required to attend classes/lectures/etc. during the semester – the University must withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa and you must return home. 

You will need to apply for a short term student visa or a new Tier 4 visa to return to studies.

You should seek full advice from an International Student Adviser.

Read about the time limits on Tier 4 study

Change of location

Normally Tier 4 students are required to carry out their studies on-campus in Edinburgh. However, sometimes students will need to study away from the University: for example, if you need to carry out research at another facility, or if you want to do a work placement.

If you remain a fully enrolled student, and the University is able to continue its sponsorship duties, the change of location will not affect your Tier 4 visa.

The University will inform the Home Office of the change to your location of studies.

Find out more about the University’s sponsorship duties

Withdrawal or exclusion

If you withdraw or are excluded from your studies the University will be required to inform the Home Office within 10 days.  

Your Tier 4 visa will be curtailed (cancelled). The Home Office will write to you, normally by email, and tell you the new expiry date of your visa. This will normally be 60 days from the date of the email.

We cannot tell you exactly when the Home Office will write to you, but we advise you to make plans to leave the UK, or apply for alternative immigration permission, within 60 days of withdrawing or being excluded from your studies.

Your Tier 4 work permission is cancelled from the date you withdraw or are excluded from studies. You must not work once you have withdrawn or been excluded. Doing so would be a serious breach of UK immigration law.