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It takes courage for a student to withdraw from a university programme; friends are surprised, Students sitting outside Wantage Hallfamilies do not expect it and the future is uncertain. It is not a step which should be taken lightly and a student who is considering withdrawal requires both practical advice and considerable support from their Tutor and perhaps from the Counselling Service. Withdrawal should not be seen or portrayed as failure in any terms. For some students, withdrawing from university is the right decision for them. When handled sensitively, withdrawing can make it easier for students to return at a time that is right for them.

Students are advised to seek help early, before a problem gets out of hand; a high proportion of those who consider the possibility of withdrawing do not in the event do so but this outcome may require some effort on the part of the Tutor. Referral to the Careers, Placement and Experience Centre can help, as concerns about the relevance of a programme can often be successfully addressed or possible career/alternative study options explored. Students can also talk to their Faculty Director of Administration/Sub-Dean, who can explore with them whether the problem can be resolved in a different way, if this might be helpful after the student has discussed options with their Personal Tutor. Where a student does choose to leave, it is very important for the University that the Tutor makes every effort to check whether anything in the system itself is at fault so that where necessary, lessons can be learned.

Advice for students considering withdrawal can be obtained from the Helpdesk in the Student Services Centre. An appointment can be made for the student to have a one-to-one appointment with a member of the Advisory Team in the Student Services Centre.

Practical considerations

If after discussions with the Tutor and the Faculty Director of Administration/Sub-Dean withdrawal appears to be a realistic option, it is essential that the student talks to a member of the Advisory Team in the Student Services Centre. The timing of withdrawal may be crucial in relation to the student's eligibility for Student Support in the future and also to any possible demands for repayment of grant or loan and liability to pay fees. The student should also be aware that they will not be entitled to receive any loan after the official date of withdrawal. The Advisory Team in the Student Services Centre will conduct any negotiations with the Local Authority (LA): Tutors should not attempt to do this themselves as the negotiations often require a detailed knowledge of the Student Support regulations.

It may be important for future entitlement for a student to maintain satisfactory progress on the present programme right up to the point of withdrawal; poor attendance or just 'drifting away' may lead to the LA asking how serious the student is about completing another programme satisfactorily.

If a student has a loan from the Student Loans Company, they are obliged by the Student Loans Regulations to write and tell them about withdrawal from the programme. A student does not have to start repaying a loan until the April after leaving. If a student leaves in February or March, of course, they may be asked to begin repaying almost immediately. However, the student will be able to defer making repayments if income is below a specified level.

Pastoral care

It is very important that the Tutor takes time to talk to the student about withdrawal. This is not an easy task: the Tutor is faced with a complex 'de-briefing' session at a stage where little relationship may have previously been established, yet some potential material needs to be made explicit for everyone's sake. In addition, the Tutor may well be confronted with: "Subject x is so irrelevant/boring" - when subject x is the love of the Tutor's life - or "everyone is so unfriendly" -when the Tutor has tried to befriend - and so on.

Strategy is important if the Tutor is to succeed in the task in a time efficient manner. There are two useful tips here. The first is never to react personally to such resentful/angry remarks as the above. They are symptoms of the need for the de-briefing.

The second tip concerns the need to create a friendly atmosphere. The student will anticipate negative judgements from everyone but to 'work' in the de-briefing session they need to have the situation reframed by the Tutor's attitude. There are many possible approaches but the classic one is to say something like:

"I really admire your courage in deciding to go. It's a real pity your plans have not worked out but no one can know for sure what an experience will be like until they have it. You've experimented with coming to university here, you've found the experiment result not to your liking and you're taking responsibility for facing up to the fact you now need to design another experiment for your life. Only next time, you've learned so much about yourself from this, you're so much more likely to make it work out. I don't doubt that when your parents know about the uncertainty you've been through they too will be respecting of your maturity in taking control and initiating this change rather than avoiding the responsibility, a much easier course of action."

To reframe 'failure' as successful gaining of self-knowledge and to counter anticipated ridicule with explicit respect, is to give permission to the student to explore further the reasons for the failure, a vital process if the student is to learn from the experience. The student is enabled to begin to draw conclusions for constructing the next life plan and perhaps not less importantly, rehearse a story with the Tutor which can later be put to parents and no doubt elaborated with them when they have recovered from the shock.

The student is thus enabled to leave the University a 'success', has been seen to be a success in the eyes of the institution and so can begin to make constructive steps immediately rather than spending months licking wounds and perhaps years going up blind alleys due to misattributions. Not the least benefit for the University is likely to be gratitude for constructively dealing with a difficult situation and goodwill when much later the former student makes a great success of life elsewhere..

International Students

International Students will face the additional challenge of readjusting to their home country on their return, with little time to prepare. Referral to the International Student Adviser may be appropriate.

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