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To ask Her Majesty's Government what provision universities are required to make for students who need to repeat a year or pause their studies due to (1) ill health, (2) having caring responsibilities, and (3) a pregnancy; and to what extent the Department for Education expects universities to make equal provision for such students in cases where the university concerned decided to close down a department part of the way through the degree course for any student concerned.
The Office for Students (OfS) is responsible for safeguarding standards within the sector. It ensures that the Department for Education works collaboratively with the sector to make sure that it acts in the best interests of students. The regulatory framework is designed to ensure that higher education providers are: providing value for money for students; are taking action to improve access and participation; and they have student protection plans in place in case of any market failure.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education’s guidance to the OfS sets out that student interests should be central to the mission of the OfS and that the OfS should promote a positive higher education experience.
In relation to the student experience, the government has asked the OfS to promote providers’ active engagement with the welfare and wellbeing of students and in particular encourages measures to support student mental health.
Undergraduate students who are required to repeat a year of study on their course due to compelling personal reasons (e.g. illness, ill health or pregnancy) can apply for an additional year of tuition fee loan and living costs support from Student Finance England for their repeat year of study.
Undergraduate students who suspend their studies due to illness, caring responsibilities or pregnancy can apply to Student Finance England to continue paying their living costs support during their period of absence.