Compare: Is your uni letting students defer a year to avoid online teaching?

Just really don’t fancy Zoom lectures

By now you’ve probably seen that Cambridge Uni has made the call to cancel all in person lectures for the entire academic year, opting to instead provide online equivalents while carrying on with small-group teaching. Manchester made a similar announcement last week regarding only the first term, and other unis will inevitably follow suit. 

The general consensus is that, although this state of affairs is no one’s fault, online lectures and socially distanced everything else probably aren’t worth the nine grand. The poor year 13s facing the prospect of Freshers’ in 2020 are unsurprisingly considering deferring their offers and you’ve probably asked yourself: If I don’t want to put up with online teaching, can’t I just drop out for a year? While most unis will let you suspend your studies if you have a serious reason to, what if you just really don’t want to put up with more Zoom classes? Will they let you? 

The Tab asked 31 British universities exactly that: What is the plan for when thousands of students inevitably try to sack off a year of online teaching? Some are already preparing to limit deferrals, some are waiting to see what the intake is like, others didn’t tell us anything. We also trawled their websites for the most up-to-date information available. This is how their approaches compare:


Cambridge students are only allowed to defer an offer if there is another start date available within the same academic year. The website acknowledges most courses only start in October, so even this option isn’t available to most Cambridge applicants. If a Cambridge student does wish to defer the year, they have to make a fresh application. The website reads: “It is not possible to resubmit your existing application for a start date in a subsequent academic year.”


Unless an applicant is facing “exceptional and unforeseeable” circumstances, Oxford does not normally allow applicants to defer a year. Oxford students have the option to suspend their studies, and the SU website explains roughly 1,000 do so every year, though it is not clear for how long. Most of the suspensions granted are for short or long term health problems, including mental health difficulties, bereavement, or financial difficulties.


Edinburgh Uni’s website states the number of deferrals allowed by the University will likely be “limited” due to the high number of expected requests. In a comment to The Edinburgh Tab, a spokesperson said although they are normally able to defer “some offers for most degrees” it would be proceeding on a “case-by-case” basis next year. 


Every place at St Andrews receives roughly 12 applicants, a spokesperson told The Tab. As is the case with other Scottish universities, lockdown rules remain much stricter than the ones in England and Wales. The spokesperson told The Tab whether or not the University’s deferral policy will change will depend “entirely on the uptake,” adding it was impossible to say definitively whether deferrals would be limited. A document on the University website tells those wishing to defer they must submit a request, which will be dealt with by an admissions panel.


Aberdeen students are allowed to take a break from their studies at any point, although the University website recommends students talk to the registry officer before asking to do so. Asked by The Tab whether a desire to avoid further online teaching would be enough to request a deferral, a spokesperson reiterated: “We will consider deferral requests on a case-by-case basis.”


Lincoln University has confirmed that it would be impossible to limit deferrals. A spokesperson from the University said: “Should students choose to defer then they can. We hope that students are ready to take the opportunity of joining us here in Lincoln this autumn to embark on the next step in their journey. We will do all that we can to provide an experience which is exciting and rewarding and which prepares them for their future.” There is further information on their website.


Sussex University would encourage all students who are thinking of deferring due to coronavirus to “hold on to your offer for now”. If, by the time term starts then you still couldn’t attend university or were worried about attending, only then would they consider your deferral request. This request is made by contacting the admissions office.


A spokesperson from Newcastle University told The Tab: “We appreciate that students may wish to change their year of entry for a number of reasons and we aim to be as flexible as possible with such requests. All change of year requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis by our admissions team.” 


Glasgow applicants hoping to study Dentistry, Nursing, and Veterinary Medicine programmes are not able to request deferred entry. Other applicants are allowed to request a deferral, but the website says “it is not granted automatically.”


There is a form on the University of Liverpool’s website which undergrads can fill in if they wish to suspend their studies. Those wishing to defer must give a detailed reason as to why, however. Offer-holders are also “welcome” to defer by emailing University administration.


The University of Manchester website says most courses are “happy” to accept deferrals, provided they have positive plans for a gap year.


York’s web pages have mostly been updated with plenty of COVID-19 updates regarding many aspects of university life. The section regarding deferrals remains unchanged, where it states all departments are willing to consider applications – they just have to contact admissions.


Applicants to King’s College London are able to defer once conditions for their offers have been met (i.e. once they’ve had their A Level results). The website encourages those who wish to defer to have a plan in mind regarding the gap year they want to take.


Warwick’s website says students are allowed to defer “on the basis of your individual case in consultation with your department of study,” adding “most departments” accept them. Students are permitted to withdraw temporarily their studies provided they give a reason. The website says this can include personal, medical, or financial reasons, as well as maternity.


Minimal detail regarding deferral can be found on Exeter Uni’s website. If they wish to interrupt studies, students must consult with their personal tutor, and will only be allowed to defer if they have a “good cause” for doing so.


Bournemouth Uni tells offer-holders on its website they “may consider” applications for deferred entry, however the information on the page is out of date at the time of writing. The Bournemouth SU website tells students it’s possible to take a year out “if they are having personal or health issues”, or if they wish to travel.


Southampton University has confirmed deferrals will be dealt with on a case by case basis. They would encourage students considering a deferral to discuss their plans with the University at the earliest opportunity.  A University spokesperson told The Tab: “A student who wishes to suspend their programme of study temporarily, eg because of personal, medical or financial difficulties, can discuss the matter with their Personal Academic Tutor or other appropriate member of staff in the first instance, and should then apply in writing to the relevant Faculty Office or equivalent.”


Birmingham aren’t considering any deferrals until 1 July 2020. At this point they believe they will have a clearer view on the national and international situation. More information can be found on the University’s website. From this point, students wishing to defer can contact the admissions team


The University of Nottingham accepts applications for deferrals providing they have “good reasons” to do so. For example, “spending time abroad to improve your languages”, which sadly isn’t looking too likely nowadays. Those wishing to defer should contact the University as soon as possible. 


Bristol University are running their deferral policy as usual. For some cases it is possible to defer your place, but it is decided on by the enquires team. Not all courses at Bristol allow for deferral. 


Leeds University allows you to defer at any point during your application process. Providing they approve your request, their deferral policy has not changed due to coronavirus. 


Things are a bit tougher at Durham University. If you want to defer you’ll have to fill in a form and wait for the University to approve your request, even if you’re restricted by coronavirus. 


UCL recommends that students speak to a member of their department before considering a deferral to talk through their options. Once discussed, there is a form you would need to fill out before your deferral is approved. 


Coventry University asks that you send an email to the admissions team stating that you wish to defer your entry. They will pass this on to your relevant tutors for consideration. 


Royal Holloway is facing four more weeks of strikes this term

Although the University does receive occasional applications for deferral, the University’s website reads: “In the current situation we recommend that you delay making your request until plans around the award of qualifications are announced. People choose to take gap years for a wide variety of reasons, and we hope that you will consider all the facts before making this important decision.” Should you still wish to defer, the University would consider your request. 


Current students of Queen’s Belfast can “request a period of temporary withdrawal” from the University due to medical or personal circumstances. This must be approved by your School before beginning this period. There is no mention of deferrals due to coronavirus specifically, on the University’s website


Students wishing to defer at Lancaster University need to contact the admissions office in order for them to process your request. Deferrals will be dealt with on a case to case basis. 


Oxford Brookes have no change to their deferral policy due to coronavirus. Students are still able to defer their admission as usual. 


Students wishing to defer at Sheffield need to email their request to the admissions team in order for it to be considered. Not all courses allow for deferral though and cases will be judged on an individual basis


Cardiff University told The Tab that they “plan to be as flexible as possible”.  Their deferral policy shall run as usual, and any student wishing to defer their place can get in contact with the admissions team

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