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Durham University

Counselling Service

Returning to study after a break

We are committed to supporting our students to a safe and successful academic progression and to ensuring that students return to their higher education study in Durham in a position of improved health and with a good support plan in place.

Your concession may require you to:

  • Submit medical evidence to your College, or
  • Undertake the Return to Study process

To allow time for the Mental Health Advisors to arrange your assessment appointment, it is vital that you submit your documentation by the deadline stated in your concession letter. If your documentation is late, efforts will be made to complete your assessment but it cannot be guaranteed.

Please read your concession letter carefully; it will outline the conditions you need to meet in order to return to study. If you cannot find a copy of your letter, please contact your College student support office.

If your concession requires you to engage with the Return to Study process, you need to do the following:

1. Obtain medical evidence:

Medical evidence can be provided by your GP, another Registered Medical Practitioner or a Clinical Psychologist involved in your recent treatment. You can send in additional evidence from qualified counsellors and therapists, but this will not be sufficient in isolation.

You are responsible for obtaining a verified translation into English of any medical evidence; guidelines for translated medical evidence can be found in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.

Some doctors prefer to write an individual letter, others to complete a questionnaire. You can discuss these options with your doctor and use the Return to Study Questionnaire where your doctor prefers to complete this.

If your doctor prefers to write a letter, it needs to outline the following points:

  • Evidence of a period of sustained mental health stability, usually 3+ months in duration;
  • Evidence of engagement with treatment (duration, frequency, attendance and nature of treatment);
  • Evidence of improved mental health symptoms;
  • Evidence of an ongoing treatment and support plan on return to study;
  • Evidence of relapse and crisis-planning for return to study.

You can show your doctor our ‘Guidance on medical evidence’ which you can find in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.

Please bear in mind that it may take time for your medical practitioners to respond to your request

Impact of COVID-19

Most NHS mental health and GP services continue to operate remotely through the current crisis; many can provide medical evidence. However, if you are unable to obtain evidence, please outline on your Personal Statement the treatment you have received and from whom, and provide any available evidence of your appointments, or communications with services since the crisis began.

2. Complete a Personal Statement:

You need to complete a Personal Statement detailing your understanding of the difficulties you faced that led to the concession, and how you feel your condition has improved. This Statement will form the basis of the assessment session with the Mental Health Advisor.

3. Email your medical evidence and Personal Statement to mh-advisor@durham.ac.uk

4. Arrange a Return to Study Assessment with a Mental Health Advisor:

Once you have submitted your documents, you will be contacted by our service to arrange the assessment appointment. This appointment can be over Skype, Teams, or telephone.

At the appointment the Mental Health Advisor will review your Personal Statement and medical evidence and help you discuss your support needs to facilitate a safe and successful return to study. This will include the support provision (educational, pastoral or medical) that you may need on return, either as a preventative measure, or at the earliest signs of relapse.

Data-protection: The Mental Health Advice team shares information within the University for the purposes of support. By consenting to a Return to Study Assessment with a Mental Health Advisor, you are assumed to have read and understood the information on the Mental Health Advice team at Durham University and the basis on which it will process personal data, as outlined in our Assessment Agreement and in the University Student Privacy Notice.

Next Steps:

Based on the documentation and the Return to Study Assessment, the Mental Health Advisor will make a recommendation about your fitness to return to study which will be sent to your Faculty for ratification, as outlined in the University Fitness to Study Policy. The Policy allows the University the discretion to make a decision on fitness to study based on the context of Durham University.

Recommendations will be reviewed and ratified by the Fitness to Study Standing Group.

If you are deemed fit to Return to Study, you will be able to register for the next academic year. If you are deemed not fit to Return to Study, you have the option to appeal the decision, as laid out in the Fitness to Study Policy. A further concession may be available to you, depending on your situation. Your College Student Support Office will talk this through with you in more detail.

You may need a further appointment with Disability Support or with the Mental Health Advisors to arrange support before restarting your studies.

Resources