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What Happens If You Fail University?

What Happens If You Fail University?

Failed university and wondering what to do next? Whether you’ve failed your first, second, or final year, this article will provide you with clear options for your next steps.

Failing your first year of uni

So your first year of university didn’t get off to the start you were hoping for, and you’ve come away with either a failed module, or a low grade overall.

Does this mean it is the end? Absolutely not! Read on to find out what you can do if you fail your first year of university.

How many credits do you need to pass first year?

Every university course is broken down into credits. A three-year course will consist of 360 credits, with each year equally worth 120 credits.

One credit is generally accepted to be equivalent to 10 hours of study. This means that a module that is worth 20 credits will require 200 hours of study!

Not all modules are worth the same amount of credits, though. A larger module such as a research project may be worth 40 credits, whilst a smaller module that is graded on coursework may be worth 20 credits.

You need to obtain the full 120 credits in your first year in order to pass and move onto your second year of study.

Can you fail any modules in your first year?

If you fail a module in your first year, it means you won’t obtain the 120 credits needed to pass. It will also mean you won’t accrue the full 360 credits required to graduate.

Graduating with a failed module isn’t an option for most courses, so you will need to tackle it and get the required credits. Luckily, there are a few options.

What should I do if I fail a module?

If you fail a module at university, your first port of call should always be to speak to your professors or academic support. They will be able to guide you through the specific options offered by your university.

Generally, if you fail a module in your first year, you will need to resit it. This means retaking any assessments where you scored below the pass mark of 40%.

Some universities offer the option to resit fail modules over the summer. Alternatively, you can resit the module in your next year, known as a “trailing module”. You won’t need to attend classes for this module, but you will still need to study for your assessments.

If you need help ensuring that you smash your resit, book a session with one of our experienced tutors. They are experts in helping students pass their exams, even at university level.

What happens if I fail a module resit?

If you resit your module and fail a second time, you might need to retake the entire module. Most courses won’t allow you to graduate unless you have a pass in every module, therefore you need to find a way to achieve a pass in order to continue your study.

This could involve restudying it the following year, but as attendance at classes may be required, it could also include extra fees.

But, there’s a catch

If you fail a module and need to resit it, your grade will be capped at 40% for that module, no matter how well you do. Which leads us nicely onto our next point…

Does first year grade count towards your final mark?

You may be wondering whether your first year at uni counts towards your final mark.

In most cases, all that matters is that you pass your first year of study in order to make it to your second year. Even if you score bang on 40% in your first year, it won’t bring down your overall grade. Whilst this is good news for many, it doesn’t mean that you can slack off during your first year. You need to have a good knowledge and understanding of the topics covered in your first year in order to excel in your second and third.

Your second year usually makes up 35% of your final grade, with third year accounting for the remaining 65%.

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Is this the right course and uni for you?

If the thought of retaking one of your modules at university isn’t very appealing, or if you failed more than one module, you may be wondering if you’re on the right course.

The best thing to do in this situation is to speak to your family and friends. If you have not seemed yourself since you started, been overly stressed and struggling to cope, they can help you come to the best decision not only for your future, but for your wellbeing too.

Mother comforting daughter after failed exams

Switching courses, switching universities, or even dropping out altogether is probably far more common than you currently believe it to be, so don’t let fear or embarrassment affect your decision.

How can I switch to a different course?

Switching courses can sometimes be relatively simple if you do so within the first term. If you make this decision later on in the year, you may have to wait for the next academic year.

You will need to discuss the option of transferring with your support system at university, which may include your academic adviser. They will be able to put you in touch with the leaders of the new course, and you may have to have a formal interview.

If the new course is similar, you should be able to transfer across any credits which you have already accrued, however be prepared to work hard to catch up on the topics you have missed.

How can I switch to a different university?

Unsurprisingly, switching to a different university is a bit tougher than just switching courses. However, switching universities could be the answer for students in a variety of situations, including those whose circumstances have changed since they applied, and those struggling with the amount of self-directed work. Not all universities are the same - class and lecture time can vary wildly, and it can be tough to excel if it doesn’t match your learning style.

If you decide to move to a different university, you’ll first need to find out whether your chosen uni accepts transfers. You will have to get in touch with the university first to see if transferring is possible, but then you’ll need to apply through UCAS. If you want the best chance of succeeding in your application, consider getting in touch with one of our university advice tutors, or a tutor who specialises in university personal statements.

Should you repeat your first year?

If you have failed multiple modules, you may choose to repeat the whole year. This may be a good idea if you had an unexpected event during your first year such as a bereavement which meant you fell behind.

Repeating your first year doesn’t just mean you will get another chance to obtain the credits needed to progress, it is also a chance to absorb all the course material you will need as a foundation, ready for years two and three.

However, if you don't meet the requirements for mitigating circumstances, your grade may be capped at 40% so make sure you speak to your university before making a decision.

One thing many students will worry about when considering this option is money, specifically if they will get funding for an extra year of study.

Do you get student finance if you repeat a year?

Repeating a year isn’t an option for most students if they don’t get access to student finance. Luckily, we got in touch with Student Finance to find out what the deal is for students who need to repeat a year, and we’re pleased to report that if this is your first repeat year and you haven’t had any previous study before this course, you can get funding!

Tutorful: if a student fails one of their years at uni and has to redo, will they be entitled to funding? SFE: If no other repeat years or previous study, you will be entitled to one full repeat year.

What happens if you fail your second year of uni?

So you’ve managed to make it through your first year of university, however you’re still struggling and worried you might fail your second year. Or perhaps results day has already come around and you’ve failed your second year of university. What are your options? Read on and we will talk you through some of the choices you have available.

Talk to your professors

You aren’t the first student to be in this situation, and you certainly won’t be the last. Your professors are there to help, and they have so much experience with the course and the amount of work needed that they can give you good insights as to whether they think you will be able to turn your grades around at this point.

Remember, your second year is worth 35% of your grade, whilst third year is worth 65%. If you fail your second year and your only option to continue with your studying is to resit modules in your final year, it might mean you are in for a very tough year.

Can I take a leave of absence?

Many universities will grant a leave of absence. This can mean taking a full year out of your studies, or possibly even longer. However, you will usually need to have a good reason for doing so, and will need to discuss it with your university. This year out can help you decide your next steps, so is definitely something to consider.

The University of York has a page dedicated to leave of absences, which explains this further.

Do I have to reapply for Student Finance if I take a year out?

We asked Student Finance for accurate information regarding this. You do have to reapply, but if you’re returning to the same course you can do it as a continuing student rather than a new one.

Tweet from student finance confirming that a student is able to return to the same course after a one year gap and apply for finance as a continuing student rather than a new student

What if I decide to drop out?

Failing your first year of uni can be scary, but failing your second year can have a much bigger impact. If you have failed multiple modules and don’t think you can manage passing your third year whilst resitting modules from your second year, you might be tempted to drop out.

There is no shame in dropping out of university. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Lady Gaga went on to succeed after dropping out, and Ralph Lauren completed a full two years before dropping out.

Don’t see it as time wasted. University is a once in a lifetime experience and the life lessons you come out with are often just as valuable as the degree itself.

Dropping out is not a decision to make lightly - make sure you consult with your support system at uni first, as they may be able to offer other solutions.

What can I do if I drop out?

If you drop out of university, there are still so many ways to reach the career you have your heart set on. If you need a qualification to get your foot in the door of your chosen career, there are lots of different routes to choose from, many which may be better suited to your style of learning than university. Vocational qualifications, for instance, combine hands-on learning with theory based, and can be a great choice if you have an idea of the industry you want to work in.

We also have a great list of alternatives to university if you need some inspiration in what to do next.

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What are your options if you fail your final year of university?

Failing your third year of uni can be extra scary, because in most cases, you won’t have resits to fall back on. If you’re wondering what happens if you fail your final year, you’ve come to the right place.

Can you retake your final year of uni?

Yes you can retake your final year of university, however your grade will be capped at 40%, which means you will leave with a third-class honours degree, no matter how well you do in your assessments second time around.

This makes the decision to resit the year a tough one, as a third-class degree might not be enough to get you into the field of work you have your heart set on.

Why are retake grades capped?

Good question! You may think it seems a bit harsh to have grades capped at 40% for any modules you resit or years of study you retake, however there is solid reasoning behind this. Imagine this - you’re halfway through your final year of university and you haven’t done well in your assessments so far.

If retaking a year meant a second chance at the grade you need, you could be tempted to give up now and try again next year. If universities allowed everyone to resit, students would use this to their advantage to try and get a better mark, making the grading system skewed. This is also why students who achieve a 2:1 aren’t allowed to retake the year in order to get a first-class degree.

Can you still graduate if you fail your final year of uni?

The word “fail” can mean a lot of different things in regards to a degree. It could mean achieving less than 40% overall. It could mean failing one module or multiple modules. It could mean being just a few credits short of the 360 you need.

The bottom line is that 40% and 360 credits is the minimum you need to be considered a pass, however below 40% doesn’t mean you won’t walk out without a degree.

Happy female student hugging father after graduating university

What is a degree without honours?

Almost all university courses in the UK are honours degrees. An honours degree is achieved by undertaking a degree with a rigorous programme of study and coming out with good marks.

The 40% mark is generally what is required to pass a degree and walk out with honours, however if you score just under this, some universities actually offer what is called an “ordinary degree” (a degree without honours) instead of a fail.

If you generally do well in your degree but fail a particularly tough module in your third year, you won’t have enough credit to graduate. However, some universities will still allow you to graduate, but your degree will be without honours.

Is there any point in a degree without honours?

Yes! We spoke with a number of employers who told us that there is so much more to someone’s job application than the classification of their degree.

Jonathan Merry, a finance expert and CEO of Moneyzine.com, tell us his thoughts:

“My company is a UK-based firm that provides expert financial and investing services. As a founder and CEO, I would like to share my insights on whether to employ someone who holds a degree without honours.

Well, in the UK, failing to receive honours is effectively an academic failure. It's known as an Ordinary Degree. However, for all practical purposes, it means nothing, in my opinion at least.

Personally, I wouldn't mind hiring a fresh graduate without any honours.

Speaking from experience, I have met people who may not have graduated with honours but have demonstrated exceptional skills, determination, and a genuine passion for their field. Sometimes, practical experience and real-world knowledge can outshine an honours degree. I've also worked with individuals who took on personal projects, and internships, or dove headfirst into gaining practical experience while studying. Those hands-on experiences can be just as valuable, if not more, than academic achievements.

Ultimately, what I look for in my hiring decisions are experiences, skills, attitude, culture-fitness, and potential for growth. I strongly believe in giving everyone a fair chance, which also allows me to discover some seriously talented people who might have been overlooked based solely on their degree classification”

I think I am going to fail my degree - what now?

Failing university isn’t the end of the world. It may seem like it now, but we promise you it isn’t. There are still tons of great job opportunities for people without degrees, and even if you didn’t do well on your assessments, the whole university experience will have taught you so many life lessons.

It wasn’t all for nothing, you will come out on top, and we’re rooting for you.

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Kirstan N

Kirstan N

20th Jul 2023