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Essential coronavirus info
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Coronavirus: UAL Diploma in Professional Studies guidance and FAQs 2020/21

Student measuring fabric
Student measuring fabric

Written by
Dan Austin
Published date
04 January 2021

This information and FAQs is published to provide you with help and support for completing the Diploma in Professional Studies in 2020/21. This guidance applies to academic year 2020/21 and supersedes any previous versions. It represents temporary approaches for 2020/21, which have been developed to address the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as other changes such as how we help students stay in compliance with their Tier 4 visas and the emerging impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The information provided may change as the academic year progresses. We will updated these FAQs as new information becomes available.

Bookmark the page and keep checking regularly! Please also continue to check UAL’s coronavirus: important information, to ensure you're accessing up to date information.

Please note: if you are a student at London College of Fashion, this guidance applies to the Industry Placement version of the Diploma only. If you're studying the Enterprise version of the Diploma and have any questions, contact your tutor.

Your college will also provide you with information to support you – please make sure you refer to the guidance specified in your college as well as the general guidance offered on this page. It's especially important to stay in touch with your tutor during this period and to respond to any requests from your tutor and/or from other colleagues who are working to support you with your placement.

If you have questions that aren’t answered here please contact your college in the first instance who will address your question or signpost you to someone who can.

Update during new national lockdown and ongoing global effects of COVID-19

On 4 January 2021, the UK government introduced a national lockdown. Whilst it’s possible to continue with ‘face-to-face’ working, under the current restrictions the emphasis in the guidance is to work from home if you can.

If you’re based in the UK, remote working/working from home is likely to be the preferred mode for you to continue your placement. If you can’t work from home/work remotely, you can continue to work in a face-to-face setting. You should only do this if they feel confident that your workplace remains ‘COVID secure’. If you have any questions about the impact of these restrictions on your placement it’s important you contact your Diploma Leader and/or the placement team in you college as soon as possible.

The impact of COVID-19 in other countries is varied and you may be subject to other forms of lockdown, depending where in the world your placement activity is taking place. Do stay in touch with your Diploma Leader and/or college placement team and let them know if your circumstances have changed so they can offer support, help and advice according to your circumstances.

Jump to information:


General information

How long does the Diploma in Professional Studies last for?

The Diploma runs across all 3 terms during 2020/21. You must start your placement activity in week 1 of the first term of 2020/21 and you should have finished your Diploma activity, including the work you submit for assessment, by the last week of the third term of 2020/21 - week commencing 14 June 2021. Your college will provide more precise information in exact to deadlines, which may be earlier than the end of term.

What is the minimum amount of time I can do on placement?

In 2020/21, the minimum amount of placement activity you must complete to get your Diploma is 100 days/20 weeks.

How many placements can I do in my Diploma in Professional Studies?

You can do up to 5 placements during 2020/21.

How long should a placement be?

The shortest placement you can do is one that lasts 20 days.

Can I start a placement early?

Yes, you can – but usually not until your college has confirmed you have passed your year 2 studies.

It is important to be aware that early placement activity can’t contribute to the minimum amount of placement activity you need to achieve to pass the Diploma. If you want to start your placement activity before the term starts you should still get your placement approved by your college.

Can I carry on with a placement after the Diploma has finished?

Yes, you can – though any placement activity you do after you have submitted your work for assessment and after the third term has ended cannot be counted towards the minimum amount of placement activity you need to achieve.

Make sure you have completed the minimum amount of placement activity before the third term has ended, making sure you observe the deadlines set out by your college.

If I do more than one placement can there be gaps between one placement and the next?

It’s best to try and avoid having gaps between placements. If possible, it’s better to have continuous placement activity. If you do have to have a gap you should plan for this to be no more than 2 weeks or 10 working days.

What happens if I have completed 100 days of placement activity before the end of the third term?

If you've completed the minimum amount of placement activity well before the end of the third term you should carry on in your placement or seek another placement if needed.

You should continue to work in a placement until the end of the third term, at least until you submit the assessed work that you are due to hand in at the end of the Diploma in Professional Studies year.

Are there any limitations on whether I can do full- or part-time work in the Diploma in Professional Studies?

It's possible to have different working patterns when you’re completing your placement, as long as the minimum requirement for placement is fulfilled and this is done within the timeframes outlined. If there are any restrictions on types of working or working patterns in your college, this will be made clear to you. Generally, the commitment to the Diploma is that you engage full-time with the Diploma activity overall – which means the combination of your work placement activity with the academic studies you need to engage with should add up to a full-time commitment.

What happens if I don’t have a placement to start in the first week of term?

You should start a work placement on Monday 19 October 2020 and no later than Friday 23 October 2020 (by the end of week 1 in 2020/21 term dates). If your placement has not started on or before this point, it may be that you will be transferred to the final year of your course and you’ll need to recommence studies.

If you have a plan that indicates that you will start a placement very soon after the start of term they may be able to allow you to stay on the Diploma programme. Your college will be able to advise on your circumstances.

Please note: that any recommendation made will take into account whether you are a Tier 4 student, as you will be subject to certain conditions which may mean it's not possible to allow a delay in you starting your placement.


Staying safe: COVID-19 and Diploma In Professional Studies

How do I make plans for a safe placement?

We’re asking all students who go on placement to make a contingency plan. When you're getting your placement approved, you should outline how your placement will work (the type of work you will be doing, where you will be working, etc.) and also outline what your plan would be if your expected way of working has to change. This is likely to be that you would work from home in some way, and/or your work could continue online. Both modes of placement – your preferred one and the one you think you’ll do if there were new restrictions which meant you couldn’t carry on – must be risk assessed so you, your college and your placement provider can be sure that, as far as possible, you will be safe.

UAL provides advice and guidance on general health and safety and on risk assessment. To help with you contingency planning, please have a look at UAL’s guide to studying and creating safely at home.

What will happen if I can’t carry on with a placement because of COVID-19?

If you can't complete your placement because it’s no longer being safe to do so, your college will look carefully at your circumstances. It may be that you can find a new placement opportunity, or your college can help you to find one. If it’s necessary, it may be possible to arrange a reduction in the amount of placement activity you need to do – but this will subject to your individual circumstances and will be at the discretion of the University.

What do I do if my placement is unexpectedly changed or cancelled?

Get in touch with your tutor and/or other staff in your college who are supporting you whilst on placement – they will be able to help and advise you on next steps.

To check out any funding or visa implications you should contact UAL’s Student Advice Service and if you have Erasmus funding you should also get in touch with the internationalmobility@arts.ac.uk.

How can I stay on track with my Diploma if something unexpected happens?

In 2020/21, your college will ask you to engage with a form of parallel academic activity which runs alongside your placement activity. This is designed to support your Diploma studies and to keep you in touch and engaged with the work you need to do in order to complete the Diploma.

This should be especially helpful in academic year 2020/21 given the higher chance that disruption could occur because of the ongoing impact of COVID-19. As well as being a useful programme of activity for you as a Diploma student, this activity can be used to demonstrate the continuation of your studies whilst alternative placement arrangements are made. For Tier 4 students, this parallel academic activity may be used to help demonstrate your engagement with the course to satisfy the conditions of your Tier 4 visa – your college will confirm if this is the case.

Please note: some colleges may not run a parallel academic activity, depending on the nature of the placement activity you are doing.


Getting a Diploma in Professional Studies Placement Approved

Do placements have to be approved before I start one?

Your college must approve your placement for a few different reasons, including:

  • essential process of risk assessment.
  • confirming if the planned activity meets the learning outcome of your Diploma studies.
  • ensures you have insurance cover from the University.

What’s the latest I can seek approval for a placement?

Approval must be confirmed by your college in advance of a placement starting. This should be at least two weeks (10 working days) in advance of the date you want to start the work placement. Don’t wait – get the approval process going as quickly as possible!

How do I get a placement approved?

Each College has a process for approving a placement. Contact your Diploma Leader or Tutor, or ask the relevant administration team in your college:

What happens if I don’t get my placement approved?

If you start a work placement without approval from your college, you will not be covered by UAL’s insurance arrangements - if these apply to your circumstances.

Unapproved work placement activity can’t be counted towards the minimum amount of placement activity you have to complete in order to pass the Diploma. Get your placement approved before you start to avoid this work not being counted towards the Diploma!


Erasmus funding

Is there any Erasmus funding available to support Diploma in Professional Studies placements?

In 2020/21, Erasmus funding remains available to you if you are undertaking placement activity. Read our information about eligibility.

My placement activity is going to be online because of COVID-19 – can I still apply for Erasmus funding?

The Erasmus funding programme is based on the idea that, normally, you travel to another European country to complete your placement activity. However, in light of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 it may be possible for a placement that starts online or remotely to be eligible for funding, on the basis that you intend to travel to the country where your placement would normally occur at some point in the duration of your Diploma studies.

It is important to check with your college Mobility Officer to establish if what you are planning will be eligible or not. Applications for funding must be submitted 2 weeks before your intended start date. You can get in touch with the Mobility Officer for your college using the relevant email address:

Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon: ccwstudentexchange@arts.ac.uk

Central Saint Martins: placementandexchange@csm.arts.ac.uk

London College of Communication: mobility@lcc.arts.ac.uk

London College of Fashion: exchanges@fashion.arts.ac.uk

Are there any restrictions on Erasmus funding?

As well as the meeting the standard eligibility criteria, if  you are offered Erasmus funding and you accept it, you make a commitment to completing both the work placement activity you have planned and the academic work associated with the Diploma overall (specifically the assessed element). UAL reserves the right to withdraw Erasmus funds from you if you cannot, or refuse to, demonstrate engagement in both aspects of this commitment.

Are there any time restrictions on Erasmus funding?

For placement activity to be eligible for Erasmus funding it should be planned to take place within the three terms of 2020-21. If you want to propose some early work placement activity you may still receive Erasmus funding if you can confirm that the early activity will overlap with the main period in which Diploma work placement hours should be completed. If you want to get Erasmus funding you must commit to reflecting upon all Erasmus funded work placement activity (that is, early activity and activity that take place in the main period of the Diploma) in the assessed element of your Diploma in Professional Studies. This is asked for to show that the Erasmus funding has supported your placement learning experience.

What happens if I’m in an Erasmus funded placement which gets changed or cancelled?

If something happens and you have to leave your placement, it gets cancelled or changed, you should get in touch with your tutor and/or other staff in your college who are supporting you whilst on placement, and the International Mobility team.

You can contact the International Mobility team on internationalmobility@arts.ac.uk . The college and the International Mobility team will be able to help and advise you on next steps.

To check out any funding or visa implications you may also want to contact UAL’s Student Advice Service.


Advice, help & support

You should check in with the staff in your college who are supporting you in your Diploma year.

There is also help and support available for you from UAL’s Student Services. You might find UAL’s Student Advice Service helpful as staff can advise on matters such as fees, funding, immigration and visas. UAL’s Counselling, HealthAdvice & Chaplaincy team are available to help if you are struggling with your health, including your mental health.

The Arts SU Advice Service is independent of the university and are ready to help, advise and signpost.

My placement activity is somewhere in the European Union (EU) – do I need to worry about the UK leaving the EU?

The UK is in what is called a transition period following the official withdrawal of the UK from the EU on 31 January 2020. For the latest information on the impact of withdrawal on you as a student please refer to UAL’s Brexit FAQs and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s “Living In…” guidance for the host country you are intending to visit. Bookmark the relevant sets of guidance and keep referring back to these sources for the latest information.

I’m thinking about travelling to another country for a placement activity as part of my Diploma in Professional Studies – how do I know if I can or not?

For the latest information on the UK’s advice on travel to another country take a look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s “Living In…” guidance for the host country you are intending to visit. Bookmark the relevant sets of guidance and keep referring back to this for the latest information. Your college will check and advise on your plans to travel as part of the placement approval process.

I am experiencing financial difficulties – what can I do?

If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation you can consider applying for UAL’s Hardship fund. You can find out more about the funds available here.

Do I get insurance cover from UAL if I am travelling to a placement?

Normally you would be covered by UAL’s travel insurance if you have had your placement activity approved. However, as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, UAL’s travel insurance will be limited in line with relevant government advice, which is likely to vary throughout the period of academic year 2020/21.

There are likely to be restrictions on travel – including travel between countries – when the reason for travelling is deemed ‘non-essential’. Most – if not all – travel for the purposes of placement activity is likely to be deemed non-essential travel. As the COVID-19 pandemic is a known and ongoing event, cover under the ‘disruption’ section of the relevant UAL insurance policy (such as cancellation or trips ending sooner than expected) will no longer apply for COVID-19 circumstances which might affect your travel.

This means costs related to bookings for travel that are altered because of COVID-19 will not be covered by UAL’s insurance. If you’re planning travel to get to and from your placement you should think carefully about the risks you’re taking. When you get your placement approved, your college will be able to advise more specifically on whether you are covered for travel or not. If you travel without UAL’s travel insurance in place you will be doing this at your own risk and you should consider taking out an individual policy.


Tier 4 students: Specific guidance on the Diploma in Professional Studies

Wherever possible, UAL has established guidance that applies to all students on the Diploma in Professional Studies. This is to ensure an equitable experience for all, regardless of nationality, wherever it’s possible to do so. That means, if you’re a Tier 4 student, the information above applies to you also.

However, if you’re a student on a Tier 4 visa, as you will already understand, there are some special conditions which come with your visa which you need to follow. This applies to your Diploma in Professional Studies also. The following FAQs will help you to understand what’s expected of you as a student with a Tier 4 visa.

If you’re not sure about anything that relates to your visa please just ask! Staff looking after the placement in your college will be able to help and signpost you to correct advice.

Overall – if you’re a student with a Tier 4 visa – as long as you remain fully engaged with your Diploma studies in the way your college asks you to, UAL will not withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship and your Tier 4 visa will stay valid.

Is there anything special I need to do to get my placement(s) approved as a Tier 4 visa student?

You will need to follow the same process for approval as any student. You may be asked some slightly different or additional questions but your college will make sure you use the approval process which relates to your Tier 4 status. It is very important that all students follow the approval process – but for Tier 4 students there are further consequences if you don’t approve your placement activity in advance. As well as your activity being uninsured and not being able to be counted towards the minimum amount of time you need to spend in placement, you may also breach the conditions of your Tier 4 visa.

What’s the latest I can seek approval for a placement as a Tier 4 student?

As described above, approval must be confirmed by your college in advance of a placement starting. This should be at least 2 weeks (10 working days) in advance of the date you want to start the work placement. UAL has to report your placement activity each time you start a placement so the more time you can give us to do this the better – 2 weeks (10 working days) is the absolute minimum amount of notice we need.

Don’t wait – get the approval process going as quickly as possible.

I’m a Tier 4 student and I want to carry on in a placement I have already started but something has changed – do I need to tell you?

Yes please – do make sure you tell your college if the circumstances of your placements change. Changes can include things like moving to a different workplace location, or your placement start date/end date changing.  We need to report any changes in your placement also, so please tell us 2 weeks (10 working days) in advance of the date when the change will come in to effect.

As a Tier 4 student is there anything special I need to do to show that I am engaged with my Diploma in Professional Studies?

Yes, as a Tier 4 student you will be asked to check in at various contact points (10 overall, throughout the 3 terms of 2020/21), as outlined by your college. As a Tier 4 student, your engagement must be continuous throughout the 3 terms of the Diploma, with no or minimised gaps between placements. Your college will also check in your placement provider to confirm you are doing the work you have committed to and that you’re staying engaged with the placement activity you have planned.

Do Tier 4 students get monitored in vacation periods?

No, if you’re a student on a Tier 4 visa you won’t be asked to check in during vacation periods. The vacation periods are the time between a term starting and ending – please see our term dates for 2020/21.

As a Tier 4 student, can I do an early placement?

Yes, you can as, under Tier 4 provision, you are allowed to work up to full-time in vacation periods. UAL does not need to monitor you as a Tier 4 student if you’re doing placement activity during a vacation period. However, you will be subject to the same restrictions as any student on the Diploma in Professional Studies in reference to starting placement activity early. You must get your placement approved in advance by your college and you can’t use the time spent in early placement to count towards the fulfilment of the minimum amount of placement activity you need to do to pass the Diploma (see the relevant FAQ above).

Is there any placement activity I can’t do as a Tier 4 student?

Yes - under the terms of a Tier 4 visa, you cannot be self-employed, work on a freelance basis, be a consultant, sell goods or services (including through websites or applications) or set-up/run any sort of business. Please note that these working conditions apply for the whole length of time you are sponsored on your Tier 4 visa, which includes your placement year and all vacation periods.

Can I get paid for placement work as a Tier 4 student?

Yes, you can get paid but you must be part of your placement provider’s payroll in order to receive pay. Under the conditions of your Tier 4 visa you cannot be self-employed so you can’t invoice a company or a person for work that they are going to do/have done.

As a Tier 4 student can I work with a self-employed person?

You can only work with a self-employed person (including, for instance, with someone who is a freelancer or a sole trader) if that person is registered to pay tax with the tax authority relevant to their work, and is willing to confirm this.

I’m a Tier 4 student but I’m leaving the UK to complete a placement in another country – do I still have to be monitored by UAL?

Yes, to keep your Tier 4 visa you need to follow the same terms and conditions and that means engaging with the monitoring arrangements set up by your college. If you do this, your visa won’t be curtailed and you won’t need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa in order to return to the UK to complete your studies as a final year student. If you’re thinking about giving up your Tier 4 visa to undertake placement activity it’s strongly advised that you take advice before doing this, as it may have unintended consequences for you.

Please contact UAL’s Student Advice Service to understand more about what may happen if you give up your visa.

I’m a Tier 4 student but I’m returning to my home country to complete a placement – do I still have to be monitored by UAL?

In the long term it is likely to be easier for you to keep your Tier 4 visa – even you are back home – and to follow the same terms and conditions of your Tier 4 visa. This way, you won’t encounter any issues with returning to the UK to complete your studies in your final year. If you’re thinking about giving up your Tier 4 visa to undertake placement activity it’s strongly advised that you take advice before doing this, as it may have unintended consequences for you.

Please contact UAL’s Student Advice Service to understand more about what may happen if you give up your visa.

As a Tier 4 student, can I do other work during my Diploma in Professional Studies?

You can undertake a limited amount of work in addition to the work you are completing as part of your Diploma in Professional Studies placement activity. The amount of this additional work must not exceed 20 hours per week. Any unpaid work you might want to do is counted in these 20 hours. In UAL vacation periods, you can work up to full time hours, which can be paid or unpaid but should not exceed full time. (Full time is not specified in national guidance; as a coordinate for interpreting full time, UAL defines full-time hours in reference to staff as being between 35-37 hours per week.) As a Tier 4 student, you cannot under any circumstances be self-employed, work on a freelance basis, be a consultant, sell goods or services (including through websites or applications) or set-up/run any sort of business.