Deciding whether or not Sabbatical Officers count as full-time students can be difficult for councils, and if they are not considered full-time students, they are no longer able to access a student bank account, stay in student housing and have to pay council tax.
For students who are suspending their studies and aim to return to education after their twelve months in term, I personally didn’t think this was fair. I almost dropped out of the elections as giving up my student bank account, or at the time, being unable to stay in student halls was a big issue for me.
I reached out to Southampton’s advice team and they said that as I was still enrolled (though my status would be ‘suspended’), I’d be able to keep my student bank account. Of course the university were very kind in supporting me to still run in the elections, and help me with providing an enrolment letter, but I still didn’t think it was fair I couldn’t stay in student housing due to not being exempt from council tax when my university still considered me an enrolled student.
I reached out to Southampton Council who told me that because I wasn’t attending lectures on a full-time basis, I wouldn’t be considered a student and therefore wouldn’t be exempt from paying council tax. So I raised a petition.
The National Union of Students do not represent University of Southampton students but as a larger student union, they released guidance for councils for sabbatical officers suspending their studies for a year in office. I sent this, along with a petition, to the Southampton City Council, and they confirmed that as long as I was enrolled and could provide evidence, I was exempt from council tax, meaning all Sabbatical Officer suspending their studies are confirmed to be exempt from paying council tax.
You can read NUS’ guidance here.