How serious is your relationship? Have you thought about marriage?
I have just re-read the information provided. If Sinead was outside of the UK and this was related to her course, the time outside of the UK, should not count against her. If this is the case, she may still be eligible to make an application for Indefinite LEave to Remain based on 10 years long residence.
If this is not the case, I would suggest she try to switch into a different category of Visa. Such as a Tier 1, if she meets the requirements. The only other alternative would be marriage.
If you wish to discuss, please feel free to ask further questions.
Thanks for the clarification. Based on this, it would be a split in the 10 years continuous residence.
With regard to the unmarried partners visa, unfortunately, the rules clearly state:
"you and your partner have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership which has been existing and genuine (not like a 'marriage of convenience') for at least two years"
Thus, this would mean that any application you make will be refused as your partner does not meet the requirement of the rules.
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