Policy and Procedure on Extenuating Circumstances

Policy

Purpose

1. The University recognises that during the course of their studies, a student may encounter personal difficulties that are out with their control and which affect their ability to study and/or complete assessments. In order to ensure appropriate support for students in such circumstances, the University provides a number of potential routes to assist the student in terms of their studies, in addition to the pastoral and academic advice and support that is routinely available. The most appropriate route will depend on the circumstances.

2. The purpose of this policy is to set out the provisions the University makes for a student’s ‘Extenuating Circumstances’ to be taken into account within the assessment process, as one potential route to assist the student where personal difficulties are experienced.

3. The policy operates in conjunction with the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure that accompanies it.

Definitions

4. Extenuating Circumstances: Extenuating circumstances are exceptional events that may have affected a student’s academic performance and that may be taken into consideration by a Board of Examiners. This can include medical or personal circumstances that may have prevented a student performing to the best of their ability.

Scope

5. The policy applies to all undergraduate and taught postgraduate students.

Points of Policy

6. During the course of their studies, a student may encounter personal difficulties that are out with their control and which affect their ability to study and/or complete assessments. Where this is the case, the University provides a number of options for students. Depending on the circumstances, a student can: apply for an extension for coursework; seek an ARUAA if their difficulties are caused by a disability or specific learning difficulty; apply to defer examinations; or apply to take a leave of absence.

7. Where these options are inappropriate, have been exhausted, or have been delayed in process through circumstances out with the student’s control during the relevant period of study, then a student may apply for Extenuating Circumstances to be considered as part of the overall assessment process, within the terms of this policy.

8. Faculties are required to ensure that guidance on Extenuating Circumstances, including how to make an Extenuating Circumstance Request, is provided to students at the outset of a module. This may be via Canvas, or by other means as appropriate. Faculties should also communicate with students at the end of each semester to provide a reminder of this guidance and the timelines for the submission of such requests, as set out in the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure.

9. In order to be considered as an Extenuating Circumstance, the circumstances must : have a single short period of impact; be out of the student’s control; have had a negative impact on the student’s ability to study or undertake an assessment; and the timing of the circumstance must be relevant to the impact claimed by the student.

10. The following circumstances will normally be taken into consideration if the timing would be likely to have resulted in a detrimental impact upon the student’s performance:

  1. A serious or significant medical condition or illness;
  2. The serious illness or death of a close person[1];
  3. Serious, unexpected disruption of personal life such as family break-up, domestic abuse, unexpected child-care problems, or being a victim of a significant incident/crime.

11. Neither the list of circumstances nor the definition of a close person are exhaustive. Students are permitted to submit an Extenuating Circumstances Request in respect to any circumstance if it meets the parameters set out in paragraph 10.

12.The following will not normally be considered as extenuating circumstances:

  • Circumstances that have affected the majority of the semester, in which circumstance the student should consider requesting a leave of absence before the end of teaching;
  • multiple requests in the same semester for the same circumstance, in which circumstance the student should consider a leave of absence;
  • Minor ailments such as sore throats, minor colds, headaches, hangovers;
  • Long term illness or disability where special arrangements have already been made for assessments (an ARUAA) or where such arrangements could have been made if the University had been made aware at the appropriate time;
  • Circumstances catered for by the standard coursework extension process;
  • Examinations on the same or consecutive days;
  • Poor time management or misunderstanding of deadlines and dates;
  • Lack of understanding and/or use of language;
  • Personal or domestic events which could have been anticipated and planned otherwise such as moving house, routine childcare, holidays, paid employment;
  • Death or illness of pets;
  • Transport difficulties;
  • Claims made after the published deadline date for receipt of extenuating circumstances except for reasons that can be validated such as hospitalisation;
  • Claims without satisfactory supporting evidence;
  • Claims that do not state how the student’s performance in assessments has been affected.

[1] The definition of a ‘close person’ is: a family member (parent/guardian, spouse/partner, son/daughter, brother/sister, grandparent or grandchild) or someone living at the same address as the student.

Procedure

13. Students wishing to request that extenuating circumstances be considered should apply by completing and submitting an Extenuating Circumstances Request Form which is available on the University’s website. Appropriate documentary evidence also requires to be submitted in support of a request and should be submitted along with the application.

14. Extenuating Circumstances Request (and accompanying evidence) should be submitted as soon as it becomes apparent to the student that they need an additional extension or that their performance in an assessment or examination has been affected by an extenuating circumstance, and in any event, no later than two working days following the end of the relevant exam diet.

15. It is the student’s responsibility to submit the Request and evidence in time. If they do not do so, the Request will not be considered. In addition, late Requests or evidence will normally be regarded as inadmissible in the event of a subsequent academic appeal.

16. Documentary evidence[2] in support of an Extenuating Circumstances Request should include all medical, non-medical and compassionate evidence that may be relevant. Evidence may include:

  • Confirmation of illness from an appropriately registered medical practitioner, including a doctor’s note/letter; record of hospital admission; letter from a consultant or other specialist; letter from a counsellor;
  • A copy of a death certificate or other related document;
  • A police incident number notification;
  • A letter of confirmation from a member of Student Support Services staff or other independent third party;
  • Copy of a court citation;
  • Confirmation of circumstances from an employer, provided on the employer’s headed notepaper.

17. Where a whole cohort of students is affected by adverse circumstances out with their control, the faculty may make an application to the Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Board on their behalf. In such circumstances, individual student requests will not be required.

Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Board

18. Boards of Examiners operate as part of the University’s assessment arrangements, with the role of overseeing assessment processes and making decisions regarding module marks and student awards.

19. Within the Boards of Examiners structure, Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Boards operate to consider Extenuating Circumstances Requests, and subsequently make recommendations to Module Boards.

20. The University’s policy and procedure on Boards of Examiners sets out the details of how Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Boards are required to operate. These details specify the following:

  1. The Chair of the Faculty Board should constitute an Extenuating Circumstances Sub-board, virtually or in person, to make decisions in relation to extenuating circumstances cases that have been submitted. It is recommended that the Sub-Boards be held at faculty level, however, where necessary Sub-Boards can be held at divisional or subject level. The sub-board is the first step in the Boards of Examiners process, and is therefore held prior to each subsequent relevant board as required.
  2. Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Boards may be held, as required, throughout semester to consider requests for extensions beyond standard extensions, removal/reduction of late penalties or other application where a complete set of grades are not required in order for the Sub-Board to reach a decision. The Chair of the Sub-Board has delegated authority to consider requests for extensions, beyond standard extensions.
  3. A final Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Board will take place each semester, as required, after the relevant examination diet and prior to each relevant Module and/or Award Board as required. This Sub-Board will note the decisions of all Sub-Boards held during semester and deal with outstanding applications submitted within the time limit specified in the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure.
  4. An Extenuating Circumstances Sub-board must include at least the following staff:
    • Faculty or Divisional or Subject Chief Examiner as Chair;
    • At least two Subject Examiners from the Faculty/Division or Subject;
    • Secretary appointed by the Dean of Faculty.
  5. Other staff members from either academic or professional services areas may be invited to contribute to the discussion of the Sub-Board as relevant, at the discretion of the Chair.
  6. All members of the Sub-Board should have access to the information necessary to make the decisions specified below. Where relevant, this information should include all module learning outcomes and module marks achieved by students whose extenuating circumstance is to be considered by the Sub-Board.
  7. Decisions of Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Boards, subject to the provisions of paragraph 20b of the Extenuating Circumstances Procedure, are made on the basis of a majority decision of the Sub-Board considering the request.
  8. The Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Board must ensure that all Extenuating Circumstances Requests submitted by students are considered in line with this procedure, and therefore in a manner that is consistent across faculties and supports the overall assessment process. Specifically the Sub-Board should ensure that students who consider their performance to have been affected by extenuating circumstances have their requests considered fairly.
  9. Extenuating circumstances requests will be judged at the discretion of the Sub-Board, which will seek to determine whether, and to what extent, they have affected academic performance, and what action, if any, might be taken in response. In assessing the significance of extenuating circumstances the Sub-Board will normally take into account;
    • the severity of the issue and the length of time involved;
    • any supporting documentary evidence;
    • whether it is possible to gauge the effect of extenuating circumstances upon academic performance.
  10. The Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Board may decide on the following outcomes:
    • Provide an extension longer than the standard extension, or as provided under an ARUAA. However, the new submission date should provide sufficient time for marking and grade upload, before the upload deadline immediately prior to the next progression date. For example, for a spring assessment, the assessment grade should be uploaded, before the July upload deadline.
    • Remove or reduce late penalties incurred as a result of an extenuating circumstance where there was good reason that appropriate extension requests were not made.
    • Where a student has not yet met all the learning outcomes nor completed all the assessment elements the Sub-Board may recommend an alternative assessment, to enable the student to do so, in agreement with the module-coordinator.
    • Allow the student to take a resit, with an uncapped grade, where the original assessment was impacted by an extenuating circumstance.
    • Remove a grade cap incurred as a result of an extenuating circumstance.
    • In exceptional circumstances, allow the student to have a further assessment opportunity, where the current assessment opportunity was impacted by an extenuating circumstance and they have exhausted their assessment opportunities under the assessment policy. However, the additional assessment must be taken, and grade uploaded, before the upload deadline immediately prior to the next progression date. For example, for a spring resit, the additional assessment must be taken and grade uploaded before the July upload deadline.
    • Reduce the relative weighting of an assessment that was impacted by an extenuating circumstance, taking into account the need for the student to assure that they have met the learning outcomes of the module.
    • In exceptional circumstances which affect a cohort of students but which are out with their control, other outcomes as are reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances.
    • If a number of assessments are affected by extenuating circumstances then different outcomes may be appropriate for each, depending on the nature of the assessment.
  11. Where the circumstances affecting the student are not within the parameters of extenuating circumstances, or where the Sub-Board deems it appropriate in addition to offering an outcome, Sub-Boards may refer students to relevant support services such as Accessibility & Inclusion for assessment for an ARUAA; the personal tutor or recommend a leave of absence be taken or where it is felt the student may not be fit to continue with their studies at the present time, make a referral of the student’s case to Academic Registry for consideration in line with the University’s Fitness to Study policy and procedure.

Student Data, Records and Communication of Decisions

21. All decisions made by Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Boards and the reasons for them, must be clearly documented and retained confidentially for a period of seven years, following the conclusion of the student’s studies.

22. Decisions must be recommended to the Module or Awards Boards, without details of the particular circumstances. The minute of the Sub-Board should note the decisions in general terms of, for example, ‘serious personal extenuating circumstances’.

23. By submitting an Extenuating Circumstances Request, the student acknowledges that the content of their request may be shared with or made accessible to relevant members of University staff, as is necessary for the request to be considered and responded to, and where appropriate, for support to be offered to the student or follow up action progressed.

24. Decisions of Sub-Boards held during semester will, as far as possible, be communicated within three working days of receiving the application and full documentation, to allow immediate appropriate action to mitigate the extenuating circumstance. For Sub-Boards held following the end of the relevant exam diet, students will be notified of the decision within seven days following the relevant grade upload taking place.

25. When communicating decisions to the student, the Sub-Board will indicate the outcome, reasoning and provide details of the student’s right to appeal and process to follow, should they wish to do so.

Right of Appeal

26. If a student wishes to appeal a decision of an Extenuating Circumstances Sub-Board, they may do so under the Student academic appeals process.

 

[2] Documents not in English should be submitted with a certified translation.