Illness and other Mitigating Circumstances

Guide to the University's mitigating circumstances procedures. What to do if you believe your ability to take or perform in an assessment is impaired by illness or other serious circumstance.

The University recognises that students may suffer from a sudden illness or other serious and unforeseen event or set of circumstances which adversely affects their ability to complete an assessment or the results they obtain for an assessment. In such cases the mitigating circumstances regulations and procedures may be applied. These regulations are designed to ensure the fair and consistent treatment of all students.

The regulations on mitigating circumstances procedures are part of Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Senate Regulation 7: Regulations governing the Assessment of Students on Taught Programmes (PDF).

Students in Engineering, Maths, English, Modern Languages and History of Art and Film studying on campus are taking part in a new pilot process for mitigating circumstances from 8th February 2016. All Distance Learning students (with the exception of Management) are taking part in the pilot from 7th March 2016. Please refer to the communication about this from your department.

If your ability to take an assessment or the results you obtain for an assessment have been adversely affected by a mitigating circumstance, you must:
  1. notify your department straight away (e.g. your personal tutor, your department/school office), using either a departmental mitigating circumstances form as notified by your department or the
    Word University's mitigating circumstances form (Word)
    Adobe Acrobat (PDF) University's mitigating circumstances form - suitable for hardcopy completion (PDF).
  2. submit appropriate documentary evidence to substantiate the claim of mitigating circumstances that you make on your form.
  3. ensure your form and evidence have been submitted by the relevant departmental deadline for mitigating circumstances claims.

Deadline: consult your student handbook to find out the deadline that applies for the examination(s) and/or coursework assignment(s) involved in your claim. Contact your personal tutor or department/school office if you are still unsure. If you are unable to submit your evidence at the same
Evidence: this must be in English, produced by an appropriate third party, and give precise details about how and when your performance was affected by your circumstances.

  • See below for detailed information about:

What is a mitigating circumstance? | Evidence of mitigating circumstances | What happens after submission of a mitigating circumstances claimThe policy not to allow extensions to coursework deadlines | Help with mitigating circumstances

What is a mitigating circumstance?

The University defines a mitigating circumstance as:
A serious or significant event which is unforeseen and/or unpreventable and could have significantly impaired the academic performance of a student in one or more assessed activities, possibly over a period of time. Mitigating circumstances may include medical matters or events directly affecting someone other than the student.
[Senate Regulation 7.98]

Examples of mitigating circumstances may include:

  • significant physical or psychological illness
  • severe personal difficulties
  • serious illness or death of a member of your immediate family (e.g. mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter)
  • sudden deterioration in a long standing medical condition or disability
  • being the victim of a serious crime
  • legal proceedings requiring attendance at court

The following would not normally be accepted as mitigating circumstances:

  • failure to read the examination timetable or coursework deadline properly
  • pressure of work
  • failure to save work properly
  • minor illnesses or self-induced conditions (colds, hangovers etc.)
  • religious festivals
  • domestic or personal disruptions which may have been anticipated (e.g. moving house, holidays etc.)
  • sporting fixtures

Evidence of mitigating circumstances

It is not enough to just tell your department that you believe your assessment performance has been affected by a mitigating circumstance. You must also submit the appropriate mitigating circumstances form and supply your department with supporting documentation from an appropriate third-party as evidence of the mitigating circumstance.

The evidence must explain: (1) what the circumstance is; (2) exactly how it affected you in relation to your studies/assessment; (3) precisely when (i.e. identifying which assessments were affected).

You are responsible for obtaining all appropriate documentary evidence and ensuring that it is submitted on time. The University will not seek documentary evidence on your behalf. Only evidence written in English can be considered. It is your responsibility to obtain and submit a verified translation if the original evidence is in another language.

Examples of evidence of mitigating circumstances
Serious physical illness Medical certificate/hospital report/report from qualified medical practitioner
Psychological illness Report from a psychiatrist, psychologist or Student Counselling Service
Severe personal difficulties Report from Student Counselling Service, Student Welfare Service or another qualified professional
Serious illness or death of an immediate family member or close friend A medical report from a qualified medical practitioner or a copy of a death certificate accompanied if necessary by formal documentation confirming relationship with deceased
Sudden deterioration in a long standing medical condition or disability A medical report from an appropriate qualified medical practitioner
Being the victim of a serious crime Crime report and number
Legal proceedings requiring attendance at court Documentary evidence from the court or a solicitor

The above examples are indicative. Ask your personal tutor what kind of evidence is required from you for your particular mitigating circumstances if you are in any doubt about what is needed. Consult your student handbook or contact the administrator for your course to find out to whom you should submit your documentary evidence.

Deadlines for submission of evidence

You must submit the documentary evidence to your department before the expiry of the relevant deadline for the submission of evidence in relation to mitigating circumstances claims. In most circumstances, the deadline will be not later than five working days after the relevant coursework submission date or the date of the examination but you should check the specific date with your department.

Failure to divulge information and provide evidence at the appropriate time may mean that the department has insufficient information to accept mitigating circumstances or to judge their severity. Appeals against academic decisions may be disallowed if the appeal is based on evidence of mitigating circumstances that the University judges could have reasonably been supplied to the department/school earlier.

Consult your student handbook to find out the deadline that applies. Contact your personal tutor or department/school office without delay if you are still unsure.

What happens after submission of a mitigating circumstances claim?

The information and evidence you have provided will be considered by a Mitigating Circumstances Panel. Mitigating Circumstances Panels operate under the authority of Boards of Examiners. The Panel will decide whether or not you have established sufficient grounds of mitigating circumstances relevant to your assessment(s). You should normally receive a response from the Mitigating Circumstances Panel within two weeks of submitting your mitigating circumstances form and evidence.

If the Mitigating Circumstances Panel accepts your mitigating circumstance it will make a corresponding recommendation about the affected assessment(s) to Board of Examiners for your course. The recommendations that Mitigating Circumstances Panels are allowed to make are defined in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Senate Regulation 7: Regulations governing the Assessment of Students on Taught Programmes (PDF). These include, for example, the opportunity to take the affected assessment again as if for the first time (i.e. a ‘sit’ or ‘submit’), or the waiving of a late submission penalty incurred for the affected assessment.

It is important to note that presentation of mitigating circumstances evidence does not guarantee that a concession will be applied and accepted mitigating circumstances do not lead to marks being changed.

Are extensions to coursework deadlines allowed because of mitigating circumstances?

Depending on the circumstance, your department will normally tell you to hand in the coursework at the earliest possible opportunity that your circumstances allow. If your mitigation is accepted for the affected assessment no penalty will be applied for its late/non submission. If your mitigation is accepted but your department agrees you could have submitted your work earlier a partial penalty is likely to be applied. 

Mitigating Circumstances Panels are allowed to set a revised submission date in cases where it is possible and appropriate to do so in order to account for accepted mitigating circumstances (see Senate Regulation 7.93).

Don't forget you must notify your department at your earliest possible opportunity if you experience a sudden illness or other serious and unforeseen event or set of circumstances that mean you will not be able to meet a coursework deadline. You must also supply appropriate documentary evidence so that the Mitigating Circumstances Panel can consider your case and determine if and how it is appropriate to account for your circumstances.

Help with mitigating circumstances

As well as ensuring that the Mitigating Circumstances Panel is aware of your circumstances, your department/personal tutor may be able help you in dealing with your mitigating circumstances. For instance:

  • if your circumstances mean you might need time away from study your personal tutor/department will be able to advise you whether a formal suspension of studies is a possibility and discuss arrangements for returning to your course;
  • if you have or suspect you have a learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia) your personal tutor/department can refer you to the AccessAbility Centre;
  • if you are experiencing financial difficulties your personal tutor/department can direct you to Student Welfare Services.

Your primary contact for support in your department is your personal tutor. If for some reason you don't feel comfortable discussing your particular mitigating circumstance with your personal tutor don't worry; approach another member of staff in your department instead.

* It is your responsibility to inform your department of any matters (mitigating circumstances) of significance to your academic performance and to supply substantiating evidence by the relevant deadline
* Presentation of medical or other special circumstances evidence does not guarantee that academic concessions will be granted
* Mitigating circumstances do not lead to marks being changed.

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