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Mitigating circumstances and extension requests

If personal circumstances affect a student’s exams or assessments, or their attendance at teaching activities, they can make a request for mitigating circumstances. This includes extension requests on assessment deadlines.

The policy

Our policy and procedure documents explain when students can make a mitigating circumstances request, how these requests are assessed, and what mitigation may be applied if their request is approved:

Changes for 2021-22 academic year

The University is making a series of "assessment commitments" for the 2021-22 academic year. These are additional measures we will take around assessments for all taught students, to ensure we take into account any ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See full details of the assessment commitments

These commitments include accepting mitigating circumstances requests for a variety of COVID-related (and other) issues, and broadening the range of evidence we accept to support these requests. The key points are explained below – for further details, see our staff guidance on exam and assessment procedures 2021-22.

Mitigating circumstances

Our student support web pages have been updated to provide a student guide to mitigating circumstances. This explains what mitigating circumstances are, when students can make a request, and how to do this – including a list of example evidence they should include to support their request.

Self-certification: Students can self-certify any absence from teaching activities for up to seven days. See the student self-certification policy and procedure. If a student has more than one period of self-certification in any one semester, their School should contact them to discuss whether further support is needed. If their circumstances last for more than seven days, or affect an exam or assessment, we advise them to make a mitigating circumstances request.

Medical conditions:

  • We will not require a letter from a GP or healthcare provider, but will instead accept alternative evidence for medical cases. This is due to continuing pressures on the NHS and guidance from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). Medical letters we currently receive do not always provide detailed or helpful information.
  • We will only ask for evidence once in the case of a long-term or recurring medical or mental health condition (apart from cases where there are accreditation or fitness-to-practise requirements). We will also automatically carry these requests forward from the first application through to the student’s final Examination Board.
  • Students with long-term or recurring conditions should be referred to our Disability Advisory and Support Service (DASS) with their consent and in line with University procedures, so they can access ongoing support if appropriate. Students who are registered with DASS will not normally have to provide medical evidence for mitigating circumstances requests related to their DASS support plan.

Bereavement: We will not require a death certificate to evidence these cases (following feedback from students), but will instead accept alternative evidence.

Technical issues: Students can continue seeking mitigating circumstances for exams or assessments impacted by IT failure. For further information about technical support with assessments and what to do if something goes wrong, please direct students to our online assessment support page. For information for staff members, please see guidance on Mitigating Circumstances related to IT issues.

Elite sport: We have added elite sporting commitments to the list of acceptable mitigating circumstances. Please also see Academic Flexibility Guidance Notes (Sport) for details of academic flexibility arrangements for students who are elite sportspersons.

Extension requests

We will not offer automatic extensions to all students this year. Instead, students should make any extension requests through mitigating circumstances procedures in their School. Any arrangements that individual students have for automatic extensions through DASS will remain in place.

We must ensure that students receive timely notice of the outcome of their request – normally within five working days. Requests received closer to the deadline are more likely to be handled through consideration of removal of late penalties, rather than as extension requests.

We want to support students in managing their assessment deadlines, but we found that last year’s automatic extension facility caused significant problems. As well as a substantial extra burden on PS staff, we also faced several issues directly affecting students – including delays in marks and feedback, and deadlines bunching up later in the semester causing even greater pressure and stress. We are also concerned that not asking the reason behind a student’s extension request may cause us to miss underlying health or personal issues where we should be offering support.

Supporting documents

For staff:

For students:

Archived versions of the Policy and Procedures documents