Policy on Extenuating Circumstances Affecting Assessment
The University recognises that students’ study and preparation for assessment may on occasion be affected by a range of factors, including extenuating circumstances, and that students may on occasion be unable to complete assessments.
The following policy has twin aims: to ensure that students with valid claims of extenuating circumstances are treated fairly and consistently; and to protect the standard of the University’s awards.
This policy applies to all students of the University pursuing taught programmes or the training element of research degrees and allows for the consideration of extenuating circumstances relating to all taught assessments.
2. Underlying Principles
The University’s Policy on Extenuating Circumstances is based on the following principles:
i) The object of any assessment is to measure achievement, not potential (i.e. what a student has done, not what they might have the potential to do).
ii) Each student has individual responsibility for submitting coursework on time, for presenting themselves for scheduled assessments (to include written examinations, online examinations/assessment, demonstrations, presentations and practical or lab-based examinations) at the appropriate time and place, and for informing the academic Faculty/School of any extenuating circumstances by submitting information and documentation on such circumstances.
It is the student’s responsibility to declare any circumstances in a timely manner (normally BEFORE the coursework deadline/examination) to allow the University an opportunity to respond appropriately to those circumstances. A student who is concerned that they will not be able to sit an assessment and/or submit work by the deadline should contact their Faculty/School for advice.
iii) Academic Faculties/Schools will give serious consideration to ways to assist students to overcome circumstances which might adversely affect assessments.
iv) The University will respond in a fair and equitable way to any extenuating circumstance which cannot adequately be resolved prior to the assessment in question.
vi) Extenuating circumstances will not be considered as grounds for adjusting marks awarded for assessments already completed.
vii) The University will not limit the number of times a student can apply for additional extenuating circumstances for a particular exam or assessment. Each request will be considered on its individual facts and a request will not normally be rejected simply because the student has had the maximum number of attempts allowed under its regulations for an exam or assessment or has reached the normal maximum registration period for their course. However, where multiple applications are made within the same academic year Faculties/Schools may with reference to the particular circumstance’s affecting the student and the number of assessments affected) suggest that the student consider suspending studies instead.
Exceptionally there may be cases where the University notes that a student’s circumstances are compelling but decides not to approve the request because it does not think that the student has a realistic prospect of completing their programme or achieving an exit award (if applicable for that programme). For example, a student may have already had several attempts at an assessments but not passed any credits or made any progress academically, with all reasonable support options in place or a student may have reached the normal maximum registration period for their course, or they may, in the provider’s academic judgment, have no reasonable prospect of completing their course within that timeframe (or be likely to complete if allowed more time) given their progress to date.
viii) All Extenuating circumstances applications will be considered confidential and information will only be shared with a those members of staff required to make a decision. Where a student deems their circumstances to be of a highly sensitive nature this should be indicated on the application form and such evidence will only be considered by the decision maker.
ix) Exceptionally, an application may be considered without supporting evidence if a student can provide a satisfactory explanation on why such evidence cannot be supplied. The University will consider such applications sympathetically.
x) Extenuating Circumstances shall be considered by a School/Faculty Special Circumstances Committee/appropriate Committee or appropriately trained and experienced staff members of academic and/or professional services staff who are delegated to act on their behalf.
3. Guidelines on ‘Extenuating Circumstances’
Extenuating Circumstances are defined as serious and acute problems or events which are beyond a student’s control or ability to foresee which may have affected a student’s performance and/or may have impeded a student’s ability to attend, complete, or submit an assessment on time.
The only pertinent extenuating circumstances are those that cast doubt on the validity of the assessment as a measure of achievement.
Disability/long-term health conditions (including those associated with well-being/mental health) should be supported by the Wellbeing and Disability Service, in consultation with the Faculty/School and student (see Guidelines for Faculties/Schools for dealing with students with extenuating circumstances and/or specific requirements).
3.1.1 The following is a non-exhaustive list of circumstances unlikely to be accepted by the University as valid extenuating circumstances:
- Minor illness or ailment (which in a work situation would be unlikely to lead to absence from work) affecting the student’s preparatory work for an assessment. Examples could include colds, headaches, minor accidents or injuries.
- An alleged medical condition without either 1) reasonable evidence (medical or otherwise) to support it. or 2) a satisfactory explanation as to why the student has not been able to provide supporting independent evidence at the time of submitting the application.
- Financial problems, including the effect of paid employment.
- Poor time-management.
- Social obligations and similar avoidable commitments such as: holidays, weddings, parties, routine medical appointments.
- Avoidable study-related factors such as computer failure, printer malfunction, deadline congestion, lost notes.
- Accidentally submitting the wrong file to an online assessment, as it is the student’s responsibility to check on this.
- Holidays, house moves or other events that were planned or could reasonably have been expected.
- Misreading the exam timetable.
- Visa issues are not normally accepted.
- Minor life events, unless the circumstances have had a disproportionate impact on the student.
3.1.2 The following is a non-exhaustive list of circumstances which the University would commonly regard as extenuating circumstances which might affect performance:
- Serious illness, accident or well-being issue that is incapacitating or an unexpected deterioration in a long-term condition. Medical certification is normally expected to be provided and should clearly apply to the period immediately prior to an assessment date.
- Minor illness or ailment affecting the student on the day of or immediately preceding an examination. Examples could include minor accidents or injuries. Medical certification is normally expected to be provided and should clearly apply to the assessment date or a short period immediately prior to an assessment date.
- Where a student is unable to attend/take an assessment due to covid-19. Medical certification or proof of a positive test result is normally expected to be provided and should clearly apply to the assessment date or a short period immediately prior to an assessment date.
- Religious fasting which significantly affects health and prevents a student from undertaking an examination/assessment.
- Diagnosed/assessed anxiety and stress relating to examinations/assessments supported either by medical certification or an adjustment proforma. Evidence should clearly apply to the assessment date or a short period immediately prior to an assessment date.
- Long-term ill-health, specific requirements, disabilities which have been disclosed and assessed by the University. The adjustment proforma shall be taken as supporting evidence.
- Symptoms of an infectious disease that could be harmful if passed on to others. Medical certification is normally expected to be provided and should clearly apply to the assessment date or a short period immediately prior to an assessment date.
- Death or serious illness of a close relative or friend. Supporting independent evidence must normally be provided.
- Significant adverse personal/family circumstances – such as divorce, burglary, fire, major court proceedings, witnessing or experiencing a traumatic incident, financial difficulties beyond the control of the student. Supporting independent evidence must normally be provided.
- Other significant exceptional factors which have had a significant impact on the student. Supporting independent evidence must normally be provided.
- Part time block-release or distance-learning students only – unforeseen significant changes in pattern of employment. Supporting independent evidence should normally be provided.
- An emergency or crisis that prevents the student from attending an exam or accessing an online assessment. Supporting independent evidence should normally be provided.
- Sexual assault/sexual violence. Supporting independent evidence should normally be provided.
- Accommodation crisis such as eviction or home becoming uninhabitable. Supporting independent evidence should normally be provided.
- Suspension imposed by the University.
- Exceptional circumstances relating to group work, which has not already been considered by the Faculty/School (e.g where the whole group has been affected by circumstances beyond its control, or if an individual member of the group experiences difficulties and so is unable to contribute effectively.) Supporting independent evidence should normally be provided.
- Pregnancy related conditions and childbirth (including a partner in labour). Supporting independent evidence should normally be provided.
- Normally only failure of University IT Equipment where there is a verifiable failure (supported by compelling evidence) which affects a system or systems, and which limits the students’ opportunity to submit including, but not limited to:
o Failure of remote invigilation software
o Unplanned localised Wi-Fi outage
o Unplanned downtime of the Digital Learning Platform (or elements of)
Evidence (with dates and times clearly visible) may take the form of screenshots of service interruptions, errors, network provider page or communications outlining the disruption, including social media posts and emails from providers or monitoring systems. Students must still, however, ensure they keep a back-up of their work and be prepared to submit by the deadline published, allowing contingency time for any last-minute technical problems, and ensuring they notify the relevant member(s) of staff about the issue as soon as possible.
- Caring responsibilities and domestic difficulties which impact a student’s ability to prepare for or undertake assessments. The carer’s passport shall be taken as evidence, alternatively independent supporting evidence should be provided.
- Period of quarantine/self-isolation: If a period of quarantine affects a student’s ability to complete assessment(s), the student is expected to provide information on the circumstances in the Faculty/School application form. If the student is quarantining in University accommodation, a copy of the quarantine booking will be accepted (available from Myunisupport). If self-isolating, students will be asked to provide copies of emails sent to the Faculty/School//University informing them of the period of self-isolation. Applications will be considered sympathetically.
Independent documentation to substantiate any extenuating circumstances claims should normally be provided. Such evidence provided must be dated to within a month of the affected assessment/exam, must indicate how the circumstances affected a student’s performance and/or may have impeded a student’s ability to attend, complete, or submit an assessment on time. The absence of such documentation will result in the application being rejected unless the student can provide a satisfactory explanation in their application as to why they have been unable to provide such evidence.
3.2.1 The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of appropriate evidence:
- Doctor*/Health Professional’s letter/certificate which confirms the illness, indicates the likely impact of the illness, and clearly identifies that the time period of illness occurred within a month of the assessment (* Doctor should be GMC registered or have equivalent standing. Where the doctor is not GMC registered or does not have equivalent standing, further evidence may be requested, as appropriate).
- In the case of a student taken ill during an on-site University invigilated examination, a copy of the invigilator’s report. (This should be accompanied by medical evidence wherever possible). A student who is taken ill during an on-site examination must inform the invigilator either during or immediately after the examination and before leaving the examination venue. A record of this will be made by the invigilator which the student can subsequently access from the Examinations Office. In such a case, the invigilator’s report may be used to support a claim for a deferral, though students should also obtain medical evidence if possible.
- Hospital admission and discharge letter, to confirm time spent in hospital. The letter must include the student’s name and the Faculty/School will need to be satisfied that the letter pertains to the student.
- A letter from service supporting the student, e.g. Wellbeing and Disability Service, Sexual Violence Liaison Officer (SVLO), Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), Counsellor, Swansea University Advice Centre (SUAC) or other agency a student may be supported by etc. (provided at the discretion of the support service).
- In the case of diagnosed/identified examination anxiety/stress medical certification or an adjustment proforma.
- In the case of quarantining, a copy of the quarantine booking (if quarantining in University accommodation available via MyUnisupport).
- In the case of self-isolation, a copy of the NHS/University email sent to the student informing them of the period of self-isolation.
- In the case of students with fluctuating health conditions/disabilities that have been approved by Wellbeing and Disability Services the adjustment proforma shall be taken as evidence.
- Either a death certificate or Order or Service or Funeral Director's Letter. In the case of serious illness and/or death of a close relation (defined as a parent/primary carer of the candidate, sibling, partner/spouse, child/dependent of the candidate) evidence of the death/serious illness will suffice and it shall be presumed that the illness/death had an impact on the student.
- Police report, a crime reference number on its own will not be sufficient
- News report to confirm unforeseen transport difficulties.
- In the case of short-term caring responsibilities and domestic difficulties which impact a student’s ability to prepare for or undertake assessments a statement from a family member/friend.
In cases where it is not possible/appropriate for a student to get independent evidence of their circumstance a statement made by the student shortly after the event may be submitted; however, a student must explain why it is not possible to get any independent evidence.
The University may contact an evidence provider (e.g. GP) to verify a student’s evidence. In such cases, the University will obtain permission from the student to contact the evidence provider.
3.2.2 The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of evidence which are not normally accepted:
- Self-certification of circumstances.
- Evidence which is not supplied by an independent party.
- Medical condition supported by retrospective evidence.
- A letter from a parent, partner, family member or fellow student verifying circumstances where there is no other independent supporting evidence.
- Evidence in a language other than English/Welsh which is not accompanied by a certified translation.
- Crime reference number without a supplementary Police report.
- Screenshots from mobile devices showing restricted information.
- Illegible evidence i.e. faded wording, cropped, missing information, undated, poorly scanned evidence.
4. Extenuating Circumstances Policy
It is the policy of Swansea University to adopt a presumption that a student who undertakes assessment is fit to do so. The marks awarded will be an accurate reflection of performance and will not be altered subsequently based on extenuating circumstances. A student who is unable to undertake an assessment because of extenuating circumstances may (subject to the provision of appropriate evidence) be given a further opportunity to undertake the assessment potentially as an uncapped opportunity.
A student who attends and/or completes an assessment and does not submit claims for extenuating circumstances within 5 working days of the assessment or within the deadline set by the Faculty/School responsible for delivering the module concerned, shall be deemed to confirm:
- that there are no reasons why they should not undertake the assessment at that time;
- that they will not subsequently submit a request for a concession in respect of extenuating circumstances; and
- that any requests for ‘reasonable adjustments’ in light of a disability, health condition, wellbeing or mental health issue or other specific requirements have already been submitted to the University.
In exceptional circumstances, the Faculty/School may grant a student an extension to the deadline for submitting extenuating circumstances/supporting evidence. A student who undertakes assessment knowing that they have been affected by extenuating circumstances will not normally be able successfully to submit a claim at a later date.
In the case of disruptions to or problems with an examination/assessment affecting a group of students, the Faculty/School Special Circumstances Committee or appropriate Committee may recommend appropriate action.
5. Extenuating Circumstances Applications
The consideration of extenuating circumstances applications relating to taught assessment ( on-site/remote examinations and/or coursework) will be undertaken by the Faculty/School responsible for delivering the module to which the affected assessment contributes. In taking decisions, Faculty/Schools will be guided by principles 2, 3 and 4 contained in this policy. Faculty/School procedures for considering extenuating circumstances affecting assessment will be published by the Faculty/School. The procedures will include deadlines for the submitting of extenuating circumstances, the procedures and timeframe for the Faculty/School consideration of any submissions and notification of the outcomes to students.
Students are required to complete the appropriate extenuating circumstances form provided by the Faculty/School and to submit the completed form, along with the appropriate supporting independent evidence by the deadline prescribed by the Faculty/School.
5.1 Coursework Applications
The Faculty/School Special Circumstances Committee or appropriate Committee will determine one of the following:
- a valid claim has been made and agree upon one of the following options:
- award an extension to the submission deadline (applicable to coursework)
- offer a further attempt (uncapped or capped, as appropriate) at the next appropriate assessment point (applicable to coursework and remote examinations)
Where none of the above courses of action is appropriate due to the nature of the assessment, the Faculty/School Special Circumstances Committee or appropriate Committee may:
- allow a small element of coursework or in-year assessment to be disregarded, with the final mark(s) being recalculated from the remaining elements of coursework or in-year assessment; or
- accommodate those situations where one component of the module is missing by allowing for the final mark(s) to be recalculated from the remaining module component(s); or
- recommend to the Examining Board some other action to be undertaken
- conclude that there are no or insufficient grounds for the student’s claim.
Extenuating circumstances affecting the submission of the directed independent learning, for taught master’s students, are dealt with through separate procedures.
5.2 On-site/Remote Examinations
A student with a temporary impairment which might make participating in an on-site examination difficult should contact the Module Co-ordinator/Assessment Team or the appropriate Examinations Officer and the University’s Examinations Office in Academic Services as it may be appropriate for special arrangements to be put in place to enable the student to participate in the examination. This may include allowing the student to take the assessment in a smaller room, use of an amanuensis (scribe), use of a computer, or other appropriate adjustments.
In cases where such special arrangements are inappropriate, the extenuating circumstances policy should be used instead.
If the Faculty/School accepts the extenuating circumstances as valid in relation to the on-site/remote examination, a further opportunity at the examination will be offered at the next appropriate assessment point (Semester One Assessment Period, the main Semester Two assessment period or Supplementary Assessment Period for taught programmes). If the affected examination was a ‘first attempt’, the further opportunity granted will be considered an uncapped deferral’. If the affected examination was a re-sit, the deferred opportunity will be regarded as a re-sit and the mark awarded will be capped (if capping applies). If the student attempted the examination in question prior to being granted a deferral, no mark will be awarded for the original attempt.
5.3 Timescale for decisions
Students will be notified of the outcome of an extenuating circumstances application by the Faculty/School in a timely manner and normally within 14 working days of the request being made.
5.4 Notification of outcome
Students will be notified of the outcome of their application in writing. The Faculty/School should also include details of the reasons for the decision and advice regarding who to contact should they experience further difficulties in relation to the assessment.
5.5 Declined Applications
If the Faculty/School declines an extenuating circumstances application in relation to an examination or coursework (in accordance with the procedures outlined in 5.1 and 5.2), the following action will be taken:
- if the assessment was not attempted, a mark of 0% (unauthorised absence) will be recorded for the assessment and the overall outcome for the student will be determined in accordance with the assessment regulations for the programme of study; or
- if the assessment has been attempted, the submitted work will be marked, a mark recorded and the overall outcome for the student will be determined in accordance with the assessment regulations for the programme of study.
5.6 Extenuating circumstances affecting the Supplementary Assessment Period
There is no further opportunity to undertake assessments between the Supplementary Assessment period and the beginning of the next academic year. Extenuating circumstances relating to coursework may be considered in accordance with 5.1 above. However, a supplementary examination opportunity cannot be deferred. Where a student is affected by extenuating circumstances during the t supplementary assessment period, they should inform their home Faculty/School of the extenuating circumstances:
- in advance of the assessment date; or
- within 5 working days of the assessment taking place/by the deadline prescribed by the Faculty/School
The information must be provided in writing using the prescribed form and should normally accompanied by supporting independent documentary evidence. The application may be considered without supporting independent evidence if the student can provide a satisfactory explanation on why they cannot supply such evidence. The University will consider applications sympathetically. The student should submit the prescribed form within the time-limits set out above even if some/all of the supporting evidence is not available within the time-limit. Any supporting evidence must be provided as soon as possible thereafter. In exceptional circumstances, the Faculty/School may grant a student an extension to the deadline for submitting extenuating circumstances/supporting evidence. If the prescribed form is received by the Faculty/School without all supporting evidence/a satisfactory explanation as to why the student has been unable to provide independent supporting evidence, the
Faculty/School/ will communicate a reasonable deadline (having regard to the Progression and Awards Board at which the student’s results will be considered) to the student via their student e-mail account for provision of evidence. If this deadline for the provision of all supporting evidence is not met the application will be considered (on the basis of the information provided within the application and any evidence provided with the application when submitted) and may be rejected.
Faculty/School will consider extenuating circumstances affecting August supplementary assessments and determine whether the extenuating circumstance application is valid or not.
If the Faculty/School determines that the application is valid, the Faculty/School/ may submit a recommendation to the University Progression or Awards Board for consideration in light of the student’s overall performance. For example, a student may be given a further opportunity to repeat the failed module(s) uncapped the following session in light of extenuating circumstances. However, students will not be able to progress to the next level/part of study/qualify for an award because of submitted extenuating circumstances if they have not satisfied the minimum progression or award criteria. In all cases, the normal progression or award regulations will apply.
5.7 The College, Swansea University – Deferral decisions
Decision on deferral for Students of The College, Swansea University will be made by the Special Circumstances Committee of The College, Swansea University.
6. Extenuating Circumstances and Progression/Award Decisions
A decision taken by Faculty/School Special Circumstances Committees (or other appropriate Committee) or the University Academic Regulations and Cases Board (or Board nominee) in relation to extenuating circumstances shall be forwarded to the appropriate Examining Board as a recommendation. The Examining Board shall consider any recommendation with reference to a student’s overall academic profile and the assessment regulations. Normally the application of the assessment regulations shall take precedence.
7. Academic Misconduct
Any student knowingly submitting false or forged evidence to substantiate an extenuating circumstance claim of any sort will render themselves liable to disciplinary proceedings under the University’s Academic Misconduct Procedures.
Appeals against decisions taken by Faculty/School Special Circumstances Committees (or other appropriate Committee) or the University’s Academic Regulations and Cases Board (or Board nominees) in relation to extenuating circumstances shall not normally be considered.
In cases where a student feels that there have been irregularities in the conduct of the procedures, the student should contact the relevant Faculty/School in the first instance.
In cases where a student obtains new evidence relating to an application already submitted, the student may resubmit new evidence to the Faculty/School for reconsideration provided it is within the deadlines specified.
Only in cases where the medical evidence submitted supports the notion that the student was incapable of determining whether or not they were fit to undertake or prepare an assessment and of notifying the Faculty/School will the University accept claims for extenuating circumstances submitted beyond the deadline. Such claims should be managed by the Academic Appeals Procedure. The Faculty/School will be asked to provide comment on such cases.
9. Record Keeping
Faculties/Schools shall keep accurate and proportionate records of extenuating circumstances requests and outcomes.
10. Monitoring Extenuating Circumstances
It shall be the responsibility of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board to monitor the data and make recommendations as appropriate.
It shall also be the responsibility of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board to review the Policy for its effectiveness and make recommendations for changes, where appropriate, to be considered by Senate.
11. Data Protection
The University will respect the confidentiality of information supplied by a student in support of an application for Extenuating Circumstances. By submitting an extenuating circumstance form a student agrees to the University holding their personal data for the purposes of processing an extenuating circumstance claim. The University will hold this data in accordance with its notification under the General Data Protection Regulation and other Data Protection Laws and the University’s Records Retention Policy.