Faculties/Schools are responsible (on behalf of Senate) for the delivery of degree programmes and for confirming that students meet the outcomes of programmes of study. In addition, Faculties/Schools must ensure that students also comply with the requirements of the University and any relevant professional body.
The University has a particular responsibility in respect of students who are following a programme of study leading to a professional qualification which is registered with a statutory regulatory body. In addition to conferring the appropriate qualification, the University must be satisfied that the student would be a safe and suitable entrant to their given profession, and thus would be fit to practise.
These Regulations set out the procedure for dealing with allegations or concerns relating to a student’s fitness to practise.
Students are reminded that the Regulations apply equally to their conduct or behaviour away from the University and its environs including any settings into which students are placed as part of their education. Students should be aware that their behaviour outside the University, including in their personal lives, may have an impact on their fitness to practise.
These Regulations do not apply to students who already hold a professional qualification which is registrable with a professional, statutory or regulatory body, unless they are also enrolled on a programme of study leading to another professional qualification. However, nothing in these Regulations shall prevent the University from informing a professional, statutory or regulatory body about a student who is already registered with that body, where issues are raised relating to the student’s fitness for registration and practise.
The following principles shall apply when dealing with a case of Fitness to Practise:
- A student shall be presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise, the burden of proof (duty of proving the allegation) shall rest on the University and the standard of proof should be on the 'balance of probabilities' (see 10.6).
- Criminal convictions and judgements and findings made by Professional Bodies, UK Civil Courts and UK Social Services shall be deemed conclusive evidence of the facts investigated in those cases – see 6.5.
- The findings previously determined by the Academic Misconduct Committee of Enquiry or the Disciplinary Committee of Enquiry shall also be deemed conclusive evidence of the facts investigated in those cases. Neither the student nor the Committee may challenge such findings, unless such findings have already been overturned through Final Reviews.
- All procedures will comply with the Equality Act 2010.
The University has a duty of care for the safety of its students, staff and visitors and where relevant to people with whom a student may have contact on placements. Consequently, the University practises an information sharing protocol with the South Wales Police, whereby the South Wales Police can disclose convictions of students to the University; and the University shall, provided that the requirements of the General Data Protection 2018 have been met, provide personal information, such as photographs and addresses to South Wales Police under the remit of the prevention or detection of crime.
A student will not normally be allowed to graduate from the University if they are subject to a fitness to practise investigation or a Fitness to Practise Committee of which has not been completed.
Where a student voluntarily withdraws from their programme of study before fitness to practise concerns have been determined by a Committee of Enquiry, the University may still proceed to determine these fitness to practise concerns in accordance with these Procedures. Any students considering voluntarily withdrawing from their programme should therefore discuss this with their Faculty/School before proceeding to withdraw.
Students shall be reminded that the Students' Union Advice Centre can assist and advise them in confidence relating to fitness to practise issues and can represent them at a Fitness to Practise Committee Of Enquiry. The Advice Centre is a free service for students.
2. Obligations on Students
Students are required to notify the University promptly of the details of any criminal charges, arrests, convictions and/or cautions they receive whilst they are registered as a student of the University. Students registered on professional programmes have an additional duty to notify the University promptly if they receive any police fixed penalty notice or are the subject of any social services investigations whilst they are registered as a student of the University. These duties apply equally to students who are suspended from their studies.
It is a student's responsibility to ensure that their contact details are correct on the central records system. The University bears no responsibility for letters or other communications that do not reach a student due to their record not being kept up to date.
3. Definition of “Unfit to Practise”
Where a student is enrolled on a course leading directly (or partially) to a professional qualification or the right to practise a particular profession or calling, they will be regarded as “Unfit to Practise” when their behaviour or health raises a serious or persistent concern about their ability to continue on a course, or to practise in that profession or calling. This includes, but is not limited to the possibility that the student may be a risk to patients or the public, or may undermine trust in the profession.
The University refers to specific Professional or Statutory Body guidance in determining whether a student is Unfit to Practise.
Illustrative examples which, may amount, prima facie, to a student being considered Unfit to Practise are listed within Appendix 1.
4. Initiation of Procedures and Investigation by Faculty/School of Fitness to Practise
Any student, staff member, patient/service user or member of the public may refer concerns about a student’s fitness to practise to the student’s Faculty/School orally or in writing. Concerns can be directed to the relevant Executive Dean if it is not known to whom the concern should be referred.
The Faculty/School shall direct the matter to the Executive Dean or nominee, as soon as possible.
Once the case is referred to the Executive Dean (or designated nominee), they shall arrange for the concern to be investigated by a Case Officer and the Case Officer shall notify the student, in writing, of the following:
- The details of the allegations/concerns against the student;
- Any limitations or conditions placed upon the student’s continuance of studies or practice during the period of the investigation;
- The details of appropriate pastoral support mechanisms within the University and Students’ Union.
The student shall normally be required to provide a preliminary response to the Case Officer in writing, within 7 working days of the Case Officer's letter detailing the allegations/concerns (this may not be deemed necessary by the Case Officer where they meet with the student in accordance with 4.6 below). If the student fails to respond, then the Case Officer/Panel (where a Panel is appointed in accordance with the Faculty/School level procedures) may assess the case, based on the available evidence.
In investigating the case, the Case Officer shall collate evidence that supports or contradicts the allegation or concern. This may involve interviewing relevant individuals including the student.
Where face-to-face interviews are arranged, the Case Officer shall arrange for a written record of the interview to be made. The interviewee (to include the student concerned) shall be entitled to be accompanied to the interview by a friend or colleague (who is a member of the University), or a Students' Union representative. The role of any person accompanying the interviewee will be to support the interviewee, and they will not be allowed to answer questions on behalf of the interviewee.
The Case Officer shall have the right to contact and request any information from any individual (to include the student concerned) by telephone, letter or email, or to request one or more interviews with any individual (to include the student concerned) to seek clarification or elaboration on any points.
In all cases where concerns are raised regarding the student’s health or disability, the Case Officer, will refer the student to Occupational Health and/or to a suitably qualified practitioner, as specified by the Case Officer/Panel (where a Panel is appointed in accordance with the Faculty/School level procedures) for an assessment and possible opinion of their Fitness to Practise. Such assessment shall be reported in writing and shall normally be disclosed to the student, the Case Officer, the Faculty/School Panel [if established] and to any Committee of Enquiry which is later established to determine the outcome of the case.
If the student refuses to cooperate with such assessment, or to agree to the release of the assessment report to the Case Officer, Faculty/School Panel and any Committee of Enquiry, the student will normally be required to suspend studies until such time as the assessment is carried out and released and/or until the meeting of a Committee of Enquiry (see 7 below).
The Case Officer may be under an obligation to inform the relevant Professional Body and other relevant bodies of the allegation as soon as they are notified of the matter to ensure the safety of patients/service users.
Where a criminal investigation or legal proceedings are pending, the case shall be considered in accordance with the procedures outlined in 6 below.
Where the Case Officer deems it to be necessary to suspend or partially suspend a student pending the outcome of the Faculty/School’s investigation/Fitness to Practice Procedures, he or she shall bring the matter to the attention of the Vice-Chancellor (or their nominee), as soon as possible in accordance with the procedures outlined below in 7.
5. Completion of Faculty/School Investigation
Following the completion of the Case Officer’s investigation of the allegation/concern and, where practicable given the complexity of the case within 8 weeks of the Faculty/School's initial receipt of the allegation/concern, the Case Officer (or Panel where appointed in accordance with the Faculty/School level procedures) shall determine what action should be taken in light of the fitness to practise allegation/concern. Only cases in which the Case Officer/Panel determines, in light of the seriousness of the matter and the strength of the evidence, that there exists a prima facie case that the student is Unfit to Practise [i.e. that the student's behaviour or health (or both), raises a serious or persistent cause for concern about their ability to continue on a course, or to practise after graduation] will be referred to a University Fitness to Practise Committee. This includes, but is not limited to, the possibility that the student may be a risk to patients or the public, or may undermine trust in the profession.
The decision that there exists a prima facie case that the student is Unfit to Practise may be because of a single significant event or a pattern of behaviour, and may also follow remediation action that has failed to resolve the issue.
The Case Officer/Panel may consider how the student’s behaviour or health might affect patient and public safety, or the public’s trust in the medical profession. The Case Officer/Panel may reflect on the severity of the behaviour, the maturity of the student and the year of study, as well as the likelihood of repeat behaviour and how well the student will respond to support. The Case Officer/Panel must act in a proportionate way by weighing the interests of patients/service users and members of the public against those of the student and shall consider whether the concern is to be dealt with through student support and remedial tuition, or whether the threshold had been met for referral to the University’s formal Fitness to Practise Committee. The Case Officer/Panel should also take note of any guidance on sanctions by the appropriate professional body.
The Case Officer/Panel may take independent legal or other expert advice as they consider to be necessary including, if appropriate, from Occupational health or members of the Faculty/School’s Special Circumstances Committee.
Following completion of the investigation the Case Officer/Panel may determine any/a combination of the following outcomes:
a) Dismiss the case where the allegation is determined not to have any substance.
b) Decide that further enquiries or investigations be made and that the case be reconsidered thereafter.
c) Refer the case to be dealt with through internal Faculty/School procedures (i.e. where there is evidence that the student’s behaviour falls below expected standards but is not deemed so serious as to render the student unfit to practise. This may include, but is not limited to, referring the student for support to the student’s Academic Mentor, Student Services or Occupational Health, and requiring the student to undertake educational remediation such as completion of a piece of reflective writing.
d) Refer the student for an assessment of the student’s health or disability, in accordance with 4.9 and 4.10.
e) Refer the case to Academic Services to be dealt with under the University’s Disciplinary Procedures either in addition to or instead of the other outcomes under 5.5.
f) Stay (hold) the case pending police investigation, with or without conditions. Such conditions (such as the imposition of a Behavioural Contract) can only be imposed with the agreement of the Director of Academic Services.
g) Refer the case to the Vice-Chancellor (or nominee) for an interim suspension or partial suspension of the student pending further investigation or the convening of a Committee of Enquiry in accordance with the procedures outlined below in 7.
h) Give the student an informal oral or written warning in relation to their behaviour, to indicate to the student that their behaviour falls below expected standards. A written record of the informal warning will be maintained on the student’s file within the Faculty/School and would be disclosed to any subsequent Committee of Enquiry. However, such informal warning would not be commented upon in any references provided.
i) Issue the student a formal written warning in relation to their behaviour, where the student’s behaviour falls significantly below expected standards. Information about formal warnings and the fact that they may need to be disclosed to the relevant professional body is at Appendix 2. A student may request a review of the decision to issue a formal warning in accordance with the Final Review Procedure.
j) Agree Undertakings with the student. Undertakings may be appropriate where there is found to be a prima facie case that the student is Unfit to Practise, but the student acknowledges this and demonstrates insight into the concerns and is seeking ways to address the underlying issues. Information about Undertakings is at Appendix 2.
k) Where there is found to be a prima facie case that the student is Unfit to Practise, refer the case to a Committee of Enquiry to hear the case. The case may be referred to a Committee of Enquiry concurrent with further investigations being conducted.
The Case Officer/Panel may also be under an obligation to notify the relevant professional body of the outcome of their investigations, even where the outcome is that the case has been dismissed or the case is not referred to a Committee of Enquiry.
The student shall be notified of the decision, in writing, as soon as possible and normally within three working days of the decision having been reached. A copy of this letter/email is to be provided to Academic Services (which shall be responsible for arranging the Committee of Enquiry).
Where a decision has been made to refer the case to a Committee of Enquiry, the Case Officer is expected to prepare a report with supporting evidence (which may constitute one or more separate documents) to include, but is not limited to, the following:
- an outline of the allegation(s)/ concern(s);
- details of the evidence (attaching copies of any relevant records of interviews, correspondence and documents);
- the names, and wherever possible statements, of witnesses who the Case Officer proposes to call to give evidence at the meeting of the Committee of Enquiry;
- reasons why the conduct and/or personal circumstances raise a serious or persistent cause for concern about the student’s ability to continue on a course, or to practise after graduation;
- the relevant Codes governing the profession to which the student aspires;
- the recommendation on appropriate outcomes/sanctions of the Case Officer and/or Faculty/School Panel.
The Case Officer shall provide a copy of such report and supporting documents to Academic Services as soon as practicable, and normally within 20 working days after the decision has been made to refer the case to a Committee of Enquiry. If it should prove impracticable for the Case Officer to provide their report and supporting documents within 20 working days, the student shall be informed in writing of the timescale for the provision of these. Once received, Academic Services will arrange for copies of the report and supporting documents to be provided to the student and members of the Committee Panel.
Where it is not practicable for the Case Officer to provide to the Secretary all its evidence (e.g. witness statements, documents etc) in accordance with 5.9 above, they shall normally provide an initial report and thereafter such further evidence within the timescale stipulated by Academic Services. It may not, however, be possible for a report/initial report to be provided where the student is referred for a medical assessment until such medical assessment report is received. Where a criminal investigation or legal proceedings are pending, the case shall be considered in accordance with the procedures outlined in 6 below.
6. What Happens when the Conduct in Question is also a Criminal Offence?
Where the conduct in question is also a criminal offence a decision will not normally be made under these regulations until the criminal investigation/legal proceedings concerned have been concluded. Instead the case will normally be referred to as 'being deferred pending the outcome of the criminal investigation/legal proceedings'. However, the Case Officer may be under an obligation to notify the relevant Professional Body of the case at the outset and before the outcome of the criminal investigation/legal proceedings is known.
Depending on the gravity of the offence this deferral may be subject to certain conditions such as the imposition of a Behavioural Contract or a partial or full suspension from the University and its premises including placements. Any conditions (such as the imposition of a Behavioural Contract) can only be imposed with the prior agreement of the Director of Academic Services. Furthermore, any partial or interim suspension can only be imposed by the Vice-Chancellor (or their nominee).
The case shall be reviewed upon any developments in the police investigation/legal proceedings. Students are reminded that they are under an obligation to keep the University informed as to the status of their case and any release/bail conditions imposed upon them.
When the police investigations/legal proceedings have been concluded and, either the student has been prosecuted, or a decision not to prosecute has been taken, the Case Officer shall decide whether action under these regulations should continue to be taken.
Where the student has been convicted of a criminal offence, the conviction shall be deemed conclusive evidence that the offence had been committed – i.e. the Case Officer and/or Committee of Enquiry should not seek to ‘go behind’ the conviction or reach another conclusion in relation to the matters that led to the conviction. Judgements/findings made by Professional Bodies, UK Civil Courts and UK Social Services shall also be deemed conclusive evidence of the facts investigated in those cases.
Where a finding is made that the student is Unfit to Practise and the student has also been sentenced by a criminal court in respect of the same facts, the court's penalty shall be taken into consideration in determining the penalty under these regulations.
A student, on whom a custodial sentence is imposed, shall normally be required to suspend studies for the duration of the custodial sentence or beyond.
Where the custodial sentence is 12 months in duration, or longer than the remainder of the duration of the student's candidature period, Academic Services, on behalf of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board, will normally require the student to withdraw from the University. Academic Services shall confirm this decision in writing to the student. The student may, however, request a formal review of this decision to the Director of Academic Services under the Final Review Procedure within 14 working days of the date of the Academic Services’ decision.
In any case where the student has suspended due to a custodial sentence, the student's return to the University and/or placement would be conditional upon a satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment. Conditions and restrictions may be imposed governing the student's movements and conduct, if they are allowed to resume studies.
7. Suspension or Partial Suspension Pending Further Investigations or a Committee of Enquiry
A student who is the subject of:
- an investigation of circumstances, which may prevent them from being offered or from continuing on a placement; or
- a serious complaint that the student is Unfit to Practise; or
- criminal proceedings; or
- a police investigation
may be suspended or partially suspended by the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee pending the Committee of Enquiry meeting or the criminal trial or the student’s medical assessment (see 4.9 above).
a) Suspension involves a total restriction on attendance at, or access to, the University facilities, the course (to include student placements) and participation on any University activities. It may also include a requirement that the student have no contact of any kind with a named person or persons. Suspension will be used only where partial suspension from specified activities or facilities is deemed to be inadequate.
b) Partial suspension involves selective restriction on attendance at, or access to, University facilities, programmes or courses of study (including student placement), and selective prohibition on exercising the functions or duties of any office or committee membership in the University, the exact details to be specified in writing. It may also include a requirement that the student have no contact of any kind with a named person or persons.
Suspension or partial suspension pending a hearing will not be used as a penalty. The power to suspend or partially suspend under this provision is to protect the members of the University in general or a particular member, or other persons including patients, pupils, clients, or members of the public, and the power shall be used only where the Vice-Chancellor is of the opinion that it is necessary to take such action. Written reasons for the decision shall be recorded and made available to the student. The Case Officer may also be obliged to provide a copy of the written reasons for the decision to the relevant Professional Body.
Normally, no student shall be suspended or partially suspended unless the student has been given an opportunity to make representations in person to the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee. Where for any reason it appears to the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee that it is not possible or suitable for the student to attend in person within a time-scale considered by the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee to be appropriate to the circumstances of the case, the student shall be entitled to make a written representation within such time period as is stipulated by the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee.
In cases deemed urgent, the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee shall be empowered to suspend a student with immediate effect, provided that the opportunities mentioned in 7.4 above are given thereafter, and the matter is reviewed within 7 working days.
Where there are significant developments a review of the suspension or partial suspension shall be arranged by Academic Services as soon as possible. Such a review will not involve a meeting or submissions made in person, but the student shall be entitled to submit written representations. Any decision taken to lift the suspension or partial suspension shall rest with the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee.
When the outcome of a police investigation and (where applicable) court proceedings is known, Academic Services shall arrange for the case to be determined as soon as practically possible. In the event that both the Case Officer and Academic Services agree that the Committee of Enquiry can proceed at an earlier stage, the written consent of the student will be obtained.
8. Committee of Enquiry
Upon Academic Services’ receipt of a letter from the Case Officer/Panel confirming a decision to refer the case to a Committee of Enquiry, the Committee Secretary (who shall be appointed from Academic Services) shall arrange for an appropriate Committee of Enquiry to be convened as soon as possible, normally within 7 working weeks of the Case Officer's report being received by Academic Services.
The Committee of Enquiry Panel shall consist of four members (selected by the Committee’s Secretary), namely:
(i) two members from the following: Pro-Vice-Chancellors, members of University level Committees/Boards with relevant experience/expertise; senior members of academic teaching and clinical staff (i.e. Senior Lecturer; Senior Clinical Tutor); Honorary staff and Emeritus Professors; and
(ii) a student representative (from Swansea University or another University) or a Students’ Union Full-time Officer. Where is it not practicable for the Secretary to arrange for a student representative/Students’ Union Officer to sit as a member of the Panel without this resulting in a significant delay to the scheduling of the Committee, the Secretary may select a third member of the staff from those listed at 8.2(i) above in place of the student representative/Students’ Union Officer.
(iii) a relevant practitioner, ex-practitioner or a person conversant with the codes of conduct, codes of ethics or codes of practice that govern the profession(s) relevant to the case.
The Committee of Enquiry Panel shall not contain members of staff from the School in which the student is studying nor members who have had any prior involvement in the case concerned. One member of the Committee of Enquiry Panel shall be appointed by the Secretary to act as Chair. A decision of the Committee Panel will be reached by a majority vote of the Panel members. The votes of the individual members will be treated as confidential. In the event of a tie decision, the Chair shall have an additional casting vote.
In cases involving complex legal or health issues issues, or in extremely serious cases, the University reserves the right to appoint a fifth member to the Panel, who may or may not be a member of Swansea University. Such person will not normally have voting rights with regard to determining whether the student is Unfit to Practise and what outcome/penalty should be imposed, but will determine issues relating to the process of the Committee meeting and the evidence presented by the parties. They may also advise the Panel regarding legal, health or other specialised matters The student shall be informed if a fifth member is appointed to the Committee Panel.
As soon as reasonably practicable after Academic Services’ receipt of the Case Officer’s report and supporting documents (detailed at 5.6 above), the Secretary shall:
- Send to the student copies of the Case Officer’s report and supporting documents and any further documents to be placed before the Committee of Enquiry.
- Invite the student to provide to the Secretary, by a prescribed deadline their written response to the Case Officer’s report and any evidence, witness statements or other documents upon which the student intends to rely in response to the Case Officer's report. The student’s written response should include reference to any statements or documents within the Case Officer report which the student disputes. The student shall be allowed at least 20 working days in which to prepare their response. Copies of the student’s response and supporting documents shall be provided by the Secretary to the Case Officer and to the Committee Panel prior to the meeting of the Committee of Enquiry. Where the student provides any documentation later than the deadline prescribed by the Secretary, this may force a postponement/adjournment of the Committee meeting in order to give Panel members and the Case Officer time to read and digest the content.
- Invite the student to notify the Committee Secretary of any special requirements.
- Notify the student, the Case Officer and members of the Committee of Enquiry of the date, place and time of the meeting and supply them with copies of the allegation and the evidence/documents submitted by the Case Officer and the student.
The Secretary shall arrange the date, place and time when the Committee of Enquiry shall meet. The student shall be informed that they shall have the right to attend the meeting. If the student confirms that they are unable to attend on that date the Committee Secretary will re-schedule the meeting on one further occasion, unless the student confirms in writing that they do not wish to attend the meeting. The student shall be required to inform the Secretary whether or not they intend to attend the meeting of the Committee of Enquiry. If the student indicates that they do not wish to attend the meeting, the Committee of Enquiry shall proceed in their absence. Normally a student may not send any other person to the meeting in their place unless this is authorised exceptionally by the Chair prior to the meeting.
Committee meetings should be held at Swansea University unless alternative arrangements have been agreed upon.
The student may be accompanied to the Committee meeting by a colleague/friend (who is a member of Swansea University) or a Students' Union representative, and/or may be represented. The student shall have the right to hear all the evidence, to have a representative speak on their behalf, to call and ask questions of witnesses, and to draw to the Panel’s attention other evidence which has been submitted by the prescribed deadline. Notwithstanding the fact that a student may be represented at the Committee meeting, the Panel will still wish to hear directly from the student in his or her own words and will require the student (not the student’s representative) to answer questions.
A student who intends to be accompanied and/or represented shall inform the Secretary of the name of the person accompanying/representing them in writing in advance and shall state whether or not the person has legal qualifications. If the student intends to be legally represented at the Committee meeting, the student must give notice that they intend to be legally represented to the Secretary no later than three weeks prior to the date of the Committee meeting, as the Faculty/School would expect time to instruct (if it so wishes) its own legal representative to represent the Faculty/School at the Committee meeting. The Faculty/School will not be legally represented at the Committee meeting where the student is not legally represented.
The student shall have the right to be accompanied by a language translator if their first language is not English or Welsh. It is the student’s responsibility to arrange such translator if required and to be responsible for their fees. The student shall notify the Secretary of the name of the translator in advance of the meeting.
A student may chose to have the Committee of Enquiry meeting conducted in either English or Welsh. Students wishing to have the meeting in Welsh shall notify the Secretary, upon receiving notification of the hearing date, in order for translation services to be arranged by the University’s Welsh Language Office. Such services shall be provided free of charge to the student.
Should a student not attend the meeting of the Committee of Enquiry without reasonable explanation, having previously indicated to the Secretary that they would attend, and provided that all reasonable means have been taken to contact the student, the meeting shall proceed in their absence. The Chair will have discretion as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable explanation’.
Where any party’s witness(es) fails to attend the meeting of the Committee of Enquiry it shall be at the discretion of the Chair whether or not to postpone or adjourn the Committee meeting.
The Committee may accept a witness’ written statement in evidence where both parties agree that the witness need not attend, or where it is impracticable for the witness to attend, or where, in the opinion of the Committee Chair, it is for some other reason in the interests of justice to do so.
Prior to or during the meeting of the Committee of Enquiry, the Panel may ask for additional enquiries to be undertaken and may call additional witnesses to attend. It may postpone or adjourn the meeting if it considers it to be in the interests of justice to do so.
If two or more students are involved in related cases, the Committee may, at the discretion of the Committee Chair, deal with their cases together.
The Committee Chair may impose time limits upon the parties’ oral submissions or questioning of witnesses.
The Secretary will arrange for a written record and/or audio recording of the Committee meeting to be made. No other audio or visual recording devices will be permitted to be used.
Students are reminded that it is in their best interest to keep in contact with the University. If the student does not respond to their correspondence or asks for a Committee of Enquiry meeting to be postponed on more than one occasion, the University will proceed with the meeting in the absence of the student provided that all reasonable effort has been made to contact and/or accommodate the student.
9. Functions of the Committee
The functions of the Committee of Enquiry shall be:
- to consider the evidence submitted to it;
- where relevant, to determine whether any/all of the alleged incidents occurred;
- to determine whether, on the basis of any incidents found to have occurred or any health concerns, the allegation that the student is Unfit to Practise has been substantiated;
- to determine, if appropriate, the outcome or penalty to be imposed.
10. Procedure During the Committee Meeting
The Committee meeting will be conducted as a formal committee and not as a quasi-judicial hearing. The Committee shall not be bound by the strict rules of evidence. Subject to the procedures outlined below, the process of the Committee meeting shall be at the discretion of the Committee Secretary and Chair.
If two or more students are involved in related misconduct, the Committee may, at the discretion of the Secretary/Chair, deal with their cases together.
The case against the student shall be presented by a Case Officer.
The Case Officer shall present the case, calling such witnesses and presenting such evidence as they think fit. They may question both the student and witnesses.
Following the presentation of the case, the student shall present their response calling such witnesses and presenting such evidence as they think fit.
Witnesses can only be concerned with evidence relating directly to the case and shall normally withdraw after giving evidence. They shall normally attend the meeting to give evidence individually. A witness cannot therefore attend both in the capacity of witness and representative. The Chair of the panel might wish to consider allowing witnesses to remain in the hearing throughout the proceedings provided that both parties agree to this in advance or the Chair considers it pertinent to the case for a witness to remain.
When the submission of evidence and the questioning of witnesses are completed, all persons, other than the members of the Committee and the Committee Secretary, shall withdraw.
The Committee of Enquiry Panel shall then consider whether the case has been substantiated. The burden of proof (duty of proving the allegation) shall rest on the University. The standard of proof should be on the “balance of probabilities”; a fact will be established if it is more likely than not to have happened.
If the Panel finds that the case has been substantiated, the parties shall be allowed to make representations as to outcome and to present any mitigating circumstances to the Committee, before the Panel decides upon an appropriate penalty or outcome.
11. Outcomes Available to the Committee of Enquiry
The Committee Panel shall not normally be informed, before reaching its decision on the allegations/concerns under consideration, of any evidence of previously substantiated findings relating to the student’s fitness to practise. The Panel should be so informed before determining the penalty or outcome. However evidence of previously substantiated findings relating to the student’s fitness to practise may be disclosed prior to the Panel determining whether the student is unfit to practise, where such evidence rebuts a claim of previous good character made by the student.
The substantiation of an allegation that a student is Unfit to Practise throws serious doubt upon a student's fitness for professional practice. The Committee of Enquiry should, therefore, take with the utmost seriousness the recommendation of the Case Officer and/or Faculty/School Panel as to whether, in its view, a student can continue to study for the degree programme and subsequently qualify for the profession to which they aspire.
If the Committee Panel finds that the allegation that the student is Unfit to Practise has not been substantiated, it must dismiss the case and either take no further action against the student or issue the student with a formal warning where the student’s behaviour is found to be a significant deviation from expected standards (see Appendix 2 for information about formal warnings).
If the Committee Panel finds that the allegation that the student is Unfit to Practise has been substantiated, it shall then consider the relevant outcome to be imposed, after the student and the Case Officer have had opportunity to make representations as to this. In considering the outcome to be imposed, the Panel will consider any aggravating or mitigating factors, and keep in mind the balance between patient/service user and public safety, the interests of the student, and the need to maintain trust in the profession. The purpose of sanctions is to protect patients and the public, to maintain trust in the profession and to make sure that a student who is Unfit to Practise is dealt with effectively, rather than to be a punishment for the student.
In considering the outcome/sanction to be imposed, the Panel should consider the options available starting with the least severe and moving to the next only if satisfied that the outcome/sanction is not adequate in the circumstances of the case.
12. Where the Allegation that the Student is Unfit to Practise has been Substantiated
Where the allegation that the student is Unfit to Practise has been substantiated it is not normally appropriate for the Committee Panel to take no further action (impose no sanction) or to issue a formal warning. The Committee Panel may:
(1) Require the student to provide an Undertaking(s), which is an written agreement made by the student to the Committee that they will not behave in a certain way in the future or will carry out some action (see Appendix 2 for details).
(2) Impose one or more Sanctions. Beginning with the least severe, the sanctions are:
(ii) Suspension (to include Partial Suspension) from the programme;
(iii) Expulsion from the programme or University;
Details of these Sanctions are provided within Appendix 2.
(3) In the event of the Committee Panel deciding that the above outcomes/sanctions are inappropriate, it may use its discretion to decide upon any alternative or additional outcome(s)/Sanction(s) which it considers to be appropriate in the circumstances of the case.
(4) Impose any combination of the above outcomes/sanctions where it considers this to be appropriate in the circumstances of the case (e.g. to suspend the student with conditions in place for the periods during the suspension and following the student’s return to the programme).
Where the Committee Panel has found the student to be unfit to practise, the Executive Dean (or nominee) shall normally be obliged to notify the relevant professional and regulatory body/bodies of the outcome of the Committee and to refer to the outcome in any letter of commendation to a professional body or in any subsequent references. The Executive Dean (or nominee) may also report the outcome to the student’s placement provider and/or employer.
In some cases, the relevant professional body/bodies may decide to make its/their own independent decision. For example, even if the Committee of Enquiry dismisses the case, a relevant professional body may decide that such decision was wrong, de-register or refuse to register the student. In such circumstances the student will not be able to complete the professional qualification.
If the student fails to comply with any outcome determined by the Committee Panel within any timeframes specified by the Committee Panel, the Committee Panel (or a new Committee Panel) may be asked to reconsider the outcome to be applied. Alternatively, the failure to comply with the outcome may itself constitute misconduct serious enough to be referred for a new fitness to practise investigation.
13. Action to be Taken Following the Committee of Enquiry
The Committee Secretary shall confirm in writing to the student normally within seven working days of the conclusion of the Committee meeting whether or not the allegation has been substantiated, any outcome or sanction to be imposed and the student’s right to request a formal review of the decision in accordance with the University's Final Review Procedure. Once prepared and approved by the Committee Chair, a copy of the report of the Panel’s decisions and reasons for the decisions or minutes of the Committee meeting will subsequently also be provided to the student.
If the finding of the Committee is that a case has not been substantiated, the Chair of the Committee of Enquiry may also inform the student verbally of this.
If the finding of the Committee is that the allegation has been substantiated, the Chair of the Committee of Enquiry may also inform the student verbally of this and of the outcome/ sanction imposed, but there shall be no discussion of the Panel’s decision with the student.
14. Final Reviews Against Decisions Made by the Committee of Enquiry
Students who are dissatisfied with the decision of the Fitness to Practise Committee of Enquiry may request a final review of the decision in writing using a Final Review Application form to the Director of Academic Services within 14 working days of the date of the decision.
For information on how to request a review and the applicable grounds for review please see Swansea University’s Final Review Procedure.
15. Reporting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Review
Academic Services shall report to the Academic Regulations and Cases Board statistical information relating to fitness to practise cases on an annual basis. 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 Fitness to Practise Regulations and their effectiveness and make recommendations for changes, where appropriate, to be considered by the Learning Teaching and Quality Committee and Senate.
The following non-exhaustive illustrative examples, may amount, prima facie, to a student being considered Unfit to Practise:
a) Being physically, psychologically and/or emotionally unable to carry out the full duties of a professional practitioner (such as being unable to communicate effectively with patients/service users or administer treatment);
b) Failing to seek the appropriate medical support or engage in the process to manage any health condition/ disability that may call into question their fitness to practise;
c) Interacting with patients/service users in a manner which negatively affects their health and wellbeing;
d) Exploiting the vulnerability of a patient/service user, their family member or other such person;
e) Offences (including internet use) against the vulnerable, including children, older people and the mentally incapacitated;
f) Drug or alcohol abuse;
g) Acting in a violent manner on or away from University premises;
h) Receiving a Police Caution, fixed penalty notice (other than for driving offences) or a Conviction for a criminal offence relevant to the profession concerned;
i) Intimidation of fellow students, staff, patients/service users or other such persons on religious, ethnic, gender or other grounds;
j) Failure to rectify behaviour that has been subject to any disciplinary actions under the University's regulations;
k) Repeated failure to rectify behaviour that has been identified to the student by the Faculty/School as unacceptable;
l) Falsification of records and/or falsification of another person's signature(s) (e.g. a professional mentor);
m) Gross dishonesty, for example, the commission of unfair examination or assessment practices;
n) Any conduct or circumstances which may prevent the student from being offered a placement or to continue on an existing placement;
o) Any other circumstance which may call into question a student's suitability to be admitted to, and to practise, their profession or calling e.g. failure to respect confidentiality, any conduct contrary to an existing code of practice, code of conduct or code of ethics governing the profession to which the student aspires.
Details of the Outcomes and Sanctions referred to within this Procedure are provided below.
A formal warning is a formal statement that indicates that the student’s behaviour falls significantly below expected standards and can be offered to a student who has behaved unacceptably or who has repeatedly failed to heed advice.
A written record of the formal warning will be maintained on the student’s file within the Faculty/School and Academic Services, and would be disclosed to any subsequent Committee of Enquiry and may also be commented upon in any references provided. Students should be aware that they and/or the University may be required to disclose the fact that they were issued with a formal warning to their relevant professional body.
An Undertaking is a written agreement made by the student to the Committee that they will not behave in a certain way in the future. Undertakings may be appropriate if the student acknowledges the fitness to practise concern and demonstrates insight into the concern and is seeking ways to address the underlying issues. Undertakings are only appropriate if there is reason to believe that the student will comply with them and that the concern(s) will be addressed as a result of the undertakings.
Undertakings may include (but are not limited to):
- Compliance with an educational learning agreement associated with enhanced supervision;
- A commitment to undergo medical supervision for a health related matter;
- Complying with remedial teaching or learning experiences.
The student’s honouring of such undertaking will be monitored by the Faculty/School and reviewed after a set period by the Faculty/School Chair of the Committee with reference to the Faculty/School, who may then decide:
a) that the Undertaking has been honoured and to close the matter provided there are no further concerns raised during the monitoring period; or
b) to refer the case to the Case Officer/Panel or to a Committee of Enquiry (as appropriate) for further consideration as to the sanction imposed. The Faculty/School or Committee could then impose a further monitoring period or alternative outcome/ sanction if the Undertaking has not been met or the student’s fitness to practise remains a concern.
Conditions (which may be incorporated within a structured support plan) may be appropriate where the Committee Panel is satisfied that the student might respond positively to remediation and/or increased supervision and has displayed insight into the behaviour/health concerns. The Committee Panel may impose any conditions it considers to be appropriate.
Examples of conditions which the Committee Panel could decide to impose include (but are not limited to) the following:
- requiring the student to retake a placement or other component of the course;
- (where the case relates to the student’s personal circumstances, such as health issues) requiring the student to refer themselves for medical/professional advice, support or treatment;
- requiring the student to prepare a reflective assignment.
Before imposing conditions, the Committee Panel should satisfy itself that:
- The concern can be addressed through conditions;
- The objectives of the conditions are clear;
- The conditions will be appropriately monitored;
- Any future assessment will take into account whether the objectives have been achieved, and whether patients are going to be at risk if the conditions are removed.
The student’s progress will be monitored by the Faculty/School and reviewed after a set period of time by the Chair of the Committee, with reference to the Faculty/School, who may then decide:
a) that the conditions have been met and to close the matter provided there are no further concerns raised during the monitoring period; or
b) to refer the case to the original or a new Fitness to Practise Committee of Enquiry for further consideration as to the sanction imposed. The reconvened Committee Panel could then impose a further monitoring period or alternative sanction if the conditions have not been met or the student’s fitness to practise remains a concern.
Suspension of the student from the programme will be for a specified period of time. Suspensions would be appropriate for concerns that are serious but not so serious as to justify expulsion from the programme.
Where the possibility exists, the Committee panel could, if it considered it to be appropriate in the circumstances of the case, limit such suspension to a Partial Suspension by requiring the student to suspend their studies on the placement component of the course but to allow them to continue studying the academic component. Students who are Suspended or Partially Suspended may also be required to comply with conditions or undertakings set by the Committee Panel. The student’s progress will be monitored by the Faculty/School and reviewed at the end of the period of suspension by the Chair of the Fitness to Practise Committee, with reference to Faculty/School. The Chair will then decide whether to readmit the student to the programme and in doing so will consider whether the student understands the seriousness of the findings that led to the suspension and demonstrates insight. The Chair will also decide whether any conditions or remedial work is required prior to or following the student’s return from suspension.
Expulsion of the student from the programme will be appropriate where the Committee Panel considers the student’s behaviour/health concern to be incompatible with their continuing on the programme and/or of practising in the relevant profession. In such circumstances the Committee Panel shall consider whether to:
a) give the student the option of pursuing a programme, which does not lead to a professional qualification;
b) allow the student to transfer to another degree programme within the University;
c) require the student to withdraw from the University and disqualify them from re-sitting examinations/graduating but award the student an exit qualification i.e. a Certificate/Diploma (conditional upon the student having passed the requisite number of credits). In such circumstances the student will be deemed to have Failed the programme;
d) require the student to withdraw from the University and disqualify from re-sitting examinations/graduating. In such circumstances the student will be deemed to have Failed the programme and will not be awarded an exit qualification.