Mitigating circumstances

The University defines a mitigating circumstance as a problem that you have encountered which goes beyond the normal difficulties experienced in life and that has affected your academic performance adversely during the assessment period for which you are claiming.

The following guidance outlines the policy, procedure and evidence you need to submit if you want to make a claim for mitigating circumstances.

When to make a claim

You must notify the department of mitigating circumstances by submitting the claim form and supporting evidence no later than 24 hours before the affected submission deadline or examination. It is not acceptable to simply miss an assessed essay hand-in, or to fail to attend a closed examination, and then seek mitigating circumstances when the department follows up on the absence. (This would only be the case in the most severe of circumstances). If you do not yet have evidence (for example, you have not yet met with a doctor) then you should submit the form, which will be accepted on a provisional basis. You should then submit the evidence when this becomes available. Do not wait for the evidence if this will delay you from submitting the form.

In the unlikely event that your mitigating circumstances prevent you from submitting your claim at the appropriate time, you should submit your claim as soon as you are able to do so. The evidence should show clearly why you were unable to submit the claim before the date of the assessment or the deadline for submission of the assessment. If you are requesting an extension you must submit your claim before the submission deadline.

Please note that the penalties for late submission of assessed work, or non-attendance at university examinations, can be severe if not supported by mitigating circumstances documentation and supporting evidence (or if the mitigating circumstances claimed are in the list of those not judged by the university to be acceptable). For Penalties applied see the department Written Statement of Assessment and the relevant Handbook for your entry cohort.

The claim form

You should use the University's mitigating circumstances form to inform your department about circumstances that have arisen and/or problems you have encountered that you believe may or have affected your academic performance in assessments.

Part A

  • Name, Student number, Programme title and Department
    You must complete all these sections.
  • Brief details of your mitigating circumstances
    You must describe briefly and clearly the relevant circumstances involved, and how you feel that these affected you in relation to any assessment, for example having taken an exam whilst ill or completed coursework whilst experiencing exceptional personal difficulties (see below for more details).
  • List supporting evidence submitted
    Enter details here of the documentary evidence you are submitting. These details should show the mitigating circumstances involved, relevant dates and evidence source, for example your doctor. Securely attach your evidence to the form. Without relevant supporting evidence it is very likely that your claim will be rejected (see below for details). Do not simply state 'evidence applied for' or 'doctor's note on the way' - it is your responsibility to obtain the evidence and to make sure that the evidence gets to your supervisor or to the departmental office (preferably the latter). If necessary you may have to chase the medical practice - this is not the responsibility of the department.
  • Details of assessments affected
    You must list each assessment that you believe will be or has been affected by the mitigating circumstances you are claiming and complete all sections.
  • Student declaration
    You must read and sign the declaration and insert the date you signed the declaration.

Part B

This is for official use and must not be completed by you.

Frequently asked questions

How is my claim considered?

Your circumstances will normally be considered by a Mitigating Circumstances Committee (MCC), which will meet when necessary. Students cannot attend these meetings.

The MCC can consider your claim only if you have both completed the Mitigating Circumstances Claim form and submitted relevant evidence supporting your claim. Your claim will remain confidential and will be disclosed only to the MCC and those administering the Committee. For this reason your claim cannot be anonymous. If, however, you appeal against the decision of the MCC, members of the University's Special Cases Committee and its administrator will see your claim and the associated evidence.

What are the possible outcomes of my claim?

If your claim is accepted, it is usual that either you will be permitted to attempt the assessment again, or you will be granted an extension to the submission deadline.

If you are permitted a new attempt and you accept this option, and you received a mark for your original attempt, the original mark becomes void and is replaced with the mark for the new attempt.

If your claim is not accepted, the original mark for the assessment will stand. This mark could be a mark of zero if you have not taken the original assessment.

How will I be notified of the MCC’s decision?

You will receive written/email notification of the MCC's decision. You will be informed of the reason if your claim is rejected.

What evidence do I need to provide if I am ill?

If you fall ill and can go to the University's Health Centre, you can be seen by a Medical Advisor there. They will complete the onfirmation of lllness Affecting Assessment form which you can use as evidence for your mitigating circumstances claim. This service is available for all students even if they are registered with another doctor.

If you cannot go to the University's Health Centre you can obtain evidence from another doctor. Please take a copy of theConfirmation of Illness Affecting Assessment form with you.

Other third party medical evidence can also be considered, such as evidence of emergency treatment (eg from a dentist, Accident and Emergency doctor and others). This evidence should state the nature of your illness/injury and the length of time you will not be able to engage with academic work effectively.

If you have suffered from long-term illness you should provide a medical certificate or letter from your usual doctor or hospital consultant. Letters from the Open Door Team regarding medical conditions should specifically state that the Open Door team is in possession of documentary medical evidence to support this request” and state who has provided the evidence. (Letters from the Open Door Team regarding non-medical conditions are discussed below.)

What are the usual accepted circumstances and evidence?

Circumstances normally accepted and the required examples of evidence that would support a claim based on this circumstance.

For all students:

  • Compassionate grounds
    A letter from the Open Door Team, a counsellor or a relevant independent third-party explaining that, in their professional opinion, the circumstances have had a serious impact on your ability to engage with academic work effectively during the assessment period in question.
  • Exceptional personal circumstances
    A letter from the Open Door Team, a counsellor or a relevant independent third-party explaining that, in their professional opinion, the circumstances have had a serious impact on your ability to engage with academic work effectively during the assessment period in question. An example of this type of circumstance would be the illness of a dependent or the repossession of your accommodation.
  • Close bereavement
    A death certificate. The following relatives are accepted as 'close' without further evidence: spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, and grandchild. For other bereavements, evidence of closeness in the form of a statement from a third party should also be provided. Additional evidence should be provided where mitigation is claimed for an extended period where the bereavement is not close, for example, for more than a fortnight following the death of the relevant person.
  • Victim of a serious crime
    A crime report and number.
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments are not yet in place and where the delay is not due to the student
    A letter from the Disability Services.
  • Serious and unforeseeable transport difficulties
    A letter from the relevant transport company or evidence of a major road incident.
  • Interviews for placements or for employment
    Evidence showing that the interview date cannot be rearranged.
  • Legal proceedings requiring attendance
    A letter from a solicitor or a court

For part-time students and research students in their writing-up period:

  • Paid work commitments or constraints arising from paid employment
    Evidence of employment explaining that the circumstances have had a serious impact on your ability to engage with academic work effectively during the assessment period in question

Note: The timing and nature of the above circumstances should have adversely affected your performance on the assessment(s) for which you are claiming mitigating circumstances.

What does not count as a mitigating circumstance?

  • Paid work commitments or constraints arising from paid employment for full-time students
  • Minor illnesses, for example, those for which only self-certification under the University scheme is available
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments have been made or where you have experience or time to manage the situation
  • Long-standing minor medical conditions such as hay fever
  • Over-sleeping
  • Holidays
  • Minor everyday surmountable obstacles, for example, disruption to normal domestic routine
  • English being a second language
  • Moving house
  • Deadlines for work being set close together
  • Planned health appointments
  • Financial difficulties
  • Breakdown of personal relationships unless leading to compassionate circumstances as described above
  • Weddings
  • Unavailability of course books/resources
  • Attending or taking part in sporting or social events
  • Voluntary work
  • Unreasonable refusal to return to York for assessments scheduled in the vacation 're-sit' period
  • Mitigating circumstances that affect an individual in relation to group assessed work cannot be claimed by other group members

In addition the following circumstances are never accepted:

  • Loss of work not backed-up on disk or printing problems
  • Misreading of the examination timetable

Why might my claim be rejected?

  • The form is incomplete
  • No independent documentary evidence has been supplied to support the request (letters from family, fellow students or academic supervisors are not normally sufficient on their own)
  • The timing of the circumstances cited would not have adversely affected the assessment(s)
  • The evidence submitted does not support the claim that the nature of the circumstances was over and above the normal difficulties
  • The form was not submitted by the department deadline and the mitigating circumstances would not have prevented you making a claim by the deadline
  • Sufficient mitigation has already been made for the same circumstances
  • The mitigation is a disability for which reasonable adjustments have been made
  • The circumstances are not, or not normally, accepted under Mitigating Circumstances Policy

How do you appeal against the decision of the MCC?

If the Board of Studies had not yet received the recommendation of the MCC you can ask the Board to consider your appeal. You should write to the Chair of the Board of Studies stating why you think the MCC has reached the wrong decision in your case.

If the Board of Studies has already received and approved the MCC's recommendation you will need to appeal to the Special Cases Committee. You should write to the Special Cases administrator stating why you think the MCC has reached the wrong decision in your case. You should do this within four weeks of receiving notice of the MCC's decision.

Information and advice on appeals is available from:

University's Academic Appeals Regulations can be found online:

The office is closed/it is a holiday

You should submit the form via e-mail.

Even if you are taken ill on the Friday evening before a long Bank Holiday you can still download the forms and start to complete them and begin to assemble your supporting evidence. Any emergency treatment or hospital admission can be vouched for by notifications issued by the medical staff. You can ask doctors or other practitioners for statements and be ready to book appointments as soon as the holiday period or weekend are over. None of this preparatory work is dependent on the department office being open and staff being available to assist you. It is not reasonable to expect members of staff to respond to e-mails over a weekend or holiday and the lack of a response will not be accepted as an excuse for failing to take sensible and reasonable steps to cover your claim for mitigating circumstances.

Man with toothache

Who to contact