Exceptional circumstances

Where lateness is attributed to substantiated medical, compassionate or other personal difficulties, mitigation of penalties can be recommended to the Board of Examiners. This can only be achieved via the submission of a fully completed and substantiated Exceptional Circumstances Claim where the circumstance is both unforeseen and exceptional.

If it relates to an ongoing physical or mental disability, this should be dealt with as Extensions due to Special Arrangements. This will require a Student Support Plan agreed by Disability Services (see below).

Exceptional Circumstances affecting Assessment

If unforeseen circumstances in your life significantly affect you undertaking any assessments (including examinations) then you can submit what we call 'exceptional circumstances' to the department. The exceptional circumstances policy and guidance on how to apply is available here.  

Circumstances acceptable must be exceptional (i.e. serious and unusual) relative to the normal daily challenges that academic study presents, and unpredictable in that you could not reasonably have been expected either to avoid them, or to allow for them in planning the assessment work or preparation. In particular, anxiety/stress arising from the assessment process itself is not a valid exceptional circumstance.

For a list of the circumstances that are normally accepted and not accepted, visit: www.york.ac.uk/students/studying/progress/exceptional-circumstances/#tab-2.

Supporting evidence must:

  • Reflect an independent professional opinion of the impact of the circumstances on your ability to perform in assessments;
  • Be based on the appropriate professional having met with you at the time you are affected. Any submission that notes only that ‘the student reports that…’ is not acceptable.

The Open Door Team can provide this evidence if you are already engaged with them (see www.york.ac.uk/opendoor). Otherwise, this evidence should be supplied by your GP, counsellor, practitioner or another independent professional. If you are registered with the campus-based Unity Health, you can attend the 'Stay and Wait' or access the GP via unityhealth.webgp.com and request supporting evidence of illness or difficulty. If you are registered with an off-campus GP practices which may not offer stay and wait or on-line access, you can always access their 'out of hours' telephone services who triage patients on the basis of levels of need.

If your claim is successful, and the committee accept that your assessment was significantly affected by your circumstances, you will usually be given an opportunity to take the assessment again as if for the first time, usually during the August resit week. If it is an open assessment then you may be given an extension. Grades will never be altered without a further attempt at the assessment, and work will not be ‘re-marked’, though you may be allowed to re-submit it following revisions.

Please note: it is very important that you submit your case for Exceptional Circumstances as soon as possible and at least two working days before the assessment deadline. For an application of any kind to be considered at all it must be received one calendar week after that assessment itself, unless there is compelling independent evidence of a good reason for not submitting the claim on time. All claims submitted after the assessment deadline must present evidence to show that it was impossible to make a claim before this point, e.g. due to hospitalisation or incapacitation due to mental health.

Extensions due to Special Arrangements

If you have an ongoing diagnosis of a disability which may occasionally interfere with your ability to plan your time on assessments, you may have a recommendation included in your Student Support Plan (SSP) for occasional extensions without necessary recourse to the Exceptional Circumstances process. This adjustment can only be made with the explicit recommendation by your disability advisor within your Student Support Plan, and support from the Chair of Board of Examiners.

The procedure for allowing these extensions must adhere to the following principles:

  1. Wherever possible you should meet the advertised deadlines. We cannot offer ‘blanket extensions’ to all work.

  2. Each extension must be requested in writing (by e-mail or letter) to the Department’s Disability Officer. The request must include the reason for the request (which must relate to your disability) and where appropriate, include the duration to date of the period of particular difficulty. You will need to discuss with the Disability Officer a reasonable timeframe for any extension.

  3. Extensions will not be considered grounds for future mitigation claims, and where a student’s workload is being pushed back on a large scale, the potential value of a Leave of Absence should be considered instead.

  4. To ensure that your SSP remains appropriate, your Disability Advisor must be consulted if either the department or you:
    • become concerned that this policy is no longer effective
    • become concerned that this policy is being misused
    • feel that additional support may be required to allow you to continue with your studies. 

The claim form

You should use the University's exceptional circumstances form to inform us 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 exceptional 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 exceptional 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 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 exceptional 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 the Exceptional Circumstances Committee (ECC), which will meet when necessary. Students cannot attend these meetings.

The ECC can consider your claim only if you have both completed the Exceptional Circumstances Claim form and submitted relevant evidence supporting your claim. Your claim will remain confidential and will be disclosed only to the ECC and those administering the Committee. For this reason your claim cannot be anonymous. If, however, you appeal against the decision of the ECC, 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. You are not required to resit if your original mark is a passing grade.

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. You will usually be allowed to resit the assessment. The original mark will be used to calculate your mark for the stage.

How will I be notified of the ECA Committee’s decision?

You will receive an email notification of the ECA Committee's decision. You will be informed of the reason if your claim is rejected, and your right to appeal.

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

Supporting evidence must:

  • Reflect an independent professional opinion of the impact of the circumstances on your ability to perform in assessments;
  • Be based on the appropriate professional having met with you at the time you are affected. Any submission that notes only that ‘the student reports that…’ is not acceptable.

The Open Door Team can provide this evidence if you are already engaged with them (see www.york.ac.uk/opendoor).

Otherwise, this evidence should be supplied by your GP, counsellor, practitioner or another independent professional. If you are registered with the campus-based Unity Health, you can attend the 'Stay and Wait' or access the GP via unityhealth.webgp.com and request supporting evidence of illness or difficulty. If you are registered with an off-campus GP practices which may not offer stay and wait or on-line access, you can always access their 'out of hours' telephone services who triage patients on the basis of levels of need.

If you cannot go to the University's Health Centre you can obtain evidence from another doctor. Please take a copy of the Confirmation 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.)

Where evidence is not yet available (for example a Doctor's note has not yet arrived when you make your claim), a deadline for appropriate evidence will be set at no more than 3 weeks after the submission of the original claim. In the event that the evidence is not provided by this date, the provisional acceptance will be rescinded.

What are the usual accepted circumstances and evidence?

Circumstances accepted

Evidence required
  • Exceptional medical circumstances e.g. hospitalisation or incapacitation through injury, illness, or mental health crisis.
A letter from a doctor, nurse or other health professional confirming the exceptional and unforeseen nature of the exceptional circumstance and the impact on the student. Health professionals must be registered with an appropriate accrediting body, and though evidence of such accreditation will not be required in the first instance, it may be requested should the ECA Committee determine that it is necessary. Any submission that notes only that ‘the student reports that…’ is not acceptable, as it is not independent third party evidence of either the circumstances or the impact on the student.
  • Close bereavement e.g. partner, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, and grandchild. Housemates or very close friends may also be considered as ‘close’, though evidence of the relationship may be required.
A death certificate or confirmation from an independent relevant professional e.g. a solicitor or an undertaker or an order of service from the funeral ceremony. Where not a relative, the ECA Committee should see evidence of closeness of the relationship in the form of a statement from a third party or a tenancy agreement (in the case of a housemate). If the student is severely affected by the death of someone not considered as ‘close’ under this policy, they would need to have evidence from an independent third party of the serious impact on them.
  • Victim of a serious crime
Documentation from the police indicating that the student has reported a crime; an insurance claim, or medical report.
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments are not yet in place and where the delay is not due to the student
A letter from Disability Services.
  • Exceptional and unforeseeable transport difficulties e.g. major transport incidents, cancelled flights. This does not include every-day issues e.g. traffic congestion, missed buses or trains.
Evidence of a major transportation incident, or a letter from the relevant transport company confirming the nature of the delay. Evidence will also be required that the circumstances described affected the student in question.
  • Interviews for work-placements or for employment which cannot be changed
Evidence showing that the interview date cannot be rearranged.
  • Legal proceedings requiring attendance
A letter from a solicitor or a court.
  • Exceptional personal circumstances e.g. events that result in a serious impact on a student’s ability to engage with academic work during the assessment period in question.
A letter from a student support practitioner, counsellor, religious leader, or other professional third party directly confirming that, in their professional opinion, the circumstances have had a serious impact on the student’s ability to engage in assessment activities.

 

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 an exceptional circumstance?

The following never qualify as exceptional circumstances:

1. Loss of work not backed up or printing problems

2. Accidental submission of an incorrect document (e.g. an assignment from another module or an incomplete earlier draft of the assignment)

3. In the event of electronic submission, the following will not be accepted as exceptional circumstances:

a. the student submits the wrong file type or a corrupted file;

b. the student begins their upload after the deadline has passed;

c. a claim of technical issues on behalf of the University with no proof of an error message/ system failure on either the VLE or the University network. 

4. Misreading of the examination timetable

5. English not being a first language

6. Deadlines for work or exams being set close together

The following are not normally regarded as exceptional :

1. Weddings

2. Constraints arising from paid employment (FT students)

3. Holidays

4. Relationship breakdown

5. Moving house

6. Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments have been made

7. Financial difficulties

8. Planned health appointments

9. For an electronic submission of an assessment, a delay of up to 30 minutes between starting and completing the file upload process

Why might my claim be rejected?

The following examples are indicative but not exhaustive.

i. You have not submitted your claim within seven days of the assessment, and have not provided or evidenced good reason for failing to do so.

ii. The full information required by the exceptional circumstances form is incomplete.

iii. 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 but may be submitted in addition to independent third party evidence).

iv. The timing of the circumstances cited would not have adversely affected the assessment(s).

v. The nature of the circumstances cited is not over and above the normal difficulties experienced in life.

vi. Sufficient adjustment has already been made for the same circumstances; the evidence has already been used to support adjustment for the same assessment and no new evidence has been provided.

vii. The circumstances in question relate to a disability for which reasonable adjustments have been made but which you have not engaged with to a reasonable extent. For example where mentoring or specialist tuition is provided and agreed but for which the student decides not to attend.

viii. The claim is submitted after the assessment marks have been ratified by the Board of Examiners. Claims submitted after ratification cannot be considered by an ECA Committee. Such claims must be considered as formal University appeals.

How do you appeal against the decision of the ECA Committee?

If the Board of Studies had not yet received the recommendation of the ECA Committee 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 ECA Committee has reached the wrong decision in your case.

To be accepted, you must make your appeal within 28 calendar days of being notified of the decision.

If the Board of Studies has already received and approved the ECA Committee'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 ECA Committee has reached the wrong decision in your case. You should do this within 10 calendar days of receiving notice of the ECA Committee's decision.

Information and advice on appeals is available from:

University's Academic Appeals Regulations can be found online here.

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