Accessibility statement

Fitness to study

Research students


This Fitness to Study policy is intended to:

  • inform and guide the University’s response to situations where there are concerns that a student is not well enough to study, including situations where a student is unaware that they are not well enough to study
  • apply to all students currently registered at the University of York, including those on a Leave of Absence (‘LoA’), but with the exception of students studying with the Hull York Medical School (HYMS)
  • be an alternative mechanism to use, where disciplinary procedures may not be appropriate
  • be used only where, in appropriate cases, all agreed reasonable adjustments (i.e. following liaison between the student, Disability Services and the relevant Academic and Support departments) have been implemented, normally for a period of 4 weeks, and it can be reasonably seen that these are not achieving their anticipated aim.

Who can raise concerns?

The fitness to study procedure can arise from concerns formally raised by or instigated by the following:

  • a student instigating the procedure (for themselves)
  • the relevant Academic Department via its Head of Department (‘HoD’) or Head of School and relevant Chair of Board of Studies (often prompted by the student’s Supervisor)
  • a Head of College
  • student Support Services via its Director, Deputy Director or Section Head
  • the University’s Medical Adviser.

Fellow students, via their HoD, can raise concerns but cannot instigate the procedure.

What happens?

Two people, either the Director of Student Support Services, Head of College, or Director of Registry Services, will consider whether the case meets criteria for Fitness to Study and that disciplinary or academic conduct procedures should not be used instead. The student’s Supervisor may contribute to the discussion if the circumstances are unclear.

Once it has been established that a matter is a Fitness to Study case it should be overseen ultimately and collectively by a Fitness to Study Panel. Where a student is found by the Panel not to have the ability to undertake appropriate studies relevant to meeting their assessment requirements and is therefore at risk of failing their programme of study, it may be necessary to recommend them for a Leave of Absence (LoA) or a suspension.

At the end of a LoA or suspension, the student will need to demonstrate they are fit to return and be certified as being so by the University’s Medical Adviser.


Stage 1

Emerging or initial concerns about an individual student’s health, behaviour or mental wellbeing and the impact this has are raised.

The student will be called in for a meeting convened by the lead designated person from the student’s College or Department and will involve:

  • the student
  • a representative of the College or Department
  • a representative of YUSU or GSA, if the student desires.

Student Support Services representatives will advise the Department or College on suitable support avenues and help relevant colleagues to decide on reasonable deadlines for action to be achieved by.

A written action plan will be made with the student to address the concerns raised outlining how these might be achieved.

A review period will be agreed, normally being a period of at least 2 weeks.

If, at the review meeting, there is no change or the situation cannot be resolved at Stage 1, then Stage 2 of the process should be invoked.

Stage 2

Continued and on-going significant concern about a student’s health, well-being, behaviours, safety and/or ability to study and where Stage 1 has already been implemented or is judged to be inappropriate or unnecessary.

The student is invited to attend a meeting involving:

  • the student
  • the Director of Student Support Services (or their delegate)
  • two further members of staff, either the Head of Department or School, Supervisor, Head of college or College Officer.

During the meeting the current situation should be outlined to the student highlighting where the student has not managed to follow the action plan and giving them an opportunity to respond.

A further written plan of action should be agreed.

A review period will be agreed, normally being a period of at least 2 weeks.

If the matter has not been resolved by the review meeting, Stage 3 should be invoked.

Stage 3 – Formal stage

Serious or persistent concern about a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviours, safety and/or ability to study and cope at University or where there are considered to be serious concerns about risk to the student and/or others.

A Case Conference will be called by the Director of Student Support Services or the Academic Registrar or one of their appointed nominees and will include:

  • the student
  • a relevant Student Support Service (if involved) representative
  • a Head of Department or School or Chair of Board of Studies (not the student’s)
  • the student’s Supervisor
  • a Head of College
  • the University Medical Adviser if appropriate
  • a person chosen by the student to accompany and support them (such as a representative from YUSU or GSA, or a friend), but such person shall not represent the student, as the student is required to participate in discussions, in the interests of ensuring their input is fully understood.

The Case Conference will hold a discussion of the case and agree actions which will be captured in an enhanced written Action Plan to include:

  • a date for review
  • support for the student
  • agreed measures relating to the student adhering to the action plan and engaging with the procedure
  • consequences of the failure of the action plan, which may include recommendation for Leave of Absence, suspension of studies.

If the student is too unwell or declines to attend the meeting for the Case Conference, this can instead take place as a ‘professionals meeting’ which is a commonly used approach within Mental Health Services. The format enables proposals to be formulated ‘in absentia’ to the next steps to be taken. These next steps would then be formally communicated as soon as practically possible to the student.

Return to study

The student will first need to demonstrate they are fit to return to study and be certified as being so by the University’s Medical Adviser.

A named co-ordinator for the Return to Study Plan should be designated from the Academic Department who will be provided with advice and guidance from a relevant Student Support Service staff member overseen by the Director or Deputy Director.

The Return to Study Plan will normally outline what the University proposes to provide in the following areas:

  • academic support for the transition period and where appropriate
  • disability transition support
  • Open Door Team case management support
  • accommodation advice and support
  • college transition advice and support.


A student may appeal in writing to the Academic Registrar against a decision reached at Stage 1, 2 or 3, within 14 days of the date of written notification of the outcome of the Fitness to Study Procedure. Students should note that requests for a review of a decision will only be granted if there is a substantial chance of success of showing one or more of the following:

  • procedural irregularity
  • prejudice or bias during the procedure
  • evidence of further material circumstances which could not reasonably have been expected to have been submitted earlier for consideration.

The Academic Registrar will review the decision previously reached or nominate a suitable senior officer to do so on the Academic Registrar’s behalf normally within two weeks. The outcome of any investigation will be communicated by the Academic Registrar to the student.

Policy details

Fitness to Study policy (PDF , 455kb)

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