Accessibility statement

Exceptional circumstances affecting assessment

Sometimes things happen that can seriously impair your performance in an assessment or prevent you undertaking the assessment at the scheduled time. If these events are unforeseeable and exceptional (i.e. serious and unusual) you may be able to defer an assessment or take it again. 

Student Support Plans (for students with a disability) sometimes have the option to request an extension on a piece of work as part of their Plan's adjustments or to request a further sit 'as if for the first time'. The way to request such an extension or sit 'as if for the first time' is to use the exceptional circumstances claim form (at the end of this page) but to indicate that you are requesting an adjustment via your SSP when the form asks for this. Your request will then be forward to your departmental Disability Officer directly.

COVID-19 - Changes to Exceptional Circumstances process

Please note: The guidance on the procedure for submitting a claim was updated and approved by Standing Committee on Assessment on 19 August 2020. This differs from guidance applicable during summer 2020.  The following guidance is effective from 28 September 2020 until further notice.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on many aspects of life and while the situation is not as severe as in the period dating from March 2020, the University acknowledges that students are still facing circumstances which may impact on their studies. The University is doing everything it can to allow students to continue to engage in their study, and to allow them to make academic progress where this is reasonable for them. However, we understand that this is impacting everyone differently, and that for some students it may not be possible to properly engage with their study or assessment at some points during the 2020/21 academic year. Although Covid-19 is now an ongoing circumstance, it is accepted that its impact on individual students’ assessments may still be unforeseen and unpredictable.

The list of valid exceptional circumstances that relate specifically to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are as follows:

  1. Illness with symptoms of COVID-19 (or similar symptoms);
  2. Unexpectedly challenging circumstances in a student’s domestic situation that could not reasonably have been anticipated or prevented - e.g. member(s) of their family are ill or self-isolating and they have consequent caring responsibility, etc;
  3. Circumstances are such that access to reliable internet and/or required technology (for revision, or reliable submission of assessments) is unexpectedly unavailable during the course of the assessment;
  4. Other severe impacts of COVID-19 (such as impact on mental health, interaction with existing disability, etc.).

If you are experiencing a genuine impact as a result of COVID-19, as well as any other exceptional circumstance that would normally be covered by the Exceptional Circumstances Policy, the following principles apply:

Application: You can apply for exceptional circumstances in the usual way using the existing form.  

Evidentiary requirement: Each application should be accompanied by satisfactory supporting evidence unless a good reason is provided to explain why this evidence cannot be obtained. Satisfactory supporting evidence is normally sourced from an independent and relevantly-qualified third party professional. 

These provisions apply during the 2020/21 academic year but may be subject to review in the event that the Covid-19 situation worsens.

Can I submit an Exceptional Circumstances claim if I am unable to submit my online exam?

 Procedure for online exams:

  • Students are allowed to submit an ECA claim citing any of the above circumstances or any circumstances normally covered by the Exceptional Circumstances Policy;
  • A student who does not submit the online exam can submit an ECA claim if the non-submission is as a result of exceptional circumstances;
  • A student who submits the online exam can also submit an ECA claim if they believe that exceptional circumstances have affected their performance in the exam;
  • The ECA claim must be received within 7 days of the end of the submission window;
  • The outcome of successful claim would be the opportunity to sit the affected assessments(s) 'as if for the first time' (somtimes referred to as SAIFFT) at the next opportunity.  You will not be granted an extension to complete the work.

It is important that you know: although we will allow extensions, and assessments to be taken 'as if for the first time', in the Summer (which would be likely to take place in the August assessment period for the latter), if those assessments are similarly affected, or students fail to meet the progression criteria at the delayed attempt at the assessment, it is unlikely that they will be able to recoup the assessment in time for the start of the next academic year. In such cases it is very likely that you will need to take a Leave of Absence for the following academic year.

For all other types of exceptional circumstances claim, the standard following procedures apply:

What are exceptional circumstances?

Circumstances that may fall into this category are:

  • Exceptional medical circumstances e.g. hospitalisation or incapacitation through injury, illness, or mental health crisis.
  • 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.
  • Victim of a serious crime
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments are not yet in place and where the delay is not due to the student
  • 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.
  • Interviews for work-placements or for employment which cannot be changed
  • Legal proceedings requiring attendance
  • 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.

What are ‘normal difficulties’ and not grounds for a claim?

Academic studies are challenging and everyday life is full of ups and downs. We expect you to use the appropriate support services to help you develop strategies for managing normal difficulties. Your supervisor, college staff or other members of the academic community can help you access these.

The following never qualify as exceptional circumstances:

  • Loss of work not backed up or printing problems
  • Accidental submission of an incorrect document (e.g. an assignment from another module or an incomplete earlier draft of the assignment)
  • In the event of electronic submission, the following will not be accepted as exceptional circumstances:

a. submitting the wrong file type or a corrupted file
b. starting the 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.

  • Misreading of the examination timetable
  • English not being a first language
  • Deadlines for work or exams being set close together

The following may only be regarded as exceptional if there is evidence that they are unforeseeable, unavoidable and had an impact on the assessment:

  • Weddings
  • Constraints arising from paid employment (full-time students)
  • Holidays
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Moving house
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments have been made
  • Financial difficulties
  • Planned health appointments
  • For an electronic submission of an assessment, a delay of up to 30 minutes between starting and completing the file upload process

Submitting and evidencing a claim 

If unforeseeable and exceptional circumstances do occur, you must seek support and provide evidence as soon as possible at the time of the occurrence.

You must submit a claim before the deadline for the assessment (or date of the exam) if possible, or in any event no later than 7 days after the date of the assessment.

You must also check your departmental guidance on deadlines for submission of a claim.

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 were affected

To acquire evidence from a professional source, such as a doctor, psychiatrist, Open Door counsellor or other relevant professional, you may find if helpful to provide them with this form to complete:

Confirmation of Exceptional Circumstances - Guidance for Professionals (PDF , 123kb)

I‌f you provider does not wish to complete this form, they can use it as a prompt for their own letter - the form indicates what sort of information is useful to an Exceptional Circumstances Committee when considering your claim.

Exceptional circumstances affecting assessment policy

Use support available

The University offers a range of services to help you develop skills to cope and manage challenges:

To submit an exceptional circumstances claim, you should complete and submit the online Exceptional Circumstances Application Form