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How can students self-certify?

Self-certification for short-term illness will now be accepted from students from September 2018. In the world of work, it is common-practice for employees to self-certify for absence due to short-term illness. The intention is to afford students the same opportunity and responsibility to explain absence for a short period of time, in appropriate circumstances. In addition, the University recognises that it is not always possible or appropriate to seek an appointment, or consult with a GP, for short-term illnesses.  In such circumstances, self-certification is appropriate.

Self-certification is an option available to students under the Exceptional Circumstances Procedure, and an exceptional circumstances application will be required as normal. Students will be required to provide details of their illness, but neither medical evidence nor any other supporting evidence will be required.

In addition to submitting an exceptional circumstances application in the normal way, students will also be required to advise their School by phone or email of their absence from examination, or of the fact that they will be unable to meet the assignment deadline because of short-term illness in advance of the examination or assignment deadline. If students are unable to notify their School themselves, they must have someone else do it on their behalf.

Students should also ensure that that they meet any School or programme requirements concerning notification of absence, and should be advised that they should always consult their GP if their illness is severe, if it persists, or if they are in any doubt about their health.

What is self-certification for?

Self-certification is not for everything. It is only to be used where students realise that they will miss an examination, class test or an assignment deadline due to an unforeseen short-term illness. The onus is on the student to declare the reason for their absence, or for not submitting the assignment, and the exceptional circumstances form must be correctly completed and submitted by the application deadline.

Examples* of short-term illness for which self-certification is acceptable are:

  • Short-term illness for which the student is unable, or for which it is not appropriate, to obtain contemporaneous medical advice or evidence.
  • Migraine
  • Noro-virus
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Acute period pain
  • Flu
  • Food poisoning
  • Diarrhoea

*This list is not exhaustive.

Self-certification should only be used where absolutely necessary, and the University expects students to manage minor ailments themselves e.g. coughs or colds.

What is not appropriate for self-certifying?

Students should not use the self-certification option for an illness which lasts longer than a few days. Neither should the self-certification option be used for an illness for which it would be reasonable to seek medical attention. In such circumstances, medical certification must be obtained, to support any application for exceptional circumstances.

As self-certification is an option under the exceptional circumstances application, students should not self-certify for any of the reasons outlined below:

  • Temporary self-induced medical conditions e.g. hangover, drug taking (except prescribed medication)
  • Minor ailments e.g. coughs, colds, sprains, minor fractures (unless in the writing hand / arm).
  • Hayfever
  • Long-term life circumstances such as a disability or a chronic or on-going medical condition (where the student has registered with Disability Services). For more information, please see Disability Services.

Students cannot use self-certification if they have attempted the assessment.

What details for self-certification do students need to provide?

Students must give full details of the illness which caused the absence – words like ‘sick’ or ‘ill’ are not enough. The reason for the absence including details of the illness, symptoms and date(s) of the illness are required. Medical evidence is not required to support a self-certification, but students are required to give as much detail as possible. The self-certification must also relate to a specific examination or assignment deadline.

How is the self-certification application considered?

As the application is for exceptional circumstances on the basis of self-certification, the application will be considered in the normal way by the School either during the year by designated staff within the School or during an assessment period by the School Exceptional Circumstances Committee, with a recommendation made to the Board of Examiners. Schools have discretion to accept the application, reject it, or to request medical evidence.

In the case of applications made relating to examinations during the assessment period where the School decides that the appropriate course of action is to request medical evidence, these applications should be rejected, and the student referred to the appeals process, to provide the medical evidence.

What happens if the self-certification is accepted?

If the student submits an exceptional circumstances application on the basis of self-certification for absence, then they will get another opportunity to sit the examination, or submit the assignment without penalty.

Examination:

  • The student will be permitted to sit the examination without penalty in the designated re-sit period. No exceptions will be permitted, and it will not be possible to set examinations earlier or on a different date outside the re-sit period, or for an alternative form of assessment to be set.

Assignment:

  • An alternative deadline for submission may be agreed, without penalty, although this should not be more than 1 week after the missed deadline. If the student is unable to meet the extended deadline, then submission should be required during the designated re-sit period.

What happens if the self-certification is not accepted?

The student will be advised in the normal way, that their application for exceptional circumstances has not been accepted, and should be advised of the appeals process as usual.

Is a separate application needed for every examination / assignment deadline missed?

It is important to note that students must contact the School Office, and submit an exceptional circumstances form covering all examinations or assignment deadlines missed.

How many times can a student self-certify?

A limit to the number of times a student can self-certify for absence has not been set, as students may see this as opportunities to ‘use-up’. It is anticipated that initially, students may engage with self-certification quite readily, but once the consequences of bunching of deadlines and returning in the summer to sit examinations, or submit assignments become apparent, it is anticipated that this should level out. In relation to the number of times a student self-certifies, discretion should be exercised by the School, provided that students are acting reasonably.

Students who submit multiple or frequent self-certifications may be required by their School to provide medical evidence. As with any exceptional circumstances application, continually seeking deferral of examinations or extensions to deadlines on the basis of self-certification, may also result in a student being called to a Student Support Meeting, and / or referred to Student Wellbeing, the Occupational Health Service or the Fitness to Continue in Study Procedure. Depending on the course or programme, the Fitness to Practise Procedure may also be invoked.

Schools should keep a record of, and monitor, the number of times students self-certify, to ensure that appropriate action is taken, as indicated above.

Students are also reminded that, by submitting an application for exceptional circumstances, they are declaring that the information provided is true and complete. Students who submit fabricated or falsified information to the University will be subject to investigation under the Conduct Regulations and the standard penalty is expulsion from the University.

Is there anything Schools should remind students of?

Students should be reminded of the consequences of self-certifying for absence i.e.

  • if the application is accepted, re-sit of examination in the re-sit assessment period while others are off, alongside any other re-sit examinations they may be required to do / resubmission during the re-sit assessment period, again alongside any other re-sits.
  • greater risk associated with deferring examinations or assignment submission until the re-sit period, as failure may affect the student’s ability to progress.

Students should also be reminded that self-certification is for absence for an examination or missed assignment deadline only, and is not appropriate when students have attempted an examination or assignment. If the student experiences exceptional circumstances in relation to an examination or assignment that they attempted, then an exceptional circumstances application (not on the basis of self-certification) should be submitted.

Students should also be reminded of Study Regulation 1.4.47 (‘Fit to Sit’), which states: “…the decision on whether to attempt the examination or submit the assessed work, and the consequences of that decision, shall remain the sole responsibility of the student in question.” If they decide to proceed with an examination, even though they are unwell, they are declaring themselves fit to sit the examination.

Self-certification FAQs for Students are available here and students should be directed to these if they have any queries.