1.1 The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that students have the opportunity to have exceptional circumstances that directly impact on their ability to undertake a summative assessment taken into consideration, if needed.
1.2 This procedure should be used to address:
- Absence from an examination or non-submission of coursework/continuous assessment.
- Requests for extensions to deadlines for submission of coursework/continuous assessment.
- Consideration of significant disruption during an assessment.
1.3 This procedure should not be used for absence from teaching or laboratory sessions that are not part of a formal assessment.
1.4 Students are responsible for ensuring that they inform the University of any circumstances that they consider are affecting their ability to undertake assessment as early as possible. Students should be aware that the University cannot respond to a student's circumstances if it remains unaware of relevant information.
1.5 As far as possible, the University will ensure that the student will not be disadvantaged by the exceptional circumstances they have encountered in relation to their assessment opportunity, providing that their need is genuine and that the correct procedures are followed.
1.6 Extra marks will not be awarded to compensate for exceptional circumstances.
2. Advice and Support
Advice and support are available from a number of sources and students are encouraged to engage with support services for advice as early as possible
- Personal Tutor or Adviser of Studies, or other support mechanisms offered by individual Schools, for advice on impact of circumstances on academic progression.
- Student Wellbeing Services for advice and support on wellbeing issues.
- SU Advice for guidance on submitting an exceptional circumstances application.
- The Assessment Support Hub for further information for students on exceptional circumstances.
3. Acceptable Circumstances
3.1 Exceptional circumstances, for the purposes of assessment decisions, are defined as unforeseeable or unpreventable events or circumstances beyond a student’s control, which impact on their ability to undertake a summative assessment.
3.2 As such exceptional circumstances must meet the following criteria in order to be considered:
- They must be out of the student’s control – be unavoidable, where the student could not have prevented them.
- They must be short-term – not something that could be anticipated to have a medium to long-term impact.
- They must have had a demonstrably negative impact on the student’s ability to undertake the assessment.
- The timing of the circumstance must be relevant to the claimed impact.
3.3 Further information on circumstances normally covered by this procedure can be found in the Guidance on Acceptable Exceptional Circumstances and Evidence.
3.4 Ongoing chronic conditions for which students have received or could have requested support and reasonable adjustments do not constitute exceptional circumstances.
3.5 Where a student is registered with Disability Services, they will have been given appropriate provision for assessment related to their disability or long-term condition under their Individual Student Support Agreement (ISSA). Therefore, this procedure should not be used in relation to that condition.
3.5 If a student has a disability or long-term condition, but has not registered with Disability Services, the University will not be aware of their condition, and a request for exceptional circumstances will be required if a sudden, unforeseen exacerbation of the condition occurs which impacts the student’s ability to undertake an assessment. The student should be encouraged to register with Disability Service to arrange for appropriate provision to be in place for future assessments.
4. Fit to Sit
4.1 A ‘Fit to Sit’ regulation operates for all assessments (See Study Regulations for Taught Programmes, Regulation 3.1.5). It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that they undertake the assessment only if they are fit to do so.
4.2 By submitting or attempting an assessment, the student is confirming that there is no reason why their performance would be adversely affected or why they may subsequently bring forward a request for exceptional circumstances. Therefore, this procedure should not be used if the student has attempted the examination or made a final submission of continuous assessment/coursework.
4.3 A student who experiences significant disruption during an examination (for example, taking ill unexpectedly, or technical issues during an online exam) must immediately report this to the invigilator for this to be recorded. For remote examinations, the issue must be immediately reported to the relevant School. The student may submit an exceptional circumstances application to have this taken into consideration.
5. Evidence Requirements
5.1 Applications for exceptional circumstances can be self-verified by the student up to up to a maximum period of seven calendar days (excluding University closure periods). The student must provide sufficient detail within the exceptional circumstances application form to verify the circumstances and the impact that this had on the assessment(s).
5.2 Independent evidence is required for applications for exceptional circumstances beyond seven calendar days, or in relation to significant disruption during an examination. Further information on appropriate evidence can be found in the Guidance on Acceptable Exceptional Circumstances and Evidence .
5.3 There may be instances where a student is unable to provide the necessary supporting evidence due to circumstances beyond their control. Where there is a delay in obtaining evidence, the student should submit the exceptional circumstances form by the deadline, indicating that the evidence will follow. The student should continue to make every effort to obtain the evidence and the School may provide a final deadline by which this evidence must be received in order for the application to be considered or approved.
5.4 Where in exceptional instances, the student is impacted by illness and is unable to obtain medical evidence to support their application, the Chair of the SECC (or nominated members of the SECC) may use other means to verify the application beyond the maximum self-verification period (see paragraph 5.1), e.g. speaking with the student directly or accepting a statement from the student’s Personal Tutor, should this be required.
5.5 Where a student has self-verified their exceptional circumstances and has been granted an extension to a submission deadline, but subsequently requires additional time over and beyond that originally granted, they must submit a new exceptional circumstances application with supporting independent evidence for consideration.
5.6 Schools should take steps to ensure that any documentation submitted by a student in support of an exceptional circumstance application is genuine (e.g., where a suspicion is raised about the authenticity of a medical note, the School should contact the author of the note to verify its authenticity). This includes student impact statements.
5.7 Where a student is suspected of submitting evidence which is not authentic, the matter should be dealt with under the University’s Conduct Regulations.
6. Submission of an Exceptional Circumstances Application
6.1 Applications for exceptional circumstances, together with the necessary supporting evidence, must be submitted using the University’s online form available on the Queen’s Portal.
6.2 The deadline for submission of an exceptional circumstances application is three working days after the deadline or date of assessment.
7. Consideration of Exceptional Circumstances Applications
7.1 The School Exceptional Circumstances Committee (SECC) is responsible for considering exceptional circumstances applications, determining whether the circumstances are accepted, and making recommendations to the relevant Subject Board of Examiners regarding the next assessment opportunity (where applicable).
7.2 Where a student is studying in more than one School, the SECC of the student’s ‘home’ School will consider the application. Once a decision has been made by the ‘home’ School’s SECC, the decision should be communicated promptly by the ‘home’ School to the School where the relevant module or piece of work has been undertaken in order that it may be considered by that School’s Subject Board of Examiners.
7.3 Membership of the SECC may vary according to School but may include Directors of Education, Examination Liaison Officers, School Disability Officers and School Managers. The SECC may take advice from appropriate support services within the University, e.g., Disability Services, Student Wellbeing Service.
7.4 A member of staff from the School should take minutes as a formal record of the meeting, which should include recommendations to the Board of Examiners. These minutes should be appended to the Board of Examiners minutes.
7.5 The Director of Education is responsible for ensuring that the practice for considering exceptional circumstances applications is consistent throughout the School.
7.6 The SECC will convene prior to the relevant Subject Board of Examiners meeting to consider exceptional circumstances applications. Schools may decide to have separate SECCs for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students.
7.7 Applications for exceptional circumstances relating to examinations will normally be considered by the full SECC, through a scheduled meeting, and recommendations will be made to the relevant Subject Board of Examiners for consideration.
7.8 Applications for exceptional circumstances relating to continuous assessment/coursework will normally be considered by the Chair of the SECC (or nominated members of the SECC), who will make a decision in relation to the application. The decision will be communicated to the student, and will be reported to the next meeting of the SECC and the Subject Board of Examiners.
7.9 In reaching a decision on each application, the SECC should apply the criteria outlined in section 3.2 of this procedure.
7.10 Students’ circumstances should remain confidential to members of the SECC and only the recommendations of the SECC should be made available to the Board of Examiners. In exceptional situations the Chair of the Board of Examiners may be informed, in confidence, of the nature of the student’s circumstances.
8.1 Continuous Assessment/Coursework
8.1.1 In cases relating to continuous assessment/coursework, the SEEC may:
- Permit an extension to the original deadline of up to seven calendar days (excluding University closure periods), where the application is self-verified.
- Permit an extension to the original deadline of up to a maximum of 14 calendar days (excluding University closure periods) for standard continuous assessment/coursework, where the application is supported by independent evidence.
- Permit an extension to the original deadline up to a maximum of 28 calendar days (excluding University closure periods) for dissertations/larger projects, where the application is supported by independent evidence.
- Permit a deferral of the piece of continuous assessment/coursework to the next available opportunity, where the application is supported by independent evidence, to provide the student with the opportunity to take a new piece of continuous assessment /coursework as a first sitting of that attempt.
8.1.2 The length of extension must be proportionate to the likely impact of the exceptional circumstances on the student’s reasonable ability to submit the assessment.
8.1.3 Where an extension to a submission deadline for continuous assessment/coursework is granted, the piece of work is subsequently submitted, marked and moderated. However, if it is not possible for this to be completed in time for the normal Board of Examiners meeting, the result should be held until the next Board of Examiners meeting.
8.2 Examination (Not Attempted)
8.2.1 In cases relating to an examination that has not been attempted, the SECC may:
- Recommend a deferral of the examination to the next available opportunity, to provide the student with the opportunity to take a new examination as a first sitting of that attempt.
8.2.2 Self-verification is acceptable for the deferral of an examination. However, self-verification can only be applied for a maximum of seven consecutive calendar days, therefore if examinations which the student requires to defer fall over a period of more than seven consecutive days, independent evidence will be required.
8.3 Examination (Disruption)
8.3.1 In cases relating to significant disruption experienced during an examination, the SECC may:
- Recommend that the student’s late examination submission should be accepted and marked, where the student has submitted beyond the deadline and the SECC is satisfied that the disruption experienced during the examination sufficiently accounts for the delayed submission.
- Recommend a deferral of the examination to the next available opportunity, to provide the student with the opportunity to take a new examination as a first sitting of that attempt.
8.3.2 The student must have immediately informed the invigilator, or School for remote examinations, of the issue experienced and provide any evidence available to support their application.
8.4 Further Support
The SECC may also make the following recommendations to be followed up by the School:
- To consider the student under the Support to Study Procedure, where the student’s fitness to continue in study is in question.
- To consider the student under the Fitness to Practise Procedure, in cases where the student’s fitness to practise is in question.
- To refer the student to the Student Wellbeing Team or Disability Services.
- That the student should apply to the Student Support Fund.
- To require the student to engage with courses provided by the Learning Development Service or the Graduate School for assistance and advice on time management, essay writing, presentation skills or examination preparation, as appropriate.
8.5 Subject Board of Examiners
8.5.1The relevant Subject Board of Examiners considers the recommendations of the SECC to make decisions on subsequent assessment opportunities.
8.5.2 In cases where a deferral of an assessment has been recommended, the Subject Board of Examiners may determine that the assessed component can be exempt from the module mark, where it is a non-compulsory component of no more than 10% weighting and the Board is satisfied that the learning outcomes have been met by the student elsewhere on the module. This may be permitted within modules up to a maximum of 40 credits per stage (for example, as 10% in each of two 20CAT modules or as 10% in one 40CAT module).
There is no appeal against a recommendation by SECC to the Board of Examiners. A student may appeal the decision of the Board of Examiners on grounds (see Academic Appeals Regulations (Taught Programmes).
10. Monitoring Repeated Applications
10.1 The procedure should be used sparingly by students to address circumstances for which there is a clear, demonstrable impact on assessment.
10.2 A student may be considered for an Assessment Support Check-In, to meet with an appropriate member of staff within their School, if they have exceeded one of the below thresholds:
- More than two exceptional circumstances applications submitted for any reason within a six-month period; or
- More than two exceptional circumstances applications submitted for the same reason, or more than three exceptional circumstances applications submitted for any reason, within a 12-month period.
10.3 The purpose of the Assessment Support Check-In is to determine if the student would benefit from additional support with their assessment, given their recurrent engagement with the Exceptional Circumstances Procedure.
10.4 Where a student continues to be affected by or has a recurrence of the same circumstances, they should be considered under the Guidelines for Short-term Impairments so that appropriate support for study or individual arrangements for examinations can be put in place.
10.5 The School reserves the right to request supporting evidence for self-verified exceptional circumstances applications, if the thresholds outlined in section 10.2 have been exceeded by the student.
11. Data Protection and Central Monitoring
11.1 Personal data will be collected, stored and retained in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation and related UK data protection legislation, and in accordance with the University’s Data Protection Policy.
11.2 Where evidence of an exceptional circumstance may include the personal data of another person, it is the student’s responsibility to secure the permission of the data subject to submit their personal information as part of the exceptional circumstances application.
11.3 Exceptional circumstances information will only be processed for the purposes of considering the student application. Such information will be made available to relevant staff in the student’s School.
11.4 The Director of Education and Student Services shall make an annual report on exceptional circumstances to the relevant academic governance committee. Individual students shall not be identified in the report.
12. Basic Guide
|Student has been impacted by unexpected circumstances and are:||Student should:||Considered by:||Possible Outcomes:|
|Due to submit coursework but unable to submit by the deadline.||Inform the module co-ordinator and submit an Exceptional Circumstances application, within three days of the coursework deadline.||Chair of SECC (or nominated members of SECC)||
|Due to submit dissertation or larger project but unable to submit by the deadline.||Inform their supervisor and submit an Exceptional Circumstances application, within three days of the coursework deadline.||Chair of SECC (or nominated members of SECC)||
|Due to take an examination but are unable to do so.||Consider not taking the examination and submit an Exceptional Circumstances application, within three days of the examination date.||SECC||
|Experiencing significant disruption during an examination, such as illness or technical difficulties.||
Immediately inform the invigilator, or School for remote examinations, of the issue and submit an Exceptional Circumstances application, within three days of the examination date.