A3.5 Exceptional Circumstances

  • 1.1 The University recognises that, on occasions, our students can be affected by serious personal difficulties which can affect their ability to study or undertake assessment. The Exceptional Circumstances Policy is designed to ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged in these circumstances. The aim in considering exceptional circumstances is to enable every student to be assessed on equal terms.
    2.1 The Exceptional Circumstances Policy applies to all students studying on taught programmes that lead to an Oxford Brookes award at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Students studying at a partner institution for a Brookes’ award, or an award validated by Brookes, should follow the spirit of these regulations but it is recognised that the process will be managed locally within the partner institution using an agreed process. Further information is available in the guidance for students and staff available online.

    3.1 The University considers an exceptional circumstance to be: 

    3.1.1 Personal circumstances that are out of the control of the student and which the student could not reasonably have prevented or accommodated

    3.1.2 They must have had a significant and demonstratively negative effect on the student’s ability to study or undertake an assessment

    3.1.3 The timing of the circumstances must be relevant to the claimed impact.

    3.2 All three elements of the definition must be met in order to substantiate a claim for exceptional circumstances.

    3.3 Please note: On-going conditions and other disabilities that affect students do not meet this definition of exceptional circumstances. Students experiencing ongoing conditions or disabilities should register with Wellbeing in order that their needs can be assessed and, where appropriate, an Individual Support Plan (ISP) can be put in place.

    3.4 Assessment takes many forms but when considering exceptional circumstances, it is helpful to place them into two broad categories: event assessments and deadline assessments. Each is defined below:

    3.4.1 Event assessment – assessments taken under controlled and timed conditions such as exams, tests and presentations

    3.4.2 Deadline assessments – assessments not taken under controlled and timed conditions such as essays, assignments and placements.

    4.1 Given the nature of exceptional circumstances, it is impossible to give definitive lists of the types of submissions that will be accepted or those which will not. However, the list below is intended to give an indication of the types of situations that the University would be likely to accept as exceptional circumstances if they occurred at a time which impacted on study or assessment and they were supported by appropriate evidence:

    4.1.1 A serious short-term illness or accident which, in an employment context, would have led to a period of sick leave

    4.1.2 The death of a close relative, partner or a close friend which, in an employment context, would have led to a period of compassionate leave

    4.1.3 A sudden and unexpected flare up of a long term health condition of which the student has previously notified the University

    4.1.4 A serious unexpected disruption of personal or family life

    4.1.5 Other significant exceptional factors for which there is evidence of the detrimental effect on the student, for example being a victim of crime

    4.1.6 Jury Service (where a request for a deferral has been declined or where jury service has previously been deferred).

    5.1 The list below is intended to give an indication of the types of situations that the University is unlikely to consider exceptional:

    5.1.1 Minor illness or ailments, which in a work situation would be unlikely to lead to absence from work and the student could reasonably be expected to accommodate such as colds, coughs, hangovers

    5.1.2 Lifestyle choices such as holidays, attending weddings, attending sporting fixtures (unless the student is representing their country of origin or the University in which case please see details of the process to apply to Change of Exam Date

    5.1.3 Exam stress (except where a medical diagnosis of illness has been made) 

    5.1.4 Transport issues 

    5.1.5 Misreading the examination timetable 

    5.1.6 Poor time management/scheduling of assessments/deadlines 

    5.1.7 Paid employment or voluntary work (except where a student is studying part time whilst employed on full-time basis, where unexpected additional work demands are made and can be evidenced by their employer) 

    5.1.8 Accommodation disturbances 

    5.1.9 Computer/printing/back-up issues 

    5.1.10 Finance issues.

    6.1 The list below is intended to indicate the types of situations where a student, who may feel that they have experienced exceptional circumstances, is unlikely to have their submission accepted: 

    6.1.1 Any claim which is not supported by appropriate, independent evidence

    6.1.2 A long-term health condition for which reasonable adjustments have already been put in place unless the student suffers a sudden and unexpected flare up of their symptoms 

    6.1.3 A statement of a medical condition without reasonable evidence to support it (except where a student is self-certifying on the day of an event assessment)

    6.1.4 Medical circumstances which occurred outside the relevant period

    6.1.5 A medical condition supported by retrospective medical evidence – a doctor’s note which states that the student was seen after the illness occurred and reported that they had been ill

    6.1.6 Notwithstanding the principles outlined in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy, late disclosure of circumstances on the basis that students felt unable/uncomfortable in reporting their exceptional circumstances.

    6.2 Where a submission for consideration of exceptional circumstances is not accepted, this does not necessarily imply that the student was not affected by the situation; simply that the situation described does not satisfy the University’s definition of exceptional circumstances or the evidence provided is not adequate.

    7.1 All submissions (other than in instances where the student is self-certifying on the day of an event assessment) are required to be supported by appropriate evidence. The nature of evidence will vary depending on the circumstances but it must:

    7.1.1 confirm the existence of the exceptional circumstances and the relevant timeframe

    7.1.2 confirm the impact of the exceptional circumstances on the student concerned

    7.1.3 have been written at the time that the circumstances occurred (not retrospectively)

    7.1.4 be legible and in English

    7.1.5 be original evidence that, if not in English, must be accompanied by a certified translation (the student is responsible for meeting the costs of any translation).

    7.2 A non-exhaustive list of examples which are commonly accepted as evidence would be:

    7.2.1 death certificate

    7.2.2 medical certificate covering the relevant dates and stating the impact of the illness on the student

    7.2.3 letter of support/explanation from a support service in the University such as Wellbeing, or from a relevant third party.

    7.3 The overriding principle is that the evidence should indicate:

    7.3.1 the nature of the circumstances 

    7.3.2 the timing of the circumstances 

    7.3.3 and the impact of those circumstances on the student’s ability to study and/or complete assessment.

    7.4 More detailed examples of the kinds of evidence that are required to support submissions are available in the guidance for students and staff notes available online.

    8.1 The Exceptional Circumstances Policy encompasses the principles of the Brookes’ Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

    8.2 A student should not be put in a position of unfair advantage over other candidates; the aim in considering exceptional circumstances is to enable every student to be assessed on equal terms.

    8.3 The University will assume that a student is fit and well enough to take or submit an assessment unless they inform us otherwise, by submitting a claim for exceptional circumstances within the timeframes outlined below.

    8.4 When an application for exceptional circumstances is accepted, the University will assume that the student is affected for the period of time covered by the claim and therefore will not assess any work undertaken during that period of time.

    8.5 If a student submits an application for consideration of exceptional circumstances after they have sat or submitted work for assessment, the work will not be marked and the student will need to complete the assessment again.

    8.6 Students are responsible for telling the University about any exceptional circumstances that they are experiencing that they want the University to consider and for providing evidence to substantiate the claim.

    8.7 Students and staff are expected to observe the timeframes for the submission of claims and the processing of claims as outlined in this policy.

    8.8 When considering a submission the panel may view it in the context of the student’s previous applications for exceptional circumstances.  

    8.9 Personal information submitted by students as part of a claim will only be seen by staff who are directly involved in processing and making decisions on submissions.

    8.10 Staff involved in processing applications for exceptional circumstances will do so in a fair, reasonable and timely manner.

    8.11 The process for managing exceptional circumstances is made up of two stages. In the first stage, a panel makes a decision as to whether the situation meets the requirements of the Exceptional Circumstances Policy. If the panel accepts the submission, they will make a recommendation to the chair of the examination committee regarding an appropriate allowance. The second stage involves the examination committee agreeing the recommended allowance is appropriate in the circumstances. The examination committee will not question the decision that a student’s performance has been affected by exceptional circumstances, but may decide that a different allowance should be made. 

    8.12 The examination committee will not change or estimate marks.

    8.13 All submissions will be logged and outcomes recorded.

    9.1 Extra time to prepare for a deadline assessment - the amount of extra time will normally be determined by the amount of time a student has been affected by the exceptional circumstances.

    9.2 Deferral of an event assessment - the student will take the assessment, normally in the resit period, as if it were their first attempt at the assessment.

    9.3 Disregard of a marked attempt - this will only be granted in situations where it becomes apparent that a student was not fit to sit the original assessment but, following a medical assessment, it is reasonable to assume that the nature of their illness affected their judgement regarding their fitness to sit.

    10.1 Students who are unexpectedly ill on the day of an event assessment are permitted to self-certify using the online portal. This option is to be used in episodes of illness where a student is too ill to sit an event assessment, but would not normally need to seek medical assistance from a GP as the condition is self-limiting, for example vomiting and diarrhoea or migraine. In such cases, students would not be required to provide the University with medical evidence.  

    10.2 It is expected that most students will never need to self-certify as the chances of being affected by a self-limiting illness on the day of an assessment are low. Where students do need to self-certify, it is expected that it will be a one off situation and the usage will be recorded. Students must register that they are self-certifying using the online portal in order to be considered to have made an attempt at the assessment and thereby qualify for a resit opportunity, but are not required to provide any supporting evidence.  

    10.3 The student will normally take the assessment during the resit period but will have access to the full range of marks. This means that their mark will not be capped at the pass mark. A student’s first use of self-certification will be automatically granted but any subsequent attempts to self-certify may be lead to a meeting to identify any underlying issues. Repeated use may lead the University to question the student’s fitness to study.

    11.1 Students are responsible for submitting all work for deadline assessments by the specified deadline. However, the University acknowledges that very occasionally things can go wrong at the last moment. On this basis, a student who misses the deadline is permitted to use a 24 hour grace period to upload their work after the deadline, and still have access to the full range of marks. This means that work will not be capped at the pass mark. Students must register that they are using the grace period using the online portal in order to be considered to have made an attempt at the assessment, but are not required to provide any supporting evidence.

    11.2 It is expected that most students will never need to use the grace period as working to deadlines is a skill that most students will have developed in their previous studies. Where students do need to use the grace period, it is expected that it will be a one off situation and the usage will be recorded. A student’s first use of self-certification will be automatically granted but any subsequent attempts to use the grace period may be lead to a meeting to identify any underlying issues. Repeated use of the grace period by an individual student may result in the University withdrawing that student’s access to use the grace period in future assessments. 

    12.1 Students are not expected to need to use the Exceptional Circumstances Policy repeatedly during their studies. The University has a responsibility to monitor the progress of students throughout their studies and intervene where progress is not being made at the expected rate.

    12.2 Where a student is not moving through the levels of their studies at the expected rate because of multiple applications for consideration of exceptional circumstances, the University will initiate a conversation with the student to identify any underlying issues or additional support needs.

    12.3 Where additional support needs are identified, the University will put reasonable adjustments in place. In other circumstances, it may be in the student’s best interests to take a period of approved temporary withdrawal in order to recover before returning when the student is in a position to fully engage with their studies. In certain circumstances, it may be appropriate for the University to commence the Fitness to Study procedure.

    13.1 All claims for consideration of exceptional circumstances are required to be submitted using the online portal on the student record system as soon as the circumstances become apparent and preferably ahead of the assessment deadline or the start of the assessment event.

    13.2 The deadline for submitting a claim is 48 hours after the start of the event assessment or 48 hours after the deadline for a work to be submitted for a deadline assessment.

    13.3 Students who become ill during an event assessment are required to notify the invigilator and submit a claim within 48 hours of the examination. In such circumstances, any work undertaken prior to leaving the examination will not be marked as the student will be assumed to be declaring them self as not fit to sit the assessment.

    13.4 Any claim made more than 48 hours after the deadline or event assessment will be considered to be late.

    13.5 Any supporting evidence must be supplied within ten working days of the initial application.

    13.6 Applications will initially be filtered by members of the EC Team to ensure that they meet the administrative requirements of the policy.

    13.7 Applications which meet the administrative requirements of the policy will be put forward to an exceptional circumstances panel.

    13.8 A panel will be made up of a Chair and two other members, all of whom will have been appropriately trained.

    13.9 When considering applications from students studying on non-standard programmes, the EC Team and panel will liaise with programme teams in Faculties regarding appropriate deadlines and appropriate outcomes.

    13.10 Students will be notified of the outcome of their application as soon as possible but within five working days of the completed submission.

    13.11 Students are expected to supply full information in their initial claim and follow up with supporting evidence within ten working days. All claims that meet the administrative requirements of the process will be considered in full and therefore subsequent claims for the same period will not be considered.

    13.12 Any late claim must contain a valid reason why it could not be submitted within the 48 hour deadline.

    13.13 The deadline for submitting a late claim for exceptional circumstances is the Monday of the week which immediately precedes the week in which the University holds its subject examination committees. The deadline for late applications will be published on Student Information. No late claims can be submitted after this deadline.

    13.14 Any student wishing to raise any exceptional circumstance that the University was not made aware of within the timeframe outlined in this policy must do so using the academic appeal process.

    13.15 Any academic appeal raised on the basis of exceptional circumstances must contain a valid reason to explain why it could not have been submitted within the normal timeframe.

    14.1 Applications submitted beyond 48 hours after the event or deadline will be considered to be late.

    14.2 Late applications will not be considered unless there is a clear and substantial reason why the application could not have been made on time which can be evidenced.

    15.1 A review will only be considered if one or more of the following grounds are met:

    15.1.1 There is evidence to suggest that the request was not considered in accordance with these regulations

    15.1.2 There is evidence to suggest that there was an administrative error or some other irregularity in the consideration of the request.

    15.2 All requests for a review must be submitted within ten working days of the issue of the original decision. Requests for a review submitted more than ten working days after the original decision was issued will not be considered.

    15.3 The review will be undertaken by a member of the EC Team who was not a part of the panel that considered the original claim.

    15.4 If a review upholds the original decision in relation to a claim the reviewer will issue a “Completion of Procedures” letter.

    16.1 If the student has completed the University’s internal procedure for consideration of exceptional circumstances and they are still dissatisfied with the outcome, they may be able to refer their case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) providing that the complaint is eligible under the OIA’s Rules. 

    16.2 A letter stating that case has completed the University’s internal complaint procedure shall include information on the OIA and comply with the OIA’s guidance for a “Completion of Procedures” letter.

    17.1 More information is available in the Exceptional Circumstances pages of the Brookes website. Students can also seek advice and guidance from their Student Support Co-ordinator, Academic Adviser, the EC Team or from the Students’ Union Advice Service.
    University stage of process Timescale* Responsibility
    Submission of request for consideration of exceptional circumstances via online portal As early as possible but within 48 hours of the circumstances Student
    Automated acknowledgement of submission including requirement for evidence Immediate Automated from system
    Automated email to module leader to inform them that the student has submitted a request (no details of submission) Immediate Automated from system
    Submission of appropriate supporting evidence Within 10 working days Student

    Checked to ensure the submission meets the administrative requirements of the process

    Email confirming complete submission/requesting further evidence

    Within 2 working days of complete submission with accompanying evidence Member of EC Team
    Consideration of submission by panel Within 5 working days of submission with evidence EC panel
    Email to student and other interested parties to confirm panel’s decision and recommendation for allowance Within 5 working days of submission with evidence Member of EC Team
    Student has opportunity to request a review of the decision Within 10 working days of notification of outcome Student
    Review of the decision where appropriate Within 10 working days of decision Member of the EC Team not part of the panel
    List of approved ECs and recommendations to Chair of Examination Committee 1 day prior to the Examination Committee Member of EC Team
    Examination Committee to confirm allowances made in respect of exceptional circumstances Within 2 working days of Examination Committee Secretary to Examination Committee
    Any changes to the recommended allowance reported to student and other interested parties Within 5 working days of notification from Secretary to Examination Committee Member of EC Team
    Student has opportunity to request a review of the decision Within 10 working days of notification of outcome Student
    Review of the decision Within 10 working days of decision Member of the EC Team not part of the panel

    *The University defines a 'working day' as Monday-Friday excluding bank holidays and other periods the University is closed.

  • Guidance note

  • The University’s regulations on exceptional circumstances (A3.5) apply equally to students on programmes of study which lead to Oxford Brookes awards but are delivered (in full or part) by a partner organisation. This note supplements regulation A3.5, and applies only to collaborative provision delivered by partners working with more than one Brookes Faculty. 

    Detailed information on the membership of Exceptional Circumstances Panels (ECPs) associated with specific collaborative arrangements[1] is given in the Operations Manual for a partnership, confirmed through the approval process (with any subsequent changes approved via the appropriate Faculty Academic Enhancement & Standards Committee). 

    In most cases, the Faculty in which the Liaison Manager for the collaborative provision is located will take responsibility for overseeing the mitigating circumstances procedures and the operation of the ECP. However, a number of partner organisations deliver programmes of study which are managed by Department/Schools across more than one Faculty, and in these cases, a lead Faculty must be identified.

    The current arrangements for cross-Faculty ECPs are as follows:

    Provider  Faculties managing provision  Lead Faculty (2019) 
    Abingdon & Witney College  Business 
    Health & Life Sciences 
    Humanities & Social Sciences
    Technology, Design & Environment
     
      BUS 
    HLS 
    HSS 
    TDE
     
    Bridgwater and Taunton College (University Centre Somerset)       
    Brooklands College TDE  
    Solihull College and University Centre BUS 
    HLS 
    HSS 
    TDE
     
    Swindon College  HLS  
    HSS 
    TDE
     
    Wiltshire College and University Centre    BUS   
    HSS 
    TDE
     

    [1] The current collaborative provision register can be found on the Academic Policy & Quality Office website.

  • For further information about these regulations, please contact the Deputy Director of Academic & Student Administration (Academic Policy & Regulations).

    Approved: Academic Board, 10 April 2019 (for implementation on 1 September 2019)
    Next reviewed: July 2020

    Guidance note approved: May 2013
    Last updated: March 2019