What are exceptional circumstances?

The University considers an exceptional circumstance:
  • to be personal circumstances that are out of the control of the student; and
  • that the student could not reasonably have prevented or accommodated; and
  • they must have had a significant and demonstratively negative effect on the student’s ability to study or undertake an assessment.

Additionally, the timing of the circumstances must be relevant to the affected assessments and/or period of study. All elements must be met in order to substantiate a claim for exceptional circumstances.

What you need to do

To make a successful claim, you'll need to:

  • Step 1: Describe your exceptional circumstances and tell us why the situation was out of your control, explaining how you could not have reasonably prevented or accommodated the situation.
  • Step 2: Explain how the circumstances had a significant and demonstrable negative effect on your ability to study or take an assessment.
  • Step 3: Show how the timing of the difficulty is relevant to the assessment you’re claiming for.

Timing of the application

Progressing through your assessments on time is generally better than postponing assessments. 

If you apply very early, e.g. more than 4 weeks in advance of the assessment, the panel may suggest that you apply again closer to the date of the assessment and provide the most current evidence. This may give you the chance to accommodate the circumstances by the deadline and consider whether you really need to apply for exceptional circumstances.

Exceptional circumstances really must be... exceptional

It’s important to understand that exceptional circumstances really must be exceptional. As a student, you are expected to manage your health and minor illnesses or disruptions alongside your studies. The deadlines for submitting assessments are published when you start a module in order that you have plenty of time to plan, research and complete the work required. 

You are expected to work round short-term issues, such as a cold, in the same way that you would if you were employed. This is intended to help you develop your time management skills, which will be transferable skills you will need for whatever you go on to do after university.

Applications for exceptional circumstances longer than 3 days should only be made for genuinely serious situations such as:

  • exceptional medical circumstances eg hospitalisation or incapacitation through injury, illness, or mental health crisis
  • significant bereavement eg family member or close friend 
  • 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
  • legal proceedings requiring attendance
  • challenging domestic situation (e.g. divorce) 
  • the sudden significant illness of a close family member.

The University would only expect that a minority of students would need to make an exceptional circumstances application during the course of their studies. If you find yourself needing to make regular applications, it might be that there is more suitable support or other processes which may better suit your situation. Your Student Support Co-ordinator or your Academic Adviser can explore other options with you. 

Circumstances which are not generally considered to be exceptional include those events where you are aware of the date well in advance, and are therefore expected to make the necessary adjustments to meet your deadlines. 

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • weddings and associated travel arrangements
  • academic deadline pressures, e.g. multiple deadlines, time mismanagement, general exam stress 
  • deleted work, not-backed-up work or other computer failure
  • uploading the incorrect assignment, mis-reading assignment deadlines or forgetting to submit an assignment on time
  • domestic events such as home moves, family celebrations, holidays or other events where you are aware of the date well in advance and are therefore expected to make the necessary adjustments to meet your deadlines
  • pregnancy and childbirth in and of themselves
  • sporting commitments related to deadline assessments.

A note on...

Example scenarios

Below are some examples of the kinds of situations which are likely to be considered exceptional and some examples of situations which are not. These are not all the possible situations that we might consider to be exceptional, there may be more.

Remember that if you are applying for Type C (an extension of more than three days, or an opportunity to postpone an assessment) you’ll need to provide evidence of your situation and how it is impacting on you.

Here are some scenarios to illustrate: