What are exceptional circumstances?

  • The University considers an exceptional circumstance:

    1. to be personal circumstances that are out of the control of the student; and

    2. that the student could not reasonably have prevented or accommodated; and

    3. 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.

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

    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.
    2. Explain how the circumstances had a significant and demonstrable negative effect on your ability to study or take an assessment.
    3. Show how the timing of the difficulty is relevant to the assessment you’re claiming for.

    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 one week should only be made for genuinely serious situations such as:

    • experiencing a significant illness yourself
    • experiencing a bereavement
    • being a victim of a crime or
    • the sudden significant illness of a close family member

    when these situations affect your ability to prepare for or take an assessment.

    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. There is more information on other policies that might be more appropriate depending on your situation in the next section. Your Student Support Co-ordinator or your Academic Adviser can explore other options with you. 

    Example scenarios

    At the end of this section, there 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 if you are applying for Type C (an extension of more than one week, or an opportunity to postpone an assessment) that you’ll need to provide evidence of your situation and how it is impacting on you. 

    Here are some scenarios to illustrate:

  • Parent taken ill

    Student worried about an ill parent

    One of your parents is suddenly taken seriously ill two weeks before the Semester 2 exam period. You’re understandably very distressed and want to return home to be with your family. You make a successful claim for exceptional circumstances and the recommended allowance is that you be allowed to submit your coursework and sit your exams in the resit period. 

    After a few days it is clear that your parent is going to make a full recovery but you feel exhausted and want to stay close by for a little longer. You stay home as agreed during the original assessment period and take your assessments during the resit period, by which time your parent has made a full recovery and you are able to focus on your studies.

    Painful toothache

    During week 4 of the semester, you experience very painful toothache. You visit the dentist who diagnoses an abscess and prescribes a course of antibiotics. You continue to feel ill for a few days but then recover quickly. You’ve missed some lectures, but are able to catch up with them by speaking to your lecturers as soon as you feel well.

    By the time you are due to submit a piece of coursework in week 9, you are fully recovered and back up to date with your work. There is no need to submit a claim for exceptional circumstances, as by the time the assessment was due you were fit to submit the work.

    Home was flooded

    Your term-time home was flooded in April following extensive rainfall and you were forced to move out and stay in temporary accommodation. You made a successful application for consideration of exceptional circumstances for the May assessment period and the recommended allowance is to sit your assessments in the resit period. 

    You made a further application in the following semester on the basis that it has taken a long time to get the necessary repairs completed. However this time your application is not successful. This is because the Panel would have deemed that the situation was no longer unexpected and would have expected you to make alternative arrangements.

    Part-time job

    At the start of term, you took on a part-time job in a restaurant to help cover your living expenses. At the beginning of November, your employer asks you to cover additional shifts during December in anticipation that the restaurant will be busy in the run-up to Christmas. You agree, because you need the extra money, but find yourself short of time to complete your coursework and you miss your deadline. Your application for consideration of exceptional circumstances is not successful as the Panel considers that the situation was within your control.