3.8 Special Circumstances and Reasonable Adjustments
Definition of special circumstances
1. The University aims to assess all its students rigorously but fairly according to the regulations and procedures which are published in the Academic Quality Handbook. It does however rely on students to notify it of special circumstances which may affect their performance. Examples include but are not limited to: short or long-term illness, severe financial problems, major accommodation problems, bereavement or other compassionate grounds.
2. The following are not considered to be special circumstances:
(i) problems with computers or printing;
(ii) lack of access to resources;
(iii) more than one deadline on the same day;
(iv) inability to answer question or struggling with material;
(v) participation in departmental activities such as crisis games, performance productions, or study trips;
(vi) non-academic activities (for example, voluntary military training).
Submitting special circumstances
3. To report special circumstances, students must submit the special circumstances form to their academic department(s) along with any supporting evidence.
The 2021-22 version of the form and guidance can be found here: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/media/departmental/academicregistry/admissions/academicqualityhandbook/section3-assessmentoftaughtschemes/specialcircumstances/Special-Circumstances-Form-2021-22.docx.
(See the Contacts List for details on who to send this to: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/handbook/taught-schemes/stafflist/).
Evidence not provided in either English or Welsh must be translated and/or independently verified at the student’s own expense. All forms and evidence should be submitted by email if possible.
4. In cases where it is not possible to make an electronic submission, students should submit the evidence in a sealed envelope, marked ‘confidential’ but their Full Name and Student ID number must also appear on the envelope. Students should email the department for further guidance about submitting evidence in a sealed envelope. Evidence will be treated in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Data Protection Act, other related legislation and best practice and will be used by Examination Boards to assess its impact on performance on the relevant assessments. It will not be used for any other purposes.
5. Students should report special circumstances which may have adversely affected their academic performance as soon as possible, and in all cases by the published deadlines for the semester ahead of the examination boards. The University will not consider appeals based on special circumstances which could reasonably have been submitted by these published deadlines.
Making a case
6. Students should make every effort to provide as full and detailed a case as possible, supported by appropriate evidence wherever possible. The form must include a clear explanation of the impact of the special circumstances on students’ performance in specific assessments.
For example, ‘I could not complete the listed assessments since I was in hospital between 1 and 4 November 2021’, or ‘I was not able to complete the examination to my usual standard since I was taken ill during the examination sat on 14 January 2022’.
7. Students should submit independent documentary evidence wherever possible. All evidence must be relevant to the date of the assessment or assessments. Examples of independent documentary evidence may include:
(i) a medical/health certificate;
(ii) a death certificate;
(iii) a letter of support/explanation from a support service in the University, or other appropriate external support organisation. For full details of the types of letter that may be provided by the University, please visit: http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/student-support/letters/;
(iv) An unavoidable absence from an in-class assessment due to representing Aberystwyth University at an official University sporting fixture may occasionally be accepted, however official confirmation from the Student Union that a student is representing the University must be submitted as supporting evidence.
8. Where students’ academic performance has been affected by circumstances involving a third party, students should seek to submit independent documentary evidence that explains the impact that this has had on them. If this is not possible, students may submit evidence relating to a third party provided that they receive written consent from them e.g. parent, sibling.
What if students cannot obtain independent evidence?
9. The University recognises that it may not be possible for students to obtain independent documentary evidence in all circumstances during the 2021-22 academic session. In such cases, students should provide a detailed account of their special circumstances and the impact on their assessment(s). Students should explain in full why it has not been possible to obtain documentary evidence.
10. Where it has not been possible to provide independent evidence during the 2021-22 session, students may be allowed to resit a module for an uncapped mark where a strong case is made. However, independent evidence remains a requirement for consideration in the Window of Opportunity, Academic Appeals, Final Reviews, and decisions made under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress.
Consideration of special circumstances
11. All module results and degree classifications are subject to approval by the Senate Examination Boards, chaired by a Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee. A University Special Circumstances Panel is held immediately prior to the Senate Examination Boards to review the recommendations from Departmental Examination Boards in accordance with the Examination Conventions and to ensure consistency of approach.
Action in preparation for the Departmental Examination Board
12. The greater the degree of compensation under consideration the more systematic and detailed should be the corroboration, preferably making clear the nature and degree of impairment on the student’s performance. Where, for example, a department recommends a student should be raised a degree classification it will not normally be sufficient to do so on the basis of a one word or phrase medical note, but will require a detailed and corroborated account of where and how the student was impaired.
13. Special circumstances of a personal nature also require certification or corroboration. Again the greater degree of compensation the more systematic and detailed should be the corroboration, preferably making clear the nature and extent of impairment on the student’s performance. Both the Departmental and the Senate Examination Board will also need to review such cases with regard to the principle of maintaining comparability between individual students.
Departmental Examination Boards for Part Two Students
14. Special circumstances that affect a student’s performance may receive compensation in the examination process at the relevant Semester Examination Board, or in the final degree classification at the Final Examination Board.
15. Where a student has significant medical or other problems that prevent them completing the assessed work or taking an examination, or have resulted in failure, the Departmental Board may recommend Honours resit(s) (uncapped resit) at Part Two. It is not normal practice to raise a module mark due to special circumstances.
16. In exceptional circumstances where the department believes the student’s medical condition precludes an Honours resit at some time in the future the Departmental Board may recommend that the mark of one element of the assessment be taken as the mark for the module as a whole. Any such decision must be carefully recorded in the minutes.
17. Where the personal/medical circumstances of a student have affected their performance but not sufficiently so that they fail, the department may, with the agreement of the student, amend the recorded mark to 39 ‘H’ to enable the student to retake the module and achieve a performance that more accurately reflects their efforts and ability. The student need only resit those elements of assessment which were affected by the problem but can carry forward unaffected marks.
18. Where a student has sufficient credits to graduate but also has Honours resits in hand the department should endeavour to establish ahead of the Senate Examination Board whether the student wishes to exercise their right to resit. The normal expectation is that where students are able to resit modules to improve the class of degree they should take the resits, rather than have their degree class raised if they fall within the Window of Opportunity.
Final Senate Examination Board
19. Where a student has ongoing personal or medical problems (for example recurring clinical depression or multiple sclerosis) it will normally be appropriate at the Final Examination Board to consider whether compensation is necessary. Where Departmental Examination Boards are aware of such circumstances but do not take them into account, the individual cases concerned should be discussed and recorded at the Departmental Examination Board in the semester in which the problem arises. Students whose cascaded average is within 2% of the higher class should not be raised within the Window of Opportunity on grounds of special circumstances unless the problem was discussed and recorded at the time it arose or was not known to previous exam boards. Students who are not within 2% of the higher category cannot be considered to be raised on grounds of special circumstances.
20. Where students are prevented by illness or other exceptional circumstances from completing their degree/diploma/certificate the Regulations for the Award of Aegrotat Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates may be applied, with the consent of the student. In most cases, however, it will be possible to award a classified degree. (Note that Ordinary degrees, Diplomas and Certificates of Higher Education may be used as exit qualifications for degree students who have withdrawn permanently or failed to achieve sufficient credits for a degree and where there are no special circumstances).
21. Where the Senate Examination Board is satisfied that a student is absent with good cause from a final examination/assessment, the qualification may be awarded providing that at least 220 out of 240 credits worth of Part Two modules which count towards the final award have been completed. However, please note that the normal course of action in such cases would be the award of ‘H’ resits. Only in the last resort (i.e. as with aegrotats, where illness or other special circumstances prevent students from completing their degrees and taking resits) would the degree be awarded without all credits being completed.
22. Departments should forward to the Senate Examination Board details of all students whose marks fall within the Window of Opportunity and who have Special Circumstances. This should be done whether or not they recommend that the degree classification should be raised. The details to be sent should include all medical certificates and other relevant documentation.
23. For every student who is recorded at the Departmental Board as a fail, reasons for failure should be entered on the relevant screen on AStRA by the published deadline so that the reason for failure is known to the Senate Examination Board.
24. Part Two students cannot resit modules that they have passed. In exceptional circumstances where serious medical or personal difficulties have prevented the student from meeting the module requirements, it may be possible for students to retake the module or replace it with another. This requires the approval of the Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor.
25. Students who are unable to take examinations due to special circumstances such as temporary injuries/short term ill health are usually expected to resit in August, or in the relevant semester the following session. Other arrangements will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, subject to the provision of appropriate medical evidence. Where requests are received five term time weeks before the student’s examination the University will endeavour to make adjustments subject to the nature of the request and the practical considerations of implementation. Adjustments must be both reasonable and practical to implement within the time available. It will not normally be possible for the University to implement requests received fewer than seven working days before the examination. Students who have obtained medical evidence must make an appointment to meet with an Accessibility Adviser in Student Support Services. On the basis of the evidence submitted and mindful of the practicality of the adjustment requested the Adviser will make a recommendation to the Assistant Registrar (Examinations).
26. The University seeks to ensure that it is accessible to as many students as possible. This includes the provision of alternative assessments for students with disability, specific learning differences and long term health issues/impairments. Further guidance is provided in the Policy for Making Reasonable Adjustments to Examinations.
(Chapter 3.8 revised: Oct 2021)