3.8 Special Circumstances and Reasonable Adjustments
This section of the Academic Quality Handbook provides information as of the start of the 2020/21 academic year; while much of it will remain current, some aspects may need to change from what is described here. Further Covid-19 updates and FAQs can be found on the central University web pages at: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/important-info/coronavirus/.
Special arrangements due to Covid-19
For 2020/21 students are not required to submit evidence in support of extension requests and special circumstance forms. Students should still inform the University of circumstances via the Special Circumstances Form and submit requests for coursework extensions on the Coursework Deadline Extension Request Form.
1. The University aims to assess all its students rigorously but fairly according to its regulations and approved procedures. It does however rely on students to notify it of special circumstances which may affect their performance so that it can treat all students equally and equitably. Examples of Special Circumstances include, but are not limited to: short or long-term illness, severe financial problems, major accommodation problems, bereavement or other compassionate grounds. If students do wish to let the University know of special circumstances, they must complete a special circumstances form fully and forward it to the designated people in all relevant departments together with original copies of the supporting evidence. Evidence not provided in either English or Welsh must be translated and/or independently verified at the student’s own expense. If students need to retain the original evidence, departments will arrange to copy and verify the evidence before returning the originals. If students have to submit evidence to several departments, the original evidence only needs to be submitted to the Home Department, with a photocopy being submitted to other relevant departments. It is important that students clearly identify the impact that the special circumstances have had on their performance on the assessments listed on the Special Circumstances Form. For example, ‘I could not complete the listed assessments since I was in hospital between 1 and 4 November 2018’, or ‘I was not able to complete the examination to my usual standard since I was taken ill during the examination sat on 15 January 2019’. Students must submit independent evidence to corroborate the impact that is detailed on the form.
2. Students may submit the evidence in a sealed envelope, marked ‘confidential’ but their Full Name and Student ID number must also appear on the envelope. Evidence will be treated in accordance with the University's Statement on Confidentiality 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. Students will under no circumstances be disadvantaged by submitting this information.
3. Acceptable documentary evidence includes, but is not limited to:
(i) a medical/health certificate with relevant date to the assessment;
(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 and in-class assessment due to representing Aberystyth 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.
4. Where the student’s academic performance has been affected by circumstances involving a third party, students should submit independent documentary evidence that explains the impact that this has had on them. If a student still wishes to submit evidence relating to a thrid party they must provide written consent from them e.g. parent, sibling.
5. Documentary evidence that will not be accepted includes, but is not limited to:
(ii) a statement written by the student;
(iii) a medical/health certificate that is not relevant to the date of the assessment.
6. The following are not considered to be special circumstances:
(i) problems with computers or printing;
(ii) lack of access to resources;
(iii) illness for which no medical evidence is available;
(iv) more than one deadline on the same day;
(v) inability to answer question or struggling with material;
(vi) crisis games, performance productions, departmental study trips;
(vii) non-academic activities (e.g. military training).
7. Please note the University requires students to notify it of any exceptional personal circumstances which may have adversely affected their academic performance as soon as possible, preferably at the time they have been affected, and in any case before the meetings of Examination Boards. (Please note that Examination Boards normally meet one or two weeks after the examinations have ended – students should check with their department(s) so that they submit information in time for consideration.) The University will not consider appeals based on special circumstances which could reasonably have been notified to departments before the Examination Boards or where, exceptionally, the relevant evidence becomes available only after the release of results. Students should make every effort to provide as full and detailed a case as possible, supported by appropriate evidence, to avoid the uncertainty and worry of an appeal which can impact upon sponsorship, loans and accommodation.
8. 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).
9. Further information on Special Circumstances is also available at:
(See the Staff List for details on who to send this to).
10. 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 difficulties and long term health issues/impairments. Further guidance is provided in the Policy for Making Reasonable Adjustments to Examinations.
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. All special circumstances of a medical nature require appropriate certification from a medical health care professional.
13. 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.
14. 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. Departments may need to exercise discretion in approaching relatives or third parties in cases such as bereavement or where the illness or special circumstances of dependant relatives or other close relationships are concerned. Doctors or other health care professionals may be an appropriate source for such corroboration. In all circumstances certification or corroboration should be obtained that enables departments to assess how a problem or illness has affected the performance of the student. 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.
15. Departments should seek to preserve the confidentiality of information supplied by students or about students. Information should be processed on ‘a need to know’ basis. Departments are encouraged to develop procedures that balance respect for students with the need for appropriate disclosure. Specific guidance on processing sensitive information has been issued separately with information on the General Data Protection Regulation. Other departments teaching the student should be notified of the student’s special circumstances.
Departmental Examination Boards for Part Two Students
16. 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.
17. Where a student has significant medical or other problems that prevent him/her completing the assessed work or taking an examination, or have resulted in failure, the Departmental Board may recommend Honours resit(s). It is not normal practice to raise a module mark due to special circumstances.
18. 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 minuted.
19. 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.
20. 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
21. 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 minuted 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 minuted 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.
22. 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).
23. 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.
24. 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. Qualified counsellors in the University Counselling Service may well be aware of special circumstances relevant to a student’s performance and departments should consider their letters in support of such cases. All letters from AU Counselling Service attesting medical conditions should be accompanied by a certificate/letter from a qualified medical practitioner.
25. 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.
26. 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.