12. Submission and considering the impact of student circumstances

12.1          The University will consider and where appropriate account for the impact of substantial and exceptional disruptions to a student’s assessment by a range of processes, as set out in this policy. Such disruptions might include an illness or accident, or something else beyond a student’s control that has affected their ability to complete or perform in assessment.

12.2          These processes are designed to deal with developing, shorter-term circumstances (including unexpected flare-ups of longer-term, chronic conditions) that impact on a student’s performance in assessment and to function as a targeted means of responding to problems which could not readily be mitigated in advance. They are not intended to be a retrospective fix for known or foreseeable problems, a general insurance policy or to account for mild illness, minor events or events that were planned or could reasonably be expected.

12.3          Specifically, an 'Exceptional Circumstance' is where a student retrospectively requests that the University consider an exceptional impact of an acute disruption, caused by an event or circumstance external to study, upon their performance in an assessment when determining their progression, the award of a qualification or classification.

12.4          Students with circumstances that are known and/or have a longer-term impact upon study, should engage with appropriate University services such that appropriate support can be put in place in advance of assessment (e.g. through a Study Support Plan).

12.5          Students must submit a request using the relevant University process as set out in this policy. Students must set out and explain how the circumstances have impacted upon their assessment, in addition to providing evidence of the circumstance, where required.

12.6          The processes are available to students on taught programmes of the University of Bristol and students on research degree programmes who are taking taught units. Only a sub-set of outcomes from the processes are available for visiting students taking taught units at the University.

Absence from teaching

12.7          Students are expected to attend educational activities as are defined in their programme of study; however, a student may need to notify their school for any period of absence if required by the programme of study or specific unit, as set out in the relevant programme or unit specification, or student handbook.

Deferring assessment

12.8          If a student is or will be seriously impacted by a known circumstance outside of their control such that they cannot complete an upcoming scheduled summative assessment, they should speak with the Senior Tutor of their home school in advance of the assessment for guidance on next steps.

12.9          On the advice of the Senior Tutor, the Chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners may defer the assessment for that student to the next assessment period to mitigate the impact of the circumstance. This is an extraordinary and discretionary action where the impact of a circumstance (i.e. the student will be unable to be take the assessment) is fully known in advance of the assessment and the impact is equivalent to a ‘serious’ classification. The decision will normally be supported by evidence, unless in exceptional cases (see 12.40).

12.10      If agreed by the Chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners, the student will undertake the assessment within the next relevant assessment period without further academic penalty.

Absence from assessment

In-person and online written examinations and other forms of summative assessment that take place on a single day under exam conditions

12.11      If a student is absent from assessment that takes place on a single day (e.g. online and in-person examinations, practicals, in-class tests) due to an acute disruption caused by an unforeseen event or circumstance, they may self-certify their absence (i.e. not provide medical or other evidence) by completing and submitting the University’s self-certification for absence form.

12.12      A student is permitted to self-certify absence from examination/s for up to two consecutive calendar days within an assessment period[1]. A student cannot self-certify absence for more than a single period of two consecutive calendar days in any individual assessment period.

12.13      A self-certification for absence is also permitted for other designated in-unit summative assessments that take place on a single specified day outside of the University assessment period. Students should be informed of any limits upon self-certification for absence for an assessment, as determined by the relevant school. 

12.14      A self-certification for absence form must be provided for each missed assessment submitted no later than the day of the missed assessment.

12.15      Where the absence from assessment exceeds the limit set in 12.12 or relates to assessment that takes place over more than one day, a student should submit exceptional circumstances to explain and evidence the absence.

12.16      Students who start but are unable to complete an in-person or online summative examination due to illness should follow the instructions provided to them by an invigilator or in the information for completing an online examination. The student should then complete the University’s exceptional circumstances form and submit it along with any appropriate evidence.

12.17      A student may subsequently submit exceptional circumstances in respect of the absence which, if accepted, will supersede a self-certified absence from an assessment where the circumstance relates to the reason for the original absence and covers the same time period.

12.18      Where a self-certification of absence from assessment is submitted, the student will normally be required to undertake the assessment again in the same format without academic penalty subject to the normal regulations for progression and award. This will take place for exams: either in the reassessment period or as part of a supplementary year; for other assessment events, rescheduled at a time determined by the School within the same academic year. If it is not feasible to provide the assessment in the same format, then an alternative format that enables the student to demonstrate the relevant intended learning outcomes will be provided.

Submission of coursework

12.19      Where a circumstance significantly affects the ability of a student to submit coursework or an undergraduate project / dissertation by a deadline, a student may submit a request for an extension. The extension of the submission deadline for a dissertation in a taught postgraduate programme is requested by a separate process, as detailed in the Taught Code.  

12.20      Coursework must be submitted on time unless an extension has previously been agreed. Late submissions will be subject to a mark penalty.  Late penalties may be removed through the Exceptional Circumstances process where there is good, evidenced reason why the extension form and/or evidence could not be submitted by the deadline. Relevant evidence is required to accompany the request for an extension, unless in exceptional cases (see 12.40). If evidence cannot be provided, a penalty for late submission will apply where applicable.

12.21      The University form for requesting an extension should be submitted no later than 48 hours prior to the submission deadline. Accompanying evidence may be submitted at a later date if it is not immediately available, but no later than four calendar days after the coursework submission deadline.

12.22      The decision as to whether an extension is granted will be taken by the school which owns the unit, and the outcome provided to the student in advance of the submission deadline where possible. Students must work to the given deadline until an extension is confirmed. 

12.23      Where a request is accepted, an extension of up to seven calendar days will be granted to ensure that a student’s learning is not held up. If the circumstance has had a serious impact upon the ability of a student to complete and submit their coursework, then a longer extension of up to 21 calendar days may be agreed, subject to the final deadline for submission before the student’s progression or award is considered by the board of examiners.

12.24      Where the impact of a circumstance demands an extension beyond 21 days, consideration should be given to a suspension of studies or permitting the student to defer the assessment without academic penalty to a later date (see 12.9).

Exceptional circumstances

12.25      A student may request for the relevant exam board to consider the impact of exceptional circumstances upon progression or the award and/or classification of a qualification. The request must be submitted with evidence (see 12.39).

12.26      A request may also be presented in the following specific cases:

12.27      Students should submit the form and evidence as soon after the circumstance as possible but no later than the established date[2] before the next exam board atwhich the student’s progression or award is determined. Students on programmes with a different assessment schedule will be informed of relevant submission dates by their school. 

12.28      Cases submitted by the stated deadline will be considered by an Exceptional Circumstances Committee (ECC).

12.29      An ECC is established at a Faculty, School or Centre level covering the students on the taught programmes that it owns. A Faculty may also establish an ECC to cover programmes operated at a Faculty level. The ECC is an advisory committee to the School Board of Examiners. The membership and composition of the ECC is determined by the Chair of the School (or Faculty) Board of Examiners, but should include at least three members, one of whom will be a Senior Tutor, who will chair the committee.

12.30      The role of the ECC is to evaluate whether or not circumstances have affected a student’s performance in assessment and whether they have already been mitigated. If a request for Exceptional Circumstances is deemed valid and therefore accepted, for each case the ECC will determine and classify the impact upon the student’s assessment and report this to the school board of examiners where it believes an allowance is warranted. Circumstances judged as having a material impact upon assessment may lead to a range of possible mitigations. 

12.31      The ECC may deem the removal of a late penalty for an assessment to be an appropriate outcome as mitigation. In these circumstances, the Chair of the School Board of Examiners will approve the removal of late penalties prior to the School Board of Examiners meeting on the recommendation of the ECC, where a student was unable for good reason to submit an extension request in advance of the submission deadline. This is the only circumstance in which a ECC may recommend a specific action as mitigation.

12.32      The School Board of Examiners will receive the outcome of each case accepted by the ECC and exercise its academic judgement in accordance with the guidance and standard outcomes set out and determine an outcome that is the fair, reasonable and the most appropriate to account for the impact of the circumstance.

12.33      When considering the classification of an individual student, the School Board of Examiners should consider the recommendations from the ECC that have been carried forward from previous years, as appropriate.

12.34      Where a School Board of Examiners’ view of the impact of the circumstance leads it to believe that the standard outcomes should be varied and/or in complex cases, it may refer the case to the Faculty Board of Examiners with a recommendation to agree an appropriate outcome to account for the impact of the circumstance, within its discretion.

12.35      For cases which are specifically referred to the Faculty Board of Examiners by a School Board of Examiners, the Faculty Board of Examiners will receive and ratify the proposed outcome with respect to exceptional circumstances or consider the case and agree an alternative outcome.

12.36      The chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners may amend the classification of the impact of an exceptional circumstance that has been made by an ECC, in consultation with the Chair of the ECC, where:

(i) new information has come to light since the classification was decided, or;

(ii) a material irregularity in determining the classification by the ECC is identified.

12.37      Boards of Examiners must keep a written record of the decisions made with respect to exceptional circumstances and the basis on which they were made.  The relevant record must be made available to a student to whom it applies on request.

12.38      Where a student has taken an assessment but is permitted to take it again without academic penalty to account for the impact of an Exceptional Circumstance, the mark from the most recent assessment will supersede the original assessment mark.

Evidence requirements

12.39   Students are required to provide evidence of their circumstance to support:

12.40      A requirement for accompanying evidence ensures an informed judgement can be made about impact and any mitigation agreed in response is both fair and reasonable to the student and to the rest of the student cohort. Where it is not appropriate or possible for evidence to be sought or provided, students should speak to their Senior Tutor who may refer the case to the Chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners.

12.41      Otherwise, circumstances and their impact should be evidenced in an appropriate way and may take a range of forms. Evidence should be independent and sufficiently detailed to support the student’s narrative within the form. An indicative list of accepted forms of evidence is provided. It should also be contemporary to the affected assessments; however, students may refer to previously submitted evidence of acute flare-ups of chronic conditions or persistent circumstances and/or submit previous documentation where it is still relevant to the reason for the request. 

12.42      A medical note must include an observation and diagnosis of an illness or condition by a GP or other health professional to be considered as evidence. Where an illness cannot be observed, any subsequent note will not be deemed to constitute sufficient evidence by the University of the circumstance or its impact.

12.43      The evidence should be in English. An independently certified English translation must be provided for any evidence that was originally produced in another language.

Processing information and confidentiality

12.44      The information provided in the forms will be held by the University and treated with discretion and in confidence.

[1] These being the University assessment periods, unless a programme has alternative assessment periods in which case the relevant school should advise students appropriately.

[2] Set as by a specified date ahead of the summer exam board, the reassessment exam board and PGT finalist exam board.