19. Extenuating Circumstances

Guidance on student circumstances and absence during the teaching period due to illness or other cause is provided at section 7, whilst further guidance for staff on the reporting, certification and consideration of student circumstances is available from: www.bristol.ac.uk/academic-quality/studentsupport/student-circumstances/.

A student guide to extenuating circumstances is also available at: www.bristolsu.org.uk/justask/extenuating-circumstances/

19.1 Extenuating circumstances are circumstances external to study within the university that a student believes has affected their performance in assessment.

19.2 The effects that properly reported extenuating circumstances have on a student’s performance must be considered by boards of examiners when making progression, completion or classification decisions

The reporting of extenuating circumstances

19.3 The reporting of extenuating circumstances and their effects is the responsibility of the student

19.4 A student must use the university’s extenuating circumstances form (as provided by the school; students in the Faculty of Engineering should visit: www.bristol.ac.uk/engineering/current-students/) in order to notify the University of any extenuating circumstances that may have affected their ability to fulfil the criteria for the award of credit points or to perform to the best of their ability in assessment events.

19.5 Students should provide an independently certified English translation for any evidence that was originally produced in another language. Such evidence will not normally be accepted without the English translation.

19.6 If a student wishes a board of examiners to take any extenuating circumstances into account, the completed extenuating circumstances form must be submitted to the relevant school office no later than the meeting of the school board of examiners at which the student's performance in assessment in relation to their progression or award is considered, normally in the academic year in which the circumstance occurred.All authorised extensions should be recorded and available to the Extenuating Circumstances Committee and the Boards of Examiners.

19.7 Extenuating circumstances that could have been raised before the meeting of the relevant board of examiners, but without good reason were not raised, will not be considered in the event of an appeal.

19.8 Schools should ensure that advice to students is available about the nature of the evidence that they will need to provide to supplement the information supplied in the University’s extenuating circumstances form.

19.9 Information must be provided to students by schools and faculties in the relevant student handbooks on the procedure for the treatment of medical and other extenuating circumstances. This information should include:

19.10 Schools should ensure that their procedures are arranged so the number of copies of papers detailing extenuating circumstances is kept to a minimum

Extenuating Circumstances Committees

19.11 A small extenuating circumstances committee shall be established to consider the extenuating circumstances that may have affected a student's performance in assessment.

19.12 An Extenuating Circumstances Committee for each programme should be established for each school or at a level determined by the relevant Faculty Board.

19.13 The composition of an Extenuating Circumstances Committee will be subject to the approval of the chair of the relevant Faculty Board of Examiners.  It may include the chair of the School Board of Examiners, to which it reports, and the relevant examinations officer and senior tutor. 

19.14 The Extenuating Circumstances Committee is an advisory committee of the Board of Examiners. It will meet as soon as is convenient before each meeting of the School Board of Examiners to which it reports.

19.15 The role of the Extenuating Circumstances Committee is to evaluate whether or not extenuating circumstances may have affected the candidate’s capacity to perform. It shall determine:

  • which (if any) assessments or units may have been affected by the circumstances drawn to its attention;
  • whether the circumstance is deemed to have been reasonably within the student’s control, evidenced and/or sufficiently serious to warrant an allowance;
  • the period of time over which the student’s performance was impaired and whether the extenuating circumstance was acute (of short duration and only likely to have had a negative impact upon the student’s performance in the assessment) or chronic (over a significant period of time and therefore likely to have had an impact upon their learning as well as their performance in the assessment);
  • whether the impact on the student’s capacity to perform is likely to have been mild, moderate, serious or severe
  • whether sufficient allowance for the circumstances has already been made, for example, by making special arrangements for examinations or by granting extensions to deadlines.

The committee may also wish to comment upon the degree of confidence that it has on the impact of the reported circumstances given the evidence available, if it feels it is necessary to do so.  

The committee should also consider whether any reasonable adjustment for a disability is sufficient to account for any extenuating circumstances presented by a student (within the extenuating circumstance form.  

19.16 It is not the role of the extenuating circumstances committee to determine the effect, if any, on the candidate’s results.  All decisions on the accommodation of the effects of extenuating circumstances on progression and awards will be made by the board of examiners

19.17 The extenuating circumstances committee should use its discretion and judgement in deciding on the severity and impact in any particular case.

19.18 If the committee is unable to classify the circumstance, particularly in complex cases, it should flag and recommend to the relevant Board of Examiners that professional advice is sought to help in the interpretation of existing evidence and/or supplementary evidence.

19.19 The committee must note the reasons underlying its decisions and these notes, along with information on the period of time in which the circumstances affected the student and the assessments / forms of learning that were affected, should form its report to the Board of Examiners. All cases where a student has self-certified absence from an examination due to illness should be recorded by the School.

19.20 The relevant minute of the extenuating circumstances committee should be made available to a student on request

19.21 Information about the precise medical or other extenuating circumstances of the candidate must remain confidential to the extenuating circumstances committee.

19.22 The Faculty or School should establish a procedure for ensuring that judgements are as consistent and robust as possible, in-year and year-on-year

Consideration of extenuating circumstances by boards of examiners

19.23 The School Board of Examiners will receive the report provided by the Extenuating Circumstances Committee and consider the case of each student who has presented extenuating circumstances, and then determine the effect, if any, on the candidate’s results. 

19.24 The School Board of Examiners will determine whether a student’s performance has been substantially affected by extenuating circumstances beyond their control and what action, if any, is required to take into account these circumstances, as is fair and reasonable. Information about a student circumstance should not be introduced in an examination board, unless in exceptional circumstances, as set out in 16.14 of the Taught Code.

19.25 The options that will normally be considered by a Board of Examiners are outlined in 19.26-19.30, subject to the following caveats, where applicable: 

i. Students who are absent from an examination due to illness and who self-certificate, will be required to undertake the examination at the next scheduled time the examination is run, normally in the August / September ‘re-sit’ period, without penalty. An accepted extenuating circumstance may supersede a self-certificated absence from an examination by a student where the circumstance relates to the reason for the original absence and covers the same time period.

ii. Where a summative assessment has not been completed because of validated extenuating circumstances (not including self-certified absence on its own), a Faculty Board of Examiners may, in light of the report by the Extenuating Circumstances Committee, waive the requirement for the student to successfully complete the assessment on the basis of the extenuating circumstances, if it is satisfied that the intended learning outcomes for the unit are fulfilled by the successful completion of other assessments. In such situations, a Faculty Board of Examiners may disregard the assessment in considering whether to award credit for the unit. The Chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners may agree to the waiving of assessments on a case-by-case basis in-year.

19.26 In the case of non-final year undergraduate students on modular programmes, if a student has extenuating circumstances which have been accepted, the School Board of Examiners may decide to (but not exclusively):

19.27 In the case of final year undergraduate students on modular programmes, if a student has extenuating circumstances which have been accepted, the School Board of Examiners may decide to (but not exclusively):

19.28 In the case of undergraduates on non-modular undergraduate programmes, extenuating circumstances are only considered if a student is subject to discussion at the Board of Examiners. If a student has extenuating circumstances which have been accepted, the Board of Examiners may decide to (but not exclusively):

19.29 For taught postgraduate students in the taught component of the programme, if a student has extenuating circumstances which have been accepted, the Board of Examiners may decide to (but not exclusively):

19.30 For taught postgraduate students in the dissertation component of the programme, if a student has extenuating circumstances which have been accepted, the Board of Examiners may, depending upon the categorised impact of the circumstance, decide to:

19.31 The manipulation of the mark itself is not permissible. 

19.32 Where a student has successfully completed a unit but the board of examiners considers that their performance was impaired by extenuating circumstances, then this will be put on file for consideration by the relevant board of examiners at a future point. 

19.33 A Board of Examiners must consider the effect of extenuating circumstances from previous years, if applicable, on its decision-making (e.g. the application of the secondary rule for classification). 

19.34 Each recommended allowance made by School Boards of Examiners with respect to extenuating circumstances will be presented to the Faculty Board of Examiners for approval.

19.35 The Faculty Board of Examiners will ensure:

19.36 The chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners may amend the classification of the impact of an extenuating circumstance that has been made by an extenuating circumstances committee, before it reaches the board of examiners, where:

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

(ii)  a material irregularity in determining the classification by the extenuating circumstances committee is uncovered.

19.37 The chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners may appoint committees to advise the Board on the treatment of students with extenuating circumstances as they think fit.  All decisions are reserved to the Faculty Board of Examiners itself. 

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