11. Reasonable adjustment to assessment because of disability or other reason

11.1         Disability is a protected characteristic that is protected under the Equality Act 2010. Schools should have procedures in place that anticipate the support needs of students with a disability. A person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

11.2         The University has a legal obligation to make a reasonable adjustment where a provision, criterion or practice, including those for the consideration of exceptional circumstances, places disabled students at a substantial disadvantage. The duty of making a reasonable adjustment for the effects of a disability may require relaxing or setting aside the provisions of the Regulations and Code of Practice both directly with respect to the effects of the disability, and indirectly through the capacity of the student to follow its requirements in other matters. The purpose of the duty is not to confer an unfair advantage on disabled students but to remove barriers where it is reasonable to do so, such that disabled students have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning.

11.3         The duty to make reasonable adjustments to assessment is anticipatory. The University should not wait until an individual student discloses a disability or until adjustments are requested. Instead, likely solutions to predictable difficulties should be prepared in advance such that disabled students are not substantially disadvantaged.

11.4         Further information about the University’s legal obligations as to reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act is provided in the University’s Policy on Supporting Disabled Students.

Disclosure of a disability

11.5         Schools must ensure there are mechanisms by which students are able to disclose a disability throughout their programme of study.

11.6         Any student who discloses a disability such that additional support may be required, should be signposted to Disability Services. A disabled student is not obliged to contact or use Disability Services; in these cases, schools still have a responsibility to make anticipatory and reasonable adjustments and can seek advice from Disability Services. Programme and unit directors are encouraged to consider the accessibility of assessments on an on-going basis.

11.7         Where a disability is not disclosed prior to the assessment, examiners are not obliged to retrospectively consider the effect of a disability on a student’s performance.

Study support plan

11.8         When a student does contact Disability Services, and there is evidence of a disability, Disability Services will draft a ‘Study Support Plan’ (SSP). The SSP is devised in consultation with the student. Where the support required is complex, new or unusual, the student’s Faculty/ School will also be consulted. The SSP will state what support the student requires, including adjustments to assessment where appropriate.

Competence standards

11.9         A competence standard is defined within the Equality Act 2010 as: ‘the academic, medical or other standard(s) applied for the purpose of determining whether a person has a particular level of competence or ability’. It therefore may not be possible to make reasonable adjustments to aspects of some assessments because they constitute a competence standard.

11.10      Schools and Faculties must ensure that competence standards are ‘genuine’. Competence standards should be the subject of regular review to ensure they remain genuine.

11.11      Some programmes include mandatory requirements, often but not exclusively, related to the need to demonstrate certain knowledge, skills and competencies required by professional, statutory or regulatory bodies. These may require students to undertake study and assessments on days associated with religious observance.

11.12      Where competence standards do not apply, Schools must be prepared to implement reasonable adjustments to assessment such that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged.

Applying reasonable adjustments

11.13      Disability Services is responsible for securing agreement about the reasonable adjustments that are made for each student, considering representations from the School/Faculty on matters of academic integrity, academic judgement and discipline-specific requirements or constraints and from the Education and Student Experience division relating to implementation.

11.14      Where a student requires an adjustment to their assessment and either does not have a SSP or it is not specified in the SSP, they should complete and submit an Alternative Examination Arrangements (AEA) form at the earliest opportunity and before the stipulated deadlines such that a SSP can be created or amended. Students must be made aware that if their application for AEAs is not submitted before the deadline, this may affect the decision in terms of what it considers reasonable and practicable to arrange within the time available.

Exceptional circumstances

11.15      Where a student has a Study Support Plan, the nature of the disability has not changed since the Plan was drawn up, and the provisions of that Plan have been carried out, a Board of Examiners will not normally treat the effects of a disability on an assessment as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ since a reasonable adjustment to the assessment will have already been made.

11.16      Students should only report adverse effects of their disability on their study or assessment where any adjustments in the Study Support Plan are either not yet in place or are not sufficient.  Any effects should be reported using the University’s exceptional circumstances form.

Reasonable adjustment to assessment because of any other protected characteristic

11.17      Schools should consider making adjustments for students because of any other protected characteristic[1] or their association with someone who has a protected characteristic. In relation to assessment, this could mean that a student will request an alternative assessment date due to their role as a carer of a disabled dependent.

Religious observances

11.18      Where it is practicable, reasonable and fair to all students, assessment tasks should be designed to accommodate the religious observances of the students and staff involved. The Examinations Office and schools should work together, with advice from the Multi-faith Chaplaincy when necessary, to try to ensure, as far as it is practicable so to do, that the examination timetable does not conflict with the observance of religious festivals and other holy days.

11.19      It is the responsibility of the student to inform the faculty office about their religious beliefs where there is potential for conflict with the setting of assessment. Students should be reminded of their obligations through an appropriate entry in school / programme handbooks.

Student pregnancy or maternity/paternity

11.20      If it is likely that a student’s pregnancy might affect their ability to meet coursework deadlines or sit examinations, consideration must be given to implementing measures to support them in meeting the requirements of the programme, including offering the opportunity to sit the examination in a location separate from other students.

11.21      If a student is due to give birth near to, or during assessment deadlines, or the examination period, but they wish to complete assessed work or sit examinations, the student should not be prevented from so doing. If the midwife or doctor, however, advises against sitting an examination or trying to meet the assessed work deadline, an alternative method of assessment should be explored.

11.22      Otherwise, the school should make arrangements for the student to sit the examination, as a first attempt, at the earliest possible opportunity or agree to an extension to the deadline for the submission of coursework.

11.23      If a student is likely to be absent due to their partner giving birth, and where the due date conflicts with any scheduled assessments, staff should endeavour to offer flexibility wherever practicable so to do. However, in such circumstances automatic dispensation from examinations will not always be possible. This provision also extends to cover same sex couples.


[1] The protected characteristics for higher education are: age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. More information on the protected characteristics.