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Competence standards - PI021707

University of Sussex

The Student Support Unit (SSU) at the University of Sussex sought additional reasonable adjustments to a disabled student’s examinations following an injury unrelated to her disability.

The Reasonable Adjustments Panel agreed to replace two examinations with essays in her second year. However, when the student asked for the same adjustments in her final year, the Panel did not agree. It stated that "academic standards could not be secured" in the student’s subject area if all examinations were replaced, and offered instead to arrange for assessment to be via a larger number of shorter examinations. The University turned down the student’s appeal against this decision. The student temporarily withdrew from her studies.

The student complained to us about the decision to turn down her appeal. As part of our review we looked for information on which the Panel had based its view that "academic standards could not be secured" if the changes requested were made. We saw correspondence from the Deputy Chair of the Exam Board that essays had been used successfully in the same academic school, giving an indication that examinations were not always considered a competency standard by the school or the exam board.

We decided that the Panel’s decision was not reasonable in all the circumstances and that the student’s complaint was Justified. We recommended that the University set up a new panel, apologise to the student, refund fees and make a payment to the student for distress and inconvenience. The University notified us that the new Panel agreed to offer an alternative means of assessment to the student. The University implemented changes to its processes following our decision to ensure that the Reasonable Adjustments Panel receives relevant information about a student’s change of circumstances.