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Student mental health - CS041909

After some time away from study, a student living with long term mental health conditions returned to their course. They provided medical evidence that they were fit to return.

Within a few weeks of term starting, the student began to send emails to members of staff suggesting that unless the provider changed its policy towards them as a returning student, the student would harm themself. The provider began a fitness to study procedure, but stopped it when the student supplied medical evidence that they were fit for study. Over the next few weeks, the student’s behaviour became more erratic. There was a fight with another student, and the student sent some staff members a large number of emails talking about suicide.

The provider began a disciplinary process. The student was expelled.

The student complained to us that the decision was unfair. We decided that the complaint was Justified. We recognised that the situation had become very difficult for both the student and the provider, and that neither had wanted things to continue as they were. The provider had made reasonable adjustments and done its best to try to support the student. But the disciplinary process had not been fair. There was evidence that the student was not well enough to engage with the process. The provider did not consider suspending or making adjustments to the disciplinary process; it did not resume the fitness to study process which might have been more appropriate. The provider could not show us how it had taken the student’s disability into account when it decided to apply its most severe disciplinary penalty.

We recommended that the provider should provide guidance to its disciplinary panels about how to consider medical evidence and disability issues. We also recommended that the provider should overturn the disciplinary decision and pay the student £5,000 in compensation for distress and inconvenience. For practical reasons, the student was not able to return to study.