Discussion paper: Requests for special consideration
In March 2019 we held a forum to encourage conversation about how providers approach students' requests for special consideration (different providers call the processes different things, including "mitigating", "extenuating", "exceptional" or "special circumstances" procedures or "factors affecting performance"). We have published this discussion paper which sets out some insights from that forum, from the many cases we have seen, and from other discussions we have had with providers and student representative bodies over the year.
The paper also asks questions which we would like providers, students, and student representative bodies to consider. We will be gathering comments on the discussion paper and responses to the questions we ask in the paper over the next few months. The closing date for comments is 31 March.
We are running interactive webinars to accompany the paper. The six discussions will be on:
- Back to basics: Designing a fair special consideration process
- Evidence, including self-certification
- Fit to sit policies and requests for special consideration
- Student perspectives: What are the barriers to requesting special consideration? What works and what doesn’t?
- Outcomes of successful special consideration requests: To re-sit or not to re-sit
- Special consideration and support for study processes
If you have any questions on the online discussions or the paper itself, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to contribute but are unable to participate in the online discussions, you can share your thoughts through our form.
The closing date for comments is 31 March.Discussion response form
All sessions are now fully booked.
Special consideration online discussions
We are running six online discussions on the 'Requests for special consideration' discussion paper. Each discussion will cover different aspects of the paper. They are:
1: Back to basics: Designing a fair special consideration process
When designing special consideration processes, the starting point should be that a student who is ill, or injured, or bereaved, or has been through a difficult experience and whose studies or academic performance have been affected should be treated compassionately, and in a way that is fair and consistent across the student body. But there is a balance to be struck to ensure that students don’t try to game the system, for instance to spread out difficult assessments or to gain an unfair advantage. This online discussion will focus on approaches to designing a fair special consideration process, how to strike the right balance between scepticism and trust, whether providers are considering the right kinds of circumstances and decision-making processes across providers.
2: Evidence, including self-certification
Students who need special consideration may be at their lowest point. They may be very anxious, as well as distressed or unwell. They may find it difficult to talk about what has happened to them. They may have difficulties obtaining evidence of the circumstances they have experienced. This online discussion will focus on issues to do with evidence in support of special consideration requests. It will include discussion of whether providers are being fair in terms of the evidence they require, whether students should be allowed to self-certify (and where providers are already doing this, how well this works in practice), and what evidence it would be reasonable to expect students to submit.
3: Fit to sit policies and requests for special consideration
Many providers have fit to sit policies so that students who attend an exam or submit work for assessment are declaring themselves fit to do so. They may not then make a request for special consideration unless they are taken ill during the exam or have compelling evidence to show they were unable to properly assess their fitness to sit. This online discussion will focus on the link between fit to sit and special consideration processes, how well fit to sit policies work in practice and how to ensure they operate fairly.
4: Student perspectives: What are the barriers to requesting special consideration? What works and what doesn’t?
To be effective, student-centred processes need to be clear, well-publicised and easy to follow. Students need to have trust in the process and feel that their case will be treated fairly. This online discussion will focus on student perspectives of special consideration processes. It is particularly aimed at student representative bodies and HE staff who support or advise students in this area. It will look at how to ensure special consideration processes are accessible and used by those students who need them, what barriers there might be and how these can be overcome, and what works and what doesn’t from the student point-of-view.
5: Outcomes of successful special consideration requests: To re-sit or not to re-sit
The starting point is that all students should have a fair opportunity to show what they are capable of. If they don’t get that opportunity because something has happened to them, then they should normally get another chance. Most often providers will offer the student a re-sit opportunity for an uncapped mark, but is this the fairest outcome in all cases? This online discussion will focus on the outcomes of successful special consideration requests. It will look at the pros and cons of re-sits and when it might be appropriate to do something different, such as to discount individual marks that have been affected, to delay consideration of remedy until the end of the student’s degree, or to place the student in a “zone for consideration” for a higher degree classification.
6: Special consideration and support for study processes
A student who makes repeated requests for special consideration may have an underlying issue and may need additional support. It’s important that providers can spot those students so that they get the help they need and, where appropriate, refer them to support for study processes. This online discussion will focus on the link between special consideration and support for study processes and how providers can best identify students who need additional support.