43 A student’s statement about what has happened to them is itself evidence. It is up to providers to decide what, if any, other evidence they ask students to provide to support their requests for additional consideration, or to explain why a request is being made after the deadline. Some requests may not require supporting evidence, for instance if a student is asking for a short coursework extension or is self-certifying absence from an exam (see the section on self-certification below).
44 Where supporting evidence is required, this should be proportionate to the seriousness of the student’s situation. In some cases, it may be reasonable for a provider to ask the student for more detailed evidence if they are asking for a significant allowance (such as to repeat the year or to have their circumstances taken into account when deciding their degree result), than if they are asking for a more straightforward outcome such as to defer a first sit exam.
45 It is good practice for providers to give examples of the types of evidence, if any, they will normally require in support of requests for additional consideration, including guidance about evidence relating to other people. Such evidence could include: a doctor’s letter or fit note, a statement from a counsellor, a hospital appointment letter, a crime reference number, an eviction notice – or other, usually independent, evidence that supports the student’s account.
46 Providers should consider each case on its individual facts, and the process should be flexible enough to allow for different evidence if the student is finding it difficult to get the supporting evidence normally required. Providers should be prepared, for instance, to accept evidence from sources such as: domestic violence services, the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, or from internal sources of support such as mental health advisers, disability advisers and personal tutors, as well as evidence from a GP. In some cases, it may be impossible for a student to get independent evidence of their circumstances. In such cases, a statement made by the student shortly after the event may be enough for the provider to accept their request. A student who is grappling with serious circumstances that are very likely to have had an impact on their performance should normally be given the benefit of the doubt.
CASE STUDY 5: Giving the student the benefit of the doubt
A student was in an abusive relationship with their partner and decided to leave their partner shortly before their exams. The student had seen their GP in the past for stress-related issues but had not seen their GP recently, and they had not contacted other support services. The student could not provide independent evidence of what had happened to them in the weeks before the exams, to support their request for additional consideration. Instead, the student provided a statement explaining the difficulties they had experienced.
The provider accepted the student’s request for additional consideration and deferred their exams to the re-sit period. The provider also referred the student to its counselling service and signposted them to a domestic violence support charity.
47 Where the student’s request relates to the illness or other circumstances of someone close to them, providers may ask for evidence which focuses on the impact on the student rather than evidence of the circumstances themselves. But there are some circumstances where it would be reasonable for the provider to accept that there has been an impact on the student, without needing the student to provide separate evidence showing the impact. For instance, if a student provides evidence to show that one of their parents was taken seriously ill just before their exams, it should not normally be necessary to ask the student for evidence to show that their parent’s serious ill health had an impact on them. Where the student’s relationship to the other person is less clear, it may be reasonable for the provider to ask the student to provide more information or additional evidence.
48 Deadlines for making additional consideration requests should allow enough time for students to obtain supporting evidence (where evidence is needed), including time for evidence to be translated if it is in a foreign language – or should allow students to make requests with evidence to follow. Students may not be able to afford to use professional certified translation services so if evidence needs to be translated, providers should be willing to explore alternatives to certified translations.
Self-certification and medical evidence
49 Current pressures on the NHS mean that it can be difficult for people to get a GP appointment quickly, even where there is a dedicated local medical centre. Sudden but minor illnesses, such as a stomach bug or migraine, do not normally require medical attention and many GPs will not issue medical certificates for conditions that last fewer than seven days. The cost of obtaining a medical certificate, which varies considerably from one GP practice to another, can also be a barrier for some students. Generally, providers should not be expecting students to see their GP or other healthcare provider unless they have (or suspect they might have) a health condition that requires medical treatment.
50 It is good practice for a provider’s processes to allow for students who have had a short illness that had a significant impact on their exams or assessments, but that did not require medical intervention, to request additional consideration without needing to obtain supporting medical evidence. For example, the student might be allowed to self-certify their illness. Self-certification is in-line with arrangements in most workplaces, where employees are generally allowed to report their own absences and to self-certify short periods of illness. It might also be used for non-health related circumstances.
51 A process that allows self-certification needs to operate fairly and to minimise the risk that it is misused. This might mean:
- Placing a limit on the number of assessments (or days) for which self-certification will normally be allowed, after which the student is required to provide supporting evidence;
- Explaining clearly what the implications of self-certifying absence from exams or assessments would be. The student would still have to meet the required learning outcomes and normally, the exam or assessment would be deferred to a later date (which may impact on the student’s progression or course completion date);
- Only allowing self-certification if the student is asking to defer an exam or assessment they have missed, or when they have been taken ill during an exam. In those cases, there might be a requirement that the student reports their illness at the time, for example by phoning or emailing a designated person or office on the day or telling the invigilator if they are taken ill, so that there is a record of it;
- Not allowing self-certification if the student completes the exam or assessment, so that students don’t self-certify because they think they have performed badly but where this is not linked to ill health or other circumstances;
- Not allowing self-certification if the student would need to repeat a year, or is asking for additional consideration in relation to their degree result;
- Only allowing self-certified requests for certain types of assessment;
- Intervening where a student has made repeated self-certified requests, for instance asking them to meet with their tutor or support services to discuss their circumstances before any further requests will be accepted;
- Providing clear information about what will happen if the student is suspected of misusing the self-certification process;
- Monitoring requests to identify if there are internal cultural issues that need to be tackled, for instance students using the system to spread-out difficult assessments.
CASE STUDY 6: Limiting the number of self-certified requests for additional consideration
A provider’s additional consideration process allows students to self-certify for up to two assessments in any one year. A student missed one exam in the Autumn term and one exam in the Spring term due to short-term ill health and submitted self-certified requests for additional consideration asking to defer the exams to the re-sit period. The provider accepted the requests.
During the Summer term, the student submitted a self-certified request asking for an extension to a coursework submission deadline. The provider explained to the student that, because they had already self-certified for two assessments in the Autumn and Spring terms, they would need to provide evidence in support of their request for an extension to their Summer term coursework deadline. The provider also asked the student to meet with their personal tutor to discuss their circumstances. The student was unable to provide evidence in support of their extension request and so the provider did not allow their request for additional consideration for the Summer term. But the student’s personal tutor identified that they would benefit from more study skills support and so referred them to the provider’s study support team.
52 Where medical evidence is required to support a health-related request for additional consideration, it is good practice for providers to consider having a template form that students can take to their GP or healthcare provider (or that the GP or healthcare provider can download from the provider’s website). This is so that the GP or healthcare provider is prompted to give the information the provider will need to reach a decision on the student’s case.
53 For health-related additional consideration requests, the provider should focus on the student’s symptoms and the effects they had on their performance, rather than insisting on a confirmed diagnosis. This is because the student’s condition may still be under investigation or they may be awaiting referral to a specialist.
54 Where the provider knows that a student has a long-term but fluctuating condition, it should not normally ask the student to provide further medical evidence, each time they experience a flare-up, to support their requests for additional consideration.
Evidence of bereavement
55 Where a student has had a bereavement, it may be insensitive to ask the student for a copy of the deceased person’s death certificate. It may be difficult for the student to get a copy, or to get it translated. Where supporting evidence of bereavement is required, providers should normally be prepared to consider evidence from other sources such as an order of service from the person’s funeral, an obituary or news report, or a supporting letter from the student’s personal tutor, family member or friend.
CASE STUDY 7: Evidence of bereavement
A student’s best friend dies in a car accident two days before the start of the student’s exams. The student makes a request for additional consideration but explains that they will not be able to provide a copy of their friend’s death certificate because these are not issued immediately in their friend’s home country and they don’t feel comfortable asking their friend’s parents. The student saw their personal tutor shortly after their friend’s death and was clearly distraught. The provider accepts a statement from the student’s personal tutor as evidence in support of their additional consideration request.
56 In some cases, the fact of the death may be enough for the provider to accept the student’s request for additional consideration. For instance, if a student’s brother or sister dies shortly before the student’s exams, the provider should normally accept that this will have had an impact on the student without asking them to provide evidence of the impact. But if a student is asking for additional consideration because of a bereavement that happened some time ago, it may be reasonable to ask the student for evidence of the ongoing impact of the bereavement on them.
57 When students do need to give their provider evidence to support their request for additional consideration, that evidence should normally date from the time the circumstances occurred. Providers may reasonably place less weight on evidence that consists, for example, of a GP confirming what the student told them about their state of health several weeks previously, when the student did not consult with the GP when they were ill. But providers should consider each case on its individual facts. The student may have found it difficult to arrange an appointment with their GP. Or they may have struggled, for good reason, to get supporting evidence at the time the circumstances occurred.
58 In some cases, the student may not have been aware that they were experiencing symptoms that were having an impact on their performance until they were diagnosed with a condition sometime later. For instance, a student suffering from depression may not recognise they are experiencing symptoms or be able to seek treatment immediately, or a student may not be aware they have a Specific Learning Difficulty until the difficulty is identified after exams have finished. Providers should look carefully at the reasons why the student was unable to obtain evidence at the time their circumstances occurred when considering their case.