18 Students who need additional 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 or to prove what has happened to them. The situation may be particularly sensitive for some reason, perhaps to do with the student’s religion or culture. The starting point for any additional consideration process should therefore be that a student who is ill, or injured, or bereaved, or who has been through a difficult experience will be treated compassionately, and in a way that is fair and consistent across the student body.
19 A fair additional consideration process:
- Is easy to find, understand and follow;
- Is well-advertised, with students being reminded of the process at key points during their studies;
- Tells students where they can find advice and support;
- Sets out expectations clearly so that students understand what circumstances are likely to be considered and what sort of evidence they may need to provide;
- Is flexible and considers each case on its individual facts;
- Explains what is likely to happen if the request is accepted – and what will happen if it is not;
- Tells students how their case will be considered and how long it will normally take;
- Ends with a written decision, including reasons, being sent to the student;
- Includes a process for ensuring that decisions are consistent across the provider;
- Includes a process for identifying students who have asked for additional consideration several times and who may need extra support or advice;
- Includes an appeal route;
- Includes an internal reporting process that allows the provider to identify trends.
Communicating the process to students
20 Additional consideration processes, including deadlines for submission and what supporting evidence might be needed, should be communicated clearly and should be fully accessible to all students. The procedures, forms and any accompanying guidance should be written in straightforward language and be available in a variety of formats. Providers should remind students of the process at key points during the academic year (for instance at the start of each term or semester and before the start of exams) and should signpost students to sources of advice and support such as their personal tutor, wellbeing, disability or counselling services and the student representative body’s advice centre. The process should be well-understood by staff involved in supporting or teaching students.
21 Deadlines for making requests for additional consideration should allow enough time for students to seek advice and, where necessary, to obtain supporting evidence. In some cases, providers may need to allow students to submit their request with supporting evidence to follow, if the student is struggling to obtain evidence by the deadline.
22 It should be up to the student to decide whether to ask for additional consideration and what information to include in their request. But support should be available to students if they need help in making their request, for instance from their personal tutor, support services or the student representative body’s advice centre. The student should not need permission or approval from their personal tutor (or other member of staff) for their request to be considered.
23 The procedures and any accompanying guidance should give clear information about the potential outcomes of requests for additional consideration, including the route of appeal. If a student’s expectations appear to go beyond what the provider would normally do, this should be explained to the student to manage their expectations about possible outcomes.
CASE STUDY 2: Managing student expectations
A student makes a request for additional consideration asking for their mark for an exam to be raised because they were feeling ill on the day. The provider explains to the student that its processes do not allow for marks to be raised in this way and that, if the request is accepted, the likely outcome will be that they are allowed to sit the exam again as if for the first time.
24 For some courses it is a requirement that students sit certain assessments together. This might be because the student needs to demonstrate a level of competence in several different aspects of their studies at once, for instance on a professionally qualifying degree. Consequently, a student may have to re-sit several assessments even though they have failed or missed only one. It is important that providers make this requirement clear to students so that they understand the implications of re-sitting modules or assessments.
25 The procedures and any accompanying guidance should explain that providers may check evidence submitted in support of additional consideration requests to ensure it is genuine. The procedures and guidance should also explain what action will be taken if a student is suspected of submitting a fraudulent request. This would usually mean referring the case for consideration under the provider’s disciplinary procedures. We have published good practice guidance on disciplinary procedures.
26 Providers may choose to consider requests for additional consideration locally at school, department or faculty level, or centrally, or a mixture of both depending on the nature of the request and whether it relates to coursework or exams. Whatever the approach, there should be mechanisms in place to ensure consistency of decision-making across the provider, particularly where requests are considered locally. This might include: providing training and guidance to all staff involved in considering requests, ensuring they have access to anonymised previous decisions so that they can check they are being consistent, involving staff from other schools, departments or faculties in confirming or quality checking decisions, reporting decisions to a central body or exam board that has oversight of the process, and monitoring outcomes to ensure that students are treated fairly.
27 Providers may decide whether requests for additional consideration should be considered by individual members of staff or by a panel. The member of staff or panel may decide whether to accept the student’s request and if so, what the academic outcome should be. Or they may decide only whether the request should be accepted or declined, leaving the decision about the academic outcome to an exam board.
28 Deciding whether a student has presented a good case for additional consideration does not normally involve academic judgment. It is a judgment about whether something has happened to the student, and what impact it is likely to have had on their ability to study, or to prepare for or perform well in an assessment or exam. That means that an initial decision about whether a student’s request for additional consideration should be accepted or declined – and decisions that might be straightforward such as deferring an assessment that a student has missed or allowing a short coursework extension – may not require the involvement of academic staff. Other decisions may require an element of academic judgment to consider the extent to which a student’s performance has actually been affected by the circumstances, whether their marks are out of line with their normal performance, whether alternative assessments might be appropriate, or how likely it is that the student would be able to complete their course. Providers should bear these factors in mind when designing their processes.
29 The procedures and any accompanying guidance should set out how requests for additional consideration will be considered, for instance by a panel or by an individual member of staff.
30 The person or people who look at a student’s request for additional consideration should be suitably trained and should have a good understanding of the provider’s processes, including the regulations that apply to the student’s degree programme. They should normally have had no significant prior involvement with the student that might influence their decision. Providers should look at ways to prevent potential bias in considering requests, for instance using the student’s student number rather than their name.
31 Requests for additional consideration should be considered quickly and indicative timescales should be set out in the procedures. Different timescales may apply depending on whether the request is time-sensitive (for instance, a request to extend an imminent coursework deadline or to defer an upcoming exam), or whether the student is asking for the impact of their circumstances on their academic performance to be considered – in which case, the request may need to go to an exam board later in the year.
32 Time-sensitive decisions should be made as soon as possible, and normally within 14 days of the request being made. For requests that have to go to an exam board, the provider should explain this to the student and indicate when a decision is likely to be taken. The provider should tell the student if it is likely to take longer than the timescale(s) set out in the procedures. The process should allow for cases to be identified that require particularly swift action.
33 Where providers deliver learning opportunities with others, the responsibility for considering requests for additional consideration may be split between the awarding and delivery provider(s). This should be set out in the agreement between the providers. The awarding provider should work with its delivery provider(s) to ensure a consistent approach when considering requests. (See Delivering learning opportunities with others, below).
34 Providers should set clear deadlines for students to ask for additional consideration, which should allow enough time for students to seek advice and to obtain supporting evidence where necessary. It is normally reasonable to expect students to make their request by the deadline, or to ask for an extension before the deadline if they need more time.
35 Sometimes a student may have a good reason for missing the deadline. Where this is the case, the provider should consider the request for additional consideration. It is up to providers whether to do so through their additional consideration process or their academic appeals procedure. The process should be set out clearly in the relevant procedures. The procedures should also explain that, if a request is made very late, the provider may be limited in terms of the actions it can take. For instance, it may be too late for the student’s exams to be deferred to the re-sit period, and this might delay their studies.
36 It is good practice to give examples in the procedures of what would normally be a good reason for making a late request for additional consideration. Examples might include the student being hospitalised or being unable to engage with the process due to ill health (including mental ill health) or being so distressed as a result of what happened to them that they didn’t think about additional consideration until too late. There may also be occasions where the student’s circumstances are so serious and exceptional that it would be reasonable for the provider to consider their request for additional consideration regardless of the reasons for the late submission.
37 Not knowing about the process, or not realising that their performance had been affected until after seeing their results, would not normally count as good reasons for asking for additional consideration late. But providers should consider each case on its individual facts.
38 As long as the additional consideration process and associated deadlines are communicated clearly to students, it will normally be reasonable for providers to reject late requests unless the student gives a good reason for the delay. If the provider rejects the request because it is late, it is not normally necessary for the provider to go on to consider the student’s circumstances. The provider should, however, explain to the student why their request has not been accepted for consideration.
CASE STUDY 3: Accepting a late request
The deadline for students to ask for additional consideration for their January exams was 1 February. A student made a request on 7 February. The student explained that their uncle had died suddenly during the exam period and that their mother had to travel abroad as a result, leaving the student in charge of their siblings. The student said that, although they were aware of the additional consideration process, they were very distressed by the bereavement and the effects it had on their mother, and so distracted by their sudden and unexpected caring responsibilities, that they didn’t think about making a request for additional consideration until too late. The provider decided that the student had a good reason for missing the deadline and so accepted their request for additional consideration.
CASE STUDY 4: Rejecting a late request
The deadline for students to ask for additional consideration for their Summer Term exams was 1 June. A student submitted a request on 15 July, after discovering they had failed two of those exams. The student, whose request related to shoulder pain, said that they were unaware how seriously they had been affected until they saw their results, and that they couldn’t have made a request earlier because they hadn’t been told about the process to follow.
The provider considers late requests for additional consideration under its academic appeals procedure. The provider noted that details of the additional consideration process were included in the student handbook, on its website and on its e-learning platform, and that the student’s exam timetable included a link to the process. The student was aware of their symptoms during the exams.
The provider decided that the student did not have a good reason for missing the deadline and so dismissed the appeal without considering the impact of the student’s circumstances on their performance.
39 Providers should keep accurate and proportionate records of additional consideration requests and outcomes. A written record should be kept of any meeting held to decide the case, setting out who attended, a brief outline of the proceedings and the reasons for the decisions taken, including the outcome for the student.
Confidentiality and data protection
40 Providers should be aware of their obligations under data protection legislation regarding sensitive personal information or “special category data”. This includes explaining to students how the provider will store and use information about them, and for what purpose. It is good practice to highlight that decision-makers may need to take into account any previous additional consideration requests from a student when considering any subsequent requests.
41 Information about additional consideration requests should be kept confidential as far as possible. Many requests will include sensitive information about the student’s health or personal circumstances, or the health or personal circumstances of others close to them. Information relating to additional consideration requests should be disclosed to as few people as possible, and only to those involved in considering requests and subsequent appeals. Providers should store information securely and in line with their data retention policies.
42 When designing systems and processes for handling additional consideration requests, it is good practice for staff to consult the provider’s Data Protection Officer to make sure that those systems and processes comply with data protection legislation. It is also good practice for staff involved in considering or storing information about requests for additional consideration to receive general guidance from the Data Protection Officer. As well as personal information about themselves, students may include sensitive information about other people who have no relationship with the provider. It may, for instance, be appropriate for a provider to record that it has seen evidence about other people in support of a student’s request for additional consideration, but not to keep that evidence in its records for longer than is needed to consider any subsequent appeal (and, where a student appeals, for them to bring a complaint to us).