92 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 at the wrong moment, then they should normally get another chance at the assessment or have their circumstances considered in some other way. That must be balanced with the need to maintain academic standards.
93 The need to maintain academic standards is why it is not generally good practice to raise individual marks in response to a request for additional consideration – for instance, to give ten extra marks for a bereavement – because there is no guarantee that the student would have achieved those marks had it not been for their circumstances. Marks should normally be based on evidence of the student’s actual achievement.
94 Most often, it will be fair to offer the student another attempt at the affected assessment, either for an uncapped mark (if the circumstances affected their first attempt) or for a capped mark (if the circumstances affected a re-sit attempt). But providers may consider other outcomes that would be fair to the student, whilst also upholding academic standards.
95 Where a student is offered another attempt at the affected assessment, it may be necessary for the provider to set another type of assessment because it is not possible to duplicate the affected assessment. For instance, a student who missed a groupwork assignment at their first attempt may have to do a different assignment at their next attempt, because the other students who were doing the groupwork assignment have already completed it. Details of how work will be assessed and re-assessed should be set out in the relevant course documentation.
96 It is good practice for providers to give examples of typical outcomes in their procedures, and examples of outcomes that are not likely to be agreed. But providers should consider each case on its individual facts.
97 It is up to the provider to decide what outcome to put in place when it upholds a request for additional consideration, taking into account the circumstances of the case (including the level of study and the stage the student has reached), the regulations that apply to the student’s degree programme (including any professional body requirements), and the need to uphold academic standards. The most common outcomes are likely to include:
- Granting an extension to a coursework deadline or removing a penalty for late submission;
- Deferring exams or other assessments, so that the student can demonstrate their performance when they are no longer affected by their circumstances;
- Allowing the student to repeat the year or individual modules or units;
- Setting another type of assessment or giving the student an oral exam.
98 But it may be appropriate to consider other outcomes to ensure that students have a proper opportunity to demonstrate their performance. Discounting marks has the potential to undermine academic standards and can be a factor in grade inflation, but if used carefully it can be a helpful way to recognise a student’s individual circumstances and specific assessments that were affected by them. Some providers may allow different outcomes depending on which year the student’s request relates to, whether the module concerned is core or compulsory, and how many credits are involved. These other outcomes might include:
- Disregarding a mark for an individual assessment when deciding on the student’s overall result for the module or unit;
- Disregarding an individual module or unit mark when deciding on the student’s progression or overall degree result;
- Substituting marks for equivalent assessments in place of the affected assessment;
- Allowing examiners to place greater weight on marks that were unaffected by the student’s circumstances;
- Deeming progression criteria to be met where the shortfall is very marginal;
- Making a special award for a student who has become too ill to continue with their studies (an Aegrotat award).
99 When considering outcomes, providers should be aware of any circumstances that might need a different approach to the outcome normally applied. For instance, deferring an exam to the re-sit period may not benefit a student who missed teaching or practical classes earlier in the year. The student may need to repeat the module or unit instead, so that they can catch up on what they have missed. Or a student might lose a job offer if they have to delay an exam to the following year. In some cases, providers may need to adjust the normal outcome to prevent disadvantage to a disabled student. For instance, if the normal outcome for a student who missed coursework at their first attempt is to sit an exam in the re-sit period, this may disadvantage a disabled student who experiences difficulties sitting exams. Providers should ensure that the outcome is appropriate for the student’s individual circumstances.
CASE STUDY 12: Applying a non-typical outcome
A pregnant student experienced complications with their pregnancy and as a result, missed one of their final year exams. Normally, when a student misses an exam due to ill-health, the provider defers the exam to the re-sit period so that the student can demonstrate their performance when they are no longer affected by their circumstances. However, the re-sit period fell very close to the student’s due date and the student did not want to delay their exam (or delay completing their degree) to the following year. The missed exam counted for 30% of the overall mark for the module affected. The remaining 70% was made-up by coursework which the student had completed earlier in the year. Instead of deferring the missed exam, the provider arranged for the student to do an oral exam before the start of the re-sit period, to enable them to meet all the module learning outcomes before their baby was due. The student passed the oral exam and the provider awarded their degree.
100 In some cases, providers may accept that the student has experienced difficult circumstances but decide that those circumstances have had no obvious impact on their academic performance, and so reject the additional consideration request. Providers may also reject requests where the student’s circumstances are not compelling, or where they have made their request late with no good reason for the delay.
101 But providers should not normally reject a request for additional consideration simply because the student has passed the assessment(s) concerned. The student may have passed, but their mark might be significantly out-of-line with their performance elsewhere or what they might reasonably have expected to achieve. If the provider accepts that a student’s academic performance has been affected by their circumstances, then whenever possible something should be done to put that right.
102 Normally, that would mean offering the student another attempt at the affected assessment or offering to take their circumstances into account in another way. If the provider offers the student another attempt at the assessment but they want to keep the pass mark they have already achieved, the provider should record that the student has chosen to keep the relevant mark rather than take the assessment again. The provider should explain whether, having chosen to keep the mark, any further consideration can be given to the student’s case at a later stage.
103 It is not good practice to have an absolute limit on the number of times a student can ask for additional consideration for an exam or assessment. Providers should consider each request on its individual facts. Similarly, providers should not normally reject a request for additional consideration simply because the student has had the maximum number of attempts allowed under its regulations for an exam or assessment or has reached the normal maximum registration period for their course. It may still be appropriate, for instance, to offer the student another attempt if their performance was affected by their circumstances.
104 Exceptionally, however, there may be cases where a provider accepts that a student’s circumstances are compelling, but where it decides not to uphold their request for additional consideration because it does not think that they have a realistic prospect of completing their course. The student may have already had several attempts at the assessments but not passed any credits or made any progress academically, with all reasonable support options in place. The student may have reached the normal maximum registration period for their course or they may, in the provider’s academic judgment, have no reasonable prospect of completing their course within that timeframe (or be likely to complete if allowed more time) given their progress to date. Ultimately, in such cases, it may be unfair to allow the student to continue with their course when there is no reasonable prospect of completing it. Providers should consider such cases carefully and sensitively.
105 Outcomes of additional consideration requests should be communicated to students in writing, including the reasons for the decision and any next steps. The reasons do not have to be lengthy, but they should include enough detail to enable the student to understand why the decision was taken. The outcome notification should also give information about (a) the student’s right to appeal; (b) the grounds on which they can appeal; (c) the time limit for making an appeal; and (d) where and how to access support.
106 When a student is given another assessment attempt because their request for additional consideration has been upheld, the provider should explain what will happen if they achieve a lower mark at their next attempt. The provider’s procedures should explain whether the student’s original mark will be removed from their record and so will no longer count, even if they achieve a lower mark at their next attempt, or whether the student will retain the highest mark they achieve over both attempts.
107 Providers do not normally charge re-sit fees for assessments that have been deferred because of a student’s request for additional consideration. Providers may, however, charge a tuition fee if a student is repeating the year (or repeating individual modules or units) because they will be attending classes again and using the provider’s facilities.
108 Details of any re-sit fees, or repeat tuition fees, should be made clear in the relevant procedures so that students can make an informed choice about what outcome to request.