D4: Extenuating Circumstances

1.   Statement of ORMS’ Principles

  • The fundamental principle underlying the teaching, learning and assessment activities at ORMS is that the awards we issue or deliver should be consistent and comparable in standard with similar awards granted and conferred by other providers in the United Kingdom. ORMS has a duty to maintain the standard of its awards, so that employers, professional bodies, other educational institutions and outside agencies can have confidence in the level of achievement that those awards represent.
  • At the same time ORMS has a duty to each individual student to ensure that assessments are conducted fairly, and that each student has the opportunity to demonstrate their true level of academic performance.
  • Recognising that students may sometimes suffer serious illness or other problems which are outside their control and which may prevent them from showing their real level of performance, ORMS has a system whereby students who have been affected by such problems can put forward extenuating claims for consideration.
  • It is important that students understand what kinds of circumstances could be treated as extenuating circumstances, and that problems arising from their own negligence or inability to organise their time, will not be considered.
  • Most students experience a certain amount of stress at periods of formal assessment. It is expected that individuals studying in higher education will develop the ability to deal with this and to produce satisfactory work whilst meeting deadlines.  “Examination stress” or stress in a practice placement, shall not in and of itself be considered as an extenuating circumstance.
  • Students should also know that even if their extenuating circumstances are deemed acceptable and relevant to the assessment they have failed, or not submitted, this may not excuse them from completing formal assessment if requested by the Progression and Award Board. They may still have to undertake assessment to demonstrate that they have achieved the required learning outcomes in order to pass that stage of their programme or qualify for the final award at a point in time when the extenuating circumstances no longer affect the student’s performance. Nor will an extenuating circumstances claim necessarily affect the academic judgement of Progression and Award Boards.
  • Claims for extenuating circumstances should be made at the time of the unforeseen circumstances and not retrospectively.
  • Coursework submitted up to ten working days after the official submission deadline set by the Course Leader will be accepted and marked and, if it meets the criteria for a ‘pass’, the mark will be capped at 40% or the equivalent where a different grading statement is used. Where coursework is submitted up to ten working days of the set deadline and an extenuation Panel has accepted as valid the reason for the late submission no capping will be imposed on the coursework mark (see Section 5: Extenuation Panel). Coursework will not be marked if received later than ten working days after the set deadline for submission and, in such circumstances, a non-submission will be recorded against this item of assessment.
  • Timing of claims:
    • Claims relating to impaired performance of coursework may be made up to 4 weeks before the assessment is due or at the time of the assessment being due, but not retrospectively. This includes work affected by extenuation which is handed in by submission deadlines AND also work submitted within 10 working days of the submission deadline.
    • Claims relating to circumstances resulting in a need for up to 10 extra working days to submit should be made at the time the assessment is due and not retrospectively.
    • Claims relating to the non-attendance of examinations must be made within 5 working days from the date of the missed examination.
  • It is possible, and encouraged, that students should opt to submit or participate in assessment by the original date, even if extenuation has been approved. However, in all cases the grade awarded will be entered into the student’s transcript. Where the assessment has been passed but the grades reflect “below expectation” levels of performance because of the extenuation, a further opportunity to undertake a ‘deferral in stage’ or ‘deferred repeat’ to improve upon impaired performance may be given at the discretion of the Progression and Award Board.
  • Claims relating to multiple assessments/examinations affected, which can be covered by the
  • same extenuating circumstance should be detailed on a single claim form. Or, where appropriate to ensure the student makes timely applications, multiple forms may be submitted.

2.   Definition of extenuating circumstances

  • Extenuating circumstances are normally defined as:
    “circumstances which are unexpected, significantly disruptive and beyond a student’s control, and which may have affected their performance.”
  • A student might wish to claim that extenuating circumstances have contributed materially or significantly to poor performance in any formally assessed work, absence from examination or other assessment event, or failure in examination or other assessed work. Prior consultation with the Course Leader or Personal tutor is advisable.  A student might wish to claim that extenuating circumstances have contributed to a failure to submit work within published deadlines.
  • It is the responsibility of any student with a long-term condition or problem which may affect their study and assessment, to seek advice as early as possible and use the support services available through ORMS to ensure that they can study and undergo formal assessment in the way which meets their special needs but still allows them to demonstrate their real academic ability. Students should read ORMS’ Policy D3: Reasonable Adjustment and Special Considerations. Advice and help are readily available from the Administration Team. Prior consultation with the Course Leader or Personal Tutor is also advisable.
  • When submitting claims for extenuation a student will need to demonstrate that the circumstances claimed had affected them at the time of a formal assessment or in the period immediately leading up to an assessment. A long-term condition or problem will not be treated as extenuating circumstances, unless it can be shown that the condition or problem was exacerbated by circumstances occurring during or close to the assessment period.
  • Valid extenuating circumstances would normally fall into the categories:
    • Illness or serious accident at the time of an assessment or in the period leading up to a formal assessment;
    • Severe emotional or mental stress at the time of an assessment or immediately before an assessment, for example through bereavement, social, matrimonial or family problems, experience of assault, robbery or other traumatic event, eviction/homelessness in unavoidable circumstances, unavoidable involvement in legal proceedings;
    • Other factors totally outside the student’s control; e.g. for part time students, unforeseen and essential work commitments; for students undertaking practice-based assignments, unforeseen decisions taken by the company or practice which prevent them from completing their assignment; (in both these circumstances a letter from the employer must be supplied).
    • IT problems which are the responsibility of the University such as total system failure over a prolonged period.
    • It is expected that students will take reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable problems, such as loss of computer records (by backing up work regularly) or transport disruption (by planning alternative routes where possible).

2. Evidence in support of claims of extenuating circumstances

  • Claims of extenuating circumstances must be submitted on ORMS’ proforma and must be supported by relevant objective evidence. Evidence must be in the form of an original document (not a photocopy) written and signed by an appropriate third party, giving details of the circumstances with dates and if possible stating how the student’s assessment has been affected.  The third party should be a person who knows the student in a professional capacity and can give a first-hand account of the circumstances.  Letters from family members are not normally acceptable, nor from fellow students (unless such corroboration is the only relevant evidence).  Submissions of extenuating circumstances will not be valid without independent evidence.  Extenuation Panels will deem such claims to be invalid or request evidence before further consideration.
  • It is recognised that the submission of such evidence may be related to sensitive and distressing circumstances. Students seeking guidance can do so through ORMS’ Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) Team and will be given as much assistance as possible. Confidentiality will be preserved.  If the particular circumstances are so severe that the student would not want the information to be seen by anyone, then a member of the IAG Team can write to the Chair of the Extenuation Panel direct on behalf of the student outlining the circumstances and their findings following consultation over a period of time.  The IAG Team Member will need to see any documentary evidence supplied by the student in order to be able to confirm that the facts have been verified.
  • Acceptable evidence to be submitted with an extenuation claim would include:
    • A medical certificate issued at the time of the illness, specifying the nature of the illness and the dates affected. To be accepted, the medical certificate must be specific and confirm that this is the doctor’s own diagnosis. It is not sufficient for the doctor to write a letter stating that the student saw her/him and claimed to be suffering from stress etc.;
    • a letter from an independent counsellor or psychiatrist;
    • a letter from the IAG Team;
    • a written statement from the student’s personal tutor;
    • a solicitor’s letter indicating the nature and dates of legal proceedings; summons to attend court; report from a police officer;
    • letter from a transport official confirming serious and unforeseen disruption to transport;
    • Death certificate (e.g. of a close relative).
  • Claims of extenuating circumstances without independent evidence will not be considered unless the circumstances are exceptional.

4. Procedure for submitting extenuating circumstances

  • Claims of extenuating circumstances must be submitted on ORMS’ extenuating circumstances claim form, with independent evidence as described above. Copies can be obtained from the IAG Team, or on ORMS’ Intranet http://intranet.orms247.co.uk/?page_id=86
  • Submission of claims can be made directly to the Administration Team (in such cases, for receipt purposes the student number and course, and date of submission should be recorded on an envelope and marked ‘extenuating circumstances’).
  • Claims may also be sent by Recorded Delivery to the Administration Team. Where claims are submitted by Recorded Delivery a stamped self-addressed envelope must be provided so that a receipt can be issued. No complaint relating to extenuating circumstances can be considered unless the claim has been receipted.

Advice to students: What is extenuation?

Extenuating Circumstances are circumstances which

  • impair your performance in assessment or reassessment, or
  • prevent you from attending for assessment or reassessment, or
  • prevent you from submitting assessed or reassessed work by the scheduled date

Such circumstances rarely occur and would normally be

  • unforeseeable in that you could have no prior knowledge of the event concerned, and
  • unpreventable in that you could do nothing reasonably in your power to prevent such an event, and
  • expected to have a serious impact on performance.

Students are expected to make reasonable plans to take into account circumstances even those which, on occasion, may have been unforeseeable and unpreventable. For example, students commonly taking a route to the training centre which experiences severe traffic delays would be expected to leave earlier or plan to take an alternative route on the morning of an examination.

Another example would be a carer for a dependent who on occasion has not attended their course because the dependent developed a minor illness. The student would have been expected to make contingency plans for alternative care just in case this happened on the day of an examination.  The onus is on students to manage their life so that these types of occurrences can be handled if they arise.

What is meant by a serious impact on performance?

Many things may have an impact on performance; a poor night’s sleep, a minor illness (such as a cough or cold), a minor injury, financial worries etc. These will often impact on performance but would not be expected to have a serious impact and so would not be acceptable as extenuating circumstances.

What does not constitute extenuation?

  • Minor illnesses, even if covered by medical certificates. As stated above these may have some impact but not a serious impact and so would not be regarded as extenuating circumstances.
  • Computer failure of your equipment or storage media. Students are expected to take proper precautions and make backup copies of data which are accessible. There are always other computers to work on.
  • Inadequate planning, organisation or time management.
  • Computer failure of ORMS’ equipment or storage media (where failure is less than a continuous 24 hours). Network failures do happen and work should be planned to be finished before ‘the last minute’. For instance students relying on finishing work within 24 hours of a deadline (e.g. printing your work off) are opening yourself up to this risk. This could have been prevented by better planning.
  • Transport problems. Students need to plan for this possibility.
  • Moving house. This is predictable.
  • This is predictable.
  • Wedding preparations.
  • Sporting commitments. Exceptions might be made if a student was representing their country.
  • Misreading of assessment timetables.
  • Family, work, social, financial or other general problems. This is a large list but covers the sorts of things normally dealt with in everyday life and would not be regarded as extenuating circumstances.
  • Employment commitments limiting time available for study (although greater flexibility may be applicable to part-time students in full-time employment)
  • Pressure of other academic work e.g. other coursework due around the same time

N.B. These examples are not definitive, and are intended only as a guide

EC forms are available here [link]