Guidance notes on mitigating circumstances and recurring circumstances and the process for their consideration

Updated on 18 January 2024

Guidance notes on mitigating and recurring circumstances for academic year 2023-24

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  1. Introduction

    1. Schools will normally consider making appropriate allowance for unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances which affect the whole class attendance and performance, to mitigate the possible negative impact, e.g., adjust teaching schedules to accommodate building repairs.
    2. However, if you run into problems that you think have negatively affected you, always contact a member of staff within your School (e.g., your Adviser of Studies, Programme Director) as soon as you can, by email, it is important that you let us know and so that we can provide you with support.
    3. Circumstances differ, some situations are temporary, whereas other circumstances are ongoing.
    4. It is important that you seek support and guidance for ongoing circumstances as soon as possible; these are called recurring circumstances.  Examples of recurring circumstances include gender-based violence, being estranged from If you are impacted by ongoing issues, please contact the Student Support Team using their Student Support Team Online Form or drop into the Enquiry Centre and ask to make an appointment with a member of the Student Support Team. Alternatively contact  Disability Services if you have a disability or have a disability plan – your recurring circumstances can be incorporated into a disability support plan.
    5. Mitigating circumstances are different, they describe situations that temporarily prevent you taking an assessment or significantly impact your performance in an assessment or examination.  These are circumstances beyond your control and can include serious or incapacitating injury, bereavement affecting a close family member or severe weather affecting travel. You should report mitigating circumstances as soon as possible by submitting a MC Application form, along with supporting documentation to verify the mitigating circumstances, to the correct School MC Confidential Email Addresses within the required deadline MC Deadline Dates. For more information about what to do if you are in this situation see section 6.
  2. Guidance on recurring circumstances

    1. The process for recurring circumstances exists to ensure that you are not asked to repeatedly report your situation or to resubmit forms and evidence for a circumstance that has a significant and long-term impact. The University recognises that students with recurring circumstances may face unique challenges whilst at the University and we are committed to supporting you to engage with and complete your studies
    2. Recurring circumstances describe a situation which is beyond your control, and which adversely affects your academic performance and/or your ability to engage in academic life. Unlike mitigating circumstances, recurring circumstances have a long-term impact. If you are in doubt about whether your circumstances are temporary or long-term and would like further advice, please contact the Student Support Team using the Student Support Team Online Form or drop into the Enquiry Centre and ask to make an appointment with a member of the Student Support Team.The following are examples of recurring circumstances (but are not limited to):
      • gender-based violence
      • being a carer (Definition of carer in this instance: a carer is someone who looks after another person on an unpaid basis who otherwise would not manage on their own.  This might be because they have a long term physical or mental illness, a disability, are getting older or are dependent on drugs or alcohol.  This is not the same as looking after children – if you have children in your care please see our page for students with children.)
      • being estranged from family/carers/support networks
      • continuing legal proceedings
      • terminal illness
      • long-term disabilities, physical illness or mental health difficulties (In the absence of medical/other appropriate evidence confirming a diagnosis this is based on the definition of disability under the Equality Act i.e. a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative impact on ability to do normal daily activities – substantial means more than trivial, and long term means more than 12 months).
  3. Notifying the University of recurring circumstances

    1. You are under no obligation to disclose that you have recurring circumstances to the University. However, it is recommended that you do, and ideally as soon as possible, so that appropriate support can be set up in a timely fashion.
    2. You can disclose recurring circumstances by contacting the Student Support Team, during the admissions process, at matriculation or at any time during the academic year.
    3. If your recurring circumstance is defined as a disability (e.g. physical illness or mental health difficulties) please contact Disability Services. Disability adjustments will include adjustments for your recurring circumstances as well as any other adjustments needed to help with a disability.
    4. You might also be identified as experiencing recurring circumstances through the mitigating circumstances process or through referral by staff to the Student Support Team. Any referral by staff to the Student Support Team should be done with your consent.
  4. Student Support Plan

    1. Once the Student Support Team/Disability Services are notified of your recurring circumstances a member of the team will:
      • Contact you to arrange an initial meeting. At this meeting the process will be explained, including the need for any evidence (see below.)
      • A follow-up meeting will then be arranged to ensure one piece of evidence is in place and a support plan is discussed. This plan will be individualised to meet your needs. Additional support may include funding/financial advice, specialist referrals, advice on managing studies, external referrals etc. This will be discussed with you before being recommended to the School. 
      • Confidential evidence will not be shared outwith Student Services or Disability Services. Only the recommendations relating to your recurring circumstances will be shared with your School and only with your consent.
      • The team will work with the School to ensure that any issues are resolved, the recommendations are reasonable, and the plan can be finalised. This plan will be in place until the review date, normally once every academic year or until the circumstances have been resolved. You can request to have your plan reviewed at any time by contacting the Student Support Team or Disability Services.
      • Examples of the type of recommendations that might be included in a Recurring Circumstances Support Plan include: leave class without giving notice and return if symptoms subside, referral to a relevant external support network for additional guidance and help etc.
    2. The type of evidence you can provide depends on your individual circumstances. Supporting evidence of recurring/enduring circumstances might include:
      • A letter from a member of the Student Services Team
      • A letter from a professional external to the University e.g. doctor, counsellor etc
      • A letter from a local authority e.g. social work
      • Diagnostic evidence already provided to Disability Services as part of your registration with the Service
  5. Guidance on mitigating circumstances

    1. Mitigating circumstances describe situations which temporarily prevent you undertaking an assessment or significantly impair your performance in an assessment or exam. They are circumstances beyond your control, and the following are examples of circumstances that would be considered as mitigating circumstances:
      • serious or incapacitating injury, illness or medical condition or emergency operation;
      • a significant family or personal crisis (e.g. bereavement or a serious illness affecting a close family member);
      • unforeseen, unpreventable events (e.g. being a victim of a criminal act, natural disaster, including severe weather affecting travel, and military service);
      • also look at the guidance in section 1.5 of this document
    2. Normal life throws up difficulties, problems, and minor illnesses that you will have to cope with during study in the same way as everyone does at work or at home. You are expected to take appropriate steps to minimise the impact of these since such events are unlikely to be accepted as valid claims under this process. The following are examples of circumstances which would not normally be considered:
      • minor illness or ailment
      • personal/domestic events that could have been planned for
      • choices in personal life (e.g. attending weddings, holidays etc.)
      • participation in a sporting event
      • exam nerves or self-diagnosed stress
      • transport or travel problems (unless caused by a recorded local/national crisis or a natural disaster)
      • financial difficulties
      • the language of assessment not being your main language
      • failure or theft of your computer or other equipment being used to produce the work to be assessed, including work not being backed-up
      • poor management of time or misunderstanding of deadlines/dates (including failure of others to submit group assignments)
    3. Jury duty would only be considered as a mitigating circumstance where a request (which should be accompanied by a supporting letter from the programme leader) for postponement or excusal was rejected by the Court Services.
    4. Note that on-going or longer-term conditions or circumstances are not categorised as mitigating circumstances, these are recurring circumstances (see para 2 above) and will be handled by Disability Services and/or the Student Support Team. 
  6. Completion of the mitigating circumstances application form

    1. The mitigating circumstances application form should be submitted by the mitigating circumstances deadline date or as soon as is reasonably possible. In the case of an exam, the completed form should be emailed into the School Office (or other specified office as described in the school’s guidance or handbook) before the scheduled time of the exam where possible, or as soon as possible thereafter.
    2. Most of the information requested in the application form is self-explanatory. However, if you have any questions, you can contact your School Office, DUSA and/or Student Services.
    3. Do not list all the modules that you have studied—only those where you feel were adversely affected. Include the assessments that were affected - e.g., exam, essay, lab report, fieldwork report.
    4. You must be specific about the mitigating circumstances that significantly affected your performance. You should indicate how your studies were affected - e.g., lack of time to complete the work, missed tutorials, missed laboratory sessions, unable to attend a fieldtrip, unable to concentrate for revision, left examination early etc. Also indicate how long the problem lasted.
    5. Applications should be accompanied by supporting evidence which should be described in the application form. Supporting evidence of mitigating circumstances might include:
      • a doctor’s note or medical certificate for the appropriate period
      • a note from a counsellor, religious leader or other appropriate professional individual who is relevant to the circumstance
      • a self-certification form (the University form is available from the University Heath Service website at Self-Certification Application Form and can be used for minor illnesses for a period of up to 7 days).
    6. In the case of the death of a close family member or other family emergencies, Schools will be sympathetic to the fact that it is not always easy to be in touch at the time. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that appropriate allowances are made it is important that you let a staff member (e.g., Adviser of Studies, Programme Director) in the school know as soon as you can. A letter from someone such as a health professional explaining the circumstances is helpful if other supporting documentation is unavailable.
    7. Where letters are being submitted as supporting documentation, they should be the originals on headed paper with a signature.
  7. Consideration of mitigating circumstances applications

    1. Your application will be considered the Mitigating Circumstances Committee which normally comprises of:

      • School Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) or the School Associate Dean (Quality and Academic Standards) or their nominee
      • an appropriate programme representative (may be the adviser of studies)
      • the convener of the Board of Examiners
      • the School Lead for equality and diversity

      In addition, please note that there may be a colleague invited from another School, to provide peer-review and to ensure consistency across the institution.  

    2. No details of the mitigating circumstances will be disclosed to others and any information provided as part of the application will remain confidential to the Committee and the Committee Secretary.
    3. Mitigating circumstances will be considered under four categories: severe; significant; mild; no case. Where it is decided that there is ‘no case’ there will be no further consideration of the case by the Mitigating Circumstance Committee. If the Committee decides that the case falls into one of the three other categories where action may be taken, their decision will be based on your performance in other parts of the curriculum as well as the severity of the case. Details on the decision-making and the types of adjustments that the Committee can make are described in detail in Section 7 of the University's Assessment Policy for Taught Provision.
    4. The committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Examiners which will then be taken into account when they are making their decision on your progression or award.
    5. Note that for certain professionally accredited programmes there may be restrictions on how mitigating circumstances can be dealt with. Guidance will be provided by the school on whether such restrictions apply.
  8. Extensions

    1. All course work assignments (paper-based or electronic) should be submitted according to the instructions given to you in My Dundee.
    2. Unless authorised as part of disability support, an extension to a submission deadline can only be granted by the Mitigating Circumstances Committee; programme members cannot grant extensions. For this purpose, a small subset of the Mitigating Circumstances Committee may be used (in order to process extensions in a timely fashion), this will always contain at least two members of the Committee.
    3. Schools will provide information on how they will accept extension requests. This guidance will normally be provided as part of the programme handbook or within a specific section of My Dundee. It will include any specific deadlines and details for submission of extension applications as well as appropriate contact details.
    4. You must provide satisfactory evidence to demonstrate why an extension to the submission deadline is required and indicate the expected delay in submission. The evidence required for an extension is the same as that for a mitigating circumstances application.
    5. During the period that the Committee are considering an application for an extension, the student must endeavour to complete the coursework as soon as possible. The academic responsible for the module will record the submission date.
    6. The Mitigating Circumstances Committee will endeavour to communicate the outcome to the student before the assignment submission date. If a student qualifies for an extension, a revised deadline will be indicated in the Committee’s response. Once submitted, coursework will be marked and the grade will not be penalised, provided that the revised deadline proposed by the Committee has been met.
    7. Extensions will normally only be granted for a period of 1 or 2 weeks.
    8. If a student does not qualify for a late submission, late penalties will be applied as indicated in the paragraph below.
    9. All unauthorised late submissions of coursework will be penalised by one numeric point on the 23-point marking scale per day up to a maximum of 5 days late. For the purpose of this policy, a day is defined as each 24-hour period following the prescribed submission deadline including weekends and holidays. Assignments submitted more than 5 days after the agreed deadline will receive a zero mark, with ‘AB (unauthorised absence or non-submission)’ being noted as part of the student record of achievement. Unauthorised late submissions of coursework beyond 5 days will not normally be marked.
    10. For coursework that is assessed through a pass/fail system without grading, unauthorised late submissions will normally receive a zero mark, with ‘AB (unauthorised absence or non-submission)’ being noted as part of the student record of achievement.
  9. Complaints/feedback

    1. We welcome feedback and suggestions. If you are dissatisfied with the arrangements offered in response to your mitigating or recurring circumstances, you can raise this under the University’s Complaints handling procedure or provide informal feedback to Student Services (stayoncourse@dundee.ac.uk).

Quality and Academic Standards