Extenuating circumstances

This section explains extenuating circumstances, guidance on how to report extenuating circumstances, how cases are considered, and what action might be taken should your circumstances be accepted.

Online assessments Session 2020/21

Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, many assessments will take place online this academic year. We have put a number of assessment support measures in place.  

We recognise that sometimes students can perform poorly in assessments and exams due to circumstances beyond their control. These circumstances are described as extenuating circumstances formerly known as mitigating circumstances.

Extenuating circumstances might include:

  • An illness affecting the student
  • Bereavement
  • A serious illness affecting a close family member
  • Unforeseeable or unpreventable events
  • IT difficulties. 

Students can self-certify their own illness by informing their School Office of the illness at the time of the illness in line with the sickness absence procedure. Independent documentary evidence must be provided in all other cases to verify extenuating circumstances. 

If the documentary evidence is provided by someone other than a medical practitioner (as recognised by the GMC) the documentation must include details of that person’s qualifications or standing; the evidence will still need to be accepted by the Extenuating Circumstances Committee and it will be for the Board of Examiners to make a judgement as to the value or weight they attached to the evidence in deciding a case of extenuating circumstances.

Changes to Extenuating Circumstances and Exemption from Late Penalties for session 2020/21

For the 2020/21 academic year, we have removed the requirement for evidence of personal illness if you need to make an application under the Extenuating Circumstances policy.  We have also included IT difficulties as grounds for claiming extenuating circumstances.

Please note that you do not need to apply for Extenuating Circumstances to ask for consideration of the general impact of the pandemic, as this is addressed by other measures including those set out on this page.  You should only submit an application if you experience a specific issue that you feel has prevented you from completing your work to your best ability. You can find more information about this on the Assessment support measures page.

All coursework due in January or February 2021 which is or has been submitted within five working days of the original deadline will automatically be granted exemption from late penalties without the need for an application. This applies even if your deadline has recently been moved by your department. Submission after five working days would need to be supported by an exemption from late penalties application. If you submit your work more than five working days after the deadline without also submitting an exemption from late penalties application the work will receive a mark of zero consistent with the existing policy.

Please note, the late penalties exemption applies only to coursework and not to open book or time-controlled exams. If you believe your performance has been affected by a specific issue or issues in these assessments you should submit extenuating circumstances claim.

If you have a support plan which recommends extensions as a reasonable adjustment, were contacted you on 15 January to let you know what additional support has been put in place for you.

We will remove the requirement to submit medical evidence when requesting exemption from late penalties due to personal illness for the rest of this academic year, bringing this process in line with the change we have already made to the Extenuating Circumstances process.  Please remember that you should inform your department if you are unwell in line with the student sickness absence policy

How to submit an extenuating circumstance claim

Before you submit a claim

Submitting a claim

You must submit your claim within five working days of the event.

Your case must explain:

  • What the circumstances are
  • Which assessments have been affected
  • How it affected you in relation to your studies or an assessment
  • Precisely when the circumstances occurred.

After you have submitted your claim

Once you have submitted your extenuating circumstances claim form and supporting evidence, your case will be considered by the department or school’s Extenuating Circumstances Committee before the main Board of Examiners’ meeting.

You will be informed of the outcome of your claim after the meeting of the Board of Examiners.


You have the right to appeal the Extenuating Circumstances Committee and/or a Board of Examiners decision but only on the following grounds:

Those extenuating circumstances were divulged but:

  • There was a procedural error in the decision taken by an Extenuating Circumstances Committee or Board of Examiners when considering the circumstances; or
  • You have new or additional material evidence, which, for a valid reason, you were unable to provide at the time of submitting the extenuating circumstances claim.

In addition, if you are at the end of your programme of studies and you consider that there are extenuating circumstances which for good reason you could not have submitted at the time, you may submit an appeal under Section two of the assessment appeals procedure, but this will normally be limited to extenuating circumstances affecting your final year of study only.

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