Mitigating Circumstances

During your studies, there may be times when personal issues or ill health affect you. The University has a mitigating circumstances procedure so your School can take such times into account when reviewing how you have performed in an assessment. The aim of the procedure is to prevent your circumstances from having a negative impact on your degree.

Mitigating circumstances are usually things that you didn’t expect to happen or that were outside of your control. Generally, they could be any personal difficulties that could have a significant impact on you and your studies. For example, the circumstances may have affected your attendance on the course so you missed lectures or tutorials, causing you to fall behind. They could also affect your concentration and focus so that it’s more difficult for you to work on a piece of coursework or revise.

Some examples of mitigating circumstances are:

  • Serious ill health or injury, including physical or mental ill health

  • The death or serious illness of a family member or close friend

  • Serious housing, family or financial problems leading to significant stress

  • Absence for responsibilities like jury service

The following situations are not likely to be accepted as mitigating circumstances:

  • Planned or expected events such as moving house, holidays and weddings

  • IT problems – the University expects you to keep a backup of your work in case of computer failure and ensure you have enough time before your deadline to resolve issues with submitting coursework

  • Assessments being close together or misreading your exam timetable

  • Exam stress or panic attacks that isn’t diagnosed as illness or supported by medical evidence

Applying for Mitigating Circumstances

To apply for mitigating circumstances, you’ll need to fill out a Request for Mitigation Form and submit this to your School with supporting evidence.

Speak to your academic advisor or School Support Office to check how to submit an application and confirm your deadline.  You may also find relevant information in your programme handbook, or on blackboard or your School intranet pages.

If you’re unsure of who to speak to in your department find your School Support Office contact details here.

Your School support staff should provide you with a copy of their Request for Mitigation form or direct you to an online application.

Wherever possible, mitigating circumstances must be submitted before or around the time of the relevant assessment. For example, aim to apply before a coursework deadline or by the start of the exam period. If something unexpected happens during your exams, book an appointment with your GP as soon as you can and try to submit your application by the end of the exam period.

Mitigating circumstances submitted late might not be taken into account unless there are exceptional reasons for the delay. If you are submitting your application late, include an explanation for this on your form.

Completing your Form

Have your student details to hand, including your student ID number, course title and the year you are in. You will also need the details of any assessments you will be including on your application. This includes the unit code and title of the assessment and the date of submission or exam. It’s important to include all the affected assessments on your application.

You will also need to write a supporting statement to explain your circumstances and the impact on your academic work. You don’t need to write a long statement but it’s important to give enough detail for your School to understand what you have been through. Your statement should also show how your performance in your assessments could be lower than your usual standard. We might suggest 1 to 2 paragraphs but this could vary depending on your circumstances.

Writing a Statement

Make sure you include the following key details.

What has happened / what are the circumstances

Write a summary of the issue you are facing. Provide details to show how the circumstances are having a significant impact on you. Explain what has happened in chronological order and try to provide specific dates of the relevant events.

How you were affected by the circumstances

Explain the impact of the circumstances on you personally. Describe your health and wellbeing including any physical symptoms, mental ill health or experience of difficult emotions. Provide some examples of how this has affected your day to day life. For example, difficulty getting to sleep or waking up, loss of appetite, feeling upset for long periods, neglecting your daily routine. Try to quantify the impact on your where possible. State whether you have been affected in the same way for most days of the week.

How your academic performance has been affected

Explain the impact on the affected assessments. Again, give day in the life examples but with a specific focus on your coursework and / or exams. For example, if you’ve had difficulty sleeping and you are struggling with your mental health it might take you twice as much time to make notes from a piece of reading due to reduced concentration. Explain how your studies have been disrupted. Start with describing the personal impact and then apply this to an academic impact on you.

Example statement:

I have been struggling with feeling very anxious and down over the last few weeks of term. Since reading week, this has been getting worse and worse. In the last few weeks before the Christmas holidays I found it really difficult to get to sleep and most nights would be awake until 2 or 3 in the morning. I would often sleep through my alarm but still wake up feeling really tired. I felt overwhelmed by anxious thoughts during the day and couldn’t leave the house. I’ve not been eating properly as I’ve struggled to get to the shops due to the anxiety. I’ve missed a lot of my lectures and tutorials. I’ve fallen behind with my units and haven’t been able to keep track of the course and the content I need to work on for my January exams. I’ve tried to do some of the readings but I just found myself staring at the page and going over the same bit over and over.

I spoke to my Dad when I went home and he helped me go to the GP. I had an appointment on the 23rd of December. My doctor said that I have been suffering from anxiety and they have suggested I try some medication. I’ve started taking this but the doctor said it might take a few weeks to work. I’ve been finding it really hard to catch up with the work I missed or revise for my exams as the medication has made me feel drowsy. I’ve included a letter from my doctor.

Supporting Evidence:

It’s very important to support your application with evidence. This is so the University can verify your circumstances. Make sure you include all relevant evidence and information with your mitigating circumstances form. The University cannot contact third parties to ask for further evidence or information and will be relying on the documents you submit. If you are unable gather your evidence by the deadline, you should still submit your application. Write on your form that the evidence will follow and explain why it is delayed.

Your evidence will need to be from an independent source such as your GP or a professional support service. Supporting letters will need to be on letter headed paper and signed and dated.

Types of Evidence

If you’re experiencing ill health or a difficult set of circumstances causing stress and affecting your wellbeing, we recommend seeing your GP to talk things through.

A GP letter is usually considered to be the strongest form of evidence by the University but this will vary on a case by case basis. Evidence is also stronger if it is from the time the difficulties occurred.

During your appointment is a good time to ask whether the doctor can provide a supporting letter. Following the appointment, most GPs will then write up a short summary of what has been discussed and recommended in a letter.

Ask the GP to confirm when you have attended appointments with them, details of your symptoms and any diagnosis and details of any treatment and / or medication recommended or provided. If the practitioner is also willing to comment on the likelihood of your academic performance being affected, they can state this too.

If you have had contact with the University Counselling Service, your counsellor may be able to write a supporting letter under some circumstances. It’s important to note that the University Counselling Service is less likely to provide evidence for ongoing circumstances if you haven’t engaged with them before the affected assessment.

In some circumstances, you may feel it isn’t always necessary or appropriate to see your GP and you may be other sources of evidence available to you.

Bereavement

If you have been affected by a close personal loss, a death certificate can be provided with your mitigating circumstances application. If this isn’t possible, then you could try to provide a copy of the order of service from the funeral or evidence of the death being announced.

Police Incidents

If you have been involved in an incident involving the police, a police report including the crime reference number could be used. In addition to this, you may also be able to provide evidence relating to the incident.

Severe Housing Issues

If you are facing eviction from your home, you should attach any emails or documents relating to this. If you are experiencing severe disrepair issues then you could provide photographic evidence of the issues and emails / messages showing you have reported it to your landlord and/or the city council and any response you have received. If your health has been affected by the disrepair, then you may also be able to provide a supporting letter from any doctor or support service you have contacted about this.

Mitigating Circumstances Outcomes

Once submitted, your application will be reviewed by a mitigating circumstances panel arranged by your School.

The panel will decide if the circumstances are likely to have affected your academic performance and if so, how significantly and whether there is enough evidence to support the application. If it is agreed that the impact on your studies is significant, your application will be accepted. The panel will make a recommendation on how mitigation will be applied to your assessments.

The recommendation will be passed to you School’s exam board who will make the final decision. A successful application for mitigating circumstances will not result in your marks being changed or increased but it will be aimed at minimising the impact of your circumstances on your studies. The exam board will have a number of options available and will choose outcomes considered to be most appropriate to your individual circumstances.

Possible outcomes include:

  • A new first attempt at the affected assessment(s)

  • A final resit opportunity

  • An extension to the submission deadline or late penalties to be removed

  • Excluding the mark from the overall unit average

  • For final year students, extending the limit of the boundary zone for degree classifications by a maximum of 2%

Your school should contact you to confirm the outcome of your application. If you don’t hear back, speak to the staff in your School Support Office.

How We Can Help You

If you’re not sure about whether to apply for mitigating circumstances or you have a question about the process you can contact one of our advisors who can answer any queries you have. We can offer guidance on obtaining evidence and recommend additional support services.

Contact us with a summary of your circumstances and any questions. Our advisors can also check your Request for Mitigation Form before you submit it. If you send us your completed form and draft supporting statement we’ll check what you’ve written and provide advice on any extra information to include.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome of your application, get in touch with one of our advisors for further support.

Get in touch or send us your draft by e-mailing advice.su@manchester.ac.uk.

See our Contact Us page for more information on our opening hours and when advisors are available.

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