6.3.6: Guidance for Boards of Examiners on Serious Adverse Circumstances (including the Scrutiny Sub-Committee of the Board of Examiners)
1. Serious adverse circumstances are defined as exceptional personal circumstances, outside the control of the student, that have prevented them from either acquiring or demonstrating the skills, knowledge or competencies required to meet the learning outcomes associated with an assessment that contributes to the qualification for which they are studying notwithstanding their best efforts, in consultation with their department and College, to mitigate those circumstances.
2. Where a student feels that there have been serious adverse circumstances that have affected his/her assessment it is their responsibility to inform the appropriate department as soon as possible.
3. University policy on serious adverse circumstances is laid out in Section 6.2.6 of the Learning and Teaching Handbook. This includes guidance for students and Boards of Examiners on the procedure for the submission of Serious Adverse Circumstances forms, and the evidence to be supplied in support of such submissions.
4. All serious adverse circumstances submissions to the board of examiners should be considered by a scrutiny sub-committee of the board of examiners. The membership of this sub-committee must include as a minimum:
a. the chair of the board of examiners (chair to the sub-committee)
b. the secretary of the board of examiners (secretary to the sub-committee)
c. where the secretary to the board of examiners is a member of academic staff: one other member of the board of examiners; where the secretary to the board of examiners is not a member of academic staff: two other members of the board of examiners;
Where possible the scrutiny sub-committee should include at least one male and one female member of staff.
5. The scrutiny sub-committee shall consider all serious adverse circumstances evidence submitted by students, and for each submission grade the impact of the serious adverse circumstances reported on the assessment of the student concerned in accordance with the following scale:
The evidence submitted does not indicate that the alleged serious adverse circumstances had any adverse effect on the performance of the student in his/her assessment(s) OR the circumstances described have already been sufficiently mitigated through the granting of a concession or other adjustment OR the alleged circumstances were experienced outside of the examination period but were not notified to the University at the time of the occurrence and no explanation has been given by the student as to why the University was not informed
The evidence submitted indicates that the serious adverse circumstances are likely to have had a small adverse effect on the performance of the student in his/her assessment(s)
The evidence submitted indicates that the serious adverse circumstances are likely to have had a significant adverse effect on the performance of the student in his/her assessment(s)
The evidence submitted indicates that the serious adverse circumstances are are likely to have had a very significant adverse effect on the performance of the student in his/her assessment(s)
6. In addition to being graded for impact, the rating agreed by the sub-committee should also include information on the duration of the impact indicating, as appropriate [Specified day(s), Specified week(s), Specified term(s), Specified assessment/exam period(s), Specified Academic year(s)]. Consequently, all serious adverse circumstances submissions should receive a number grading followed by description of the duration of the impact.
7. The secretary of the scrutiny sub-committee is responsible for ensuring that a written record is kept of meetings of the sub-committee.
8. The gradings agreed by the scrutiny sub-committee, and the specific modules to which the gradings apply, shall be reported to the board of examiners, and the receipt and consideration of this information by the board of examiners must be recorded in the minutes of the board of examiners.
9. Where progression, award and classification are considered by a faculty level board of examiners (for example Combined Honours, Natural Sciences, joint honours programmes and the MA Research Methods programmes in social sciences), SACs shall be graded by the scrutiny sub-committee of the relevant subject board of examiners. Once all SACs have been graded at subject level, those relating to students to be considered at faculty-level boards of examiners should be submitted in a timely way to the chairs and secretaries of the relevant faculty-level board. This allows any variations in the grading of an individual SAC to be identified and, if deemed necessary by the Chair of the faculty-level Board, the relevant subjects to be asked to provide a structured response to support the generic grading definition they had allocated. A scrutiny sub-committee of the faculty- level board should consider any differences in individual SAC gradings which it deems to be significant (for instance, when differences in gradings are greater than 1), and if necessary reclassify the gradings in consultation with the departments concerned.
10. Members of scrutiny sub-committees should be aware that, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, students may choose to disclose a condition that constitutes a disability via the SAC Form. Should this occur, staff must make this known to Disability Support. It is the University’s responsibility to understand whether a particular condition constitutes a disability. Should staff be unsure as to this, they must consult Disability Support.
Consideration of serious adverse circumstances at meetings of boards of examiners
11. Consideration of serious adverse circumstances must be in accordance with the following requirements:
a. Relevant serious adverse circumstances evidence in respect of modules taken in the second year (and third year for integrated master’s programmes) should be considered by the board of examiners for the purposes of progression only. This information should then be brought to the final board of examiners meeting for consideration for the purpose of award and classification.
b. At no point should marks be changed in the light of serious adverse circumstances.
12. Where progression, award and classification are considered by a board of examiners other than that of the subject to which the SAC relates (for example Combined Honours and joint honours programmes, but also any programme where modules are taken outside of the student’s home department ), the Chair of the board examiners must ensure that the subject member is fully briefed on SAC matters, and is able to represent their department’s views on any mitigating action (in relation to awards or to progression – for instance, whether a student should be offered resit opportunities as a first attempt). Any recommendations made at the initial departmental board (for example to permit a student, in light of SACs, to resit an examination as a first attempt) should be forwarded to the secretary of the second board at the earliest opportunity.