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Durham University

Department of Physics

Illness and medical evidence

Short-term problems or routine ailments which temporarily incapacitate

Attendance at Classes

If you are unwell and cannot fulfil your academic commitments then you should inform your college as soon as possible and complete a self-certification of absence form (available from your college office) stating the nature and duration of your illness or problem. You should submit this to your college’s Student Support office; the college will then pass a copy of the form to the Department and the relevant members of staff will then be informed. You may self-certify on up to two occasions per term for a maximum of seven consecutive calendar days on each occasion. You should submit the self-certification form as soon as possible: this may mean, particularly if you live out of college, submitting it after you have recovered but you should do this without delay once you are better. Longer or more frequent absence or incapacity must be explained with the support of appropriate independent evidence, such as a medical certificate.

Normally it is not necessary to obtain a medical certificate simply to justify a short-term absence from classes. However, if you are seriously ill, or have a recurrent problem, you should visit the doctor, as well as informing your college. It would be wise to discuss this with your college’s Student Support Office, who can offer pastoral support and advise on whether it is appropriate to obtain independent evidence of your absence – this will usually be the case if your studies are being seriously affected because the illness is serious or persists for an appreciable length of time.

Submission of Assessed Work

If you are ill for a short period of time with a minor complaint or other problem and as a result

  • expect that you will not be able to hand in summatively assessed work to the required deadline; or
  • miss a class which leads directly to the submission of work which counts towards summative assessment (e.g. a practical class leading to a summatively assessed lab report) and therefore will not be able to hand in the associated work

then you must

  • Complete a self-certification of absence form (see above); and
  • Inform the Department according to the standard procedures. In particular you should apply for an extension to the submission deadline for the affected work by contacting the appropriate member of staff in writing (e.g. by email) at least 24 hours before the deadline. However, in the case of deadlines for the submission of weekly problems or weekly assessment of laboratory performance, you will be excused the week’s assessment under these circumstances, simply on the basis of your self-certification of absence form, and there is no need to apply for an extension. It should be noted that if you miss a laboratory session without informing your college at the time of absence, your "laboratory performance" mark may suffer.

If you believe that serious adverse circumstances, such as illness, prevented you from applying for an extension to a submission deadline, or caused you to fail to submit work by the deadline, then there are standard procedures you should follow.

Serious adverse circumstances affecting academic performance

Outside the examination period

If you experience serious adverse circumstances, beyond your control, during the course of the year, which compromise your ability to complete assessments, then you are expected to make such circumstances known at the time, following the procedure above, and contact the Department for a discussion about possible mitigation. The Department will consider your situation and, if appropriate, give remedies such as extensions to coursework deadlines or the setting of alternative assessments where practicable. (For example, if a member of your family is ill and you have to go home, it is important to inform your college if you need to take time out of residence, and they will make the Department aware of the circumstances. There is a procedure called a grace period which can be applied for which allows you to miss academic commitments for a limited period if appropriate.) If you believe the remedies put in place by the Department to be insufficient then you should tell us straight away, so that we can consider whether it is possible to give any further remedies.

If you are having problems during the year then it is very important that you tell us as soon as you can – contact your academic adviser and/or a member of your college’s Student Support office in the first instance. Despite possible appearances, it is quite common for students to experience personal or medical difficulties at some stage. Your Department and College will regard it as positive if you seek help, so please don’t think that you are ‘causing a nuisance’ or ‘disappointing people’ by doing so. In particular, even if you do not have a formal medical diagnosis then please tell us anyway if you are having problems.

During or close to the examination period

If you experience serious adverse circumstances (such as illness or bereavement), beyond your control, during the formal examination period, which you believe to have seriously affected your performance, and you wish to bring these to the attention of the Board of Examiners, then you should submit a Serious Adverse Circumstances form (available from your College or from to the Secretary to the Board of Examiners, Mr A.M. Skelton. You are strongly advised to discuss the form with your college's Student Support Office before submitting it. Supporting evidence such as a doctor's certificate or other evidence from an independent professional such as a counsellor should be submitted with the form if available and appropriate. All Serious Adverse Circumstances forms will be considered in detail by the scrutiny panel of the Board of Examiners, who will assess the impact of the circumstances on the students' performance.

Under the University policy, the Board of Examiners will disregard any Serious Adverse Circumstances form in which the circumstances were experienced outside the examination period but were not notified to the University at the time of the occurrence and no satisfactory explanation has been given by that student as to why the University was not informed.

Absence from examinations

If you become unwell or experience similar serious adverse circumstances that are likely to prevent you from attending an examination then please let your college Student Support office know immediately. If you do miss the examination then, in addition to the above notification, you should also submit a Serious Adverse Circumstances form when you have recovered sufficiently to do so. You must submit clear independent evidence (e.g. a medical certificate from your GP) of your incapacity, obtained at the time of the illness. Guidance on appropriate evidence may be found in section 6.2.6 of the Learning and Teaching Handbook, or via your college Student Support Office.

Long-term medical conditions or serious problems affecting academic performance

If your academic performance is seriously affected by long-term or recurring illness, at any time during your programme of study, especially in the period leading up to or during the examination period, you must obtain a medical report from your GP or Consultant at the time of illness. You are responsible for gathering this evidence, including paying any fees that may be charged by your doctor.

Such evidence needs to be submitted each year if you wish your condition to be taken into account in reviewing your performance in the examinations. It is not realistic to ask Boards of Examiners to bring forward such information from year to year: they are not in a position to know what is and is not current information. Information supplied in connection with the admissions process or at registration similarly needs to be restated specifically for the Board of Examiners if you believe that it may be relevant to your performance in the examinations.

Students with long-term medical conditions affecting their studies are expected to approach the University's Disability Support service for an assessment of need. If appropriate, Disability Support will request adjustments (such as examination concessions) that aim to mitigate the effects of the condition. In reality there are very few cases in which long-term medical conditions can reasonably be taken into account retrospectively by the Board of Examiners, because it is not fair or safe for anyone to guess how a given student might have performed if unaffected by them.

Deadline for the submission of evidence of medical or other problems to the Board of Examiners

The Board of Examiners can only consider circumstances affecting your performance if a Serious Adverse Circumstances form, with accompanying documentation, reaches the Physics Department before the relevant meeting of the Examiners in early June. The deadline for the academic year 2019/20 is 10:00 on Tuesday 9 June 2020.

Failure to communicate such information known to you before the Board of Examiners decisions are made normally prevents the information being used at a later date as the basis for an appeal. You must not assume that, because you have told someone in the University of your problems, the Board of Examiners will know. Conversely, you should remember that the purpose of a Serious Adverse Circumstances form is specifically to communicate information to the Board of Examiners in connection with the assessment for your course.

Further Information

Full details of the University’s procedures relating to student absence, illness and Serious Adverse Circumstances, and the extent to which Boards of Examiners can make allowance for health and other problems, may be found in section 6 of the Learning and Teaching Handbook.