Extenuating Circumstances

This article is for Extensions and is intended as a helpful guide that should be read alongside Regulations Governing Extension of Assessment Deadlines and Consideration of Extenuating Circumstances, for related processes see Extensions, leave of absence or Faculty Appeals 


Extenuating Circumstances are circumstances which are exceptional, outside your control, that have prevented you from either demonstrating or acquiring the skills, knowledge, competencies required for the assessment. If you attend or submit your assessment you are declaring yourself fit to sit and this will likely prevent you from successfully claiming extenuating circumstances.

The aim of a successful Extenuating Circumstance claim is to put you back into the position that you would have been in, if not for the circumstances (that you are claiming for) occurring.

Unsure if you should request an Extension, a Leave of Absence or Extenuating Circumstance?
An Extension may be better for you if you beleive an additional 72 hours would compensate for any disruption caused by an extenuating circumstance.

If you are experiencing challenging circumstances which are having or is likely to have a profound and sustained impact on your studies and wellbeing then it might be worth taking a leave of absence from your course.

As a general rule of thumb, circumstances are likely to be considered valid if they are exceptional and outside of your control (meaning unforeseeable and unpreventable).

Circumstances likely to be considered valid
including but not limited to;

  • bereavement,
  • short-term illness,
  • accidents for which in employment would have likely led to absence on sick leave,
  • evidenced worsening of a long term health condition,
  • significant adverse family or personal circumstances
  • natural disasters or major household incidents such as floods, fires, building collapses
  • unforeseen illness which occurred during an examination or presentation and was reported at the time to the invigilator or presentation examiner

Circumstances not likely to be considered
including but not limited to;

  • medical condition without reasonable evidence,
  • medical condition with retrospective medical evidence
    i.e. a doctor’s note which states that the student was seen after the illness occurred
  • a long-term health condition for which
    • the student is already receiving reasonable adjustments, and
    • which was not changed in severity or impact,
  • minor illness or ailment, which in a work situation would be unlikely to lead to absence from work,
  • poor academic or organisational practice such as,
    • pressure of work loads
    • failing to keep back-ups of documents/files and computer breakdown
    • holidays, weddings, planned house moves
    • financial issues
  • any other cases where the circumstances were foreseeable and/or preventable.
  • Circumstances where you have attended or submitted the assessment and therefor declared yourself fit to sit

Drafting your extenuating circumstance form
Once you have downloaded either a standard extenuating circumstance form or a extenuating circumstances form for professional doctorate students try drafting your claim. You don’t need to get it perfect straight away- it is normally easier to correct/delete/add points from a rough draft than it is to try it write it perfect the first time.

Speak to Sunderland Students’ Union Advisor to help you review your drafts to see what you could do to strengthen your claim.

  • Be concise; this doesn’t mean it has to be short, just avoid covering a point several times and keep the phrasing simple
  • Try not to be emotive in your language; it is important the reader can see the facts of your case. Phrases like “please, I’ve worked so hard this year and would be devastated if this stops me getting my degree” does not add any factual points to your claim and is likely to make your claim longer than it needs to be
  • Find ways to break up information into bite sized chunks with bullet points, timelines, shorter paragraphs, headers etc
  • Use a short summative introduction which describes the main point(s) you are making in your claim before going into details
  • Use a reverse chronological ordering; talk about an impact on or around the date of the submission/attendance of the assessment, then (only if appropriate) talk about any contributing elements leading up to the point (this is to avoid confusing the reader who might otherwise think your claim is based on something that happened long ago). Remember that long term health conditions are normally only valid if there is evidence of the conditioning worsening during the assessment period or leading up to the deadline/assessment date.

Preparing evidence         
Evidence should ideally demonstrate both the circumstance and the impact an issue had on you around the time of the submission or attendance of an assessment.
Evidence that is from an independent source, from a professional individual or service, is more likely to help you your claim.

Evidence likely to be helpful

  • GP letter or other medical letters from specialist medical staff
  • Letters from your tutors
  • Death Certificates
  • Letters from professionals; solicitors, counsellors, social workers
  • Legal Paperwork
  • Police documentation

Evidence not likely to be helpful

  • retrospective medical evidence, such as a doctor’s note which states that you was seen after the illness occurred
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • letters demonstrating you didn’t approach anyone until after the assessment or that do not demonstrate the impact it had on you
  • Letters from friends or family members
  • Web/newspaper articles
  • Photographs

False evidence or a false application for Extenuating Circumstances is an offence under both academic and disciplinary regulations and may lead to expulsion from the University.

When to submit a claim
The dates of meetings of the Extenuating Circumstances panel and associated deadlines for your claim should be clearly communicated to you by the Faculty- if in doubt contact your Module Leader
The Faculty will not accept a late claim and it is likely you will need to consider a Faculty appeal if you have missed the deadline.

Where to send your claim
The extenuating circumstances form gives details on the last page as to where to submit; which varies between professional doctorate students and other students, as well as by faculty.

All students
except Professional doctorate students
All Faculties

City Campus
The Gateway Enquiries Desk     
Gateway Building
Chester Road

St Peters Campus
The Gateway Enquiries Desk
Prospect Building

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism
Faculty of Computer Science/
Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing
Faculty of Education and Society
Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing
Professional doctorate students Graduate Research Support
Level 1,Gateway
City Campus
Chester Road


Confidential information
The Regulations that govern the consideration of extenuating circumstances does not have any specific guidance on confidentiality. However if there is anything in your claim or evidence which you feel must remain confidential you must highlight this when you submit your claim; there is no guarantee that this will be possible. When information is restricted because you request confidentiality, the faculty may not be able to ensure that full consideration is given to the case.

You will be notified of the outcome of your extenuating circumstance alongside any other academic decisions/results on your online transcript.

Who considers my claim
Each Faculty has an Extenuating Circumstance Panel that considers all claims and advises the assessment board on if the evidence supports the claim and if the claimed circumstances could have affected your performance. The assessment board is the body ultimately with the authority to make a decision on claims.

What to expect if the Extenuating Circumstance is upheld
The aim of a successful Extenuating Circumstance  claim is to put you back into the position that you would have been in, if not for the circumstances occurring- This does not mean the university will change a fail mark to a pass.


Before making a claim

For a first attempt, if you didn’t submit any work or an extenuating circumstance claim, you will have a referral attempt due which is capped at 40%

If claim upheld

At the point in which your referral attempt is due, it will now be considered your first attempt; you will not be capped at 40% and will still have a referral opportunity should you not pass

If you are not happy with the handling or outcome of an Extenuating Circumstance there are further options you may wish to consider.

Challenging the handling
You can submit a faculty appeal within 2 weeks of your Extenuating Circumstance outcome if you can demonstrate that

  • there has been material procedural irregularity in the Faculty’s management of a claim
  • the Extenuating Circumstance Panel and Assessment Board did not consider the case and all supporting evidence

Challenging the outcome
You can’t challenge the outcome itself but, using a faculty appeal within 2 weeks of your Extenuating Circumstance outcome, you can challenge how the decision was reached if you can demonstrate that

  • the Extenuating Circumstance Panel and Assessment Board did not consider the case and all supporting evidence
  • there is new evidence which could not be provided, for good reason, at the time of the Extenuating Circumstance claim.

Didn’t submit an Extenuating Circumstance claim on time
If there is an exceptional, compelling and evidenced reason why you could not submit a claim at the appropriate time you might be able to submit a faculty appeal within 2 weeks of your results/transcript.

Page last reviewed: 01/03/2019
Next review due: 31/08/2020