Exceptional Circumstances


What are exceptional circumstances?

Exceptional circumstances are situations that go beyond the normal difficulties experienced in life. They are usually things that are unforeseeable or unavoidable and/or outside of your control, and can significantly affect your ability to study effectively or complete assessments on time and to a good standard. Some examples of exceptional circumstances include medical circumstances, close bereavement, disabilities that do not have reasonable adjustments in place, being the victim of a serious crime and unplanned pregnancy.

If you are not sure whether your situation would be considered as exceptional circumstances, ask your department or an advisor at YUSU or the GSA (for postgraduate students).


What should you do if your ability to study is being affected by your exceptional circumstances?

The first, most important, thing to do is to tell someone you trust within your department, usually your academic supervisor, or an advisor at ASC or the GSA, an advisor at the Student Hub or your college welfare team. They should be able to listen and advise on your options. We would also advise that you seek medical help, if needed.

Once you have done this, you can submit a claim for exceptional circumstances which, if successful, could result in either being offered:

  • the opportunity to take an exam again, or resubmit an assessment “as if for the first time” at the next assessment period

  • an extension to a submission deadline


Why is it important to tell someone at the time?

It is always best to seek help at the earliest opportunity if you are experiencing difficulties that are impacting on your academic performance. If your circumstances prevent you completing an assessment on time, you could potentially fail to perform to the expected minimum standard, or potentially fail a module. This could lead to a lower degree classification or even lead to being discontinued from your course. It is important to submit a claim at the time as if not, this can present a significant challenge to successfully appealing a decision. So if you are experiencing difficulties, it is best to speak to someone about it and use the processes that are in place to help you.


How do you claim exceptional circumstances?

The exceptional circumstances form can be found here. The form must be completed and submitted to your departmental office before the assessment deadline if possible, and no later than 7 calendar days after the assessment(s). The form must be sent from your University of York email address, and supporting evidence should be submitted with the claim form, or otherwise at the earliest opportunity.


What evidence do you need to provide?

Exceptional circumstances claims will not be considered without evidence. It is important that you seek support as soon as possible from a doctor, counsellor or other relevant service to help with your circumstances, and they might be able to provide you with some evidence.

Evidence should:

  • be from a third party professional who saw you at the time the circumstances were affecting you

  • include their professional opinion on whether the circumstances have had an impact on your ability to study


How can a YUSU advisor help you?

We can arrange a free independent and confidential appointment with you, to discuss your situation and any options available to you. We can also look through draft versions of your claim and advise on getting it in the best shape possible before submission.

Please have a look at our handy guide to exceptional circumstances which includes all the information that you need to know should you face exceptional circumstances that affects you ability to study.


What is a programme extension, and when would this be right for you?

A programme extension is a potential option for students who have exceptional circumstances and need an extended period of time, in order to complete their assessments but have no teaching left to complete. Normally, programme extensions are applied for towards the end of an academic year when a student has attended all their taught hours, and only have assessments due in. As with an exceptional circumstances claim, you will need to provide evidence from a third party professional about the ongoing impact of your circumstances on your ability to study, but would also need to give their professional opinion on a realistic time frame in which you can complete your work to your normal standard.

If you think you need an extended period of time out of University, in particular due to personal circumstances, or for health reasons, a Leave of Absence (LOA) might be an option worth considering. There is more information about this in the ‘Transfer, Withdraw, LOA’ tab. If you’re unsure about the best option for you, contact us, and we will be able to advise on this.


Key documents & information