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Special Consideration Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) The University recognises that there will be serious misadventure, accident or extenuating circumstances (including sporting and cultural events) beyond a student's control which are of such severity or gravity that they may impact adversely on academic performance.

(2) To pass units, students must demonstrate that they have achieved the unit learning outcomes; merely applying for Special Consideration on the basis of serious misadventure, accident or extenuating circumstances will not demonstrate that the learning outcomes have been achieved. Granting Special Consideration recognises extenuating circumstances, and provides alternative ways in which a student may be assessed, so they are not disadvantaged. Granting Special Consideration for assessment tasks (including examinations) will not take the form of allocating additional marks, or changing grades without undertaking an alternative assessment.

(3) The underlying principle of this policy is that all students have the right to equity and fairness when undertaking the assessment components of their studies. The policy has been instituted to support students who would under normal circumstances reach their usual demonstrated performance level but are significantly affected by serious misadventure, accident or extenuating circumstances beyond their control.

(4) This policy does not cover the situations where a student:

  1. has been prevented from meeting an assessment deadline, or
  2. has been unable to attend a compulsory component of their course except where serious misadventure is the cause.
    These situations are covered in guidelines that are part of the University's Assessment Policy - Criteria and Standards-Based Assessment.
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Section 2 - Definitions

(5) Examinations:

  1. Final Examination - a formal, supervised assessment activity used to assess student learning outcomes which normally takes place at the conclusion of a formal teaching period, during the Formal Examination Period.
  2. Formal Examination Period refers to the end of session University examinations, coordinated by the Assessment and Graduation Unit of Student Administration in the Student Experience Office. In this Policy, examinations conducted during the teaching session are considered to be an assessment task.
  3. Deferred Examination - an examination granted to a student as a concession for inability to attend the final examination in a unit due to serious misadventure, accident or extenuating circumstances. Deferred examinations are held during the Formal Examination Period and are run by the Assessment and Graduation Unit.
  4. Supplementary Examination - an examination offered by a school to a student as a possible outcome of a Special Consideration application. Schools administer and invigilate Supplementary Examinations.

(6) Serious Misadventure, accident or extenuating circumstances is any unexpected event that is outside a student's capacity to prevent or overcome that demonstrably affects their capacity to complete teaching/learning and/or assessment tasks, or achieve the level of attainment typical of their previous performance in the unit.

  1. Factors contributing to or constituting extenuating circumstances, misadventure or accident, must directly relate to the timing of unit teaching/learning and/or assessment requirements. These can include:
    1. medical conditions or events;
    2. psychological trauma, impairment or incapacity arising from an event;
    3. physical trauma leading to impairment or incapacity resulting from an accident;
    4. financial hardship arising from substantial change to economic circumstances beyond the student's control;
    5. substantial change to routine employment arrangements or status beyond the student's control;
    6. substantial unanticipated change to routine accommodation and residential arrangements or status beyond the student's control.
  2. The following factors would not normally be considered as contributing to or constituting extenuating circumstances:
    1. routine demands of employment and employment-related travel;
    2. difficulties adjusting to university life, to the self discipline needed to study effectively, and to the demands of academic work;
    3. stress or anxiety normally associated with examinations, required assessment tasks or any aspect of course work;
    4. routine financial support needs;
    5. lack of knowledge of requirements of academic work;
    6. difficulties with English language;
    7. difficulties with visa arrangements that could have been reasonably anticipated;
    8. scheduled anticipated changes of address, moving home, house moves etc.
  3. Circumstances which can be grounds for a Special Consideration application other than serious misadventure or accident may also include:
    1. sporting or cultural commitments only where a student has been selected, through a formal documented process, to represent or participate in a state, national or international event;
    2. military commitments where a student is a member of the armed forces involved in a compulsory exercise;
    3. military reserve commitments where a student is required to attend a compulsory exercise;
    4. emergency service commitments only where a student is required to attend an emergency situation and the requirement to attend is specified in supporting documentation;
    5. legal commitments, where a student is called for jury duty or is subpoenaed to attend a court, tribunal or hearing, and the requirement to attend is specified in supporting documentation;
    6. compulsory involvement in a ceremony or significant cultural activity of a unique nature (excluding those specified in Clause 6d) where the requirement to attend is specified in supporting documentation from a relevant official or leader of the event/activity.
  4. The following circumstances would not normally be regarded as grounds for a Special Consideration application:
    1. demands of sport, clubs, social or extra-curricular activity (other than to represent or participate in state, national or international sporting or cultural events);
    2. recreational travel (domestic or international);
    3. planned events, such as weddings.

(7) Special Consideration refers to those situations where a student wishes to formally advise the University that they have suffered unforeseen severe and/or grave illness, misadventure, accident, or have extenuating circumstances, and, as a result, have:

  1. been prevented from meeting an assessment deadline;
  2. performed below their usual standard during an assessment, including formal examinations; or
  3. been unable to attend a compulsory component of their course.

(8) Teaching session refers to the time from the first week of lectures up to the commencement of the end of session examinations.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

The Policy

(9) The policy applies to students enrolled in undergraduate awards and postgraduate coursework awards including on-shore, off-shore and external-study students. The policy refers to both the teaching session and the formal examination period.

(10) The policy addresses Special Consideration requests from students who are affected by short-term illnesses or serious misadventure during a teaching session and the formal examination period. Special Consideration should not be utilised repetitively in order to manage longer-term illness, disabilities or ongoing severe disruptive circumstances. In such circumstances students should refer to the University's Disability Policy and should seek advice from staff in Counselling and Disability Services.

(11) Students with disabilities should contact the Disability Service. Students can also access a University Counsellor, Student Welfare Officer or Student Rights Advocate for information, advice, support and referral. Special Consideration provisions apply to the University's students including those registered with the Disability Service.

(12) It is the student's responsibility to notify the University of illness, misadventure or extenuating circumstances and to obtain documentation which demonstrates the severity and/or gravity and timing of the circumstance. The documentation should also demonstrate how the misadventure has disrupted previously satisfactory work by a student during the teaching session.

(13) On the basis of the information provided by the student, the following may be taken into account:

  1. the severity of the event;
  2. the student's performance of other items of assessment in the unit;
  3. history of previous applications for Special Consideration.

(14) All staff who deal with Special Consideration applications are required to maintain confidentiality of information presented by students.

Delegations to Approve Special Consideration

(15) Assessment that "serious misadventure, accident or extenuating circumstances" has been proved and documentary evidence provided: Student Central staff.

(16) Determine outcomes of all requests for Special Consideration (other than a "re-assessable fail" or an outcome of a request for Final Deferred Examination Special Consideration): Unit Coordinators.

(17) Award of a re-assessable fail as the outcome of a Special Consideration application: the Dean of the School, who may delegate this function to the Deputy Dean or a Director, Academic Program.

(18) Determine outcomes of requests for a Final Examination Deferred Special Consideration: the Dean of the School, who may delegate this function to the Deputy Dean.

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Section 4 - Procedures

Part A - Applications

(19) Applications should be made using the appropriate form available on the web, with supporting documentation included that demonstrates the nature and severity of the illness, serious misadventure or extenuating circumstances (see clause 6). Forms are to be lodged online.

(20) Student Central will review each application and assess whether the extenuating circumstances criteria are demonstrated and if so, forward the application to the School for approval.

(21) Applications must be submitted no later than 5.00 p.m. of the 2nd working day after the due date of the assessment task or examination. Students who can provide evidence to support extenuating circumstances affecting submission of the application may be granted permission to submit applications after this time.

(22) A request for Special Consideration for an examination relates to situations where a student:

  1. believes their studies and academic work have been adversely affected so that they will be unable to perform in the examination at their usual standard;
  2. was unable to complete a formal examination due to ill health or other cause.

(23) Students who believe their examination performance has been affected by ill health may request Special Consideration. 

(24) Students should note that the fact of submitting an application does not automatically mean that Special Consideration will be granted.

Acceptable Documentation for Applications

(25) Appropriate documentation is required to verify claims made in any Special Consideration application. Information should relate to relevant provisions of this policy.

(26) All applications should be submitted using the Special Consideration application form, with any supporting documentation.

(27) Documentation and certificates signed by family members will not normally be accepted. Documents must be in English, and if not, supplied with a certified translation.

(28) If medical information is provided, it should have sufficient detail so that the severity and gravity of the condition in relation to teaching/learning and/or assessment tasks can be reasonably ascertained. The medical practitioner should be asked to complete the relevant application form available on the University website. However, if the medical practitioner provides a medical certificate, the medical information on the certificate must address the same requirements as those listed in the University's application form. The documentation must clearly indicate:

  1. the date on which the student first sought attention and information about further visits if appropriate;
  2. the severity and/or gravity of the condition, degree of incapacity and its duration or probable duration in relation to the student's capacity to study, sit an examination or complete an assessment task;
  3. within the limits of confidentiality, a description of the nature and seriousness of the student's problem.

(29) The certificate on the University's application form can also be used to provide supporting documentation from other appropriately qualified professionals such as psychiatrists, physiotherapists, registered psychologists, social workers and counsellors.

(30) For causes other than sickness, (e.g. road accident, court hearing or death of a relative) written evidence (e.g. a police report, a court summons, or a death certificate) is acceptable. Where supporting documentation is not immediately available, students must submit the Special Consideration form within the time-period and seek approval to provide the relevant documentation as soon as it becomes available. Evidence of approval for late submission of documentation must be submitted at the time of Special Consideration Application lodgement. (Clause 21 provides details of circumstances where the period may be extended.)

(31) Documentation relating to serious misadventure or extenuating circumstances should provide evidence to support the claim and indicate the severity and/or gravity of the circumstances, and the extent of the impact on the student. Where the extenuating circumstances have arisen from substantial changes to financial situations the application should be supported by documentation.

(32) Students should note that Special Consideration requests will normally not be considered if documentation does not provide sufficient information to support the claims made in the application. The University will not approach doctors, hospitals, police, etc, to obtain documentation on behalf of the student. The University may seek verification from these agencies that the certificate has been issued to the student. Students are required to keep all original or certified copies of supporting documentation for a period of twelve months from the date of submission of their application, as this may be requested at any time by the University for auditing purposes.

Part B - Outcomes

Special Consideration for Part or the Whole of the Teaching Session

(33) For Special Consideration for part or the whole of the teaching session, the application should be submitted as soon as the student is aware that he/she has extenuating circumstances that will affect studies for the session.

(34) The Unit Coordinator may interview the student where this would assist in making their decision. The Unit Coordinator may consult the relevant Academic Course Advisor or Director, Academic Program if necessary. The Dean or Deputy Dean of the School may require this consultation to take place for students who are enrolled in specified courses that are taught by the School.

(35) Where the determination is that Special Consideration will be granted for the whole unit, the outcome may include:

  1. no action;
  2. granting an 'R' Re-assessable Fail grade. Where a re-assessable fail grade is granted, this must be approved by the Dean of the School, or nominee (see Delegations to Approve Special Consideration);
  3. setting a different (but academically equivalent) assessment task or tasks;
  4. marks obtained for completed assessment tasks may be aggregated or averaged to achieve a percentage;
  5. omitting an assessment task from the final grade calculation;
  6. granting an extension of time to complete assessment tasks;
  7. giving the student a final grade of 'I' to be resolved by no later than the next census date;
  8. exemption from attendance at compulsory residential school, practical sessions, etc.

(36) The student will be notified via their University email address (copied to the TRIM record keeping system) of the determinations made on requests for Special Consideration within two working days following the Unit Coordinator's determination.

(37) All documentation relating to the requests including recommendations, reasons and decisions will be retained for a minimum of 18 months following the final decision.

(38) Unit Coordinators are required to document their determinations, giving reasons only in relation to this policy, and to regularly report their determinations to the Director, Academic Program via a summary at the end of each teaching session. The Director, Academic Program will provide a report to the Deputy Dean of the School for the School Academic Committee's meeting.

During the Formal Examination Period

(39) These procedures apply to Final Examinations held in the Formal Examination Period only, not examinations conducted during the teaching session.

(40) The Unit Coordinator will consider the application for Special Consideration and has the authority to uphold or dismiss Special Consideration requests during the formal examinations period.

(41) If a Special Consideration application is upheld, the Unit Coordinator will determine the most appropriate accommodation/action that should be taken in response to the student's circumstances. The recommended outcome may include:

  1. no action;
  2. granting an 'R' Re-assessable Fail grade. Where a re-assessable fail grade is granted, this must be approved by the Dean of the School, or nominee (see Delegations to Approve Special Consideration);
  3. marks obtained for completed assessment tasks may be aggregated or averaged to achieve a percentage;
  4. omitting the examination from the final grade calculation;
  5. giving the student a final grade of 'I' to be resolved by no later than the next census date;
  6. recommend to the Dean or nominee that the student sit a supplementary examination. Where a supplementary examination is set the school will email the student with details.

(42) All documentation relating to the Final Deferred Examination Special Consideration requests including recommendations, reasons and decisions will be retained by the School in the TRIM system.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(43) Refer to the Academic Appeals Procedures for standard appeal provisions regarding a breach of procedural fairness.