Mitigating circumstances

Please note: for academic year 2021-22 please use this page in conjunction with the Mitigating Circumstances and Temporary Suspension of Studies in 2021/22 (Student Guide) 

Our policy on mitigating circumstances in relation to assessment applies to all Heriot-Watt students and all forms of assessment in all modes and locations of study.

There are circumstances in which, through no fault of your own, you may not have done as well as you could have in an exam or other assessment, meaning that it has not accurately measured your ability. These are described as ‘mitigating circumstances' (previously ‘special circumstances') and you can apply to have them taken into account.

Student Wellbeing Services and the Student Union Advice Hub can also provide information and guidance. In addition, the Health Centre on campus has provided guidance on medical supporting evidence.

Mitigating circumstances application deadlines

If you intend to submit a mitigating circumstance application for an examination, please ensure you meet these deadlines so that your application can be considered by the relevant Award or Progression Board.

  • UG Year 5, UG Year 4 and UG Year 3 (only for MACS students) deadline: Friday 13 May 2022
  • PGT student deadline: Friday 13 May 2022
  • UG Year 2 and UG Year 1 deadline: Friday 27 May 2022
  • UG Year 3 (except for Year 3 MACS students) deadline: Friday 27 May 2022
  • For students enrolled on the Direct Entry Programmes, Fast Track and Foundation Programmes in Malaysia or Dubai please consult your local School or Campus Academic Support Admin Team for advice.

How to apply for consideration of mitigating circumstances

  1. Check in the policy that the circumstances are acceptable grounds for an application
  2. Complete an online application form and provide supporting documentary evidence, for example a medical certificate, a police report or a letter from counselling staff
  3. Submit the application as soon as possible (normally within five working days) after the events under consideration occur and at least within five days of the end of the exam diet. Late applications may not be considered.

Policy and guide for mitigating circumstances

For further information

Contact your personal tutor in the first instance. In addition:

Edinburgh campus

The Student Wellbeing Services and the Student Union Advice Hub can also provide information and guidance.

Scottish Borders, Orkney, Dubai and Malaysia campuses

Please visit your campus web pages and contact the student advisors listed.

Examples of mitigating circumstances

An application that would be successful

A student is ill and unable to attend examinations. The student submits a completed application form for consideration of mitigating circumstances together with a medical certificate.

This is considered and evaluated by the mitigating circumstances committee in the School. A recommendation is made to the exam board that, in light of the student's assessment profile and on the basis of the evidence provided, the circumstances presented are sufficient to support a change in decision regarding progression. The student is able to sit the missed exams at the next exam diet as the first attempt.

An application that would not be successful

Two weeks after an assessment deadline, a student who has not submitted the assessment, applies for consideration of mitigating circumstances. No documentary evidence is provided and the student lists numerous reasons, such as computer and printer problems, and illness. On further discussions with the academic mentor and other staff members it becomes clear that the assessment has not been attempted and there is no evidence to support the student's claims.

The application is considered by the mitigating circumstances committee in the School. A recommendation is made to the exam board that no evidence has been presented in support of the case. No marks are awarded for the assessment.

What are mitigating circumstances?

Some examples are:

  • Having a significant illness on the day of an exam
  • A flood in a city preventing an exam taking place
  • Political upheaval disrupting your study and learning
  • A significant illness or accident affecting you over time
  • Bereavement – death of a close relative or significant other
  • Jury service, although student assessments would normally exclude you from this
  • Industrial action by University staff affecting your studies
  • Ongoing infrastructure or IT systems affecting your studies.

Events like these are described as ‘mitigating circumstances'.

Where can I get advice on the mitigating circumstances process?

Your personal tutor is your first point of contact for advice or assistance on academic and non-academic matters. Student Wellbeing Services will be able to provide advice on the process. The Student Union Advice Hub will also give you support and make you aware of your rights during this process.

Please note that telling your personal tutor about a mitigating circumstance does not count as the beginning of the formal process.

What evidence must I provide?

In all cases, you must provide independent documentary evidence, such as medical certificates. Student wellbeing services may also provide further supporting evidence.

It is your responsibility to ensure that this information accompanies your application.

The University will keep your information completely confidential in line with data protection law. It will only be shared with others who need to know, and will be held securely at all times. Your application and any supporting evidence must be submitted in a sealed envelope marked ‘Mitigating Circumstances, Private and Confidential'.

Where can I find the mitigating circumstances policy and student guidance?

The policy and student guidance are below. The policy is what is used by the mitigating circumstances committee when considering your case.

How long do I have to submit a mitigating circumstance application?

The form and supporting evidence must be submitted as soon as possible after the events under consideration occur – normally within five working days for on-campus student, unless the Head of School or nominee accepts a later submission. If relating to examinations, this will mean within five working days of the end of the examination diet.

Is telling my personal tutor or course leader enough to start the official process?

No. It is an important first step in notifying the School of an issue which will likely affect your ability to perform to your academic best. However, you must submit a mitigating circumstances form, with supporting evidence, to your Head of School within five working days of the event occurring.

What if I don’t have evidence to substantiate my case?

The School cannot normally respond to your circumstances if they don't have the relevant evidence and information. It is also important you submit this with your initial application, because information which is initially withheld from the mitigating circumstances committee or exam board will not normally be allowed during any later appeal against the committee or board's original decision.

On very rare occasions, the committee may accept your case without supporting evidence. Student Wellbeing Services and the Student Union Advice Hub will be able to advise you if you think this may apply to you.

How is my case considered?

A mitigating circumstances committee is set up within the School to consider your claim and supporting evidence. The committee will take into account the following factors when considering an application:

  • Seriousness of circumstances
  • Evidence presented
  • Amount of work affected by the circumstances
  • Any results achieved under the circumstances which are inconsistent with unaffected periods of study

After you apply for consideration of your mitigating circumstances you will receive an email from your School outlining the process.

What can I do if I am not satisfied with the outcome?

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the examiners, you can appeal under the terms of Regulation 36: Student Appeals.

Please note that appeals will not normally be considered if they are about mitigating circumstances that were not made known to the mitigating circumstances committee or exam board before it made its decision. The University's guidelines on student academic appeal procedures give more information.

Key information

Edinburgh Campus

Scottish Borders Campus

+44 (0)1896 89 2178

Orkney Campus

+44 (0)1856 852252

Dubai Campus

+971 52 205 7232

Malaysia Campus

+603 8894 3610