Special Consideration

Special consideration is available to students who have had their studies significantly impacted by exceptional or extenuating circumstances outside their control. This is granted to enable eligible students to continue to progress successfully without compromising the integrity of assessment.

Special consideration may be granted for varying assessment requirements, ranging from specific assessment tasks in a single subject to whole teaching sessions for multiple subjects.

The University provides very comprehensive information on how to apply here, however if you are still having problems – read on for a run down on how to figure out what’s happening.

Under s 4.116 of the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326), special consideration is available if the student:

(a)     has been hampered, to a significant degree, by illness or other exceptional cause or extenuating circumstance in undertaking assessment for the subject;

(b)     has been prevented by illness or other extraordinary cause from preparing or presenting for a component of assessment, or part of a component of assessment; or

(c)      has been, to a severe or significant degree, adversely affected by illness or other exceptional cause or extenuating circumstance, during the performance of a component of assessment.

Documentation is necessary in order to verify these circumstances, and any documentation must specifically outline the impact those circumstances had on your capacity to complete or prepare for assessment.

Section 4.124. of the policy provides that applications for special consideration must be made within four working days of the examination date or assessment due date.

Documentation

The first thing to understand is that the University must assess each application to determine whether it meets the criteria set out in the policy above. Student Equity and Disability Support (SEDS) are responsible for this task. The single most common reason that we see genuine applications assessed as ineligible by SEDS is a problem with the supporting documentation. It can be rather confusing, and unfortunately, this  often leaves genuine applicants frustrated, confused, and pretty desperate. We are here to help – so take note! There is no mystery or magic involved, and you definitely don’t need to provide details about the specifics of your illness. Honestly, no one needs to know about the symptoms of your gastro, or personal matters related to your health. It is entirely sufficient for your health care professional (or other independent source of relevant documentation) to state that they have objectively assessed you to be severely impacted by whatever condition you have presented to them with; what the dates of this severe impact were; and how specifically this has affected your capacity to complete assessment. The recommended way to capture (physical or mental) health related  information is via an Health Professional Report (HPR) Form.  These forms are designed to help your health care practitioner to supply the details required by SEDS to assess the application as eligible or not. More on non-health related documentation below.

You will notice the form does not leave much space for your practitioner to detail your illness – that’s because they only need to say you are unwell or suffering a condition. It’s no one’s business but your own what that condition is. The important parts on the form are the date of your consultation or appointment, the exact period of impact (using dates), and the ways you are impacted. The dates need to align with the timing of the affected assessment, and the impacts will determine whether you have been impacted sufficiently to meet the threshold for eligibility.

This means that, if you are unable to use the HPR form to provide supporting documentation, you need to make sure the person supplying the evidence of your incapacity at least addresses the dates of impact, and the ways you are impacted. Here’s an example – Chu has been really unwell in the lead up to, and during some of the exam period. He goes to his doctor, who examines him and diagnoses an illness which she believes, in her medical opinion, would affect Chu’s concentration and capacity to attend the exams for the period of the illness. The doctor does not fill out an HPR form, instead she provides a medical certificate. Unfortunately often health care professionals will write vague things like “Chu has suffered from a condition this semester and it has impacted on his studies, so I support his application for special consideration”. This makes it very difficult for SEDS to assess against the criteria for special consideration, and they may ultimately deem the application ineligible because it lacks specifics identifying the period of impact and the type of impact. SEDS needs to know when did Chu suffer this condition – between what dates was it most severe – and how did the condition impact on Chu’s assessment? So a better supporting letter would be phrased “I examined Chu today 20 October. I have confirmed that Chu has suffered a condition this semester, which acutely impacted on him between 20 October and 4 November, so he was unable to concentrate or sit for examinations during that time.”

A note on statutory declarations: although they are mentioned here in relation to evidence of bereavement, in practice we have found SEDS will not accept a statutory declaration as the sole form of supporting documentation for an application. If it is not a health related condition which can be evidenced via the HPR form, then you will need to source some other independent verification. For example, victims of crime can use a police report, students impacted by religious or cultural  observance can use a letter from a religious or community leader. Remember that any support letters need to be on letterhead.

Stages

  Application   Apply online.
  Review   Seek a review of the initial decision
  Grievance   Escalate your issue to a formal Grievance if the review is unsuccessful
  Appeal   Final avenue of appeal to the Academic Board

Application

You can lodge timely applications online. Once you have submitted an application for Special Consideration, including all supporting documentation, you should receive an outcome within five working days. Hopefully your application will be approved and an appropriate adjustment will be arranged. However, should your application be deemed ineligible, there are some further avenues available to challenge the decision.

Late Applications

As set out above, timely applications are those submitted within four working days of the affected assessment if it’s a test or exam, or before midnight on the due date of an essay, assignment or take home exam.

Anything outside this limitation period is considered a late application. This creates an additional hurdle (addressed below). You may still submit a late application, however in a sense – the later it is, the harder it gets. For this reason, even if you miss the four working day deadline, you should apply for special consideration as soon as you possibly can. If something is preventing you from applying, such as continued extreme illness, or other incapacitating circumstances, then you should get these issues independently documented. Although there is no official distinction, applications after the finalisation of results require a very high threshold of extenuating circumstances to be evidenced before they will be accepted. Simply being unaware of the deadlines is insufficient in itself, as all students have a responsibility to inform themselves of their obligations under relevant University processes.

Accordingly, late applications must address two hurdles:

  1. They must clearly establish extenuating circumstances preventing timely lodgement of the application with independent documentation evidencing these extenuating circumstances and how those circumstances prevented a timely application; and
  2. they must clearly set out the reason special consideration is sought, with specific reference to the nature, dates and duration of impact, supported by an HPR form.

Late applications cannot generally be made via the online form, instead you need to email your request directly to SEDS. Please contact us if you are submitting a late application, so we can provide you with the appropriate email address. 

To assist you with this process, we have a template for your draft request here.

Review 

You can request a Review of the initial decision; you can only do this ONCE (within five working days of receiving the outcome), and only if you have a legitimate belief that:

  • a decision was made without appropriate consideration of facts, evidence or circumstances; or
  • there was failure to adhere to appropriate or relevant published policies and procedures; or
  • a penalty applied to you which you deemed to be inappropriate; or
  • you experienced unfair treatment, prejudice or bias

Read your outcome email carefully. The most common reasons for an application being rejected are:

  • Insufficient impact
  • Late application not accepted
  • Dates of impact do not correlate with the timing of the assessment task
  • Supporting documentation does not adequately verify your circumstances
  • Your circumstances are deemed to be “ongoing”, rather than “unexpected” or “short term”
  • Application submitted after the release of results

When requesting a review, you will need to provide new or further supporting documentation which addresses your circumstances as we have described above, and you should provide reasons as to why you feel you have grounds for the initial decision to be overturned. Within 5 working days, you will get one of the following outcomes:

  • Successful review (original decision overturned):your application for review was successful and your assessment options will be reconsidered by your Faculty. Huzzah!

Or….

  • Unsuccessful review (original decision upheld): your application for review was not successful and your original Special Consideration outcome is unchanged. Dang…

Grievance

If your request for a review is unsuccessful, and you still feel you have a legitimate claim for Special Consideration, you can escalate the matter to a formal Grievance in accordance with the Student Complaints and Grievances Policy. We have a Special Consideration Grievance Template. The template provides guidance on the structure and content of your Grievance letter.

Once you have used our template to draft a Grievance letter, it would be a really good idea to send it to us for feedback (along with copies of all the previous documentation relating to the application). Generally, a very clear new support letter or HPR form will be required to address the reasons the application has been assess ineligible. We can advise you on any ways that you may be able to strengthen your Grievance letter before submission.

Appeal

And finally, if your Grievance is not upheld, you can potentially appeal to the Academic Board. This is your final avenue of appeal within the University, and you can read about the process on the Academic Board’s website, paying particular attention to Step 3: Contact the Student Union Advocacy Service! We can advise on your prospects for an appeal, the grounds upon which it could be based, and the best way to convey your arguments. We can also attend the appeal hearing with you and assist you with making your case to the Board. You can get some guidance to make a start yourself on our Appeals page, before you contact us for advice.

University Policy and Procedures