We suggest you start by having a look at our quick reference guide for Special Consideration to get a snapshot of the process. This should help you figure out where in the system your application may currently be sitting, and how best to approach things from there. If you’re not sure if Special Consideration is what you should pursue, then you can read our guide about that, or use our quiz to check.
The advice below will cover the key sticking points that students usually encounter with this process, but you can always contact us to get detailed advice on your situation.
What is Special Consideration for?
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.
It 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 4.117 of the Assessment and Results Policy, special consideration is available if a student is genuinely and significantly affected by:
(a) exceptional and extenuating circumstances outside the student’s control; for example, acute illness, loss or bereavement, hardship or trauma; or
(b) events or circumstances of national or state significance within cultural, sporting, military, emergency service or legal domains which require a student’s participation; or
(c) faculty sanctioned academic activities; for example, presenting at a conference.
Section 4.124 further indicates that circumstances generally recognised as acceptable grounds for special consideration include, but are not limited to:
(a) acute illness or serious injury on the day of an examination or during the period immediately leading up to an examination or assessment due date;
(b) bereavement or other serious emotional disturbance, e.g. witnessing or being the victim of a serious crime, sudden loss of accommodation or family violence;
(c) hardship or trauma such as a car accident, sudden loss of income, or severe disruption to domestic arrangements; and/or
(d) significant religious or cultural reasons which impact a student’s ability to undertake or complete assessment on a particular day(s) or at a particular time(s).
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. That is, it needs to demonstrate not just what occurred, but how it impacted your capacity to do the assessment task in question.
If you have been significantly impacted by circumstances that were unforeseen or sudden in nature, then you should apply for Special Consideration – Unexpected Circumstances. This may include instances where you were on track to complete an assignment and suddenly became unwell, or were sick during the days leading up to your exam and this impacted your ability to study for or sit the exam itself. The best way to think about it is if the situation is something that you were not anticipating would happen, then unexpected circumstances is probably the best application to pursue.
Section 4.126 of the policy provides that applications for special consideration must be made within four working days of the examination date or assessment due date.
You can look at how to address Late Applications below.
If you have a medical condition which is known to you and you are likely to require some kind of adjustment to your academic work in order to participate in your education fully, then you should apply for Special Consideration – Ongoing Support. There are many reasons why students may need academic adjustments in order to satisfy the subject requirements – perhaps your condition means you need extra time to complete an exam, or you’re unable meet the minimum attendance requirements during semester. Essentially if you know ahead of time that your condition is likely to disrupt your ability to complete assessments during semester, you should apply for ongoing support.
If you are applying for special consideration for ongoing support, as a general rule it is recommended that you apply for this as soon as possible in order to have adjustments put in place early. There can be particular deadlines that will indicate how long you have to apply for this, especially if you require alternative exam arrangements, so it is best to contact SEDS as soon as possible to understand what is required with an application in your situation. The later you leave it, the more difficult it may be for the University to put adjustments in place.
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. There are two kinds of HPR forms, so make sure you pick the right one for your application (either Unexpected Circumstances or Ongoing Support). 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 in relation to the assessment tasks in question. 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 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.
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.
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:
- 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
- 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 can be made via the online form if they relate to the current semester, or one semester prior. If an application is any later than that, then you will need to email your request directly to SEDS.
To assist you with this process, we have a template for your draft request here. This includes the email address of where to send your late application if the online form is not available. Please contact us if you require any assistance framing your late application.
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!
- Unsuccessful review (original decision upheld): your application for review was not successful and your original Special Consideration outcome is unchanged. Dang…
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 assessed as ineligible. We can advise you on any ways that you may be able to strengthen your Grievance letter before submission.
Academic Board 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.