During your programme, you will need to attend taught sessions, study in your own time, and complete assignments. You may also need to attend placements and similar learning activities. You should aim to meet all your academic commitments. If you are struggling to do so, you should contact a member of staff in your institution as soon as possible to discuss what help and support your institution can offer you.
You may experience serious adverse circumstances arising from medical conditions, personal difficulties, bereavement or other significant causes. These serious circumstances can have an impact on your studies.
You should have access to pastoral support and study skills support. In addition, your institution may be able to agree on one or more of the following steps with you:
Sometimes circumstances may arise that cannot be dealt with in advance of any significant impact on your academic work. The Serious Adverse Circumstances (SAC) procedure exists to address these situations.
There are three scenarios in which the SAC procedure can be used:
Scenario 1: Adverse circumstances that occur during or immediately before an assessment
In this scenario, there is no time for you or your institution to take action in advance to mitigate the effects of your adverse circumstances on your academic study. Here are some examples:
In the first two situations, you may be concerned that the adverse circumstances have affected your ability to demonstrate your learning during the assessment. In the third situation, you can use the SAC procedure to show why you were not able to attend.
Scenario 2: You have received support but the effect of your adverse circumstances goes beyond the mitigations put in place
In this scenario, you were able to contact your institution and work with them to agree on some mitigations to address your circumstances (e.g. extensions, opportunities to catch up, etc.).
However, sometimes it is difficult to fully and accurately assess in advance the impact a set of circumstances will have on your ability to study. Here is an example:
Scenario 3: You did not request support in advance to help mitigate the effect of adverse circumstances
In this scenario, you have experienced adverse circumstances and you did not contact your institution at the time and ask for support. Whilst it is your responsibility to inform your institution as early as possible of any issues that may have an impact on your academic study, there are occasions when we recognise that there are barriers to doing so, or where students find it difficult to disclose problems. Here are some examples:
In any of these scenarios, you can make an application through the Serious Adverse Circumstances procedure for staff to look at your situation. Your institution will be able to guide you through this process.
You will be asked to briefly explain in writing the serious adverse circumstances that have occurred and how these have affected your academic work. We recognise it can be distressing to set out your circumstances in writing. You do not need to describe your situation in detail – a concise summary is sufficient. The most important information you need to provide is not details of the adverse circumstances themselves but information about how these circumstances affected your academic study. You will be asked to specify which modules/assessments have been affected.
You may be asked to provide some supporting evidence alongside your explanation, for example, a medical letter.
Support should be available from your institution when you make a request for SACs to be considered. Your institution will handle the information you give sensitively and it will be kept confidential to a small group of specially designated staff. If you are finding it difficult to provide an account of your circumstances, particularly if you have experienced a traumatic incident, there are ways that your institution can move ahead with the process without asking you to provide a written account of what has happened.
A small group of staff will look at your explanation and any supporting evidence. They are not asked to assess the seriousness of your circumstances but the level of impact your circumstances may have had on your academic work.
This group will record an impact ‘grade’ from 0 to 3.
Your request to have your circumstances taken into account may be graded 0 if:
The other impact grades are:
The evidence submitted indicates that the serious adverse circumstances are likely to have had a small adverse effect on the performance of the student in their assessment(s)
The evidence submitted indicates that the serious adverse circumstances are likely to have had a significant adverse effect on the performance of the student in their assessment(s)
The evidence submitted indicates that the serious adverse circumstances are likely to have had a very significant adverse effect on the performance of the student in their assessment(s)
The impact grade given is recorded alongside your mark for any affected assessments. At your institution’s Board of Examiners, members of the Board can see your mark and the impact grade. They do not see the written account of your circumstances or any supporting evidence. The exact details of your circumstances are thus kept confidential.
An SAC impact grade can allow your institution’s Board of Examiners and the Durham University Overarching Common Awards Board of Examiners to make decisions that can affect your progress in your qualification and your final results.
Note: an SAC impact grade will never result in a mark being changed.
Decisions made by your institution’s Board of Examiners in light of an SAC impact grade can include:
Decisions made by Durham University’s Overarching Common Awards Board of Examiners in light of an SAC impact grade can include:
Both in your institution and at the University, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with the Board looking at the full picture of what learning outcomes you have achieved, your marks, and any SAC impact grades.
SAC impact grades are also an important acknowledgement in your student record of the fact that you have completed assessments in a situation where your circumstances were affecting your ability to demonstrate your learning. Durham University can pass this information onto other institutions at your request if you go on to study for another qualification in future.
In the academic year 2019-20, Durham University implemented a ‘no detriment’ policy to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 for all students. The University asked your institution to identify which of your modules or module assessment components (if there is more than one assessment for a module) had been affected by the disruption resulting from the pandemic.
We use this information to calculate two average marks from your completed modules: one including the Covid-affected modules or module components, and one excluding these modules or components. In calculating the final mark for your qualification, the university will use whichever of these two averages is higher. This means that if your marks were lower because of the effects of Covid on particular modules or assessments, then these results will not bring down your overall mark.
Information about which modules or module components were affected by Covid-19 will stay on your record until you complete your programme and you are awarded your qualification. For some students, this means that the effects of Covid on particular modules or components will be taken into account several years from now when they reach the end of their programmes.
From the academic year 2020-21, the no detriment policy no longer applies because we have asked your institution to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 in other ways. Approaches vary across institutions but steps may include adjusting teaching patterns, changing assessment types and deadlines and increasing or adjusting student support.
If you are seriously affected by Covid-19 on an individual level – for example, if you or a family member become severely unwell – you should also ask for individual support and adjustments and, where necessary, use the SAC procedure.