Special circumstances explained
Here you can find a detailed explanation of what a special circumstance is and if your situation qualifies you to apply for one.
The University is committed to supporting you during your studies. If there is a situation beyond your control that you feel may have an adverse impact on your academic performance, you can apply for a coursework extension and/or for special circumstances.
Before applying, you should discuss your situation with your Student Support Team and Personal Tutor (PT) in your school. They will be able to advise you on your individual situation, help you access additional support if necessary, and guide you through the process of submitting your application for an extension and/or special circumstances.
Not quite sure what to apply for? Please review the infograph below so you can find the right support.
A special circumstance is an exceptional situation outside of your control that has had an adverse impact on your studies. This circumstance has resulted in underperformance in an assessment or non-attendance/non-submission for a scheduled assessment.
Some examples include (but are not limited to):
- Significant short-term physical illness or injury;
- Significant short-term mental ill-health;
- A long-term or chronic physical/mental health condition, which has recently worsened temporarily or permanently;
- Death or serious illness of someone with whom you have a close relationship;
- A relationship breakdown;
- Exceptional (i.e. non-routine) caring responsibilities;
- Experience of sexual harassment or assault;
- Experience of other types of harassment;
- Victim of a crime which is likely to have a significant emotional impact;
- Military conflict, natural disaster, or extreme weather conditions.
You can find a full list of examples that are likely/not likely to be accepted in the Special Circumstances Policy (section 2.2).
Support for long-term chronic health conditions
If you have a long-term or chronic mental or physical health condition, the University can support you by putting in place a ‘Learning Profile’. This includes details of the reasonable adjustments to be made to support your study and assessment, meaning you don't need to apply for special circumstances unless your condition has significantly worsened. If you think this applies to you, please contact the Student Disability Service to discuss any adjustments you may need.
Covid-19 (for academic year 2020/21)
You should submit a special circumstances application if you have experienced a significant adverse impact on your performance in assessment due to circumstances such as those listed below:
- You have been or are ill with Covid-19;
- You have experienced the exacerbation of an existing health condition due to the pandemic situation;
- You have experienced the death or serious illness of someone close to you;
- You have taken on exceptional caring responsibilities due to Covid-19;
- You have been required to carry out more paid work than usual, as a “key worker” (e.g. in healthcare, retail, delivery);
- You have experienced significant and prolonged problems with access to teaching and learning materials, e.g. due to connectivity, power, or equipment issues;
- You have experienced catastrophic technical failure preventing submission of an online assessment by the relevant deadline;
- You have experienced prolonged exposure to a difficult/challenging home environment;
- Experienced severe financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic;
- Experienced lack of access to library resources where there are no viable alternatives.
If one or more of these circumstances has negatively affected your performance in assessment, please submit a special circumstances application to make sure your School can take account of this.
You can submit an application for special circumstances via MyEd. Please note that we are no longer accepting the old form (MS Word). Any students who submit the old form will be asked to resubmit using the online system.
- Notifying us of the situation: If you are unsure whether your situation qualifies for special circumstances or an extension, you can notify us by completing the first steps of the application process. You will need to tell us what happened and when did it occur. You can select a category of special circumstances (e.g. mental ill-health). If your situation falls into more than one category, select the category that is most relevant and use the Notifying Us and Impact Statement sections to explain your situation in more detail.
- Complete application: You can then move and select your assessments, tell us how these were impacted, and provide evidence. You do not need to wait for our response to complete the application—you can move onto the next steps at any time.
Wherever possible, please continue to work on your assignments after submitting a special circumstances application. There may be cases, for example, ill health, where the circumstances may prevent this.
You can apply for special circumstances for a single course or select several assignments across different courses, all in one application. This also applies to joint honours students. You will be able to submit several applications throughout the academic year if needed.
For a step-by-step guide on how to apply, please go to our ‘how to apply’ page.
If you are experiencing technical issues, please get in touch via the webform below.
I can’t see my assessment on the system
If the assessment you wish to apply for has the incorrect deadline or is missing from the system, please contact your School/course administrator.
What should I do if Covid-19 affects my ability to complete an assessment?
You should contact your School as early as possible to let them know about your circumstances and how they are affecting your assessments. In many cases, it may be possible to offer an extension to deadlines (a maximum of 7 days can be applied for via the extension process). Where this is not possible or where the extension time given is not enough, and where your performance in assessment has still been significantly affected, we would encourage you to use the Special Circumstances process to tell us about this.
Notifying us of the situation:
Here you will need to describe the events that have happened from beginning to end, or up until the point you submitted your application if the situation is ongoing.
- Select a start date (if you can’t remember the exact date, please provide an approximate date) for when the incident either first occurred, or for when the impact of an ongoing issue increased.
- Please keep your statement clear and concise. If there are multiple events or factors to describe, either go through them in chronological order or separate them under different headings.
- Please describe how the events described in part one impacted your work. We need to know how these circumstances affected your capacity to work, and how this impacted the quality and/or ability to submit the assessment on time if you have submitted at all.
- Please be clear and specific— if you have multiple events affecting multiple circumstances, describe how each assessment was individually affected, whether you submitted, and if it was late.
- A well-outlined impact statement will help the exam board make the best decision on how to support you academically.
All types of evidence need to be:
- Time-specific: The evidence must cover the period of time when you were affected by the special circumstance. Evidence obtained a significant period after the circumstance is unlikely to be accepted.
- Legible: Evidence must be legible, and in English where possible. If your evidence is in a different language, please provide a translation or description of what is contained within the document.
- Sufficient: The most useful types of evidence are usually independent assessments from a relevant professional. For example, a doctor or counsellor. If you have registered with and attended the University's Student Counselling Service, the service may be able to provide evidence for special circumstances. You can find a list of examples under item 6.2 of the Special Circumstances Policy on page four.
- By a direct/indirect witness: The person providing evidence needs to have been in contact with you during or immediately after the time of the circumstances, or other University staff or third parties who directly witnessed the circumstances or the impact of the circumstances upon you.
Covid-19 (for academic year 2020/2021)
We have removed the requirement to provide formal documentation with applications for special circumstances.
- Students do not need to provide medical evidence in support of applications relating to health concerns;
- Students also do not need to provide formal documentary evidence (e.g. from government, or external agencies) to support other types of application;
- Students should provide a clear description of the circumstances and their impact, and supporting evidence from other sources, e.g. University staff, wherever possible.
You will need to submit a complete application (with evidence) no later than seven calendar days following your final assessment date of the semester.
If you have received an extension on your last assessment of the semester, you can submit an application no later than seven calendar days following the revised deadline.
If you have missed this deadline, please contact your Student Support Team as soon as possible.
You should discuss your situation with your Student Support Team and Personal Tutor (PT) in your school. They will be able to advise you on your individual circumstance, and to ensure that you are being supported effectively in the future.
We also have services within the University that will be able to help you:
You might find that you need a space to talk through what's happened. Free short-term counselling is available to all students.
|Student Disability Service||
The Student Disability Service offers support for students with disabilities, learning difficulties or health condition (mental or physical) that may impact their studies.
For help completing your application, and for impartial, effective support for anything to do with student life.
|The Chaplaincy||A welcoming space for people of all faiths and none. They offer a free listening service for students who want to touch base on any concerns or anxieties, or are looking for a timely or purposeful conversation. Conversations can be held in a variety of places, and could be over coffee or a walk. They can also link you to specialist sources of help (including faith contacts if you wish.)|
Free, self-directed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy courses that help manage anxiety, stress, depression and positive body image.
A free, online support network, guided by trained professionals, that you can access 24/7.
|Feeling Good App||
A safe and effective programme that is widely used within the NHS in Edinburgh, for increasing wellbeing and recovery from stress, worry and low mood.
If the situation is urgent, or the university is closed:
Our useful contacts page has a list of contact numbers for a variety of helplines available 24/7.
If they are open, contact your GP. Otherwise, telephone NHS 24 on 111. If you're experiencing a medical emergency, dial 999 for the emergency services.
If you live in halls of residence, please contact the 24-hour helpline if you are experiencing an emergency.
Before submitting, you have the opportunity to tell us whether you would like to repeat any of your assessments if your application is approved.
You should ensure that you are fully aware of the implications that repeating or delaying assessment could have. Before selecting, we advise that you contact your school, as well as The Advice Place, which provides independent advice to students. Staff at The Advice Place can help you to understand the impact and provide additional information in the following areas:
- If you'd prefer to resit your assessment(s) or examinations, these resits may be delayed to a later examination diet. This could extend the point at which you are expected to complete your studies and could delay your graduation.
- Delay to completion of your studies may affect your funding- either for payment of fees or for maintenance dependant on the source of that funding. You should contact your funding body or sponsor for further advice on how your plans will affect your funding or sponsorship.
- Tuition fees increase every year and therefore you may be charged a higher fee on your return to study in the following academic session.
- If you return to study in the next academic session this may impact your accommodation arrangements, including eligibility for exemptions from council tax.
- If you have a Tier 4 visa, you should seek advice to ensure you're aware of that the effect that any delay to the completion of your studies may have with regard to visa restrictions.
Please note that there is no guarantee that you will receive your preferred outcome.
- Initial application (notifying us of your situation): After submitting your initial application, we will respond within two working days confirming whether your situation is eligible for special circumstances.
- Complete application: After submitting a complete application, we will respond within five working days and provide an outcome within the system—whether or not your special circumstances have been accepted.
- What happens next: Your School will contact you within one week of the meeting of the Board of Examiners to inform you of the outcome of the special circumstances request. The Board of Examiners usually meet 4-6 weeks after the end of the semester, but can also be much later. For semester one courses, this usually takes place in January, and for semester 2 courses, this usually takes place in June. Once the Board of Examiners has made a decision, you will be able to view the outcome through 'My Applications' in the Assessment Support tool.
The Board of Examiners will consider what response is in your best academic interest and would not cause you or others disadvantage. Some possible outcomes include:
- Offering the opportunity to repeat assessed work, or a whole course;
- Disregarding late penalties for a particular piece of work;
- Disregarding a particular mark from the calculation for a course, or for a progression or classification decision;
- No further action.
You can find a complete list of possible decisions in the Special Circumstances Policy (item 10 for course level, and item 11 for progression/award level) and detailed guidance on assessment procedures in the Taught Assessment Regulations.
The ESC Team will share information about your situation with the relevant school staff, if they feel it is necessary, to ensure you receive support.
If you have any questions please visit our frequently asked questions section. If you still require help, please get in touch by email.