Good Cause

If you’ve been ill, or had other personal circumstances affecting your performance in an exam or assignment, then you need to know about Good Cause.

Definition of Good Cause

The University defines Good Cause within the Code of Assessment as:

‘…illness or other adverse personal circumstances affecting a candidate and resulting in either:

i) the candidate’s failure to

  • attend an examination, or
  • submit coursework at or by the due date, or
  • otherwise satisfy the requirements of the assessment scheme appropriate to their programme of studies, or

ii) the candidate’s performance in an examination or other instrument of assessment being manifestly prejudiced.

You can see from this that Good Cause is a two-stage process – firstly you must have had illness or other adverse circumstances, and secondly your illness/circumstances must have resulted in either non-completion of the assessment, or ‘manifest prejudice’ to your performance. We’ll explain this more further on.

The Senate Office has a helpful and comprehensive FAQ page on Good Cause.

We felt it would be helpful to highlight a few common enquiries we receive.

What does ‘manifestly prejudiced’ mean?

Typically, when looking to see whether your performance was ‘manifestly prejudiced’ by your good cause circumstances, the Board of Examiners would be checking whether your performance in that exam or assignment is clearly worse than your usual standard.  If the Examiners feel that, despite your adverse circumstances, you still performed pretty much as normal, they can refuse to accept a Good Cause claim on that basis.  This is to save you having to do unnecessary re-sits in some cases.

What can a Good Cause Claim achieve?

It is important to understand that a successful Good Cause claim will not simply raise your grade in the assignment or exam, but it can allow other solutions, such as:

  • An uncapped resit
  • An extension longer than the usual maximum (the usual maximum in 2020-21 is 10 working days)
  • The removal of late penalties from a piece of work
  • For Honours students, removing the affected assessment from your final degree calculation (depending on how much work you have submitted).

In many cases a successful Good Cause claim will require you to complete a new piece of work at a later date.  You need to take this into account when deciding whether it is worth submitting Good Cause.

The Senate Office has also created an outcome flowchart here summarising these possibilities.

How do I submit a Good Cause Claim?

A good cause claim is submitted via MyCampus.  Check the Student Services How-To Guide for Good Cause which will walk you through the process.

How do I explain my situation?

Within the Good Cause MyCampus form (see the How-To Guide) there are a number of pointers explaining what your School is looking for.  We recommend you consider the following:

Focus on Assessments
The Good Cause rules are set up to deal with problems affecting your assessments, rather than problems affecting your learning earlier in the course.  For example, if you say ‘I couldn’t concentrate on my lectures because I was so anxious about the pandemic‘ this is unlikely to be accepted.  However, a situation such as ‘I had a panic attack just before my exam and was unable to focus on the exam questions properly‘ is more likely to be considered.

Relevant Detail
Use specific and relevant detail to improve your chance of having your claim accepted. For example:

Don’t just say: “I was affected by the pandemic” – this is too vague.  Do give specific examples which show how your performance in the exam or assignment was affected.

Example 1:

  • Two days before the exam, my younger child came down with a stomach bug.
  • There was no alternative childcare available because of COVID restrictions.
  • I had very little sleep for two nights, was worried about my child, and as a result really struggled to concentrate on my exam.

Example 2:

  • My mother cares for my aunt who lives with us and has been shielding
  • My parents and siblings are also working and studying at home so it is difficult to find a quiet area to study
  • Because of concerns about my aunt’s health, I could not come on to campus to study
  • In the week before the assignment was due, my aunt’s health deteriorated.
  • When I was writing this assignment, I found it almost impossible to concentrate due to the environment at home.

Other examples might include a flare-up of a physical or mental health condition (perhaps not helped by reduced access to healthcare support during the lockdown), or some other kind of family, financial or accommodation emergency close to an exam or deadline.

Don’t just say “I spoke to my School about the problems I was having”. Again, do be specific: When did you do this? Who did you speak to? What advice did they give you?

Avoid Emotional Language
Remember to remain objective and factual, and avoid adversarial, hostile or overly emotional language, such as “…it was a disgrace…” and “…I can’t believe that they would even dare do this…”

Sticking to the facts is more powerful. Emotional language or ranting may antagonise the people you are trying to win over, and they may be less likely to decide in your favour, or give you the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, you must sometimes still write about emotionally-charged events and circumstances but remember:

Write factually about the emotions, don’t write emotionally about the facts.

Logical Order
As much as you can, put the narrative of your claim in chronological order, and ensure that each paragraph builds upon the last one so that the reader can easily follow what you are describing.

Clarity
Use paragraph breaks to divide your narrative into easy-to-read chunks.  If your narrative is long or complex, you could use headings to divide it up. Whether academics or not, human beings deal more easily with several smaller chunks of information rather than one large splurge of text. Ultimately, you want the reader to understand your point without having to work too hard to do so.

A second opinion
If you think there’s a chance your Good Cause claim might not be easily understood, it can be useful to have someone else read it over before you submit.  The SRC Advice Centre team are happy to read over any draft Good Cause claim, so please let us know if you would like help with that.

Good Cause and Long-Term Conditions

The Good Cause process is not designed to make allowances for a long-term or chronic condition.  This is because the University expects students with long-term health conditions to register with the Disability Service so that any reasonable adjustments can be made during the academic year.

However, Good Cause can take account of a sudden worsening or flare-up of a long-term condition, so if this applies to you, you can still claim Good Cause – just ensure you make clear that it is the flare-up that you are citing as Good Cause, rather than simply the underlying condition itself.

Please see this section here for a further discussion on this and contact the Advice Centre for further advice if you need to.

What evidence do I need?

Ideally if the matter relates to a health condition, it would be preferable to submit supporting evidence from a medical professional if you can, but the University recognises that this isn’t always possible.  For other non-medical adverse circumstances, it is helpful to submit something to verify the situation, even if this is just a letter from a family member or other relevant person who was aware of your situation at the time.

Please read over the Senate Good Cause FAQ page for a more detailed discussion of this here. If you are unsure if your evidence is relevant, then please get in touch with the Advice Centre who may be able to advise further.

A lack of evidence is not necessarily a problem during the Covid-19 pandemic

During the pandemic it is accepted that students might find it particularly difficult to obtain supportive evidence and therefore the University asks that you

make reasonable efforts to support your Good Cause claim with evidence, but if you are not able to do so you should still make a claim and give a clear explanation of your circumstances and how they have disrupted your assessment(s).”.

When should I submit my Good Cause Claim?

You must submit no later than 5 working days after the assessment was due or the exam date. It is extremely important to ensure these time limits are followed, however if it was not possible to submit a Good Cause claim within this 5 day period a late Good Cause claim (also known as retrospective Good Cause) may be allowed if you can show a good reason why you didn’t submit in time (for example, you might have been in hospital without access to the MyCampus system).

The reason there are strict time limits is to ensure that grades are not released to students before all Good Cause claims are considered.

If you are making a late request we would advise you to contact your course leader or Head of School to discuss this first rather than just submitting a MyCampus request. As part of a late request, in addition to explaining what your adverse circumstances were, you would also have to explain in detail why it was not possible to submit your claim within the required 5 day period.

Please note, late requests are commonly refused if a student has not provided a strong enough reason for this delay. For further advice on this please contact the SRC Advice Centre.

Good Cause during COVID-19 (academic session 2020-21)

During the academic session of 2020 – 21 the University have confirmed in the Assessment Support Measures that they will be flexible in the requirement to submit supporting evidence, stating:

“students should make reasonable efforts to support their claims with evidence but a lack of evidence will not be a barrier to bringing adverse circumstances to the University’s attention.”

If you are unable to submit any supporting evidence, we would encourage you to ensure your description of your adverse circumstances is detailed enough to provide your School with a full understanding of your situation. Our section above titled “How do I explain my situation” has a number of tips to do this.

Remember, the Good Cause process still only applies to individual assessments, such as course work or exams, rather than the full academic year. When describing your adverse circumstances, you should therefore explain the way you have been affected when trying to complete specific assessments, rather than the impact coronavirus has had on your ability to learn throughout the year.

If your learning over the entire year has been substantially adversely impacted, it might be more beneficial to discuss your situation with your Adviser of Studies or course leader to see what other options (for example, a repeat year) are open to you.

What if my Good Cause claim is refused?

If you submitted a Good Cause claim and it is refused, you may be able to submit an appeal if you have grounds to do so.  For a fuller explanation of appeals and grounds of appeal, please read over the Advice Centre’s academic appeal page. For further assistance with this again please contact the Advice Centre.

However, it’s advisable to check if you can, the reason for the Good Cause refusal.  If the refusal was because the Board of Examiners felt that in fact your performance was not ‘manifestly prejudiced’ (i.e. your work was comparable with your usual standard) then you will not be able to appeal against their academic judgement, and so you might be happier to just accept that result.

More useful information about Good Cause

Senate Office Good Cause FAQs

Advice Centre: Late Submission Penalties

Advice Centre: Exams

Advice Centre: Academic Appeals

University Guide to the Code of Assessment

University Regulations: Incomplete Assessment and Good Cause