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University and mitigating circumstances

(20 Posts)
SeriousCreativeBlock Thu 11-May-17 12:27:15

Posting here for traffic.
This is possibly outing but I don't really care at this point.
I'm a finalist at university. I have encountered all sorts of difficulties throughout my studies, including diagnosis of an autoimmune condition, mental health issues, and childcare for my 4.5 year old DD (not yet in school). Still, I have persevered.
Last year was particularly difficult. My (now ex) dp was physically, emotionally, and financially abusive. He broke 3 of my laptops within the space of a year. This obviously affected my course. I informed my personal tutor of my problems, as my grades were bad, and did not reflect the quality of work of which I am generally capable. I can usually achieve high 2:1s or even 1sts. I was hoping to resit some coursework. She said verbatim "you can appeal, but I will not support you." I took that to mean there was nothing I could do.
This month, I experienced a break down. I had ignored my mental health for so long and worked myself so hard that I completely burnt out. I had terrible panic attacks. I wasn't sleeping or eating. I kept crying. This happened to coincide with an exam. An oral. I informed my tutor of my recent breakdown and she was as unsupportive as ever. She has never liked me, possibly due to the fact that the department has had to make adjustments for my study. I get the feeling from her emails and the fact she says that I've provided an "inconsistent storyline" about my illnesses (which, by their very nature, are unpredictable and inconsistent) that she does not believe me. She also said after my latest email that my degree classification is going to be lower than it should be, due to last year. She asked why i hadn't appealed. I didn't appeal because she said she wouldn't support me!

I would like to apply for mitigating circumstances, but when I read the guidelines on the process, it appeared that there needs to be some involvement from my personal tutor.

What should I do? I don't want to have to involve my PT, as she has already proven herself to be unsupportive and part of my application for mitigating circumstances will include her terrible guidance.

I hope that all makes sense. Please be kind, I'm having a very difficult time at the moment.

Whynotnowbaby Thu 11-May-17 12:31:05

There will be someone at your uni responsible for student welfare. You need to find out who that is (probably through student services) and speak to them urgently. Explain everything you have here and ask for advice about what to do next.

LordRothermereBlackshirtCunt Thu 11-May-17 12:33:35

Sorry, I only have time to reply quickly, but will try to come back later.

You should ask to change your personal tutor, citing a poor relationship with her. Is there a senior tutor in your department? Speak to them, if you can, or else to your Head of Department. My department allows students to change personal tutor, no questions asked.

I'd also advise you strongly against turning up for exams if you are ill. If you can't sit the exam due to illness, you will have the right to resit. You generally don't if you turn up but fail / perform badly.

HelloPossums Thu 11-May-17 12:34:49

OP I'm so sorry to hear about what you're going through flowers I second what Why mentioned above.

It's really difficult to be in the position of having an unsupportive tutor, so if I were you, I would contact someone involved in student welfare at your university as soon as possible and let them know about everything that's happened.

nelipotter Thu 11-May-17 12:36:59

Yep, it also helps to enrol in the free guidance counselor sessions too, so it can be seen you are seeking support for your mental health. And it might help with your mental health too. flowers
But yes, start talking to people, and start going higher. There are boards especially to deal with difficult scenarios, including if staff were unsupportive of extenuating circumstances.

However, bad advice or no, there are limits on appeals. But give it your best shot. Hope your ex is out of the picture now.

I know its been a rough year, but you are going to have to chin up and get the degree you deserve. There is a brighter future. hang in there.

Roomster101 Thu 11-May-17 12:39:44

I agree that you should contact student welfare. My understanding is that if you sit an exam you are saying that you are well enough to do it. If you are not you shouldn't do the exam.

passthewineplz Thu 11-May-17 12:42:45

You need to provide evidence to support your claim, such as a GP or hospital letter.

Speak to your GP or hospital consultant if your under one, and ask them if they can write you a letter to support your extenuating circumstances.

Or if you've not sat the exam/submitted the assignment yet, complete an extension form and also include a GP/hospital letter.

MuggaTea Thu 11-May-17 12:42:56

you should be able to speak to someone other that your personal tutor. There should be a academic lead for the year for example.

Are there senior advisors or a student office you can enquire at?

At my department, the student office are brilliant in letting students know what avenues of help are available to you.

passthewineplz Thu 11-May-17 12:43:40

Also, try and arrange some counselling through university and speak to student welfare for further support.

nerdsville Thu 11-May-17 12:55:44

I had a breakdown at uni and my personal tutor (head of dept) was completely unsupportive which massively added to my anxiety. I happened to go and see another department tutor about the assignment for her specific module and ended up pouring my heart out to her, and she was absolutely amazing to me.

She sorted out my mitigating circumstances, got all of the penalties waived on assignments for late submission, gave me so much support and (after she found me crying outside an exam hall because I couldn't face going into the room) arranged for me to sit all future exams in special circumstances so it was small rooms of 4 or 5 people instead of a vast, overwhelming crowd.

Once she started helping me she just sort of became my de facto personal tutor and I never bothered seeing my actual personal tutor - no one ever questioned this at all. That woman saved my life and I often think of her, it's now 10 years later.

So my advice is, pick your most supportive tutor, go and see them and tell them your whole situation and ask them to help. There are some absolutely amazing tutors out there so don't stick with one that's hurting you just because that's who you got allocated. Find someone who wants to help you achieve your potential and together you will be able to find ways to navigate the uni processes in a way that you can manage despite your health issues.

SeriousCreativeBlock Thu 11-May-17 12:57:11

Thank you for your replies. I have been in touch with the student mental wellbeing team for some years now, and I actually had an appointment today where I explained everything that was going on. They were very helpful, and gave me some coping strategies for my anxiety attacks. They also have documentation of my history of mental illness, and I have signed a form to say that they can share my information with the department.
I'm still feeling very anxious, even more so at going higher, but I'm now fighting for my education. I definitely need a way around my PT though as I cannot go on confiding in her, only to have her be so dismissive. She also shares, without consent, details of my illness with senior members of staff. Is this okay? I wasn't sure.

I now have an email for the student welfare officer at my university, so will shoot her an email now.

Also, my GP has said that he will provide a supporting note for a charge, but wouldn't at that time (last friday), as he told me to just send in a photocopy of my prescription for anti depressants! I'll have to go back and get one now.

hotbrandy Thu 11-May-17 12:58:41

I'm a postgrad student and I've made use of mitigating circumstances a lot throughout my studies, as I have disabilities and MH issues. The key thing is to get evidence on paper of your difficulties, and to fully understand the process and regulations. I don't think your tutor will have that much influence on a personal level as there will be a panel that decides overall - university policies differ, but I've never had to involve my tutor very much. And if you have strong evidence like letters from a doctor, therapist or DV worker then even if your tutor doesn't support you, it shouldn't matter too much. If you don't have strong evidence it will be much harder though, because they are used to students trying it on and fabricating/exaggerating circumstances to excuse them from lack of revision.

The student union might be able to help, and your university should have an advice centre. There might be a particular point of support for disabled students, which you can use as you have MH difficulties.

I've had coursework extensions, permissions for resits (with uncapped marks) and permission to repeat a year at various times due to mitigating circumstances. It is harder to get them to actually change any marks for work you have done. I agree with a pp regarding not sitting exams if you're not up to it (and can get medical evidence). One year I just didn't turn up to any exams due to severe MH issues and I was able to resit them three months later without any penalties. But make sure you check with the student advice service exactly what the consequences would be - universities have different policies.

SeriousCreativeBlock Thu 11-May-17 12:59:07

@nerdsville thank you so much for sharing that with me! It's given me some hope. I do have some amazing tutors that are aware of my circumstances, much more understanding, and know the quality of work I can produce! I never thought of bypassing her in favour of a different tutor. Thank you!

LadySalmakia Thu 11-May-17 13:08:18

Please go and talk to your Students' Union immediately. This is exactly the sort of thing they are there for, there should be a welfare officer. Mitigating circumstances are A LOT harder to get than most people are aware of but that's not to say that there isn't something here that could be done and your own SU will be best placed to help you to get the university to listen to you.

WhoisthisHans Thu 11-May-17 13:15:14

It depends what you want your mitigation to do. Extenuating circumstances at university were really difficult with me.
My dad died weeks after diagnosis, during my first third exam. I was running on some kind of PTSD blur and managed to sit the next 3 and finish the year.
I informed university and my two options were either to withdraw my exam submissions and retake the exams next year, or accept the exams that I had taken. There was no middle ground, and no way that they could consider my circumstances whilst marking my exams. It was very very unlike a levels and GCSEs, where I remember you were automatically added a percentage on where there were personal extenuating circumstances.
I had a job lined up and didn't want to sit around for a year, so I let them mark the exams I had taken. Thankfully I got a 2:1, but on all my job applications and my CV I still go out of my way to highlight to prospective employers that extenuating circumstances effect my third exams and they can enquire for further information.

nerdsville Thu 11-May-17 13:15:54

Completely agree with hotbrandy and pp's re not sitting exams if not up to it - I wasn't up to any of my exams one year and sat them all in the summer resit session. Also took a year out at one point. It's better to wait and take the exam when you're capable of performing rather than struggling through, scraping a 42 and then trying to get a resit once you've already got a grade on paper.

I got so anxious and upset at the time about having to extend my studies but looking back now I can see that it's so much better to take the time to get well and be able to do yourself proud rather than force yourself through it as quickly as poss and end up with a grade that doesn't reflect your true ability.

SeriousCreativeBlock Thu 11-May-17 13:49:20

I've now emailed the welfare officer so hoping she gets back to me soon. I've told her everything that I've put in this post.
I'm going to have to consider whether I'm actually well enough to take my exams now. It's not looking great at the moment.

mumeeee Thu 11-May-17 22:08:13

DD3 had a break down last year in her final term both due to her learning difficulties and Mental health problems. Her tutor was really supportive told her to hand in what she had done of the assignments and apply for mitigating circumstances. He wrote a letter of support for her. She got evidence of her Mental health problems from her G P and also spoke to her disability advisor. The outcome was she was granted mitigating circumstances had a break from university for a few months and went back in January to do the failed module which she is being allowed to do as first attempt due to the mitigating circumstances. She will hopefully finish in a few weeks

MuggaTea Fri 19-May-17 10:07:02

Hi @SeriousCreativeBlock
how did you get on talking to the welfare officer and the more friendly tutors?

ittybittybobbityboo Fri 19-May-17 10:31:18

I relied on mitigating circumstances myself due to some issues that arose in the final month or so of university, and wasn't even given the option to involve any tutor. I had to provide evidence to support my claim, which was made up almost entirely of documents, with one short letter from a nurse backing me up. The whole process was very simple and you don't need any help or assistance from your wholly unhelpful tutor. Ensure you have visited some health professionals during this time, and then you can ask for evidence of appointments and possible a small statement from them.

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