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Mitigating evidence report shows shortcomings of current procedure

Education Officer Bethan Hunt, and Welfare Officer Rianna Gargiulo have looked at existing procedure

The Union has released a report that outlines key findings from our research into the current mitigating evidence process.

Mitigating evidence claims are submitted by students if they experience sudden, unforeseen and temporary circumstances that hinder their academic ability in assessments.

If a student’s claim is successful, they may be able to re-sit an exam or re-submit an assessment without a cap being applied, or a late penalty may be removed.

Research was conducted between November and December 2014 and involved an IT Workshop, focus groups and an online survey.

The report evaluates the availability and clarity of information on mitigating evidence and outlines student’s perception of the process after they have used it.

It also provides recommendations for improvement that, if implemented, will ensure that the process is able to fully support students and has their best interests at heart.

Report key findings:

  • Students are split in their experience of the mitigating evidence process. Although our survey found that 48% of respondents had a good experience when submitting a claim, 52% of respondents had a bad experience when they submitted mitigating evidence whilst very ill, stressed or grieving.
  • Mitigating evidence at Sussex has a bad reputation, and is not providing students with the support they need. Research participants described the process as stressful, confusing, complicated, intimidating and laborious, and some respondents did not submit a claim because they heard by word of mouth that the University wouldn't believe them.
  • Generally, students want the mitigating evidence process to be much more personable, and built on a system of trust. Students stated that they felt engulfed by the system, found it difficult to articulate intimate and distressing details on an online form, and were always unsure whether the process they were following was correct.
  • Online information about mitigating evidence is often out-of-date, in a place that is not logical for students to look for help, lacks basic details such as examples of acceptable claims and evidence and often contains language that students do not understand.
  • Broadly, research participants agreed that mitigating evidence would be improved if the University created a department dedicated to processing claims and helping students.

Key recommendations for improvement:

  • The University can ensure that the mitigating evidence process is more personable, compassionate and based on a system of trust by establishing a new department within the Student Life Centre solely responsible for dealing with mitigating evidence claims, and offering particularly distressed students the opportunity to submit in-person claims.
  • The name should be changed from ‘mitigating evidence’ to ‘exceptional circumstances’.
  • Information on mitigating evidence that is available to students needs to be widely reformed.
  • Claim outcomes need to be revised, and better communicated to students.
  • Information on mitigating evidence should be circulated in induction week.
  • Academic advisors need to be trained to support students and informed of the correct referral routes.
  • The Student Support Unit needs to be better advertised to students.
  • The University should consider an alternative form of evidence than death certificates.
  • The University needs to implement a deadline by which they tell the students the outcome of their claims.

Students' Union Welfare and Education Officers, Rianna Gargiulo and Bethan Hunt said:

This is a really important piece of research because it shows exactly why students are dissatisfied with the current mitigating evidence system. We implore the University to act on these recommendations as they are based on best practice within the university sector and Sussex students' own experiences.

View full report »


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