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Protected Characteristics

Extenuating Circumstances related to Protected Characteristics

The remedies available to the Examining Board to deal with extenuating circumstances are usually either to give a student an extension to an assessment deadline or a further attempt of any assessments that a student has not passed.  However, other remedies are available to the Examining Board if a student has extenuating circumstances which specifically relate to one of the Protected Characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010.  In this case the Board may exceptionally permit a student to resit a module that they have passed which has been affected by extenuating circumstances that link to a characteristic.

Protected Characteristics

There are nine protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and if you can show that your circumstances are linked to a characteristic then the Board may apply the additional remedies.  The categories defined by the Act are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex (gender)
  • Sexual Orientation

If you believe that you have extenuating circumstances that can be linked to a protected characteristic then you need to include this information on the form and, where available, provide evidence to demonstrate the link.   Therefore, it is important that you complete section 4b of the Extenuating Circumstances Form if you believe it is connected to a protected characteristic and wish this to be considered by the Extenuating Circumstances Group. The Extenuating Circumstances Group will not take this information into account if you do not complete this section of the form as they will not assume you fall within a protected characteristic.  If you are unsure whether your circumstances would link to a protected characteristic, please seek advice from the Students’ Union Advice and Representation Centre, your School Office or Student Support.  

Definition of Extenuating Circumstances

Remember that extenuating circumstances are circumstances which:

  • Have prevented you from performing at your usual level in an Assessment or Examination; and
  • Are severe and exceptional; and
  • Are unforeseen or unavoidable; and
  • Are close in time to the affected assessment or examination.

If you have a long-term health condition that you know about, it will normally only be accepted once as extenuating circumstances as adjustments for students with disabilities should be made via the Specific Provision Regulations.  Specific provision allows the University to put in place reasonable adjustments to put you on a level playing field to other students when taking assessments.  A long-term condition may mean you are eligible for support and you should contact Student Support  as soon as you become aware of a condition and ask them whether you are able to receive support to help you study or take assessments.  The University does not accept repeated extenuating circumstances applications for conditions which are likely to be classed as a disability and where adjustments could have been put in place to support you i.e. where you should have asked for support from the University but you chose not to do so.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: I have dyslexia – could I apply for extenuating circumstances linked to a protected characteristic.

A: Only if you have been diagnosed during the current academic year and there has not been time for the support you need to be put in place.  It  is likely to be classed as a protected characteristic as your circumstances can be linked to the disability characteristic.


Q: I have been assaulted and I am gay, could I apply for extenuating circumstances linked to a protected characteristic?

A: Whilst it is likely that you have extenuating circumstances, the assault needs to be linked to your sexual orientation for it to be classed as a protected characteristic.  This is something the police will do as part of their investigation so if you can provide evidence that the assault was because you were gay or because your attacker thought you were gay then this can be considered as a protected characteristic.  You would need to provide evidence of this from the police report for it to be considered as a protected characteristic.


Q: I want to get married during the exam period – can I?

A: This is not an extenuating circumstance as it is not unforeseen – you planned it (however quickly)! It is irrelevant that it links to the marriage/civil partnership characteristic.

Q I am pregnant and am having problems with morning sickness – is this a protected characteristic.

A Yes, morning sickness can be directly linked to your pregnancy and therefore is likely to be classed as a protected characteristic.  You would need to get a medical note from your midwife or GP to verify that it is morning sickness.


If you would like independent advice regarding any University procedure you can contact the Students’ Union Advice and Representation Centre at or 02920 781410.
More information and advice is available on the right hand side of the page under resources.

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