Revealed: The universities that explicitly accept sexual assault as an extenuating circumstance
There’s only four
by Lucy Woodham
In December 2015, Birmingham University edited their extenuating circumstances to include a specific clause regarding sexual assault. The change was introduced after a petition was launched because a student, who was raped on her year abroad, failed the year and was refused extenuating circumstances.
Since Birmingham made the change, Cardiff University also altered their extenuating circumstances to include sexual assault. Students in the Welsh capital and local politicians campaigned for clearer support for those who have been a victim rape or sexual assault when applying for extenuating circumstances.
As part of a babe investigation we contacted 52 UK universities. We asked whether they included sexual assault as a specific guideline in their extenuating circumstances. 16 replied.
There’s no doubt universities consider sexual assault a valid reason for not attending exams or missing coursework deadlines. All universities have a “victim of serious crime” clause, or similar, in which they emphasise sexual assault would qualify.
However, only a quarter of the universities that responded to babe’s investigation specifically mentioned sexual assault for the same reasons as Cardiff and Birmingham.
Here are the universities that have and haven’t taken the extra steps to include specific guidelines in support for victims of serious sexual assault.
The University of Aberdeen does not have a prescriptive list for what is considered extenuating circumstances, as each case is dealt with on an individual basis. However, a spokesperson said, “cases of sexual assault would be considered an extenuating circumstance by the University.”
Aston University provide a few examples of what counts as an extenuating circumstance, but does not specify sexual assault in this list of examples. The uni commented: “It is deliberately not an exhaustive list as we allow for students to make their case”, adding: “if a student reported something as serious as a sexual assault it is quite clearly a strong possibility that the student would be considered to have exceptional circumstances.”
Birmingham gives specific examples to what would be considered an extenuating circumstance. Alongside accidents, death of a family member or family crisis is “sexual harassment/assault or other assault”.
Sexual assault is not specified in the university regulations, but is cited in the guidance for Mitigating Circumstances Panels.
A spokesperson for Brookes said: “The University made the conscious decision not to list sexual assault, or any other potential example of mitigating circumstances, specifically in the regulations. This is because the University believes that the regulations should reflect a very broad range of circumstances; from physical or mental illness, through family and other personal difficulties, to the impact of work on students’ studies. It is felt that over prescription on regulations is unhelpful as it can never encompass all possible examples and can therefore become restrictive.”
In January 2016 the University was asked to specifically identify sexual assault as an example of an extenuating circumstance and the specific published guidance was updated to reflect this. Their guidance leaflet states “being a victim of a serious crime, including assault, sexual assault, rape, burglary”.
Durham University said they consider sexual assault an extenuating circumstance within their “Serious Adverse Circumstance (SAC) under our SAC policy”, but do not specify it as an example.
King’s College London
KCL consider sexual assault to fall under “the existing categories ‘Victim of Crime’ or ‘Acute Personal difficulties’”, but do not have a specific guideline within those categories. A spokesperson emphasised “there is also dedicated support for students who have experienced rape or sexual assault.”
A spokesperson told babe Liverpool University “gives examples of the types of circumstances that would be considered which include being a victim of a crime”, however “sexual assault is not explicitly included in the policy”.
Loughborough University said they “would view sexual assault as a very serious matter”, but have decided not to list possible examples in their guidelines.
Newcastle do not have include sexual assault in their guidelines and consider extenuating circumstances on an individual basis. However, they did add, “under our policy, sexual assault could be considered an extenuating circumstance.”
Royal Holloway emphasised that sexual assault would count as a valid reason under their “victims of any serious crime” policy, however the university does not give specific examples, such as sexual assault because they “do not want to discourage students from submitting requests if they feel they do not meet those examples, rather than the more generalised definition in the policy”.
Sheffield specifically uses “sexual harassment/assault or other assault” as an example in what would qualify as an extenuating circumstance at the university.
Sussex don’t use sexual assault as a specific example in their extenuating circumstances. A spokesperson told babe students “make a claim” if their performance is to be affected by “sudden and unforeseen circumstances”, further adding “sexual assault would be included within that definition”.
UCL specifically use examples “sexual assault” and “rape” in their extenuating circumstances.
A spokesperson for Warwick University told babe sexual assault would “clearly” be included in “Bullying, harassment, victimisation or threatening behaviour” guidelines.
York have include “victim of serious crime” in their guidelines, but do not specify. A spokesperson told babe: “Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes. The University of York’s mitigating circumstances policy makes specific provision for students who are victims of serious crimes.”