Several students have voiced their anger and dismay regarding Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) no longer counting as evidence for mitigation.
This year the University has given all students four self-certified one week extensions which require no mitigation forms or evidence, and unlimited self-certified extensions for students with ILPs. However, it appears the system has changed when applying for longer-term mitigation, with ILPs no longer standing as evidence alone.
One Humanities student who spoke to Exeposé shared her experiences of the “University’s lack of mental health support specifically in relation to mitigation.”
“I was previously told my ILP was for three weeks of extensions, but this year I’ve been told otherwise. When I reached out to my personal tutor, he said that my college should be supporting my mitigation request but they aren’t for some reason. It took me two weeks to get an extension actually approved which if it hadn’t, I could have failed my specific assignment.”
The student went on to criticise the college’s demands for further proof that their mental health condition had worsened to get an extension longer than a week.
It has been really stressful to have to find proof for my mental health condition when I already have proof.
According to the student, when they reached out to the Wellbeing team, they told them that the “ILP was wrong and that it was miscommunicated,” backing it up by stating that “in first term of my second year I hadn’t used my ILP because I was in a better mental state, as if that was proof.”
In the Teaching Quality Assurance Manual under Annex F, the list of accepted evidence includes “an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) which supports the granting of extensions” for those experiencing a “long term fluctuating health condition / disability.” Under the Equality Act 2010, a mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on your normal day-to-day activity for 12 months or more.
One student experiencing a long term physical health condition was similarly “denied mitigation on the basis I didn’t have supporting evidence despite my ILP. I can’t go to the doctor every time I need an extension.” They noted they would have to pay £25 per letter of support if they wrote one. Similar to other students, they were then recommended to approach Wellbeing to support their application, but were unable to get an appointment in time for their assessment.
“I felt I had to submit a subpar essay because deferral is not a viable option for me. It’s all just a bit convoluted and unfair.” When asked how they would improve the system, they told Exeposé that there should be a “24/7 Wellbeing service available to support students if they insist on all students with ILPs needing evidence.”
Meanwhile, a third year English student spoke about their experience when filling out the mitigation form online. They “ticked the ‘ILP’ box as supporting evidence,” before they received an email back stating “if you need to apply for more than four extensions within this time period […] Please note that all further mitigation applications (including students with ILPs) must be supported with relevant supporting evidence.” The email includes a ten working day period for the evidence that can come “from a medical professional such as a GP or other health specialist” including a member of the University Wellbeing team. Students have expressed concerns that this time period isn’t long enough to get relevant supporting evidence.
This third year student went on to express the response they had to receiving this email from the Mitigation Hub. “It was the tip of the iceberg and led to one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in months.” They also stated that “the most irritating part of this is that the linked ‘check list of approved evidence’ still lists an ‘ILP with extensions supported’ — so they’ve either not bothered to update the website with their new policy or have just pulled this new step out of their arse.” The student had to then email the Wellbeing Hub themselves which required them to complete an attached form which “basically just asks you to confirm you do in fact have an ILP” with further detail also required. This student “ended up copying and pasting phrases directly from my ILP to fill out this evidence box.” Stressing that “this may seem like a trivial bump in the process to some, but […] I was really distressed by the whole process.”
Exeposé was also told by this student that those who have ILPs were never notified that this process had changed and that there would be new rules for mitigation. The English student ended by saying that this new mitigation process “makes life harder for a person trying to use their ILP and the people processing it.” It also “shows a total lack of understanding and empathy when it comes to students with disabilities, especially in regards to mental illness.”
A spokesperson for the University of Exeter said: “Students with ILPs recommending that extension requests should be supported will have no limit to the number of one-week extensions they can have on coursework (within BART) in a 12-month period. If a longer extension is required, such students will be expected to apply via the evidence-based mitigation process, but will be able to reference their ILP as evidence in support of their application and will NOT be required to submit any further evidence. This applies only in those cases where the ILP specifically states that extensions are supported.”
If these issues affect you, you can get in touch with:
0300 555 0225
Bella Enoizi, VP Education