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Extenuating circumstances

There may be situations in which students find themselves unable to comply with study requirements and obligations for good reasons and through no fault of their own. In such situations, you may have the possibility to ask for an exemption from academic rules by claiming extenuating circumstances.

What are extenuating circumstances

Extenuating circumstances are factors that:

  • adversely impact your academic performance or ability to comply with study requirements;
  • are external and beyond your control;
  • affect you individually and are not general factors that concern large sections of the student population;
  • are unique and do not occur regularly or frequently.

The University can take such factors into consideration and may suspend, delay or dispense with the application of rules or revoke decisions in order to prevent unreasonable hardship or harm or to mitigate the impact of a situation that may potentially have a negative impact on academic performance or progression.

Extenuating circumstances may include:

Circumstances usually not considered as extenuating:

  • Accidents or acute and severe illness, e.g. involving hospitalisation;
  • Diagnosed mental health issues, e.g. clinical depression;
  • Loss or severe illness of a partner, child or close relative, a bereavement that has a major impact on you;
  • Being the victim or a witness of a personal crime or major accident;
  • Being the victim of harassment, discrimination or bullying;
  • Property crime, such as theft or burglary, that has affected you;
  • Exposure to hazardous events or disasters, such as fire or flooding;
  • An unexpected and exceptional loss of financial resources or a deterioration in your financial situation;
  • Unexpected civic or legal obligations (e.g. jury duty or giving evidence in court) or involvement in a lawsuit.
  • Temporary (minor) illness (this may be considered as a reason for a justified absence from an exam);
  • Non-specific anxiety, stress or self-diagnosed psychological issues;
  • Equipment malfunction (e.g. a computer, alarm clock, bicycle, etc.) that you could have prevented;
  • Additional sources of stress resulting from work or child care, unless these are unforeseeable and severe;
  • Personal planning or time management issues;
  • Medical or legal appointments, holiday plans, moving house, weddings or similar events for which you can influence or control the dates;
  • Voluntary service or commitments, including sports activities and events.

How to request extenuating circumstances

To claim extenuating circumstances, you must write a letter in one of the official languages of the University (EN/FR/DE) in which you outline the situation in which you find yourself and how it has affected or is affecting your studies. The letter should enable the University to understand whether the conditions described above are met. The letter should be sent to the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs.

The letter must contain the following information:

  • Your full name, contact details, and student ID number;
  • Your study programme;
  • Reference to the rule or decision from which you wish to be exempted;
  • Documented evidence of the motivation for the request.

You must submit your request within fifteen (15) days of the occurrence or onset of the circumstances that you put forward as the reasons for your request. The University may decide to accept requests submitted after this deadline if the reason for the delay is related to the circumstances described (e.g. if you were in hospital and unable to write the letter).

Reasons for which the University may reject your request include the following:

  • Late submission;
  • You have not stated any valid reasons for your request or the request lacks evidence;
  • You refer to circumstances that you could have prevented or to consequences of such circumstances that you could have avoided;
  • There are more appropriate channels or instruments for your request, e.g. an appeal, a leave of absence or a justified absence from an exam.

About the procedure

On receipt of your request, the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs will assess whether it is admissible and whether the situation you describe qualifies as extenuating circumstances. If so, the University will decide on the appropriate exemption or action to be taken. Your request will be treated confidentially and will only be shared with the people responsible for or affected by the decision.

The University will inform you of its decision by email or registered letter. We undertake to process all requests within thirty (30) days of receipt.

Advice and support

The University encourages students affected by exceptional circumstances to contact Student Services. The team can support you as you cope with the situation, help you understand whether your situation may qualify as extenuating circumstances and help you prepare your request.

Useful Documents

Requests for exemptions claiming extenuating circumstances (PDF)