Fitness for study

fitness for study procedures at UEA

Sometimes a student’s wellbeing can affect their academic studies. If lack of attendance and engagement or general behaviour gives rise to concerns for a student’s wellbeing the university has a process, called Fitness for Study, to provide the support needed to continue with your course. Although it can feel daunting this process is intended to be supportive and should be seen as a way of the university helping you to get you back on track, and not a disciplinary process  

If your attendance and engagement with your studies or your wellbeing is flagged up as, a concern by the university (UEA General Regulation 13) this process can be started to discuss those concerns with you and put an action plan into place to support you.  These action plans are monitored, and often nothing else is needed, but if problems continue, or become more serious, the process can be escalated, and urgent action may have to be taken if there is a serious or immediate risk to you or other people.

If you are on a professional course, UEA may need to follow regulations about fitness to practice  (Regulation 14 of the UEA General Regulations for Students)instead of the fitness to study process where there have been concerns about you, or a fitness for study meeting may lead to a referral to fitness to practice..

Initial and minor concerns. (Level 1)

Any UEA staff member can make a report about a student’s behaviour, physical or emotional health, breaches of health and safety procedures or failure to engage in effective study without an explanation.

If someone is concerned about you, they will normally contact your adviser (or your primary supervisor if you are a research student)

What happens next?

After making some initial enquiries, if your adviser thinks that there are concerns that need addressing, but not so serious that this situation should be considered at a higher level, they will email to ask you to come to a meeting to discuss the issue.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. Make sure you arrange to go, and if you are at all worried, come and talk to us.

You will get at least five days’ notice of the meeting.  

One of our advice(su) advice workers can attend this meeting if you wish or you could ask a friend or a relative. Whoever you ask, it’s important to choose someone who will be able to stay calm and support you. You should let your advisor know who it will be at least two days in advance.

If you can’t make the suggested time it’s important to contact your adviser to explain and to rearrange it.  If you don’t attend and don’t explain, it could be seen as a disciplinary matter, and the meeting could go ahead without you.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss any underlying causes of the perceived problems, and to identify what help you might benefit from, including adjustments to teaching, research environment or assessment. You might be signposted to UEA student support services (SSS) or the University Medical Service (UMS)

After the meeting

A record will be kept of the meeting and the actions to be taken, and you are entitled to a copy of that. It will stay on your UEA file until you leave. If you don’t agree with the conclusions reached, or how they are recorded, you can ask for them to be reviewed.  If there is a meeting as part of the review. advice(su) can help you to ask for a review, and accompany you to any meeting.

Continued or more serious initial concerns (Level 2)

When the concerns for a student’s wellbeing is more serious and there is clear evidence of

  1. risk of harm to you or others, or
  2. disruption to others or
  3. persistent failure to engage academically or submit work

a more formal Fitness for Study meeting will be called between yourself, your Head of School, and the Head of Wellbeing, or their representatives. If there appear to be health issues, they may take appropriate professional advice (for example from a doctor). Remember, you do not have to go through this process alone. A member of advice(su) or someone else can attend this with you.

You will get an email and letter calling you to the meeting, with at least 5 working days’ notice. The letter should state:

  • What the concerns about you are
  • When and where the meeting will be
  • Who will be at the meeting

It’s important not to ignore an invitation to this sort of meeting. If you can’t make the time and date, contact the person who invited you and explain why. If you don’t attend without good reason, the meeting can go ahead without you, and failure to attend without good reason could be treated as a disciplinary issue. 

At the meeting, those involved will discuss your situation and assess your fitness for study, so it’s important that you are there to contribute and participate. An advice(su) worker can provide you with support and help make sure your voice is heard and that any points you wish to rise are considered by the meeting.

Possible outcomes of the meeting include:

  • Agreement that your problems have been resolved, or will be soon, and no action plan is needed
  • An action plan for you, possibly including a referral to the UEAoccupational health service , UEA Student support services, or an external service
  • Agreement that you will apply to take a break from your studies for a period, which may be subject to conditions such as you undergoing treatment
  • You decide to withdraw from the university

No one at this meeting can insist that you to withdraw or take a break in studies.

You will be sent a record of the meeting and the outcome. The record will be retained while you remain at UEA, You can ask the outcome and the action plan to be reviewed, provided you request this within 5 working days. The faculty dean for your faculty will carry out the review and has the option to hold a meeting with you as part of that. advice(su) can help you to ask for a review, and accompany you to any meeting. On review the action plan can be set aside, confirmed or adjusted.

The Secretary to the initial meeting is responsible for checking that any actions agreed on are followed up, including in some cases arranging a review meeting to assess progress and if necessary produce a revised action plan.

Emergency situations and mandatory action (Level3)

Level 3 Fitness for Study is used where either:

  • The risks to you or others is so significant thatimmediate action is needed or
  • Efforts to resolve issues at level 1 and/or 2 have failed

In those circumstances, a referral will be made by a senior UEA staff member such as your Head of School or the Director of Student Services to a panel of three which will include the Head of Wellbeing, another senior member of UEA academic staff and a person with a medical or other relevant professional qualification.

Within 5 working days this panel will consider the referral and all the action plans and reports leading up to it plus recommendations from those who have previously considered your situation and may impose a compulsory interruption of studies of no more than 12 months if they consider that there is a risk to you if you continue, or that you are unable to continue to engage effectively with study. 

At the end of any compulsory interruption, you will be able to return to study provided the issues leading to it are shown to have been addressed and subject to academic conditions such as repeating a period of study.

If the panel do not think a compulsory interruption is needed, a follow up meeting at level 2 will be held and the process will continue from there.

What can advice(su) do to help?

Throughout the process, we can help you to:

  • Understand the process and the reasons for it
  • Consider your options and the implications of your decisions
  • Present your side of the situation and support you at meetings
  • Challenge decisions which are based on incorrect assumptions or misunderstandings
  • Work through the implications of outcomes of meetings