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Maddie Colledge

postgraduate education
m.colledge@uea.ac.uk

fighting for self-certified extensions

The university is currently reviewing its policy on self-certified extensions, and I want to make sure students get two per year.

Self-certified extensions are a controversial topic. At the moment, UEA grants each student one extension of five working days per year. For self-certified extensions you don’t have to supply any supporting evidence, meaning that students can use them for things they wouldn’t be granted a longer extension for. This includes things like relatively “minor” illnesses you wouldn’t normally see a doctor about (such as flu), the illness of someone who you’re caring for (children, or a dependent adult), or another unforeseen issue.

The critics of this system argue that it’s simply giving students a ‘free pass’, and that it clogs up the marking progress. Since students can choose to submit later, the work gets marked later, and it gets harder for academics and HUBs to meet the 20-day coursework return target.

But most university staff agree that there needs to be some form of self-certified extension in place, and particular members of staff are incredibly sympathetic to the reasons that students might rely on self-certifications. For students with extra responsibilities – children, caring responsibilities for dependent adults – these extensions are a lifeline.

Though all students might have these responsibilities, they do largely affect postgraduate students. That’s why both Theo (UG Education Officer) and I are on the working group that is reviewing the University’s policy on self-certified extensions. Our stance on this is clear – we believe that the University should allow students two self-certified extensions per year, which they can use at any point.

We also want the University to open its eyes to the reasons students use self-certified extensions. Though nobody seems to be willing to admit it, it’s quietly accepted that students use self-certified extensions for reasons they’re technically not supposed to.

For example, because they have to work at their part-time job around deadlines, or their computer’s broken, or because their deadlines are bunched together. These point to wider systematic issues that the University is refusing to acknowledge – such as that students can’t afford to not work while studying, or that putting all coursework deadlines on the same day is ridiculous, or that the current guidelines around extensions are unfair.

So, we’re asking that the University allows students two self-certified extensions, and carries out substantial research into the reasons why students need them. These findings should then be used to evaluate the student support systems, and work out how UEA should be better supporting students.

I’d love to know about your thoughts on this. Contact me at m.colledge@uea.ac.uk.

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