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Fitness to Study Policy

Last updated: August 2022. Review date: August 2023

About the Policy 
As a student, your wellbeing is important to us and we have a duty of care to ensure that you are safely, independently and successfully able participate in academic study and everyday life as a student at the University.

St Mary’s University is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in all its activities, processes, and culture, under its Public Sector Equality Duties and the Equality Act 2010. Where relevant to the policy, decision-making panels will ensure a reasonable gender balance (with at least one man and one woman) and will actively consider representation of other protected groups.

1. Introduction

1.1 This procedure sets out the formal steps which will be taken by the University when there is concern that your behaviour or health is seriously disrupting your academic progress, your welfare or that of other members of the University community, or has the potential to do so.

1.2 Any action taken under this procedure will be limited to that which is necessary and proportionate to protect your interests and those around you within the St Mary’s University community.

1.3 The Fitness to Study procedure is intended to be supportive and implemented in an open, transparent, consistent and sensitive manner, with minimum disadvantage and distress caused.

2. Application

2.1 This procedure applies if you are a University student who:

  • is registered/enrolled on a full-time or part-time programme;
  • is on a professional placement off-campus;
  • is on a leave of absence;
  • is an applicant and yet to enrol, but where concerns have arisen during pre-enrolment.

3. Ownership

3.1 The Vice Chancellor has the overall responsibility for this procedure, but has delegated day-to-day responsibility for overseeing its implementation to the Provost, the Head of Registry Services and the Head of Student Services, along with their respective nominated deputies.

3.2 Any member of St Mary’s staff may initiate this procedure. You may also initiate this procedure if you have concerns about your fitness to study.

4. Alignment

4.1 Should several policies apply to you concurrently, the University reserves the right to assess your circumstances and, acting according to its duty of care, suspend one procedure until the outcome of another is complete, or decide not to pursue one procedure in favour of the other. You will be notified of this in writing.

4.2  This Policy is not intended to deal with;

a) Disciplinary cases

b) Issues solely related to a student’s academic performance

c) Routine cases of non-attendance

d) Extenuating Circumstances

e) Fitness to Practise issues on professional programmes of study, which takes precedence over Fitness to Study.

5. Scope and Purpose

5.1 Your fitness to study may be brought into question as a result of a wide range of circumstances, which include but are not restricted to:

i. Where your ability to independently and successfully participate in academic study and everyday life as a student at St Mary’s University is in question, including living in halls of residence.

ii. Where your health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is considered a significant risk to you, other students, staff or members of the University community and the teaching environment, regardless of whether there is an impact on your academic work or progression.

iii. Where there is doubt that you are unable to manage your own health and safety.

iv. Where your behaviour puts unreasonable demands on University staff or other students.

6. Procedure

6.1 If you are invited to attend a meeting under this procedure, you may be accompanied by a fellow student or a Students’ Union representative. You are not permitted to be represented by a legally qualified solicitor or barrister. You must provide the name and contact details of your chosen companion to the University in good time before the meeting.

6.2 You will be given copies of all documents considered by decision makers under this procedure.

6.3 Staff assigned responsibilities under this procedure include any nominated deputies appointed by the relevant member of staff and/or the University.

6.4 Where you are invited to a meeting and do not attend, the meeting may proceed in your absence at the Chair’s discretion, if he/she is satisfied that you received good notice of the date and time of the meeting and are absent without reasonable explanation.

6.5 Any meetings regarding this procedure may proceed in your absence where there is evidence that you cannot effectively engage in the process or this is reasonably considered by the University to be in your best interests. You will be given a reasonable opportunity to submit representations to be considered at the meeting or at the relevant part of it.

7. Immediate Suspension of Studies

7.1 Head of Registry Services or nominee may suspend you from the University with immediate effect where he/she has reasonable belief that you are an immediate danger to yourself or other members of the University, including restrictions to entering campus and on-campus services and facilities, residing in University accommodation and off-campus and placement activities.

7.2 In such cases you will be written to notifying you of your immediate suspension of studies, the duration of which will be between two weeks to two years. The exact duration of your suspension of studies will be confirmed after a meeting with the Wellbeing Service has taken place to establish your fitness to study. Your return to study will be dependent on meeting any conditions set by the University.

8. Level 1 (Informal) – emerging/low-level concerns

8.1 A low-level of intervention is considered when a concern is raised about minor problems relating to your health, wellbeing or conduct (which may be health-related). Concerns at this level will be dealt with by a Personal Tutor, Course Lead, Health and Safety or member of Student Services.

8.2 The Lead Person will identify themselves to you and make you aware of the concerns in order to afford you an opportunity to respond. Any meeting conducted by the Lead Person at this level will be informal and will place an emphasis on supporting and encouraging you to engage with the relevant support services provided by the University.

8.3 The Lead Person may conduct a follow-up meeting with you after you have had sufficient time to engage with any relevant support and/or have had a reasonable time to address the concern.

9. Level 2 Case Conference for continuing/significant concerns

9.1 Level 2 intervention will usually be considered if:

  • Low-level intervention has not resolved the concern;
  • The concern raised is too serious to be dealt with informally; or
  • If you refuse to engage with the low-level intervention and the concern persists.

9.2 The concern should be referred to the Wellbeing Service who will convene and lead the case conference. The case conference will usually be attended by the Lead Person (where Level 1 intervention occurred) and by other relevant academic and support staff (e.g. personal tutor, programme director, accommodation staff).

9.3 In cases deemed serious by the Wellbeing Service, the Panel will usually include;

  • Provost or Head of Registry Services as Chair
  • a member of the Wellbeing Service and/or your Programme Director. 
  • Other relevant members of University staff may also be included in the panel (e.g. Mental Health Advisor where there are concerns about your mental health, Accommodation Manager when the concerns arise in the context of the University’s halls of residence).

9.4 You have the right to be accompanied by a fellow student, a friend or an officer of the Students' Union (e.g. Sabbatical officer or a member of the Students' Union Executive Committee or Council). The friend may not be a lawyer acting in a professional capacity.

9.5 The emphasis of the case conference will be to provide you with appropriate support and to agree outcomes.

10. Prior to the case conference

10.1 You will be notified that a case conference will be held. Any such notification will be sent from a member of the Wellbeing Service usually at least two working days before the case conference (although the University will where reasonably possible provide longer notice).

10.2 You may be invited to submit documents for consideration and will normally be given copies of the documents seen by those at the case conference (usually at least 2 days in advance of the case conference).

10.3 Notice of the case conference will generally include the following information:

  • The purpose of the case conference and the nature of concerns;
  • A copy of the Fitness to Study Policy;
  • Advice on whether you need to provide any specific documents including medical evidence;
  • Your right to be accompanied by a companion;
  • Date, time and venue of the case conference and a request to confirm that you can attend. 

11. During the case conference

11.1 The Chair of the case conference will decide how the meeting will be conducted and will ensure in particular that your views are heard. 

12. Outcomes

12.1 The possible outcomes may include one or more of the following, applied simultaneously:

i. To impose a mandatory suspension of studies and identify its duration.

ii. To recommend a voluntary suspension of studies in accordance with the University Leave of Absence procedure.

iii. To implement a support plan, which should detail any steps that you will need to take and any support to be provided by the University.

iv. Where the option is available, and with your consent, to recommend a transfer to an alternative mode of study, for example part-time or distance learning. Any such arrangements may need to be agreed with the relevant Faculty/Department before they can be implemented.

v. No formal action is required.

12.2 An administrator to the Panel will take notes at the meeting and you will be informed in writing of the outcome normally within 5 working days.

12.3 You will also be informed of your right to request a Review of decisions made at Level 2.

13. Return to Study

13.1 You are encouraged to maintain contact with the Student Wellbeing Team during your suspension of studies in order for them to advise of your progress and to facilitate a return to study when you are considered by the University to be well enough to do so.

13.2 The Head of Registry Services will write to you in advance of your expected return date. This letter will be copied to the Student Wellbeing Service who will contact you to provide support in relation to a potential return to study.

13.3 In order to return to the University following a suspension of studies on the grounds of fitness to study, you will be required to submit satisfactory evidence that you are fit to return. The evidence provided must include an up-to-date medical report, usually from an appropriate independent health professional with sufficient knowledge of your health, highlighting any potential impact on your return to study.

13.4 You will be invited to attend a meeting with a member of the Student Wellbeing Service, which will consider whether you are fit to return to your studies.

13.5 You have the right to be accompanied by a fellow student, a friend or an officer of the Students' Union (e.g. Sabbatical officer or a member of the Students' Union Executive Committee or Council). The friend may not be a lawyer acting in a professional capacity.

13.6 If your suspension of studies has been protracted, you may not be able to return to the same or similar programme, as the passage of time may have required the programme to be discontinued or significantly modified. The University will take reasonable steps to keep you informed of any changes during your absence.

13.7 Upon your return to study the University will ensure a support programme is in place with your School and other University supports services as necessary.

13.8 If you are unable to provide satisfactory evidence that you are fit to return following a suspension of studies on the grounds of fitness to study and following a Level 2 Case Conference, the University may, in exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Vice Chancellor, formally terminate your studies.

14. Review of the Decision of Panel

14.1 You may request a review of a decision made regarding your fitness to study, or of your return to study, which will be considered by the Provost.

14.2 A request for a review should be submitted in writing to registryservices@stmarys.ac.uk within 10 working days of the date of the letter advising you the outcome of the case conference, or of the decision around your return to study. The request should clearly set out the basis on which the review request is made, and be submittted together with any supporting evidence.

14.3  The grounds for a Review are:

(a)   That there is new evidence/information that, for good reason, was not made available to the Panel at the relevant time.

(b)   That there was a procedural irregularity e.g. bias, failure to comply with the procedure, which had an adverse effect on the outcome.

(c)   The outcome was unreasonable and/or disproportionate to the evidence made available to the Panel.

15. Data Protection

15.1 All information provided and reviewed in relation to fitness to study cases will be treated as confidential and only staff directly involved in the procedure or on a need to know basis will be given access.

15.2 The University will collect data on fitness to study outcomes at each stage of this procedure; however any data reporting will be anonymised.

15.3 Your personal data and sensitive/special categories of personal data, as defined by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as relevant, may be disclosed to the University’s staff and regulators for the sole purpose of dealing with your matter under this procedure, or a complaint arising out of it.

15.4 Personal Data will not be shared with any other third parties unless the University has obtained your consent, has a statutory obligation to do so, or is otherwise permitted to do so under the GDPR.

16. Support

16.1 You are encouraged to seek advice and support regarding this procedure from St Mary’s University Students Union, located in room 11 of the K Building: 0208 240 2377, smsu@stmarys.ac.uk.

You are encouraged to take up any appropriate support available to you from the University Wellbeing Service, located in the Student Services Centre on the 2nd Floor of J Building (above the Students Union): 0208 240 4353, wellbeing@stmarys.ac.uk.

16.3 In an emergency situation where it is believed that a student’s health or wellbeing presents an immediate risk to themselves or others, please call the appropriate Emergency Services: 999 (and inform the University on 0208 240 4000) or the University’s 24hr security number: 0207 240 4335 (who will call 999).

If appropriate, the Fitness to Study Policy can be used after the emergency situation has been responded to.

16.4 Other key University Services available during working hours are;

Appendix A: Procedural Ownership & External Contacts

In an emergency

 

In an emergency situation where it is believed that a student’s health or wellbeing presents an immediate risk to themselves or others, please call the appropriate Emergency Services: 999 (and inform the University on 0208 240 4000) or the University’s 24hr security number: 0207 240 4335 (who will call 999).

 

If appropriate, the Fitness to Study Policy can be used after the emergency situation has been responded to. 

External Support Services

 

Accident and Emergency West Middlesex University Hospital

Twickenham Road, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 6AF

0208 560 2121

 

Accident and Emergency Kingston Hospital NHS Trust

Galsworthy Road, Kingston Upon Thames KT2 7QB

0208 546 7711

 

Both Open 24 hours, In the event of an Emergency, dial 999

 

Police

41 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3ST

Telephone 101 (if not an emergency)

 

General Practitioners;

Students are strongly encouraged to register with a local GP. There is the St Mary's Health Centre on the main Campus-in the D building off the rear car park-which is a branch surgery of the York Medical Practice in Twickenham and offers a nurse-led health service.

 

A health professional is available on campus weekday mornings during term time. Outside of these times, students can access The York Medical Practice in Twickenham.

 

Or, if you live off campus, you can find the nearest GP online by visiting the National Health Service (NHS) choices website at www.nhs.uk and use the appropriate postcode to search for a GP.

 

Specialist Services

Richmond Wellbeing Service

Richmond Wellbeing Service offer a range of free and confidential talking therapies and support. You can self-refer to this service.

 

Richmond Royal Hospital, Kew Foot Road, Richmond Upon Thames TW9 2TE

0208 548 5550 / www.richmondwellbeingservice.nhs.uk

 

NHS 111 Service

NHS 111 Service is the NHS non-emergency number. It is fast, easy and free. You can speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by health care professionals. They will ask you a series of questions to assess your symptoms and immediately direct you to the best medical care for you. The service is available 24hours a day, 356 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.

 

111 / www.nhs.uk/111

 

The Samaritans

The Samaritans is a confidential emotional support service available 24 hours a day for people who are expiring feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide.

 

116 123 / Jo@samaritans.org / www.samaritans.org

 

Mind info Line

Mind Info Line provides information on a range of topics including types of mental health problems, where to get help, medication and alternative treatments and advocacy. They will look for help and support in your area. The lines are open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays).

 

0300 123 3393 / Text: 86463 / info@mind.org.uk / www.mind.org.uk

 

SANEline

SANEline is a national out of hours telephone helpline offering emotional support and information for people affected by mental health problems.

 

1st Floor, Cityside House, 40 Adler Street, London E1 1EE

0845 767 8000 (12 noon to 2 am) / info@sane.org.uk / www.sane.org.uk

 

CALM

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) seeks to prevent male suicide by offering support, via its helpline and website, to men in the UK, of any age, who are down or in crisis.

 

0808 802 58 58 (London) and 0800 58 58 58 (Nationwide) 5pm-midnight / www.thecalmzone.net (There is also a webchat option on the website).

 

Local and low cost counselling services

Off the Record Twickenham

Off the Record is a charity that offers counselling and sexual health walk in clinic. If you are aged 11 to 24 who lives, studies, or works in Richmond borough, then you can use these confidential services.

 

Everything is FREE, however they may ask for a donation for counselling if you are over 18 and in work.

2 Church Street, Twickenham, TW1 3NJ

020 8744 1644 / info@otrtwickenham.com / www.otrtwickenham.com

 

Low Cost Counselling London

Low Cost Counselling London provides low cost, quality counselling and psychotherapy in Richmond, Twickenham and throughout West London. Typically the cost for this service will range from £8.00 to £25.00 per 55 minute session.

 

The service is open from 09.00 am to 10.00 pm Monday to Friday and 09.00 am to 05.00 pm on Saturday.

40 Lambert Ave, Richmond TW9 4QR

 

0208 241 8245 / info@lowcost-counselling.com / www.lowcost-counselling.com

 

Process ownership
This list identifies the ownership of each stage of the Fitness of Study Process;
  • Fitness to Study Policy - Vice Chancellor (or designated authority)
  • Implementation oversight - Head of Registry Services
  • Referral of student to Fitness to Study policy - any member of St Mary's University staff/ Student (self-referral)
  • Applying a mandatory suspension of studies - Head of Registry Services
  • Advising on duration of suspension of studies and conditions to enable a return to study - Wellbeing Service
  • Level 1 intervention + Lead - Personal Tutor, Course Lead, Health and Safety or member of Student Services.
  • Level 2 intervention + Lead - Wellbeing Service
  • Case Conference - Personal Tutor, Course Lead, Health and Safety or member of Student Services or Provost / Head of Registry Services in more serious cases
  • Return to Study - Head of Registry Services
  • Review of decision to return to study - Provost