Policy Academic Governance Student Special Circumstances Policy

Student Special Circumstances Policy

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This policy sets out James Cook University’s (the University) approach to the provision of:

  • equity measures to address unforeseen (i.e., unexpected, unusual or uncommon) events and experiences that negatively impact on engagement in learning activity or assessment performance; and
  • a framework for ensuring equity measures approved under this Policy are transparent, fair, and supported by evidence.

This procedure addresses HESF Standard 2.2: Diversity and Equity, and 2.3: Wellbeing and Safety.


This policy applies to students enrolled in coursework subjects at all JCU campuses including JCU Singapore and JCU Brisbane who have an event or experience that meets the definition of Special Circumstances.

This policy does not apply to:

  • students admitted into higher degrees by research, or
  • JCU students enrolled in subjects at other institutions.


Except where otherwise indicated in this procedure, the definitions used in this procedure are found in the Learning Teaching and Assessment Policy, Examinations Procedure or the Policy Glossary.

Special Circumstances are events or experiences that::

  • are advised as part of an approved Access Plan; or
  • where there is no Access Plan:
    • are short-term (a single study period); and
    • are unforeseen (i.e., unexpected, unusual, uncommon, or abnormal) and beyond the student’s control to prevent or overcome; and
    • arise at a time to have a demonstrable impact on a student’s capacity to engage with learning activities and/or complete assessment items (including examinations) or achieve the level of attainment typical of their previous performance in subjects with comparable assessment within the subject.

Special Consideration is the name given to an equity measure that takes into account Special Circumstances that substantially affect a students’ ability to complete an assessment item.

Subject – a discrete portion of a course, identified by a code, title and credit point value.


  • Students are expected to manage their studies in accordance with the requirements of their course of study.
  • Sometimes due to unforeseen events or experiences students are not able to manage academic workload equally across their studies.
  • The University seeks to give all students an equal opportunity to undertake their studies and where unforeseen events, or experiences occur that create obstacles to academic performance the University will where possible provide support to allow students to manage their studies
  • Where unforeseen events or experiences change a student’s ability to manage their studies it is the student’s responsibility to seek assistance in planning their progress through their studies


1. Special Circumstances

1.1 Special Circumstances can include, but are not limited to:

1.1.1 Medical and/or psychological events;

1.1.2 Compassionate or emergency events (including but not limited to death of close family members, unexpected financial hardship, trauma, family breakdown, or experiences of crime);

1.1.3 Unscheduled or unexpected religious observance and special cultural and religious considerations;

1.1.4 jury service or court appearances;

1.1.5 SES callouts;

1.1.6 Substantiated issues impacting technology when submitting assessments online or sitting exams online e.g., power outage, loss of internet.

1.2 Circumstances considered to be within the control of a student; or which are to be expected in the normal course of the student's study, work, family, or social life are not Special Circumstances.

1.2.1 Situations that would not be considered Special Circumstances, include but are not limited to:

a. Stress and anxiety normally associated with study;

b. adjusting to the demands of university life or homesickness;

c. personal travel or holiday plans that have made a student unable to attend classes or meet required submission timelines;

d. failure to understand or ask for clarification of key dates or procedures where a student could reasonably be expected to have understood or asked for clarification;

e. inability to obtain release from the student's regular paid employment to undertake or complete the learning activities or assessment

f. misreading or failing to ask for clarification of the examination timetable;

g. An increase in hours or duties of employment which is at the request of the student;

h. social and leisure events and activities including sporting commitments not considered as elite athlete obligations.

1.3 Students who require support due to Defence Force, National Service and Elite Athlete commitments should refer to the Defence Force, National Service and Elite Athlete Friendly University Procedure.

2. Concessions for Special Circumstances

2.1 Concessions may be awarded as a/an:

2.1.1 Adjustment to an assessment or examination as outlined in Clause 3 of this policy; or

2.1.2 Withdrawal from a subject without financial and academic penalty as outlined in Clause 4 of this policy.

2.2 Concessions may not be awarded where there has been a failure to meet one or more of progressive requirements of the subject prior to the Special Circumstances developing and providing an equity measure under Clause 3.3 will not enable the student to reach the appropriate pass result for the subject regardless.

3. Special Consideration

3.1 A student is granted Special Consideration in specified subjects if a student:

3.1.1 makes a valid Special Consideration application in accordance with the Special Consideration Procedure; and

3.1.2 the application meets the conditions of this Policy and the Special Consideration Procedure; and

3.1.3 the Special Consideration equity measure is not noted in the Subject Outline as unavailable as per Clause 3.3.

3.2 Where events or experiences impact a student’s studies for more than one study period and requires the student to seek longer term support with their studies, students  must register with JCU’s AccessAbility Services to discuss options and potentially develop an Access Plan under the Student Disability Policy. The Access Plan must be used as supporting evidence for Special Consideration applications.

3.3 Available equity measures for an approved Special Consideration application are listed in the table below. Where an equity measure in the below table is not available for use within a subject this will be detailed in the subject outline with the justification for why it is not available.

Application Type

Available equity measure if application is successful

Extension to due date of an assessment

Revised due date assigned.

Reschedule the start of a On Course assessment or examination item such as oral or practical assessments.

Rescheduling of the assessment or examination item.

Missing one or more compulsory laboratory/practical/class or mandatory attendance requirements including placements.

Alternate laboratory/practical/class/placement/activity or assessment submission assigned.

Special Circumstances impacting preparation and/or prevented sitting the End of Study Period Examination.

Exam deferral

Special Circumstances impacting attendance of a Supplementary or Deferred Examination

Special examination.

Notification of Special Circumstances that occurred during the study period or at the end of the study period that specifically impacted performance or completion of:

  • On Course assessments or examinations; or
  • End of Study Period Examinations

but did not prevent submission or sitting of the assessments or examinations.

The College Assessment Committee will determine any equity measure to be applied during the College Assessment Meeting:

Equity measure may include:

  • Supplementary examination or assessment
  • Special examination or assessment
  • Amendment of final subject result

3.4 Where a student does not have a current Access Plan, unlimited deferred examinations may not be granted over the course of the student’s studies.

4. Withdrawal from Subjects without Financial and Academic Penalty

4.1 A subject withdrawal without financial and academic penalty is granted if a student:

4.1.1 makes a Withdrawal from Subjects without Financial and Academic Penalty application in accordance with the Withdrawal from Subjects without Financial and Academic Penalty Procedure; and

4.1.2 the application meets the conditions of this Policy.

4.2 A student is not eligible to apply for subject withdrawal without financial and academic penalty if they have:

4.2.1 received a passing result for that subject; or

4.2.2 the special circumstances did not make their full impact on the person on or after the census date for the subject in question.

4.3 A successful Withdrawal from Subjects without Financial and Academic Penalty Application will remove any fail grades and associated tuition fees for the approved subject(s) with the subject set to a status of Withdrawn (WD) and reassessment of the student’s Academic Status.

5. Review and Appeal of Special Circumstances Outcome

5.1 A student may request a review and appeal of a decision made under this policy and associated procedures under the Student Review and Appeal Policy.

6. Privacy

6.1 Information provided by students to Staff and the University must be treated in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2009 and Information Privacy Policy.  That information can only be used for the purposes of:

6.1.1 assessing an application under this policy; and/or

6.1.2 referring the students to AccessAbility

Related policy instruments

Special Consideration Procedure

Withdrawal without Academic and Financial Penalty Procedure

Learning, Teaching and Assessment Policy

Learning, Teaching and Assessment Procedure

Student Fee Payments and Refunds Policy

Student Disability AccessAbility Support and Plans Procedure

Information Privacy Policy

Domestic Fee Payments and Refunds Procedure

International Tuition Fee Payments and Refunds Procedure

Charter of Responsibilities for Academic Quality and Governance


Appendix 1 Special Circumstances Supporting Documentation

Related documents and legislation

Higher Education Support Act 2003 (Cth)

Australian Qualifications Framework, 2nd Edition, 2013

Disability Standards for Education 2005

Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld)

Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld)

TEQSA Guidance Note: Diversity and Equity 1.2

TEQSA Higher Education Threshold Standards Framework 2021


NOTE: Printed copies of this policy are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Approval Details

Policy DomainAcademic Governance

Policy Sub-domain

Student Matters

Policy Sponsor

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education

Approval Authority

Academic Board

Date for next Major Review


Revision History


Approval date

Implementation date



23-11/07/202303/08/2023Amendments to incorporate the use of an AccessAbility Access Plan as supporting evidence for Special Consideration applications.Deputy Director, Student Services




New policy established.

Deputy Director, Student Services


defer, medical certificate, extension, special exam, supplementary, students, change assessment, change exam, deferred exam., academic penalty, financial penalty

Contact person

Deputy Director, Student Services