Fitness to participate in university life

Introduction

The University is committed to promoting an open and diverse community; we respect the rights and dignity of all and believe in valuing people whatever their background. This is reflected in our values and behaviours and our Equality and Diversity policy.

It is the aim of university to provide an inclusive and supportive response to students who experience illness, or are disabled, to enable them to participate in university life and fulfil their potential. However, the University has a duty of care to respond appropriately where there are substantial concerns relating to a student’s behaviour due to their disability or health condition, and the impact that may have on the individual and/or members of the University community. If it is deemed that the behaviour was not due to their disability or health condition or there is recent medical evidence stating, they are fit to participate in university life the disciplinary procedure may be considered as an alternative process.

This procedure outlines the action that the University will take in such instances, to provide a timely, constructive, and transparent response.

This procedure sets out three levels of intervention which may be appropriate depending on the assessed level of risk to the student’s health and wellbeing, or that of other members of the University community. It is possible to enter the process at any level, progress through some or all levels, or return to a lower-level intervention. Resolution can occur at any level.

The University also has a Student Disciplinary Procedure and there may be occasions where a student comes under both the Fitness to Participate in University Life and Disciplinary procedures at the same time. Depending on individual circumstances of each student case, the University reserves the right either to suspend one procedure until the outcome of the other is complete, or to decide not to pursue one in favour of the other or use Fitness to Participate in University Life procedure if the member of staff believes that the circumstance is because of an illness or disability.

Fitness to study may be brought into question because of a wide range of circumstances. These include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Where the health, wellbeing and/or behaviour of a student means they are unable to participate successfully, and safely in academic study and general University life, on and off campus, placements, field trips, and living in halls of residence
  • Where a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is considered a significant risk, or emerging significant risk, to themselves, other students, staff, or members of the University community, where it is having a significant negative impact on their academic work or progression
  • Where a student’s health, wellbeing and/or behaviour is giving rise to serious cause for concern.
  • Where a student’s health, wellbeing, and/or behaviour places unreasonable demands on staff or other students
  • The student is causing damage to property
  • The student is impacting the reputation of the university

In exceptional circumstances, if any member of staff is concerned about an applicant’s fitness to participate in university life, due to concerns outlined above, this policy can be implemented and may result in deferred entry for applicants. 

Where there is a fitness for professional practice concern, the Professional Conduct and Professional Suitability Policy and Occupational Health procedures must be followed.

1. Procedure

Level 1 – emerging/low level concerns

1.1 If any member of staff is concerned about a student’s fitness to participate in university life, due to their health or disability, they should contact Student Wellbeing Prior to taking any action, the member of staff should inform the student that they will discuss the matter with Student Wellbeing, unless to do so would increase risk or cause the student undue distress. 

1.2 Student Wellbeing will conduct an initial assessment and identify a supportive response appropriate to the level of risk presented. Possible responses include: 

  • to contact the student and offer support
  • to monitor the student’s behaviour and review if any deterioration is detected
  • to advise staff of appropriate action and upon the boundaries to which they must adhere
  • for the staff member to arrange an informal meeting with the student and a member of Student Wellbeing

1.3 The student may bring with them a support person to this meeting, which may be a member of the Union of Students, or other member of the university community.

2. Level 2 – continued significant concerns (Formal)

2.1 Level 2 intervention will usually only be considered if:

  • the student is unable or unwilling to engage in any of the responses outlined above
  • informal intervention has not resolved the concern
  • the concern raised is too serious to be dealt with informally

2.2 The appropriate member of staff from student wellbeing should arrange a formal FITPUL meeting and will chair this. Relevant attendees may include academic and support staff and any staff involved in Level 1 of the procedure. The student should be given the opportunity to bring a representative/friend, or if the student is under 18 years, or under 25 years and has complex learning difficulties, a parent/guardian or appropriate adult. The student should be informed of the representation that the Union of Students can provide. The student will be given 5 working days' notice of the meeting.

2.3 The emphasis of the FITPUL meeting will be to provide the student with appropriate support and, where reasonably possible, to agree outcomes.

2.4 The appropriate member of staff from student wellbeing should contact the student informing them of the date, time, and place of the meeting, its nature, and the issues to be discussed. This information should be provided in writing at least 48 hours prior to the meeting wherever possible unless risk necessitates a more urgent response. For online/distance learners, arrangements should be made to conduct the meeting via telephone / Microsoft Team's audio or video, to give the student the opportunity to participate.

2.5 Student Wellbeing representative should facilitate the meeting as appropriate.

2.6 All issues discussed in the meeting and outcomes should be recorded on the Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan (Appendix 1).

2.7 All persons present should sign the Plan and a copy should be given to the student. Electronic signatures or confirmatory emails are acceptable.

2.8 Confidentiality will be maintained throughout these procedures in line with the Student Wellbeing Confidentiality and Information Sharing Policy:

https://www.derby.ac.uk/about/governance/policies/student-wellbeing-confidentiality-and-information-sharing-policy/ 

2.9 If a student fails to attend the meeting and does not provide good reason for non-attendance the meeting will proceed, and a decision may be taken in their absence.

3. If the student is too ill to attend the meeting 

3.1 A Student Wellbeing representative should contact the student and assess their health in partnership with statutory services as appropriate.

3.2 Appropriate support strategies should be identified with the student and relevant statutory services. 

3.3 The Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan should be completed on an interim basis and a further date arranged to give an opportunity for the student to be present and to have their views heard. 

3.4 The situation should be monitored on an on-going basis and the Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan should be reviewed as a minimum every four weeks, or if the situation deteriorates.

3.5 A decision to suspend a student from their programme or to withdraw a student from the Halls of Residence may be made on completion of the Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan or upon subsequent review (see Suspension from Programme, section 5 and Withdrawal from Halls of Residence, section 7).

3.6 The possible outcomes are:

i) No formal action is required

ii) Implementation of action plan, which should detail any steps the student will need to take, and any support provided by the University

iii) Temporary suspension from Programme and/or withdrawal from halls of residence

iv) Recommendation of an authorised break of study

v) Referral of the case to Level 3 – serious or persistent concern.  

4. Suspension from Programme

4.1 A temporary suspension from programme is a way of managing the potential risk posed by a student while an assessment is on-going. The assessment may be undertaken within the Fitness to Participate in University Life procedures but may also be conducted by external statutory services.

4.2 Whenever possible, the issues of concern should be discussed with the student and their agreement to withdraw/take an authorised break from study should be sought, if appropriate. When such agreement is not forthcoming, Student Wellbeing Service and the College may make a joint decision to suspend the student without their agreement. This decision will be made based on what is in the best interest of the student and the management of any risk to others. 

4.3 Suspension would always be by a Dean unless there was a need to immediately suspend a student for the following reasons: 

  • the student's continued presence represents a threat to themselves or others.
  • the behaviour seriously breaches the regulations or infringes a Code of Conduct.
  • the behaviour compromises the reputation of the University.

4.4 In these instances, a student may also be suspended from the University and/or excluded from any of its facilities, including virtual environments, by a Director/Head of Department or University Manager (this includes Field Trip Supervisors). 

4.5 Such a suspension may be temporary until the student can attend a Fitness to Participate in University Life assessment meeting, or the suspension is the outcome of a Fitness to Participate in University Life assessment meeting. 

4.6 Whenever possible, the student should be informed of the decision to suspend them from study in person, by the relevant Director /Dean/ Head or University Manager, with an appropriate staff member in attendance to provide immediate support. Online/distance learners should be informed by telephone and signposted to appropriate support. The student will be provided with a copy of the Temporary Suspension Form setting out the reasons for the suspension/withdrawal within 3 days of the event. 

4.7 A copy of the form will be logged with the Student Policy and Regulations Manager. 

4.8 The decision to suspend will be reviewed by the Registrar within 10 days of the decision. The student has the right to make written representation to the Registrar or nominee, which will be considered as part of the review. This process will be explained to the student when they are informed of the suspension.

4.9 The outcome of the appeal may include the following: 

i) To continue the suspension without amendment

ii) To continue the suspension with amendment

iii) To end the suspension

 The outcome of the appeal will be confirmed to the student in writing.

5. During Suspension 

5.1 During a period of suspension, the student will not be entitled to attend academic teaching or any associated assessments, and entitlement to access some or all University facilities may be withdrawn. The extent of this will be considered at the point of suspension and will be confirmed on the Temporary Suspension Form. 

5.2 Where possible, subject to the safety and welfare of staff and other students, efforts will be made to minimise disruption to the student’s programme of study. 

5.3 An assessment of whether any outstanding tuition fees or debts should be cancelled, and whether the student should be reimbursed with any outstanding credit, should be carried out. 

5.4 The student should be provided with appropriate support during a temporary suspension or an authorised break from study, which may include liaising with statutory mental health services, parents, GPs, social workers, etc. as appropriate. 

5.5 The student will be suspended from study until they can provide evidence that they are fit to participate in university life (see Returning to Study Following Concerns relating to Fitness to Participate in University Life, section 8).

6. Withdrawal from Halls of Residence

6.1 A suspension or withdrawal is a way of managing the potential risk posed by a student while an assessment is on-going. The assessment may be undertaken within the Fitness to Participate in University Life procedures but may be conducted by external statutory services.

6.2 Whenever possible, the issues of concern should be discussed with the student, and their agreement to leave Halls of Residence, whether temporarily or to end the contract, should be sought if appropriate. When such agreement is not forthcoming, Student Wellbeing and the Halls Customer Service Manager, or their nominee, may make a joint decision that the student is not fit, at that time, to live in halls and may recommend that the student is withdrawn from halls without their agreement. This decision will be made based on what is in the best interest of the student and the management of any risk to others.

6.3 Based on this recommendation the DSRL Operations Director, or their nominee, will withdraw a student from Halls of Residence.

6.4 Such a withdrawal may be temporary until the student can attend a Fitness to Participate in University Life assessment meeting or is the outcome of a Fitness to Participate in University Life assessment meeting.

6.5 Whenever possible, the student should be informed of the decision to withdraw them from Halls of Residence in person, with an appropriate staff member in attendance to provide immediate support. The student will be provided with a copy of the decision in writing within 24 hours of the event, setting out the reasons for the withdrawal, the date by which they must leave Halls of Residence, and information on the appeals procedure.

6.6 The student will be provided with appropriate support to enable the process which may include assistance to find alternative accommodation; liaison with external agencies; or transport to move belongings.

6.7 In the case of a decision to withdraw, it will be reviewed by Student Wellbeing and a member of DSRL Senior Management Team within 10 days of the decision. The student has the right to make written representation to DSRL Operations Director which will be considered as part of the review.

6.8 The outcome of the review may include the following:

 i) To continue the withdrawal without amendment

ii) To continue the withdrawal with amendment

iii) To end the withdrawal

6.9 The outcome of the review will be confirmed to the student in writing.

6.10 In the case of a decision to permanently withdraw, the student’s contract should be terminated on the withdrawal date and the student reimbursed with any outstanding credit. Where appropriate, outstanding Halls of Residence fees and debts should be waivered.

6.11 In the case of a decision to temporarily withdraw, the student should be reimbursed for the period that they are unable to live in halls.

7. Level 3 – for serious/persistent concerns

7.1 Level 3 of the procedure may be initiated if:

  • intervention at Level 2 has not resolved the concern, which will include circumstances in which the student is not complying with the requirements of an action plan.
  • at a previous level it has become apparent that the concern is significantly more severe than originally anticipated (e.g., if an emerging concern needs to be treated as a serious concern).
  • the concern is so serious that treating it as a Level 1 or Level 2 concern would not be appropriate.

 7.2 It may be appropriate to proceed directly to Level 3 if:

  • the student’s health and/or wellbeing are significantly affecting their ability to engage with their studies, placement and/or other aspects of university life; and/or
  • there is substantial concern that their health or wellbeing poses an immediate risk to themselves and/ or others and that concern is considered too high to address at Level 1 or 2.

7.3 Serious or persistent concerns should be referred to the Health & Wellbeing Manager who, if appropriate, will request the Assistant Registrar (Student Services) to convene a meeting of the Fitness to Participate in University Life Panel (“the Panel”). The purpose of the Panel meeting is to discuss the circumstances of the concerns to decide what, if any, action should be taken. The student will be given 10 working days' notice of the meeting.

7.4 The Panel will usually include:

  • Assistant Registrar (Student Services) (Chair)
  • The Dean of the relevant School
  • One other relevant member of university staff (e.g., Health & Wellbeing Manager or the Head of Student Accommodation when the concerns arise in the context of the University’s halls of residence)

7.5 Outcomes

The Panel may decide as follows:

i) No formal action is required.

ii) To implement an enhanced support plan

iii) To recommend a transfer to an alternative mode of study such as part-time or distance learning

iv) To require the student to interrupt their studies.

v) To permanently withdraw the student from the university.

vi) Any other action considered to be appropriate and proportionate.

7.6 Students will also be informed of their right to request an appeal of the decisions made at Level 3.

8. Returning to study following concerns relating to Fitness to participate in University Life

8.1 This protocol should be followed when a student requests a return to study following an authorised break, suspension or withdrawal which is a result of a Fitness to Participate in University Life meeting.

8.2 When the student applies to return to study, they will be required to attend a meeting with a member of staff from their college. Medical evidence may be gathered prior to the meeting. The purpose of the meeting would be to:

  • Assess the student’s fitness to participate in university life and their current wellbeing
  • Identify support requirements
  • Discuss previous concerns and identify strategies to prevent their reoccurrence
  • All issues discussed in the meeting should be recorded on the Return to Study / Halls Plan (Appendix 2)

8.3 The College and the Student Wellbeing Service should make a joint decision on the appropriateness of the student returning to study at that time.

8.4 The student should be informed in writing of the decision to accept or decline their application to return to study within 7 working days.

8.5 The student’s return to study will be upon condition that they adhere to the actions outlined in the Return to Study Plan.

8.6 The Return to Study Plan should be signed by all parties before the student returns to study and should be reviewed on an on-going basis.

8.7 If the student is not deemed fit to return to study at that time, they can request a review for the next academic semester.

9. Returning to Halls of Residence following Concerns relating to Fitness to Participate in University Life 

9.1 This protocol should be followed when a student requests to return to Halls of Residence following an authorised break from study, suspension or withdrawal which is a result of a Fitness to Participate in University Life meeting.

9.2 When the student applies to return to Halls of Residence, they will be required to attend a meeting with the Halls Customer Services Manager or their nominee, a member of staff from Student Wellbeing and the Halls Manager, as appropriate. The purpose of the meeting would be to: 

  • Assess the student’s fitness to participate in university life
  • Identify support requirements
  • Discuss previous concerns and identify strategies to prevent their reoccurrence

9.3 All issues discussed in the meeting should be recorded on the Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan (Appendix 1).

9.4 The Halls Representative and the member of staff from the Student Wellbeing Service should make a joint decision on the appropriateness of the student returning to halls at that time.

9.5 The student should be informed in writing of the decision to accept or decline their application to return to Halls of Residence within 7 working days.

9.6 The student’s return to halls will be upon condition that the student accepts support and adheres to the actions outlined on the Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan (Appendix 1).

9.7 The plan should be signed by all parties before the student returns to halls and should be reviewed on an on-going basis. 

10. Right to Appeal a decision made at Level 3

10.1 Students have the right request an appeal the decisions made at Level 3 of this procedure.

10.2 An appeal will only be considered on one or more of 3 grounds:

  •  if new evidence is available that for good reason was not available at the time of the original meeting
  • if it can be demonstrated that the correct procedures were not followed
  • if the consequence is out of proportion with the issue of concern and the level of risk presented.

10.3 The appeal must be submitted in writing within 14 days of communicating the outcome of the Fitness to Participate in University Life meeting, explaining the reasons for the appeal.

10.4 Appeals should be submitted to the Student Policy and Regulations Manager who will forward them to the Appeal Panel. The Appeal Panel will consist of a PVC Dean or nominees (Chair), the Head of Student Services (or nominee) and a member of staff from Student Wellbeing and a student representative, normally a Union of Students Officer Trustee. No member of the Appeal Panel will have any prior experience of the matter.

 

10.5 The Appeal Panel and the student will be given the written material presented to the Fitness to Participate in University Life meeting, the notes of the proceedings and the decision of that meeting. If there is good evidence to demonstrate that providing this written material would have a significant detrimental impact on the student, this material can be withheld from the student.

10.6 The student is entitled to attend a meeting with the Panel to state their case, and to be accompanied in such a meeting by an appropriate professional approved by the University, family member, friend, or a member of the Union of Students, and, if the student is under 18 years of age, or under 25 years and has complex learning difficulties, by their parent, guardian, or appropriate adult.

10.7 The outcome of the review will be to: 

i) Confirm the original decision.

ii) Annul the original decision or

iii) Amend the original decision.

10.8 The Panel will keep a record of the appeal proceedings and will communicate their decision to the student in writing, giving reasons for that decision, within 7 days.

10.9 The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) runs an independent scheme to review student complaints. The University of Derby is a member of this scheme. If you are unhappy with the outcome you may be able to ask the OIA to review your case. You can find more information about making a complaint to the OIA, what it can and can’t look at and what it can do to put things right if something has gone wrong via: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/students

You normally need to have completed the Fitness to Participate in University Life (FITPUL) procedure before you complain to the OIA.  We will send you a letter called a “Completion of Procedures Letter” when you have reached the end of our processes and there are no further steps you can take internally. If your FITPUL appeal is not upheld, we will issue you with a Completion of Procedures Letter automatically. If your FITPUL appeal is upheld or partly upheld you can ask for a Completion of Procedures Letter if you want one. You can find more information about Completion of Procedures Letters and when you should expect to receive one via: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/providers/completion-of-procedures-letters

Appendix 1 - Fitness to Participate in University Life Plan

Date of incident:

Date of meeting:

Name:

Address:

Contact telephone number:

Contact email:

Student No.

Programme:

Present at meeting: [NAME], [ROLE]

Current issues/problems - staff view:

Current issues/problems - student view/response:

Current support:

Actions agreed

IssueActionBy whomBy when
       

Anything else:

Review date (2 weeks from review):

ParticipantsSignature and full nameRoleDate
Student      
College/Halls of Residence      
Student Wellbeing      
Any other      

A copy of this form should be kept on file with student records, a copy given to the student and at the student request, a copy passed to the relevant university support worker.

Appendix 2 - Student Wellbeing Service Confidentiality Policy

This document outlines the policy of the Student Wellbeing Service – with the exception of the Counselling Service which has its own distinct policy.

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that personal information provided to the Student Wellbeing Service is managed appropriately.

The Student Wellbeing Service is a confidential service.

The Student Wellbeing Service will not share information about a student with any other University department or faculty without the student’s express permission, except in the circumstances outlined below.

The Student Wellbeing Service will only share information with services external to the University with the student’s express permission or in exceptional circumstances where:

  • The student poses a serious and imminent risk to themselves or others
  • There is a safeguarding concern
  • The student discloses information relating to a possible act of terrorism or drug trafficking
  • The University has a statutory duty to provide this information

In these cases, where possible, a member of the Student Wellbeing Service will first discuss their concern with the student before making any disclosure outside the service. Any disclosure of confidential information will be restricted to relevant information and conveyed only to appropriate people for appropriate reasons.

Internal Support Services

Information disclosed to a member of the Student Wellbeing Service may be discussed within the Service for purposes of supervision and co-ordinating support.

The Student Wellbeing Service, the Students’ Union Advice Centre, Chaplaincy and Halls of Residence may share information between them to ensure consistency of support within the clearly defined terms of joint Service Level Agreements. We will always seek a student’s permission before sharing any information in this way. However, where permission cannot be gained, limited factual information may still be shared where it is clearly in the best interest of the student.

External Support Services

When working with external support services it is our intention to always act in the best interests of the student to ensure they receive the best possible and most consistent support. We will seek to gain a student’s permission before discussing their support with any external agency.

However, we recognise there may be occasions when a student is in mental health crisis and it is in their best interests for the discussion to take place, even if permission cannot be gained. In these rare circumstances discussion will be limited to the student’s immediate need.

Access to Records

Students’ have a right to any information stored about them. The only exception to this is if the disclosure of information would be likely to cause serious harm to physical or mental health or which would breach the confidentiality of another person. If the decision is made to withhold information a justified reason will be recorded.

If a student wishes to have access to the information stored about them or they wish us to share information with a third person they should discuss this with a member of the Student Wellbeing or the Student Wellbeing Service Manager. They will be required to complete a Subject Access Request form. The Service will reply to such requests within 20 days.

Students will be given access to records on written request but records can only be accessed with an appropriate member of staff present.

We will not provide access to our records if requested by other parties unless directed to by a court order.

Appendix 3 - Return to Study/Halls Plan

...

A copy of this form should be kept on file with student records, a copy given to the student and at the student request, a copy passed to the relevant university support worker.

Reference: Fitness to Participate in University Life Procedure

Date approved: 03.03.15

Approving bodies: Academic Board

Implementation date: April 2015

Supersedes: Responding to the Mental Health Needs of Students procedure

Consultation:

  • EDC 01.10.14
  • SESC 15.10.14
  • LTESC 20.11.14
  • ADQC 1.12.14
  • CSPC 19.01.15

Target audience: All University staff

Supporting procedure: N/A

Review date: April 2016

Author: Student Wellbeing

Date of impact assessment: N/A