University Calendar 2010/11
Section IV : Fitness to Study

ARCHIVE 2004/5
ARCHIVE 2005/6
ARCHIVE 2006/7
ARCHIVE 2007/8
ARCHIVE 2008/9
ARCHIVE 2009/10
Intervention policy for students causing significant concern and/or presenting risk (Fitness to Study)
1. Introduction
  1.1 There is a growing awareness among professional bodies and groups working in the field of student support of the need for higher education institutions to respond appropriately to situations where visible signs of illness, mental health difficulties, psychological, personality or emotional disorders may have a profoundly disturbing impact on the functioning of individual students and on the wellbeing of others around them.
  1.2 This Policy takes the opportunity to address these issues and to promote positive attitudes towards students with impairments. The University is committed to maintaining students’ wellbeing and the Policy indicates the procedure and support available to both students and staff when a student becomes unwell and/or presents a risk to self and/or others.
  1.3 The University has a duty of care to respond appropriately to situations where there are substantial concerns relating to a student’s mental and/or physical functioning and the impact upon the individual and/or other members of the University community.
  1.4 It is important to establish that the causation of such concerns may relate to the manifestation of a diagnosed illness or with behaviours deemed to be consistent with illness or disability.
  1.5 Concerns relate to institutional, educational and social domains by evaluating: i. Where aptitude to study is deemed by the University to be neither manageable nor achievable in relation to specific tasks and/or activities, ii. Where behaviours are disruptive to the self and/or others, i.e. students and staff, and represent risk to the self and/or others.
  1.6 This policy is not intended to give guidance on wider matters relating to students with mental health problems (other policies and processes will address these matters) but is intended to ensure a consistent and sensitive approach to managing situations which become problematic.
2. Policy Guidelines
  2.1 The purpose of these guidelines is to support students and staff in managing scenarios and incidents that cause significant concern:
  1. to identify the appropriate response by academic and support service staff in the circumstances set out in paragraph 1.5 where it is not considered appropriate to apply disciplinary procedures, in particular, because the student's behaviour should be managed rather than punished;

  2. to provide a co-ordinated approach to the management of a situation where it is apparent that a student's mental and/or physical functioning may prevent him/her from gaining benefit from the educational and social provision at a particular time, or is adversely affecting the student experience of others, or has extended beyond the pastoral support that exists within the schools;

  3. to enable staff to identify the limits to the support which they can provide and the appropriateness of referring the student onto other agencies;

  4. to signpost areas of support for staff;

  5. to identify and implement reasonable adjustments where appropriate;

  6. to ensure appropriate support for students affected by, or involved in, the interaction with other students in the aforementioned circumstances;

  7. to consider the lawful application of temporary suspension or permanent exclusion, and the justification for such an action.
  2.2 These guidelines are therefore intended to enable a non-judgemental, consistent and sensitive approach to managing situations that require an appropriate level of intervention.
  2.3 Definitions
'Suspension' is a total prohibition on attendance at or access to the University and on any participation in University activities. It may be subject to qualification such as permission to attend for the purposes of an examination.

'Exclusion' is a selective restriction on attendance or access to the University, or prohibition on exercising the functions or duties of any office or committee membership in the University or Students Union, the exact detail to be specified in writing.
3. Emergencies
  3.1 Considering the low numbers of those students causing significant concern, emergency situations are rare.  However, it is good practice to adopt an anticipatory duty to the management of problematic situations so the University’s duty of care is exercised with consistency and sensitivity.
  3.2 This Policy should in no way distract from any acute or dangerous situations where it is believed that a student's behaviour presents an immediate risk to themselves or others. In such circumstances, the Emergency Services should be contacted by dialling 999. Where appropriate, the University's Security Office may also be contacted by dialling the 24-hour Emergency Control Centre 023 80592811 (int. 22811). This should be followed up by notifying the Wellbeing Team (023 80599022/ 023 80597447 during office hours or via Security out of hours). It should be noted that Security staff have a role to coordinate appropriate support through a referral system, not to deliver specialist support, advice or guidance direct to the student or member of staff.
  3.3 In very rare situations a student may indicate that he/she has suicidal ideation. It is important to ensure that the student gets medical help as soon as possible. How this is achieved will depend on the circumstances.  Generally, the Wellbeing Service should be contacted with immediacy.
  3.4 During surgery opening hours, and if the student is willing to see a doctor, the Wellbeing Service will contact the GP’s surgery to explain the situation and make an emergency appointment (Highfield Health: 023 80595545 or University Health Service: 023 80593539, both numbers are 24 hours).
  3.5 The Wellbeing Service will also inform the student of the University Counselling Service and encourage a referral where appropriate.
  3.6 The Wellbeing Service will ensure that follow-up contact is made with the student.
4. Emerging and Ongoing Concern
  4.1 In situations where a student's behaviour or wellbeing causes concern but does not present an immediate crisis, initial support is best handled 'locally', i.e. through the personal tutors that exist within the academic School, or, if the behaviour is exhibited in University owned or managed accommodation, through the resident warden. The personal tutor fulfils key academic and pastoral functions, often closely interrelated, by providing a clear and crucial point of contact for the individual student in his/her interactions with the University. Additionally, the student may be supported by a member of staff that holds a responsibility for pastoral support where this exists. However, it should be made clear to the student where there are concerns relating to their mental and/or physical health, and the impact upon the individual and/or other members of the University community, that such concerns exceed the usual pastoral role and need to be referred onto specialist support.
  4.2 Where it is suspected that a student's behaviour may be related to an ongoing or emerging mental health problem, it is important to consult the Wellbeing Service. In cases of emergency, the procedure outlined in section 3 must be followed to avoid any unnecessary delay.
  4.3 The student should be encouraged to access the Wellbeing Service or to get help through their GP. Individual meetings between the Wellbeing Service and the student and member(s) of staff will ascertain the student’s and member(s) of staff perception of the issue(s) causing concern. The concern may, with the student's permission, also be reported to other student support services. If there is a significant concern or risk that a student may cause harm to him/herself or others, then obtaining the student's permission to report these concerns is desirable - but not essential.
5. Disruptive Behaviour or Behaviour Otherwise giving cause for Serious Concern
  5.1 If there is no improvement in the situation, or if the student refuses to access support and/or continues to exhibit behaviour that is causing significant concern, the Wellbeing service should be informed. The Wellbeing Service will co-ordinate and monitor a response to the situation through the active intervention of member(s) of specialist support staff.
  5.2 An appropriate member of staff from the Wellbeing Service will contact or meet the student and member of staff to offer support and, in conjunction with the Assistant Director of Student Services (Head of Student Support) /Head of Mentor Service, make a decision regarding referral to local statutory agencies if appropriate. If it is necessary to seek the intervention of the student’s GP and/or mental health services, this will be done through the Wellbeing Service.
  5.3 Where necessary and appropriate, other Student Support Services will also offer support to those students and colleagues who may be affected by any incident or ongoing situation. The Wellbeing Service will keep a central record of all referrals, action and developments in the case, and relevant colleagues will be updated on a ‘need to know’ basis.
  5.4 In cases where it becomes apparent that an individual student’s support needs are beyond the containment of the University, the Assistant Director of Student Services (Head of Student Support)/Head of the Mentor Service will alert the head of the relevant academic school to the situation.
  5.5 A decision will be made by the Head of School, with advice from the Assistant Director of Student Services(Head of Student Support)/Head of the Mentor Service, on whether the student's nominated emergency contact should be informed. Such decision making needs to be guided by the University’s Duty of Care.
  5.6 Where appropriate, there will be contact with the Assistant Director (Residential Services) of Business and Community Services, Senior Warden and Security Office, particularly if the student, or others living close to the student, may need to be moved to alternative accommodation.
6. Suspension or Exclusion of Student
  6.1 Behaviours within the context of this Policy are not mutually exclusive of existing disciplinary regulations or general powers to terminate studies.
  6.2 Unresolved significant concerns about an individual’s engagement with their study or unresolved significant concerns regarding their health or behaviour will prompt a case conference. The conference will be convened and chaired by the Assistant Director of Student Services (Head of Student Support) /Head of Mentor Service to discuss the most appropriate course of action. The group will include (where applicable) representative(s) from the academic school (i.e. personal tutor or supervisor), student’s GP, Hall Warden or Accommodation Officer and other staff as appropriate. The case conference should be convened within 10 working days from the decision to take this course of action.
  6.3 The case conference may consider various options, including recommending additional support strategies, suspension, or exclusion.
  6.4 A recommendation will be made by the Chair on whether the student should be required to take leave of absence from their studies at the University whilst appropriate means of addressing the situation are being considered. If the student's behaviour has caused disruption in University accommodation, it may also be necessary for the Assistant Director (Residential Services) of Business and Community Services to make a decision on whether temporary or permanent exclusion from the residence is required and this is managed through separate processes. In reaching these decisions, due care and consideration will be exercised, through consultation with the Assistant Director of Student Services (Head of Student Support)/Head of Mentor Service, to avoid as far as possible the student being placed in a more vulnerable situation or a situation that increases the vulnerability of other students.
  6.5 The agreed course of action will be communicated to the student by the Assistant Director of Student Services (Head of Student Support)/Head of Mentor Service in a meeting taking place within 5 working days of the agreement. The student will have the option of being supported during this meeting.
  6.6 The student will be informed of the ‘Return to Study’ procedure and process.
  6.7 It will be made clear to the student by the Assistant Director of Student Services (Head of Student Support)/Head of Mentor Service that this procedure is quite separate from the University's Disciplinary Procedures. It will also be made clear why the University is recommending this course of action.
  6.8 If the student's behaviour is such that under normal circumstances they would have been subject to disciplinary procedures, this may remain the most appropriate course of action, especially if there is evidence that the student has an identified mental health problem or other diagnosed condition. However, the fact that a student has mental health difficulties in no way lessens the duty of care that the University owes to other students. The duty of care to students with mental health problems should be balanced against the duty of care to other students.
  6.9 If the student's behaviour is such that under normal circumstances they would have been subject to disciplinary procedures, this may remain the most appropriate course of action, especially if there is evidence that the student has an identified mental health problem or other diagnosed condition. However, the fact that a student has mental health difficulties in no way lessens the duty of care that the University owes to other students. The duty of care to students with mental health problems should be balanced against the duty of care to other students.
  6.10 The Head of School (or nominee) will formally notify the Local Education Authority, Fees, Highfield Health, University Health Service, Occupational Health, and where applicable, external health services (e.g. Home Care Team) of a student suspending from their studies, as appropriate.  Banner should be updated accordingly.
  6.11 The student will, under normal circumstances, be given direction to request the temporary self-suspension of his/her study.
  6.12 The Assistant Director of Student Services Department (Head of Student Support)/Head of Mentor Service will hold a de-briefing meeting(s) for relevant staff within 14 days of communicating the recommendations to the student concerned. A brief record of the meeting will be made and circulated to all present and to other partners on a ‘need to know’ basis. The recording of information is underlined by the concept of ‘latent duty’, where it can be necessary to have evidence of what action has been taken in respect of supporting a student when a disability has been declared.
7. Return to Study
  7.1 Following a period of absence from the University for recuperation or treatment, it may be appropriate for the student to return to resume studies. If this is the case, it will be necessary to ensure that the student is assisted by their department, with advice from Student Support Services, in their return to the University.
  7.2 The student’s academic school will require the student to produce appropriate confirmation of their health and ability to resume studying. If a student has been under suspension from the University due to psychiatric ill-health, they will need a formal assessment by a psychiatrist before returning to study. The Wellbeing Service will support the student to access an appropriate referral.
  7.3 The Wellbeing Service, working in partnership with relevant others, will conduct a review of the documentary evidence of the student’s mental and/or physical wellbeing and contextualise such evidence within the demands of the course.
  7.4 In considering the duration of any suspension and the most appropriate time for the student to return to study where appropriate, due account will be taken of the altered structure of the programme of study and of the ability of Student Support services to support the student. Any suspension that exceeds a continuous period of 36 months will only be reviewed under exceptional circumstances.
  7.5 Student Support Services will be available to provide assistance with drawing up a ‘Return to Study Plan’ in consultation with the student and their Head of School. This will address the specific study-related support needs of the student in returning to education; the support which is reasonably required in the short term; involvement of and liaison with external agencies; any longer term support or adjustments that are reasonably required and any conditions that might or will apply to provision. The Return to Study Plan should incorporate a risk management plan that takes account of the experiences that led to the student initially suspending from their course and any other information that is known to be relevant. Any return to study will be subject to the student’s co-operation with this process and full adherence to any agreements made.
  7.6 Other members of staff within Student Support Services will be available to provide advice and support to facilitate the student's transition back onto the course, particularly in relation to any action that might be required under the Disability Discrimination Act Part 4. This will be arranged with the direct involvement of, or in consultation with, the Assistant Director of Student Services Department (Head of Student Support)/Head of Mentor Service.
  7.7 When return to study is not deemed to be an option, the student should follow existing complaints and appeals policy and processes.
8. Data Protection Issues
  8.1 All University staff are governed by the requirements of the Data Protection Acts 1984 and 1998. Under these acts, all data relating to a person’s physical or mental health is regarded as sensitive, personal data. The University's policy on Data Protection contains guidance on the use of sensitive information e.g. details about a student's mental health or condition and should be consulted by staff. In general, all personal data of a sensitive nature given to a member of staff by a student should be treated as confidential and should only be disclosed with the student’s consent. Sensitive data, for the purpose of this policy, is deemed to be information given in confidence concerning, for example, a student’s ill-health or disability, including mental health illness.
9. Confidentiality
  9.1 In all cases where, in the member of staff’s judgement, it would be in the student’s best interests to disclose sensitive information (e.g. so that appropriate support may be provided) the student’s informed consent should be obtained where possible.  It will be necessary to inform the student why there might be a need to disclose sensitive information, who will have access to this information, and the likely consequences of giving or withholding consent (e.g. additional support strategies such as reasonable adjustments including additional examination arrangements). Once consent has been obtained, it is the responsibility of the person passing on the information to ensure it is done on the terms agreed with the student.
  9.2 If the student chooses not to provide their consent this decision should be respected. In this scenario, the implications of non-disclosure in terms of additional support should be made clear. However, there exist rare occasions when the student’s consent is withheld, or it is impracticable to try to obtain it, when confidentiality may be broken. These include:
  • When the student’s mental health has deteriorated to the extent of threatening his/her personal safety

  • When the student is at risk of serious abuse or exploitation

  • When the student’s behaviour is adversely affecting the rights and safety of others

  • Where the member of staff would be liable to civil or criminal procedure if the information were not disclosed (e.g. if a crime had been committed).
  9.3 Staff should consult with Assistant Director of Student Services Department (Head of Student Support)/Head of Mentor Service if they believe there is a need to break the commitment to confidentiality. Initial discussion should not identify the student until the grounds for breaking confidentiality have been established and agreed upon.
10. Key Referral Contacts
  10.1 Key referral contacts within the University are as follows:
  • Head of Student Support/Assistant Director of Student Services, Dr Kevin Partington, external tel +44 (0)23 8059 9022, internal tel 29022, email:

  • Head of Mentor Service , Sue Meads, external tel +44 (0)23 80597447, internal 27447, email:
11. Circulation and Review of Guidelines
  11.1 They will be revised in the light of our experience using them, and re-issued if there are any significant amendments.
12. Related Policy and Procedures that underpin Practice 
  Ball J 2006 Responses to the NMC Consultation on proposals arising from a review of fitness for practice at the point of registration. Employment Research Ltd, Hove.
  Department of Health 2007 Learning for a change in Healthcare: Widening Participation.
Prof R.H. Fryer. DoH
  Disability Discrimination Act 2005 HMSO
  Disability Rights Commission 2006 Review of Legislation, Regulations and Statutory Guidance within Professional Occupations. DRC Nov 2006
  Foster 2006 The regulation of non-medical professions: A review. DoH, London.
  Higher Education Academy 2006 Embedding success: Enhancing the Learning Experience for Disabled Students. HEA, July 2006
  QAA Code of Practice, Section 3: Students with Disabilities. QAA 1999
  University of Southampton Regulations covering Student Discipline
Flowcharts of the Process

Submitted by Corporate Services
Last reviewed: 16-Aug-2010
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