King’s mitigating circumstances processes need improvement
Students feel MCFs don’t “take into account the whole spectrum of what students are going through” during the pandemic
It’s almost been a year since London’s first round of lockdowns. In an attempt to accommodate university students during the pandemic, many universities have put in place concessions: for King’s, this seems to be the processes of Mitigating Circumstances Forms (or MCFs) that allow students to request a two-week extension on coursework, or defer examinations to the next exam season if need be.
During the first wave of Covid-19, KCL permitted the general pandemic as reasonable grounds for submitting an MCF. However, now there are only two Covid-related circumstance options considered reasonable grounds: self-isolation and having ‘nowhere to take’ the assessment. This has left a lot of students with general-Covid related issues at a loss. The Tab King’s spoke to students who felt their concerns were not adequately addressed by the current mitigating circumstances process.
“What happens if you just aren’t mentally able to work?”
Charlotte*, a second-year Children’s Nursing Student, said that students feel “ignored” by the University and believed that current Covid-19 mitigating circumstances processes don’t “[take] into account the whole spectrum of what students are going through.” Adding on to this, she said: “What happens if you just aren’t mentally able to work? It’s been a whole year [of this situation], people are depressed and anxious.”
Describing the general feelings amongst nursing students, she stated that many feel they have “not received appropriate support,” and questioned the knock-on effect this may have on “patient safety” as students feel unable or unprepared to submit MCFs.
“I totally gave up with the system and decided I would rather just force myself through exams”
King’s state that it can take up to seven working days to process an MCF; however, many students have waited longer– often missing assessment deadlines due to the lapse. “I still haven’t heard back about the forms and I’ve already finished exams so there was no point anyway. The turn–around time for the forms is not quick enough,” said Megan*, a first-year English student. She went on to say, “I totally gave up with the system and decided I would rather just force myself through exams.”
Students with long-term health or disability issues have a different process for adjustment, referred to as Personalised Assessment Arrangements or PAA. These arrangements can include 25% additional time given to students during unseen examinations, rest breaks during exams, and in exceptional cases, alternative assessments.
“I missed an exam yesterday because my request wasn’t answered in time”
Students may also have a King’s Inclusion Plan (KIP) drafted for them, which details individual disability-related study needs and recommended adjustments. Speaking regarding the King’s Inclusion Plan, Charlotte* told The King’s Tab that she “never got an answer” from the mentor appointed to her in first year. She described that those with KIPs shouldn’t have to apply for mitigating circumstances, as the plan allows for extensions, but having heard back from neither her mentor, nor the disability team, she submitted an MCF which was yet to be responded to. She said this means that, “I missed an exam yesterday because my request wasn’t answered in time. And I will miss a lot of others.”
I had my own MCF nightmare just before Christmas. Having suffered two family bereavements within a month, I decided that submitting an MCF for my upcoming assignments and exams would be best for my mental health. After the painful process of gathering the evidence, I waited 10 days, having submitted the request 8 days prior to my first deadline, without hearing anything back.
With college due to close for Christmas, I emailed anyone and everyone who could help me with my MCF request. Thankfully, my head-of-year was able to expedite my request to the relevant departments, but the entire ordeal was incredibly difficult and stress-inducing.
In a time when they most require assistance, it seems that students are facing difficulties with very processes meant to support them. In light of the Russel Group announcing that they do not believe “using the same algorithmic approach to provide individual ‘no detriment’ or ‘safety net’ policies… is necessary or appropriate this year”, the toll of submitting a mitigating circumstances form cannot exacerbate the difficulties felt by students already struggling.
*Some names have been changed
For more information about assessments, students can visit the King’s Coronavirus and Assessments page.