Student Advice

Mitigating Circumstances

Ben Maples  · Jul 28th 2021

Deferring and Mitigation can always differ for university-to-university and so many universities have so many different rules for each process, that it’s almost impossible to do a “one size fits all” approach to an article, such as this.


Every university will have a standard procedure for students that are going through mitigating circumstances, whether that be an official code and conduct area for students or just a general handbook, no university will ever leave you high and dry.

What is the difference between deferring and mitigation?

What does mitigating circumstances mean?

Mitigating circumstances are serious or otherwise significant events that affect a student’s personal life or health (mental or physical). These are usually events that are beyond your control and are serious enough to mean that you cannot attend university, submit coursework on time, sit an examination or attend lectures.

Mitigating circumstances change depending on the university and their tolerances, but it is generally thought to be issues such as family bereavement, serious injury or personal matters that are deemed to be too difficult to handle.

A university will always have their own mitigating circumstances policy for students.

How to write a mitigating circumstances letter?

A mitigating circumstances letter for university should have four key elements for your letter to be actioned:

  • Gratitude for the chance to explain the situation
  • A clear and concise explanation of the situation
  • Honesty
  • What you want from the university

These four elements are the cornerstone of any mitigating circumstances letter. The meaning of mitigating circumstances means that you need to have a legitimate reason for your letter being written, so consider your decisions wisely and think about the situation you find yourself in and if it is worth you writing your letter first.

Generally, there are six areas of mitigating circumstances that need to be demonstrated before the Mitigating Circumstances Board can accept or reject any claims, which are:

  • Prove that the circumstances were outside of your control
  • Prove that the circumstances were unforeseen (or unforeseeable)
  • Prove that the circumstances were serious
  • Prove that the circumstances can be evidenced
  • Prove that the circumstances correlate in terms of timing to the assessments that have been affected (either the time of the assessment or during a preparation period).
  • Prove that the circumstances prevented you from submitting or presenting any work for your assessment.

Proof must always be provided in a mitigating circumstances letter, as a university will not consider any mitigating circumstances letters without proof.

What is the difference between university deferring and mitigation?

Filling in a mitigating circumstances form

After your mitigating circumstances letter has been accepted, you will be required to fill out a mitigating circumstances form, which will ask you for your name, student number, the course you’re studying, your tutor’s name and your contact details.

After you have filled this in, you will be required to list what modules, assessments or exams you will be missing as a result of these circumstances. After that, you will then be required to list your mitigating circumstances and present them in a concise and clear way that removes emotion from it.

When you have completed this section, you will be required to provide any supporting evidence that you may have. You will have a period of time given to you by the Mitigating Circumstances Board which will tell you how long you have to provide your evidence.

Mitigating circumstances are serious or otherwise significant events that affect a student’s personal life or health.

Retrospective mitigating circumstances

If you failed an assessment or examination owing to mitigating circumstances, then you will need to provide evidence of how you were affected and how these mitigating circumstances affected your abilities.

After that, you will need to submit yourself for an assessment by your university, where they will consider your evidence and circumstances and may even ask you questions relating to the application and will then make an informed decision from there.

What is the difference between uni deferring and mitigation?

How do mitigating circumstances work?

A university will always have their own mitigating circumstances policy for students. These are usually found on the university’s website or by a cursory Google search.

A university’s mitigating circumstances policy is always going to be available on their website, but on the rare occasions that it is not on there, you can find it by speaking to your course tutor.

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