Directors of Studies are responsible for monitoring the academic progress of their students. If the Director of Studies feels that a student is giving insufficient attention to their work or is failing to achieve the level expected, he or she will certainly raise this with the student. If the situation is not improved by this informal approach, then the Director of Studies may initiate more formal proceedings.
The Fitness to Study Procedure outlines the steps that will be taken by the College if there is concern that a student’s behaviour or health has the potential to disrupt or threaten either their own welfare or academic progress or that of others.
Decisions concerning a student’s fitness to study are made through a collective and supportive process after both appropriate consultation and consideration of the student’s safety, their ability to study and learn effectively and to complete their course successfully. It may also entail consideration of the impact of their behaviour on others.
This procedure is only intended for use in cases in which the behaviour, disruption or risk presented by the student is perceived to be of a serious or potentially serious nature. Where possible the tutorial system and other student support services should initially be used to address the situation, prior to taking any formal action.
The distinction between the two processes is captured within the Fitness to Study Procedure:
“The Fitness to Study Procedure is not designed to address issues of poor academic performance (which should be dealt with under the normal academic assessment and monitoring procedures or the Academic Committee) except where this is a result of a fitness to study issue. It is anticipated that occasionally a case may be referred to the Academic Committee, just as that body may be likely to refer some cases to be dealt with under Fitness to Study procedures”
2.4.1 Unsatisfactory Academic Performance
Like the Fitness to Study Procedure, the more formal ways of dealing with unsatisfactory academic performance are only intended for use when initial informal steps have not resolved issues. These informal steps include a student’s regular start or end of Term one-to-one meetings with their Directors of Studies and/or other discussions requested by the Director of Studies, the student themselves, supervisors, the student’s Tutor or others. Most often issues can be resolved in this manner and the conversations may also lead to engagement with the tutorial system and other student support services. The informal stage should initially be used to address the situation, prior to taking any formal action.
The first more formal stage is for the student, sometimes along with their Tutor, to meet with their Director of Studies and the Senior Tutor. At this meeting the reasons for the unsatisfactory performance are explored in detail, with everyone having a chance to express their views and make comments. The aim in this meeting is very much to identify problems and possible solutions. The Senior Tutor follows up the meeting with a letter to the student summarising the discussion and the agreed action. In many cases that is the end of the matter other than continuing discussion between the student and their Director of Studies. This meeting can also be the first step in a Fitness to Study process if it reveals that there are appropriate issues to consider that are not successfully resolved. In some cases it may lead towards the Academic Committee processes if there is no improvement in a student’s performance.
2.4.2 The Academic Committee
If the Director of Studies feels that despite less formal efforts there is still no improvement and that the situation has become serious, the student may be referred to the Academic Committee. This committee is composed of the Master, the Senior Tutor, the student’s Director of Studies and one other Tutor or senior member of the College Council. Gowns are worn for the meeting. The formality of the occasion is designed to reflect the College’s view of the severity of the situation. However, the purpose of such a hearing is not punitive. The student shall have the right to be accompanied by their Tutor or another senior member of the College who is not a member of the Academic Committee. The Committee attempts to establish the causes of the student’s unsatisfactory progress and to identify ways in which the situation might be retrieved in time for the exams. It may set specific actions which the student is required to take or specify academic tests or tasks which need to be passed. The outcome, including the terms agreed at the meeting, will be communicated in writing to the student and will constitute an agreement by which the student will be expected to abide. It may be decided that there shall be regular review meetings with the student in order to monitor and support the agreement. If so, the student must provide their continued cooperation. Such review meetings may continue for part or all of their remaining time at College.
If a student’s progress continues to be unsatisfactory, or if the conditions set by the Academic Committee are not met, the Committee may be reconvened in order to consider the case once more. The Committee will usually only reconvene after a period of weeks or months but on occasion it may be necessary to do so much sooner after an initial meeting. As a result of its deliberations, the Committee may set further hurdles and tests. If the Committee concludes that the student has been wilfully neglecting their studies, however, they may recommend to the College Council that the student be required to leave without completing the year. The College Council will then meet to consider the recommendation of the Academic Committee. At this meeting the student will have the right to make further representations and, as at meetings of the Academic Committee, shall have the right to be accompanied by their Tutor or another senior member of the College who is not a member of the College Council. The final decision as to the student’s future rests with the College Council.
It may be that there are personal circumstances or emotional difficulties preventing a student from working to their full potential. Where such circumstances are identified they will be taken into account in any of the above procedures. In such cases the emphasis will be on supporting the student to enable them to work effectively, and it may be decided these formal procedures are not appropriate.
One possible outcome of the Academic Committee’s deliberations may be for them to recommend that the case be referred to the Fitness to Study Procedure for further consideration. Another may be the recommendation that the student seek permission from the University to intermit and go out of residence for a period in order to resolve particular difficulties or so as to be able to have a fresh start. In such cases, the Committee may set conditions which have to be met before a student can return into residence. Until these conditions are met, the student may not return into residence.