Extenuating Circumstances

Information for students about letters in support of claims for extenuating circumstances written by the University Counselling Service.

Please note:we do not provide supporting evidence for students claiming extenuating circumstances who utilise online ‘email’ counselling. For online ‘real time’ counselling, as with our face to face work, it will be at the discretion of your counsellor.

1. We are sometimes asked by students, particularly at exam and coursework submission time, to provide letters in support of claims for extenuating circumstances.

2. Where appropriate we offer letters of support to students who are in ongoing counselling with us, (usually a minimum of three weekly sessions). We feel able to do this because we have usually witnessed how their situation has affected their psychological well-being over a period, and thereby feel confident in stating the likelihood that this will have impacted on their studies.

3. We also receive requests from students not in ongoing counselling who come for one session only and describe current difficult personal circumstances in order to ‘get a letter’. These students often feel they have been directed or ‘sent’ to us, do not usually desire to engage further in the counselling process and will be seen, but it is more likely they will be referred to someone more suited to providing the written support and a letter from the Service declined.

There may be someone else who is party to their circumstances who knows the student better or who has been regularly providing support, and so is a more appropriate source of written supporting evidence.  Examples could be the police or social services, a hospital doctor or someone from the student’s church or temple.

4. If the student in the above example wants to engage in the counselling process for a number of sessions after the first appointment in which they requested a letter, we may feel later more able, having got to know them better, to write a letter of support for them, however, this letter would only be relevant to the period after which the student starts to engage in counselling (see point 5).

5. Some students approach us in search of a letter of support for something they experienced some weeks or months earlier.

We generally do not write retrospective letters as we do not consider ourselves the best witness to the student’s prior emotional state. In such circumstances, we would encourage the student to seek support from someone who witnessed their difficulties at that time. As before, this may include perhaps a doctor, employer, local minister or community elder.


Any exceptional cases are referred to the Head of Service.


(Revised Feb 2015)