Fitness to practise appeals
The University has a responsibility (and in some cases a legal obligation) to ensure that students are fit to practise in their relevant profession.
We encourage all students to read the Our Commitment partnership document, which sets out the expectations of both the University and of students in order to help ensure the best learning experience.
What is fitness to practice?
Student fitness to practise is a procedure that falls within the University's General Regulations.
The University of Sheffield has a responsibility (and in some cases a legal obligation) to ensure that students are fit to practise in a relevant profession. An academic department may report concerns about a student's fitness to practise under the General Regulations relating to fitness to practise procedures.
Fitness to practise concerns are a serious matter. It is important that students engage with this process and be aware that escalation may ultimately result in a student being excluded from their faculty.
Students will only receive communication about a fitness to practise committee by email. It is important that you regularly check your University email account for further information from the Student Engagement and Progress Team or Research Services.
Grounds for referral
Any concerns about a student that might become the subject of proceedings under the fitness to practise regulations will be reported to the Head of Department.
This may include any health condition, behaviour or attitude that may affect the student’s fitness to practise in a relevant profession.
The investigation process
The head of your department (or a delegate) will conduct an initial investigation into any concerns made. The student in question will be informed of these concerns in writing, and will be given the opportunity to make representations in person or in writing.
A decision will then be made:
- To take no further action, or
- To recommend that the case is considered by the faculty's fitness to practise committee in order to establish whether or not a student is considered fit to practise.
While fitness to practise procedures are ongoing, your head of department may (with the agreement of the Vice-President) suspend you from studies on your programme and/or any practice components. The suspension will be reviewed every 20 working days.
A student may provide new information for review by the Vice-President at any stage.
Fitness to practise committee
A fitness to practise committee will consist of three members from your faculty.
You will be given at least 15 working days’ notice in writing (by email) of the date when the committee will meet. You may attend the meeting, and can be accompanied by a friend or representative, whether legally qualified or not.
The committee have several powers open to them, as set out in the fitness to practise regulations.
Making an appeal
The fitness to practise regulations (which only apply to specific programmes of study) allow a student to appeal against a decision made by their faculty's fitness to practise committee. If you make an appeal, your case will be considered by the Senate appeals panel.
Grounds for appeal
You may only appeal against a decision of the Committee upon one or more of the following grounds:
- That there was a material procedural irregularity that rendered the process leading to the initial decision unfair.
- That material of which the student could not reasonably have been expected to have been aware of at the time of the initial decision casts substantial doubt upon the appropriateness of that decision.
- That the initial decision was manifestly unreasonable.
The appeal process
You should apply in writing within 15 working days of the date on the letter notifying you of the committee's decision. The Senate appeals panel may confirm, overturn or vary the original decision, but has no power to vary any decision made by the examiners.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) runs an independent scheme to review student complaints. The University of Sheffield is a member of this scheme.
If you are unhappy with the outcome of your appeal, you may be able to ask the OIA to review your case. Information about making a complaint to the OIA, what it can and cannot look at, and what it can do to put things right is available on the OIA website.
You will normally be required to have gone through the student complaints procedure at the University before you can refer to the OIA. Once you have reached the end of the procedure, and there are no further steps they can take internally, you will receive a “completion of procedures" letter.
Duty to refer and sharing of data
If there is concern regarding harm (or the risk of harm) to children or vulnerable adults in the workplace, or where a student has received a caution or conviction for a relevant offence, the University has a legal duty to share information and make referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Visit the DBS's web pages for more information
Relevant information and personal data may also be shared, as appropriate, with professional bodies, higher education institutions, employers and other organisations.
Advice for students
The Student Advice Centre can offer independent advice to students making a fitness to practice appeal.
To read the general regulations for fitness to practice appeals, look for the relevant academic year in the University Calendar.
Useful links to external bodies
Department for Education (DFE)
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)
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