Disrupted Studies: Guidance for referees

What is the Disrupted Studies scheme?

The Disrupted Studies scheme is a University-wide initiative providing an opportunity for our undergraduate applicants to tell us more about any circumstances that have adversely affected their post-16 studies, or grade outcomes for GCSE subjects that form part of our published course entry requirements.

We want our academic selectors to have all the information they need to enable holistic decision-making, especially if an applicant has experienced disadvantage. However, we recognise that it can be difficult for both applicants and their referees to elaborate on these issues within the constraints of either the UCAS personal statement or reference, especially if this information is of a sensitive nature.

Notifications via our Disrupted Studies form should normally be initiated and supported by the applicant's UCAS referee(s), their designate(s) or another appropriate third party. In some instances the University may contact an applicant's UCAS referee directly to encourage their support in getting an applicant to complete a Disrupted Studies form.


We do not issue prescriptive qualifying criteria for the Disrupted Studies scheme, given that applicants may be subject to any number of factors outside their control. Instead we have provided examples  of circumstances that would qualify for consideration on the Disrupted Studies homepage.

For more information, please contact the Admissions Service's Access team (disruptedstudies@sheffield.ac.uk, 0114 222 1410).

Completing the form

Part 1 of the form should be completed and signed by the applicant, and should include the following information:

  • Specific information about any extended absences from their studies that were caused by these circumstances (for example dates/times)
  • A demonstration of how these circumstances have affected, or may go on to affect, their ability to meet our standard requirements for admission to their chosen course(s)

Part 2 is for the referee to complete, and should be a statement confirming the details supplied by the applicant in Part 1, and providing information about the applicant's academic trajectory and any barriers to their continuation in post-16 education.

If you are supporting a non-mature (aged under 21) student in their application to a Foundation Year course at our Department for Lifelong Learning, please note that we provide a separate Disrupted Studies form  for this purpose, and require additional information to be supplied by the applicant in Part 1 of the form.

While we trust that statements from the referee are a complete and accurate record, we may ask applicants to provide further evidence from a third party (for example a doctor's letter). We understand that this may not always be possible, in which case we may approach the referee for further corroboration.

While every effort has been made to minimise the burden on both applicants and referees wishing to notify us of Disrupted Studies, we ask you to complete one form for each applicant.


Where possible, Disrupted Studies forms should reach us at the same time as the UCAS application. In terms of invitation to interview or issuing offers, we cannot guarantee to consider any information received after this deadline. However, information will still be accepted until 31 July of the year of application.

All Disrupted Studies forms may be subject to further review when exam results are released.

How will this information be used?

All information will be passed to our academic selectors and will be assessed alongside the UCAS application in accordance with the University's Student Admissions Policy. This will help our selectors to make a holistic academic judgment at each of the three admissions decision-making moments: selection for interview (where relevant); offer-making; and Confirmation (confirming places following the release of exam results).

Information submitted via the Disrupted Studies form will be recorded on the applicant record. This will enable us both to assess the results of the scheme and to provide any relevant pre-entry support. All data is held in accordance with Data Protection protocols and will not be shared beyond the University of Sheffield.

Please note that information that sets the application in its educational or socio-economic context will not be considered via this route. This information will be handled in accordance with our Contextual Data Policy Statement.

Where applicants accepted under the Disrupted Studies scheme go on to register as students at the University, we will pass their details to our Disability and Dyslexia Support Service or Student Transitions and Support team, as appropriate.