Situations arise when for a variety of reasons – often health, personal or family problems – a student is having difficulties studying. In the majority of cases, the student affected will ask for help from the various sources available in College and the University. The problem will be addressed, often with the help of the Graduate Tutor and/or the Deanery, so that the student can continue with studying or else make the decision, after full consultation, to take time out to resolve the situation.
There are occasions, however, when students may be unable to appreciate fully the impact that their problems are having on themselves or those around them. In some circumstances, they may be very resistant to advice and support, or may be unaware of the extensive support available in Cambridge.
In these unusual circumstances, it is important that there be clear and transparent procedures to help resolve the problem. This is in the interest of the individual student, and also of their colleagues as well as College and University staff with whom the student interacts.
Darwin has therefore developed a Fitness to Study Procedure to address such situations. It is designed to resolve the problems that are interfering with the student's ability to study effectively and take full advantage of all aspects of University life. The main aim of the Procedure is to ensure that a student is fully and appropriately supported, while taking into account the needs and rights of all members of the University. It is not a disciplinary procedure, but it has a formal structure so that it can operate fairly and effectively.
In essence, the Procedure has three stages.
1. An informal stage that in most cases will resolve difficulties through actions taken by mutual consent.
2. The second more formal stage involves a Case Review Group. With the student’s agreement, the Group will discuss the problems and work out an individually-tailored plan of support and guidance.
3. The third stage entails convening a Review Panel to consider those exceptional situations where arrangements agreed by the Review Group have broken down or where there are serious concerns for the health and safety of the student concerned or for other members of the College or University Community. The aim is still to reach a mutually agreed resolution of the situation, but extremely rarely circumstances arise in which the Panel will take decisive action to put a stop, albeit temporarily, to a situation that is damaging to all concerned.
The full policy and Procedure is available here.