Good cause – bad practice

Published

Credit: Adriana Iuliano

Tara Gandhi
Investigations Editor

A Glasgow Guardian investigation has found high levels of miscommunication, mismanagement and red tape within the Good Cause system that is only placing more stress on already vulnerable students

A Glasgow Guardian investigation has found intrinsic flaws in the Good Cause system, including huge amounts of miscommunication, mismanagement and red tape. Interviews with a number of students have highlighted failures in the system that have left them with increased anxiety and depression after submitting their Good Cause claims.

The Good Cause system is in place to “allow [students’] circumstances to be considered by the Board of Examiners”. After a student submits a Good Cause through the MyCampus system, providing evidence and a supporting statement form an “appropriate person”, their case should be considered by their course administrator, course coordinator and/or the good cause coordinator. This information should then be given to all course lecturers and tutors in all of the student’s subjects.

However, conversations with students who have been through the process have shown huge inconsistencies across subjects and schools in the reception of a Good Cause ruling. For students taking multiple subjects, many have faced the problem of one subject accepting their Good Cause ruling while other subjects refuse to acknowledge it. The Glasgow Guardian has heard multiple recorded cases of students being told by departments and tutors that they had no way of knowing how close the student was to a deceased relative and therefore couldn’t judge how seriously to take the Good Cause case, even in cases where course administrators had already accepted the student’s claim.

University statistics have shown that over a quarter of claims were rejected in the 2017/2018 academic year, but there have also been instances of tutors disregarding official Good Cause rulings given out by course administrators, or giving informal extensions to avoid having to go through the paperwork of official processes, removing the security that the Good Cause system should be providing for students with extenuating circumstances. A university spokesperson has told the Glasgow Guardian that in the 17/18 academic year there were approximately 3,500 claims held locally within departments and not uploaded to the central system.

In situations of cases taken to higher up bodies within the university system such as the senate, clear miscommunications can be found when it comes to interactions between management groups. Students with chronic and long term issues should all have an individual Disability Advisor, and this advisor should pass any necessary information on to tutors and lecturers, but there is often a failure in communication between Disability Services and course staff that can leave already vulnerable students at a larger disadvantage. This incoherence within management levels continues to the highest levels, with students being asked to resubmit the same Good Cause application at every stage as they try to resolve the issue.

Increasing awareness and diagnosis of mental health issues mean the system is becoming ineffectual in many of its application processes. This also causes a problem when the students are asked to provide evidence to support their case, something that is difficult in cases of bereavement and mental health issues, and can often place further strain on students: a single GP letter can cost up to £40 and can often take longer than the allotted 7 day period to be given.

There have also been criticisms of the online application process, as users have pointed out the “one size fits all” nature of the MyCampus system, which provides no flexibility for the nuances of varying cases, and means the “questions posed on the form can be irrelevant, and some crucial questions are missed, depending on your circumstances”. This lack of flexibility means that often students are told they are receiving special treatment or are being treated with a leniency that the MyCampus system has no room for, creating a system in which student’s case outcomes could vary depending solely on which administrator is in charge of their case.

SRC President Lauren McDougall commented on the issue; “The Good Cause process is there to support students who are experiencing genuine difficulty during their studies and the decisions made by the exam boards on a student’s Good Cause claim should never be disregarded by any staff member. Given the circumstances these students are often already under extreme stress, and staff should be supporting students through this, not contributing to the exacerbation of their stress.”