6. What process should be followed for a student and their School/Faculty to discuss the impact that the student’s pregnancy or childcare responsibilities may have on their studies?

This section outlines a series of steps for students and staff to follow in order to discuss and respond to the requirements of an individual student who is pregnant. This section should be read in conjunction with the key steps presented at the beginning of this policy


Step 1: The student is strongly advised to consult the Leeds Student Medical Practice or her GP to discuss medical issues relating to their pregnancy prior to approaching their School/Faculty. It is particularly important to take advice at an early stage if there is any possible health and safety risk [1].

Since the focus of this 7-step process is on considering the implications of pregnancy on the student’s programme of study and academic work, students are also reminded that they can, at any stage, contact other sources of non-academic advice and support (including the Student Counselling Centre, the LUU Student Advice Centre, the Chaplaincy, Health and Safety Services, etc. – see section 12 for contact details).


Step 2a: Taught Students

The student has the right to request a meeting with their personal tutor or other trusted staff member. (Some Schools/Faculties may choose to identify another member of pastoral support staff for students to contact to discuss these issues. Any School/Faculty taking this route must publicise the appropriate point of contact to all students – e.g. on its website and in School handbooks.) If so requested, the School/Faculty will identify an appropriate member of staff to discuss the implications for the continuation of their study.

The student and the relevant staff member must meet to discuss and agree a plan for their continuation of study. Whenever possible, the member of staff should contact the student within 5 working days of the request being received from the student and meet them as soon as possible thereafter. Where the agreed accommodations fall under mitigating circumstances, the relevant form should be completed and submitted as normal.

At the meeting, it is essential that urgent consideration is given to undertaking a risk assessment (see step 3 below). In addition, careful consideration must be given to the variety of ways in which the student can be enabled to continue their studies during her pregnancy or after the birth. For example, these might include:

  • Agreeing periods of absence and making arrangements for the student to catch-up on lectures/tutorials missed for pregnancy/birth related reasons to ensure that they are not at an academic disadvantage.
  • Adjusting timescales/deadlines for assessed coursework or exam submission deadlines if the pregnancy or birth prevents compliance.
  • Consulting the Faculty or School Special Cases/Special Circumstances/Mitigating Circumstances Committee (local names vary – FSCC [2]) about the potential for flexibility in relation to the way in which credits are scheduled/distributed.
  • Seeking approval, as appropriate, from the FSCC for alternative means of assessment for the student (for example, a written assessment instead of a physical performance) if the pregnancy or birth prevents the normal methods of assessment.
  • Allowing the student first attempt re-sits at future examination periods, for example in a situation in which the pregnancy or birth prevents the student from taking an examination at the normal time for her programme of study.
  • The student taking some time out from their studies which would involve the student completing a Temporary Leavers Form (taught students) or speaking to their Research Tutor to discuss suspension/extension of study (research students), normally for a predetermined amount of time. The period of temporary leave may be extended if the time required to complete the programme of study will still fall within the maximum time limit allowed for the programme either by the University (and/or, where applicable, professional bodies).
  • Consideration of a transfer to part-time study (information on the financial support available to part-time students is available from the Financial Aid section within Student Administration via telephone 0113 343 2007 or via email.

As well as covering the student’s longer-term plans relating to their studies, the continuation of study plan should also:

  • Accommodate the student’s antenatal care.
  • Include a break from attending University of at least two weeks after giving birth (or 4 weeks in the event of a work placement in a factory environment) for health reasons, and
  • include provision for re-integrating the student to the programme of study on return from any prolonged absence.

The staff member overseeing the support arrangements should refer to the guidance below when considering what flexibility might be appropriate in any given situation.


Step 2b: Postgraduate Research Degree Students

If a research degree student becomes pregnant, the appropriate individual to contact will normally be their supervisor(s) and/or the postgraduate research tutor within the School/Faculty. The postgraduate supervisor(s) and research tutor will work together with the student to consider the impact of the pregnancy and any resulting suspension of study. This will include a risk assessment as described in step 3 below. Postgraduate students who are paid by the university will have employment status and the University’s Maternity Leave regulations will apply.

The Postgraduate Research Tutor may request permission from the Graduate Board, on behalf of the student, for a period of suspended study for reasons of maternity leave. The Research Student Administration suspension/extension policy can be found online. The student is responsible for checking the implications of a suspension of study with their scholarship awarding body or provider at an early stage. For students funded by a Research Council, or on a University Research Scholarship, advice is available from Research Student Administration. 


Step 3: The staff member overseeing the support arrangements for the student (e.g. the personal tutor, research supervisor or other designated person) should ensure that appropriate steps are taken in relation to health and safety issues. In most cases, this will involve a risk assessment for the individual student. Advice can be sought from the School/Faculty Safety Supervisor and/or the University Health and Safety Service.

For some students – for example, those participating in field trips, studying a laboratory-based subject, working with equipment which poses a danger to the health of a pregnant person or unborn child (e.g. equipment producing radiation) or taking a programme of study which involves high levels of physical activity – it will be even more important that the health and safety implications of pregnancy are given serious consideration. In these situations, staff should seek advice as soon as possible from the School/Faculty Heath and Safety Coordinator or Health and Safety Manager and/or University Health and Safety Services and a full risk assessment should be completed (see Health and Safety Risk Assessment Guidance Notes, Word and the Risk Assessment Template, Word for more information).

If it is not practicable to alter the study conditions to respond to the risk(s) highlighted by this assessment, or if such an alteration would not avoid any identified risk(s), the student may need to take time out from their study to ensure the risks are avoided – although a concerted effort should be made by the School/Faculty to manage the health and safety risks and find alternative ways of allowing a student to continue her course in any situation where a temporary withdrawal is not in line with her wishes.


Step 4: A student who is considering suspending studies or changing the mode of study from full time to part-time should explore this at an early stage with their School and the Accounts Receivable section of Student Administration to identify any potential impact that the flexibility proposed may have in terms of payment of tuition fees. Please note that international students in the UK with a Tier 4 General Student Visa are not permitted to change to part-time study.

In the event that a student needs to suspend her studies, every effort will be made to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged e.g. if studies are suspended, the tuition fee would be reduced pro rata for the current year and would normally be at the same rate on return (subject to a small inflationary increase).

Please note that, if the student is in receipt of a bursary or scholarship, they must also discuss the implications of any absence with the funding body.


Step 5: The student and staff member should meet to discuss and agree a written plan for the student’s continuation of study (detailing any specific flexibility agreed to allow the student to continue their studies) and a copy held by the student and the School. Where the agreed accommodations fall under mitigating circumstances, the relevant form should be completed and submitted as normal.

Where a student is dissatisfied with the degree of flexibility offered, they may ask their School/Faculty for information about the local complaints procedures or make a formal complaint, if appropriate – in line with the Student Complaints Procedure. The Leeds University Union Advice Centre is available to advise on submitting and appeal or complaint.


Step 6: The staff member overseeing the support arrangements should communicate the agreed continuation plan to the Personal Tutor/Research Supervisor and other relevant teaching staff and/or examination boards, as appropriate. Information should be passed on sensitively.


Step 7: The student and their personal tutor/supervisor (or other chosen/designated staff member) should monitor the situation on an ongoing basis, particularly to assess the effectiveness of any special arrangements that have been agreed to facilitate the student’s continued study.

The student can request further meetings with their School/Faculty, particularly if they are experiencing any difficulties with their academic work as a result of these arrangements.

 

[1] Guidance on health and safety issues during pregnancy (Word) 

[2] If the flexibility required is not within the remit of the local FSCC, that Committee may put forward a recommendation to the University Special Cases Committee.