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Academic Concessions

What is an academic concession?

Academic concessions are granted when unexpected situations or circumstances prevent students from participating in course-related activities, which could include missing a class, or completing graded work or exams. 

Situations or circumstances that may call for an academic concession include illness, accident, family situation, and similar unanticipated changes in personal responsibilities that create a conflict, or warrant particular compassion.

Concessions are normally granted at the discretion of individual instructors and/or in accordance with established departmental or Faculty policies and procedures. Students should always speak to their instructor as a first step.

What is an academic accommodation?

It is important to note that an academic concession differs from an academic accommodation. While concessions are normally granted at the discretion of individual instructors, an accommodation is a required modification of a practice (such as providing extra time on exams) or an addition of University resources to ensure that a student has fair access and is not discriminated against on the basis of a protected ground such as a disability. SFU has a legal duty to provide reasonable accommodations under the Accessibility for Students with Disabilities Policy (GP26) and the Human Rights Policy (GP18). An instructor will typically receive a notification about the need for an academic accommodation from the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning on disability grounds, or from the Human Rights Office for other grounds (e.g., religious). 

Accommodations may be authorized where there are barriers to fair access to learning opportunities as a result of factors such as learning disabilitieschronic health or mental health disabilities, and conflicts with religious holidays. In some cases, an extended injury/illness (e.g. concussion, or fractured writing arm) may qualify a student for accommodation through the Centre for Accessible Learning’s temporary injury process. Faculty or staff who are approached by students about accommodating disabilities should refer them to the Centre for Accessible Learning for assistance. CAL will notify the instructor about the type of accommodation the student requires. In the case of religious accommodation, an instructor should follow the guidance provided by the SFU Human Rights Office.

What kinds of academic concessions are available?

a. Instructor-granted Concessions:

Instructor-granted concessions are those arranged by an instructor for a student upon a student’s request. These may take the form of extensions, deferred exams, make-up exams, alternate assignments, or the re-weighting of grades. Instructors have discretion about how to respond to requests for academic concession but must exercise that discretion reasonably and fairly. After considering a request, an instructor may provide a concession or may decline to do so. Instructor-granted concessions are the most common type of concession.

b. Concessions requiring involvement of the Office of the Registrar and/or Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies:

Deferred (DE) Grade

A DE grade is a temporary grade assigned at the end of the term for incomplete coursework. A deferred grade will eventually revert to a letter grade or notation. The DE notation can be issued in two circumstances.

  • A student must request a DE on the basis of documented medical or compassionate grounds within 24 hours after the final examination date or final coursework is submitted. Within four days the student must also submit a physician’s certificate or other documentation substantiating the request for deferral. Failure to submit supporting documents may result in an F or N grade.
  • The course instructor decides to defer submitting a final grade pending completion of further work by a student or students.

All unchanged DE notations will be converted automatically to N grades after the end of the first week in the following term. In exceptional cases, an extension may be granted by the instructor and must be approved by the department chair and submitted in writing to the Office of the Registrar with a final deferral date. Normally, the maximum extension allowed is the end of the term following the original deferral.

Withdrawal under Extenuating Circumstances (WE)

The WE is a notation that replaces a grade on the transcript similar to the WD. The WE indicates that a student applied for a WE and had their application approved, allowing them to drop a course after the normal course drop deadline due to extenuating circumstances. Note that students apply for a WE through the Academic Appeals office in Student Services and not through their instructors, and approval is not guaranteed. Further, tuition refunds for WE applications are rarely granted. It is therefore preferrable that students speak to their instructors first to fully explore if an instructor-granted concession is available. Normally, a minor short-term absence would not qualify for a WE.

There are different procedures for graduate and undergraduate students:

Aegrotat Standing (AE) Grade

The AE grade (sometimes called a “compassionate pass”) is granted by the Registrar acting on the recommendation of the instructor or department chair for an incomplete course on medical or compassionate grounds. Normally, the course requirements will have been substantially fulfilled, and written evidence must support the request for the AE grade. This evidence must be received by the registrar or department within 96 hours of a scheduled final exam or within 96 hours of the last day of term lectures for which such standing is requested. Courses for which aegrotat standing is granted are not included in the GPA calculation.

An AE grade is generally reserved for the most extreme cases where instructor-granted concessions, DE, or WE options are not available. As such, instructors should speak with the Registrar about the case to ensure support prior to making arrangements with a student for an AE.

c. Department or Faculty-granted Academic Concessions:

Departments may be able to provide some flexibility in program requirements. Examples include course substitutions, course pre-requisite waivers, and continuance GPA exceptions. Many of these concessions are handled at the department advisor level, though some may require sign-off by the chair/director. With support from their Dean, departments may also recommend degree-level requirement exceptions to the Registrar/designate. Students interested in learning more about potential Department/Faculty-granted concessions should speak with the relevant Academic Advisor.

How is an academic concession granted?

  1. Unexpected situation or circumstance prevents you from participating in course-related activities.
  2. Evaluate your ability to manage your coursework in your new circumstances. If needed consult with your care providers or reach out to SFU Health & Counselling Services for care and consultation. In some cases, an extended injury/illness (eg. Concussion, or fractured writing arm) may qualify a student for a formal accommodation through the Centre for Accessible Learning’s temporary injury process.
  3. Talk with your instructor as soon as possible. Based on your circumstances and the timing of the circumstances, explore whether concessions are available:
    • Prior to the undergraduate drop deadlinegraduate drop deadline
      • Speak with your instructor about concessions.
        • Ask about reasonable options for completing the coursework in a timely manner.
        • Instructors have discretion about how to respond to requests for academic concessions, but must exercise that discretion reasonably and fairly. Note that they have to consider a number of factors, including compassion for students, fairness of evaluation for all students in a course, and achieving the educational goals of the course and the academic program. After considering a request, an instructor may provide a concession or may decline to do so.
      • If an undergraduate student, speak with your academic advisor about changing a course to use the Elective Grade System (P/CR/NC).
        • Speak with your academic advisor about dropping the course(s).
      • If a graduate student, speak with your Graduate Program Assistant and Supervisor to discuss your options (i.e. audit or competency-based grading).
        • If you believe there will be something impacting your health and wellness for the full term, review leave of absence options.
    • After the undergraduate drop deadline /graduate drop deadline
      • Speak with your instructor about concessions.
        • Ask about reasonable options for completing the coursework in a timely manner.
        • Note: Instructors have discretion about how to respond to requests for academic concessions, but must exercise that discretion reasonably and fairly. After considering a number of factors, an instructor may grant a request for a concession or may decline to do so.
      • If not available, or if the concession offered does not help in your situation, speak with an academic advisor to discuss undergraduate Withdrawal Under Extenuating Circumstances / graduate Withdrawal Under Extenuating Circumstances.
    • End of course (final exams/papers)
      • Speak with your instructor about concessions.
        • Ask about reasonable options for completing the coursework in a timely manner.
        • Ask about a getting a deferred grade (DE) while completing the final work.
        • Note: Instructors have discretion about how to respond to requests for academic concessions, but must exercise that discretion reasonably and fairly. After considering a number of factors, an instructor may grant a request for a concession or may decline to do so.
      • If undergraduate and not available, or if the concession offered does not help in your situation, speak with an academic advisor to discuss a Withdrawal Under Extenuating Circumstances.
      • If graduate and not available, or if the concession offered does not help in your situation, speak with your Graduate Program Assistant to discuss a Withdrawal Under Extenuating Circumstances.

Documentation

A student may be required to provide documentation to support their request. Providing documentation does not guarantee a request will be granted, and students should always speak to their instructor first.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, if an instructor requires documentation supporting a concession for a minor short-term illness (typically 1–5 days), students should use the new self-declaration form as SFU will not be requiring medical notes for minor absences during this period. Should students need to be absent for a longer period of time, they should expect to need to obtain additional medical documentation. While a note may not be required, students are still encouraged to connect with their care providers or reach out to SFU Health & Counselling Services for care and consultation if they need it.

Resources for Students

  • SFU Office of the Ombudsperson – The Ombudsperson at SFU is an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students. We provide information and guidance on students' rights and responsibilities, and University regulations, policies and procedures. The Ombudsperson is available to students for consultation at any step along the way of an academic concession requests, particularly if a student is concerned that there is a fairness issue involved.
  • SFSS Student Advocacy Coordinator – The Student Advocacy Coordinator supports undergraduates at SFU in academic and non-academic matters by providing resources and options, in a confidential manner, to create a safe and respectful space for students and improving their overall university experience. This new office launched in Fall 2021 in response to student demand.
  • GSS Advocate and Policy Advisor – The GSS has a dedicated staff person to help graduate students with their individual concerns. The Advocate and Policy Advisor gives advice, attends appeals, intervenes, and more, depending on the situation. This office is completely confidential.
  • Academic Advising – Academic advisors in Student Services and departments are here to advise students on potential courses of action when a student is experiencing academic difficulty.
  • Graduate Program Assistants and Supervisors – Your Graduate Program Assistant and/or Supervisor are here to discuss your options for courses of action when you are experiencing difficulties.
  • Student Support, Rights & Responsibilities  – ​We recommend that you first speak with an Academic Advisor in your Faculty to understand your options. Your faculty administrative team will work with you to make arrangements related to your classes. If there are unique circumstances that your Faculty cannot support you with, you can contact the Office of Student Support, Rights & Responsibilities. The team can review your individual situation and ensure that you have the correct information regarding your support options. You can reach the team at student_support@sfu.ca.