University of Westminster student told to ‘prove’ father’s sudden death after exam deferral claim rejected

Haq's tweet is shared more than 2,000 times in less than 24 hours, provoking messages of support for the student

A university in London has been criticised after a student’s request to defer her exams was rejected when her father passed away suddenly - because her “evidence was not sufficient.”

Saima Haq, 18, who is studying biochemistry at the University of Westminster, took to Twitter on Thursday to explain how she submitted a mitigating circumstances request to have her exams  - due to start this month - delayed until July after her dad died while abroad two weeks ago.

She wrote: “I explained in my statement that there is absolutely no way for me to provide any original documents at this time, since they are being processed in his country of death, but I have given photocopies of all the evidence that my uncle has been emailing me.”

She claimed the university rejected her request because “photocopies of evidence are apparently just ‘self certification’.” Miss Haq continued: “My uncle is mourning for his brother, the last thing on his mind is posting a death burial certificate from a country 12 hours away just because his niece’s university won’t accept copies.”

Describing how she is “in shock at how unreasonable the university has been,” Miss Haq said she has also been “amazed at how unprofessional and unsupportive” the institution is.

She claimed her own personal tutor had been ignoring her emails for two weeks, with student services having redirected her several times, adding: “I have been going in circles trying to find someone to speak to.

“All I have asked is to defer my exams to July so I can be at home with my mother. I am not asking for a free pass into second year.”

Miss Haq’s tweet - in which she also attached a screenshot of the reply she received back from the mitigating circumstances board at the university - struck a chord with many Twitter users. Having been retweeted more than 2,000 times, so far, it has also provoked many messages of support.

In the reply she received from the university telling Miss Haq her request had been denied, it read: “According to the Board, your claim was rejected because your evidence was not sufficient to support your claim.”

In an email to the Independent, a University of Westminster spokesperson said the institution was “very sad” for Miss Haq’s loss, but could not comment on individual students due to data protection.

The spokesperson added: “However, we have clear and robust procedures for students submitting exam deferral requests, which must be substantiated by original, independent documentary evidence.

“Students fully complying with this procedure will be granted deferral. We are committed to proving support and guidance to our students, especially during difficult times and bereavement, and offer a wide range of academic and personal support services.” 

The university also directed the Independent to its mitigating circumstances claims site which reads: “All claims must demonstrate how the stated circumstances prevented you from attending and/or submitting your assessment by the deadline and must be substantiated by original, independent documentary evidence.”

Speaking with BuzzFeed News, Miss Haq described how it was “tiring” having to explain her circumstances countless times and said she is now waiting for the university to contact her with a new decision.

She added: “Since I tweeted, the president of the students’ union has tweeted me, as well as the vice president of one of the university campuses.”

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