Fitness to Practice
The Fitness to Practise Procedure relates to professional misconduct and/or professional unsuitability of students whose professions are regulated by Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs).
It allows the University to deal with allegations relating to student professional fitness and suitability. It cannot, and does not seek to, replace other civil or criminal processes which should be used where more appropriate.
If your programme is accredited by a Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body, if it leads to possible membership of such a body, then there is a possibility that it is covered by the Procedure. Your Programme Team should be aware if it is covered. The current list of programmes covered is included as an appendix to the Procedure.
The Fitness to Practise Procedure can look at a broad range of activities. The exact nature will be influenced by the relevant Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies, for instance students on a nursing programme are expected to be familiar with and meet the requirements set out by the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) code.
- Professional misconduct relates to inappropriate behaviour, in includes the full range covered by the Student Disciplinary Procedure, including misuse of social media, academic misconduct, aggressive behaviour, misuse of University property etc., but also includes issues specific to professional practice, such as failure to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.
- Professional unsuitability relates to concerns that arise that a student is unsuitable for the profession for which they are studying. This may relate to matters of health, aptitude, behaviour or other factors.
In some specific University policies, such as the ICT Acceptable Use Policy and the Library & Learning Spaces Policy cases may be escalated to the Fitness to Practise Procedure.
If you have been invited to meet with the Dean of School (or nominee) for an informal discussion, it means there have been concerns raised about your conduct. The communication inviting you to the meeting should clearly set out what these concerns are. At this stage the University is invoking the procedure, but no formal action is currently being taken.
Where allegations are considered most serious, particularly, but not exclusively, those that may impact on the safe and efficient running of a placement and/or the University, or which relate to aggressive and violent acts, the University may decide to suspend a student pending a hearing. This suspension maybe from placement, study or both. This is a precautionary measure and does not assume that any misconduct has occurred.
This form of suspension can be flexible, and where practicable the University will seek to minimize the disruption to the studies of the student against whom the accusation is made. However, in some instances this is not possible. As placements are provided by organisations external to the University, it is unlikely that it will be possible to be flexible in relation to suspension from a placement.
The Procedure allows for a review of suspension pending a hearing where there is evidence of significantly altered circumstances. You will need to submit the request, along with the relevant evidence to email@example.com.
Many cases are dealt with at the preliminary stage. Here you may be given further support and guidance as to your professional responsibilities and asked to complete a piece of work to demonstrate your understanding.
However, where the matter is considered serious the University may enter a formal stage. The first part of this is the appointment of an investigator, who will gather evidence relating to the case. As part of the investigation they will ask to interview key parties. Once the investigation is completed the Dean of School (or nominee) will review the report and decide whether to submit it to a hearing.
The most serious cases will be referred to a University Fitness to Practise Panel. This Panel will take an independent view on whether there is evidence to support the allegations of misconduct or unsuitability and, if there is, impose an appropriate sanction.
Where a case is not considered most serious, then it may be referred to a School level hearing with the Dean of School (or nominee).
A University Fitness to Practise Panel can impose a range of sanctions from a written undertaking to be of good behaviour, up to removal from the programme, a period of suspension and expulsion from the University (see section of 9.11 of the Procedure).
A School level hearing has a more restricted range of sanctions and cannot suspend a student for long periods of time, remove credit or expel a student.
Where there has been a finding against you or an ongoing consideration of an allegation against you under a University procedure such as Academic Misconduct, Code of Conduct, Fitness to Practise or Student Disciplinary, then they may not be eligible to participate in some activities, such as studying or working abroad or professional placements. Restrictions may also be imposed by individual partner institutions and as such details of restrictions will depend on the programme of study and the proposed partner institution. If you have concerns about this, you are advised to contact your School.
You have the right to appeal against a decision taken at School hearing, or by a Fitness to Practise Panel, as long as the appeal is submitted on one of the three grounds set out in the Procedure and within the timescale allowed (ten working days of the formal notification of the outcome). Third parties cannot challenge decisions made through this Procedure.
There are no further stages in the University Procedure however, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) provides an independent scheme for the review of student complaints. Further information can be found at www.oiahe.org.uk
The University will seek to resolve all matters promptly. Where investigators need to speak to a range of people, including those at external placements this can add to the time it takes.
Cases involving matters being considered by police, criminal or civil procedures, including professional body procedures, may be put on hold until those external proceedings are completed. This can extend the whole process significantly.
Raising a concern
Depending on the nature of the concern, if you wish to raise a concern about the behaviour of another student you can raise it with your Personal Tutor, the Wellbeing team (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send an email to email@example.com.
The University will not normally take forward anonymous reports, unless corroborating evidence can be provided. The University may withhold personal information about individuals involved in a case from other parties, if, and when, it is considered appropriate and does not have a negative effect on the intention to ensure ‘natural justice’.
Individual independent advice to students is available from the Students’ Union’s Advice Centre (Telephone 0161 351 5400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Depending on the nature of the concerns raised you may also be able to get further information the Investigator within the School, your Personal Tutor or Programme Leader. The Quality and Enhancement Office can advise you on general enquires about the procedure by emailing email@example.com.