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, or if it leads to possible membership of such a body, then it may be 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 Misconduct Procedure, misuse of social media, academic misconduct, aggressive behaviour, harassment and abuse, 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.
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.
Action pending (including suspension from placement and/or University).
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 take action pending a hearing. This may include suspension from placement, study or both. This is a precautionary measure and does not assume that any misconduct has occurred.
This form of ‘action pending’ 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 ‘action pending’ where there is evidence of significantly altered circumstances. You will need to submit the request, along with the relevant evidence to email@example.com.
Preliminary stage - education, training and support
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 investigator’s role is neutral, it is to gather evidence related to the concerns raised, not to make a case.
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).
Possible outcomes (Sanctions).
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.
A School level hearing has a more restricted range of sanctions and cannot suspend a student, remove credit or expel a student.
Request for a review of an outcome (appeal)
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
There is an appeal form available to assist you with submitting a request for Review
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.
Other potential impacts
Where there has been a finding against you or an ongoing consideration of an allegation against you under a Academic Misconduct, Code of Conduct, Fitness to Practise or Student Misconduct, 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.
PSRB sign off.
Some professional bodies require sign off by members of staff as part of a student’s registration process. These are matters for the bodies concerned and are not part of the Fitness to Practise Procedure.
Notification of employers, PSRBs, DBS and in references.
Some employers with a contract with the University require the University to inform them of the outcome of any formal hearings. Where the student is also a registrant the PSRB may be informed. The university has obligations to inform of the Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) of certain types of concerns which would be considered via this procedure. Notification of formal findings maybe included in references where they are considered relevant.
Withdrawing from the University.
Should you choose to withdraw partway through a case the University will normally continue to complete the case, for example to a formal hearing, or exceptionally pause the case putting on note on your file and should you wish to return to the University the University would reserve the right to re-open the original case before you would be able to re-join.
Raising a concern about a student
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 Report + Support your Personal Tutor, the Wellbeing team or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 (email email@example.com). 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.