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Aim of the attendance policy

  • To promote attendance as an important aspect of the student study experience for all students on all Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research programmes.

  • To promote attendance as an important aspect of professional behaviour during all teaching, learning and clinical encounters in preparation for demonstrating appropriate professional behaviour in clinical practice and patient care on relevant programmes.

  • To identify students whose attendance has been poor in order to identify the appropriate support.

  • Where applicable to maintain compliance with the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) regulations and with St George’s responsibilities as a Tier 4 sponsor.

Background

Attendance and engagement with teaching and learning opportunities are important aspects of student experience, student success and professionalism. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and professionalism throughout their programme of study. Attendance on undergraduate programmes is monitored by programme teams including when students are on clinical and work placements.

The Attendance policy is necessary to clarify attendance expectations for staff and students and to ensure student engagement in study and research. The policy also supports the improvement of the overall student experience by identifying where students may be experiencing difficulties and ensuring timely intervention and appropriate support. The policy aligns with other St George’s policies, including the Religious Observance and Academic Timetabling Policy and the General Regulations.

St George’s also has a legal responsibility to comply with the attendance monitoring regulations of UKVI as part of its continued registration as a Tier 4 sponsor of non-EEA students who require a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK. This is supplementary to the normal monitoring of the attendance of all students (both home/EU and international). Tier 4 students who fail to comply with attendance monitoring checks may be reported to UKVI in accordance with these regulations and jeopardise their current and future permission to remain in the UK.

Expected attendance

Students are expected to attend all sessions in all years that are timetabled (practical, lectures, seminars, tutorials). Students are notified of programme teaching sessions in programme handbooks and provided with timetables. Students are also expected to demonstrate high levels of attendance on clinical placements, this is documented within course guides. Expectations of attendance are included in the General Regulations (4.11). Students are expected to be punctual for all timetabled sessions and placements.

Postgraduate research students are expected to maintain regular contact including attending scheduled meetings (at least once per month) with their supervisors throughout the period of research study until award as detailed in the Student and Supervisor Agreement and Student Handbook – MPhil and PhD.

Special arrangements regarding permitted absences can be made when the student notifies the appropriate member of staff and this is agreed and documented.

Students are expected to attend all examinations in all years as per the published examinations timetable. If a student is unable to attend an examination, he or she is expected to contact the exams or programme team for further guidance.

Notification of Absence

If a student registered on a programme is unable to attend, including when on clinical placement, he or she is expected to take the following action:

  1. Short term absence / sickness (5 days or less) – telephone or email the programme administrator. In certain circumstances, guidance will be given on the implications of the absence for teaching and learning and/or professional requirements.

  2. Long term / Prolonged absence (more than 5 days and up to 3 weeks) – students should seek medical advice and may be asked to provide evidence in the form of a medical certificate/letter from a qualified practitioner (not from a family member). In certain circumstances, guidance will be given on the implications of the absence for teaching and learning and/or professional requirements.

  3. Continuous Absence (more than 3 weeks) or recurring periods of short and/or long term absence – students should submit evidence supporting the reason for their absence(s). The programme team will decide whether the absence(s) will be authorised and provide guidance on the implications of the absence for teaching and learning and/or professional requirements. A student may be required to attend Occupational Health to assess their health status prior to resuming their studies. Where there is continuous absence of more than 3 weeks, or recurring absences, there may be a programme-specific policy which confirms the maximum length of absence that is permitted before a student is required to take a compulsory interruption of study (on the grounds that the teaching missed by the student is too much to catch up).

Repeated, unauthorised or un-notified absence will be treated as a potential disciplinary matter and could result in a referral to the university’s Student Progress Monitoring Committee (SPMC) and/or termination under the General Regulations (4.11).

Compassionate leave

In circumstances where absence is necessary at very short notice (e.g. a close family bereavement) students should email the relevant Programme Administrator, to confirm this absence and to give an indication of the period of absence. Guidance will be given on the implications of the absence for teaching and learning and/or professional requirements. Supporting evidence may be required.

Request to be absent to observe religious practices or festivals

Students may request to miss specific teaching and learning events to attend a particular faith event. They should follow the advice contained within the Religious Observance and Examinations Policy.

Contacting absent students without agreed absence

St George’s will make reasonable attempts to contact the student which may include attempting to call all telephone numbers recorded on the student’s record and writing to the student’s term time address. If the student cannot be contacted, a referral will be made to the Student Progress and Monitoring Committee (SPMC). A letter confirming termination of registration in accordance with General Regulation 4.11 may be issued with the authority of the Academic Registrar.

If the student has a Tier 4 visa, a report will be made to UKVI notifying them of the student’s termination of registration and St George’s withdrawal of Tier 4 sponsorship.

Attendance requirements for Tier 4 students

As a Tier 4 Sponsor, the University is legally required to demonstrate that Tier 4 students are attending and engaging in their programme of study and that there are active procedures in place to identify and address any concerns.

Tier 4 students are made aware, by the International Advising Team in the Registry, of the Tier 4 sponsor/student relationship including the sponsor’s legal responsibility to report to UKVI non-attendance and lack of engagement. Reporting a student to the UKVI is a serious step and can lead to the curtailment of the student’s Tier 4 visa and a requirement to leave the UK.

The appendix below sets out the attendance monitoring process including what action is taken where a student fails to attend as required. This process has been produced so that the University can efficiently and reliably fulfil its Tier 4 sponsor monitoring and reporting duties and also support the improvement of the overall student experience by identifying where Tier 4 students may be experiencing difficulties and ensuring timely intervention and appropriate support.

It should be emphasised that these are additional requirements for Tier 4 students only and that the primary responsibility for monitoring attendance and identifying and responding to issues continues to rest with programme teams.

UKVI requirements

Under UKVI’s points-based system, the University must:

  • identify a minimum of 10 points of contact for sponsored Tier 4 students throughout each academic year from which we can provide evidence from records as to whether students are attending and engaging with their programme.

  • set 2 Tier 4 checkpoints during a rolling 12-month period.

  • retain evidence of attendance and engagement records (spreadsheets, databases, etc.) to demonstrate that attendance and engagement is recorded and that non-attendance or lack of engagement is noted and acted upon, where required. This is for Home Office audit purposes.

  • report to the Home Office within 10 working days of decision, any Tier 4 student who has missed 10 consecutive ‘expected contacts’ and whose lack of attendance or engagement or progress has resulted in their exclusion, thereby cancelling the University’s education sponsorship of the student and his/her right to be in the UK.

Tier 4 - students studying away from the University

This responsibility extends to students who hold a Tier 4 visa on a year abroad, year in industry or any other type of work placement. Monitoring arrangements will be agreed in advance for these students, as well as for students who will be studying at a partner institution, either in the UK or overseas, for a specified period of time during their programme of study.

A member of staff at the partner university will act as a co-ordinator and report on attendance/engagement of Tier 4 students on a regular basis.

The International Advising Team will notify the students concerned of the process and what we require of them. Students are encouraged to keep in contact with their personal tutor by email/telephone/letter.

If the student fails to keep two or more of their expected points of contact without authorisation, the International Advising Team will discuss this with the Year Lead and programme team.

Tier 4 - postgraduate research students

For postgraduate research students, the contact points identified contain a mixture of attendance and engagement attributes and include supervisory meeting, six monthly progress reports, and Tier 4 Checkpoints and meeting milestones towards thesis completion. The six monthly progress reports will list dates of supervisory meetings.

When research students submit their thesis, the monitoring of engagement will continue using other points of engagement such as the viva examination and (if necessary) discussions on corrections and resubmission of the thesis. This will continue until the examiners approve the final thesis submission.

Where students are off-campus (field work, research in another country/location), and wish to retain their Tier 4 status, they will be expected to continue to engage at the same frequency. There can be virtual contact points: emails, Skype interactions, etc. Scheduled email updates between supervisors and supervisees can constitute contact points, especially those which contain a requirement for the student to forward work completed to date, or linked to research milestones or other programme outcomes.

Appendix

Our processes for monitoring international students

i) Expected contact points

The Compliance Team will work with programme teams to identify and set a minimum of 10 ‘expected contact’ points suited to the curriculum. These points will be spread evenly throughout the year, for each year of a programme.

The identified points will involve a mixture of types of contact to ensure that they demonstrate both a student’s attendance and engagement with studies, for e.g. taught sessions, placement sign-off and other expected contact (tutorial, assignment submission, examination, Tier 4 sign in, etc)

The data on attendance monitoring and engagement for Tier 4 students is recorded by programme administrators for audit purposes and forwarded to the Compliance Team for analysis; absence is recorded as either authorised or unauthorised.

ii) Tier 4 Checkpoints

The Compliance Team will set two compulsory ‘Tier 4 Checkpoints’ during each academic year (typically in January and April) for all Tier 4 students to demonstrate attendance.

This will necessitate that students attend the Student Centre to sign in to confirm that they are engaging in their programme of study, understand their Tier 4 responsibilities (e.g. working restrictions) and have provided their up-to-date contact details. All Tier 4 students will be notified of the Tier 4 Checkpoint dates in advance by the Compliance Team. If a student does not attend the sign-in within the stipulated time-periods, this will account for one missed contact.

iii) Data analysis

After each Tier 4 checkpoint, the Compliance Team will review the data collected at (i) and (ii) above to identify those students who show irregular attendance or inadequate engagement. These reviews will determine whether and what appropriate action needs to be initiated, including direct and immediate follow-up with any student whose attendance/engagement is deemed inadequate.

Escalation

A student does not need to miss all contact points for it to constitute an attendance/engagement pattern of concern. Similarly, the missed contact points need not be consecutive before it is appropriate to draw the student’s attention to attendance requirements.

The Compliance Team will take the following action if a student has missed two or more expected points of contact. As best practice, the Compliance Team will copy the programme team into communications with the student regarding missed attendance and/or lack of engagement. The messages will also highlight how to contact relevant members of support staff. Including the lead personal tutors for international students.

First Stage

i) Two scheduled contact points missed without authorisation, ie unauthorised absence.

An email message will be sent from the Compliance Team informing the student that they have missed two scheduled contact points and reminding them that active participation is expected on the programme and when a Tier 4 visa is granted, UKVI expect full attendance.

Second stage

ii) Four scheduled contact points missed without authorisation

The student will be invited to meet with the Compliance Team to discuss any issues affecting attendance/engagement. If deemed relevant, the possibility of an interruption of studies and visa implications will be discussed. A brief minute of this meeting will be retained on file and emailed to the programme administrator and the Year Lead. At this stage, a decision will be taken in light of any relevant information, whether a more formal discussion with the student and the programme team is merited.

Third stage

iii) Seven scheduled contact points without authorisation; attendance/engagement could be reasonably deemed to be inconsistent and of concern

The Compliance Team will meet with the programme team to discuss the student’s overall performance and determine whether the student has made a serious attempt to recover their position and is otherwise progressing with the programme. The student will be invited to a formal meeting to discuss their continuation on the programme. The possibility of a referral to the Student Progress and Monitoring Committee (SPMC) will be discussed. A full minute of this meeting will be forwarded to the Academic Registrar and a copy retained on the student’s file.

Final stage

iv) Where a student has missed 10 consecutive contact points without authorisation or his/her attendance/engagement or progress more widely is at a level deemed unacceptable

The student’s overall progression should be considered in relation to the course policies. A decision should be made whether the student should be interrupted or withdrawn from the programme for reasons of non-attendance/engagement.

If a decision is made to withdraw the student, a report to the UKVI will be made by the Compliance Team within 10 working days of the date of the decision.

 

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