1 Professional Suitability Policy and Procedure Concerns about a student s professional suitability should be acted upon promptly in order to provide support to the student and as early intervention may prevent matters from becoming more serious. In the event of doubt as to how a concern should be dealt with, please refer to Student and Partnership Services ( or telephone ) Introduction 1. The University provides a number of programmes of study where students professional suitability to register for and undertake the programmes will be relevant and will require assessment and monitoring by the University. 2. These programmes of study are ones which lead to professional registration and/or a license to practise in a professional context and are characterised as being practice-centred and directed towards the achievement of professional competence and/ or professional registration. In addition, all of these programmes are accredited and/or regulated by professional, statutory or regulatory bodies (PSRBs) which are involved in the design, delivery and regulation of programmes. In particular, PSRBs, together with other professional advisory bodies (PABs) are concerned with seeking to ensure that students comply with professional codes of conduct and demonstrate developing standards of professionalism. 3. The programmes of study to which this Policy and Procedure apply are listed in Appendix 1. The University reserves the right to use this Policy and Procedure in relation to students who are qualified professionals on its postgraduate or continuing professional development (CPD) programmes. In such cases the student s employing organisation will usually be informed. 4. In light of the above, the University needs to be satisfied that students admitted, registering for, and undertaking such programmes are professionally suitable to do so, with reference to the standards of the particular profession and the requirements of any relevant PSRBs and/or PABs. The University s Disclosure and Barring Checks (DBS) Policy and Procedures sets out the arrangements for the admission of students with police warnings, reprimands, cautions and convictions. Once students are registered at the University they are subject to this Professional Suitability Policy and Procedure in the event that professional suitability concerns are raised. 5. Students undertaking such programmes will be required at all times to: demonstrate acceptable standards of conduct, demonstrate relevant values and attitudes, satisfy relevant criminal record requirements, and satisfy relevant health requirements for the programme concerned, as set out in programme handbooks and PSRB websites. 6. This Policy and Procedure sets out how the University will normally respond to instances where a concern is raised regarding a student s professional suitability and the type of action that the University may take to deal with the concern and to support the student. In appropriately serious cases, the University has the right to suspend and/or terminate a student s registration on the programme. 7. Examples of where professional suitability concerns may arise include (but are not limited to) instances where a student has or is suspected of having: health, mental health, emotional or inter-personal problems;
2 failed to comply with PSRB and/or PAB requirements in relation to professional suitability at any point in time failed to act within any statutory frameworks which set out students professional duties and responsibilities breached standards of acceptable conduct (professional or otherwise) such as those set out in the University s Student Conduct Policy or by a relevant PSRB and/or PAB, for example in connection with (but not limited to): abuse or harassment (including verbal and or written, physical, sexual or emotional), including through the use of social media violent, aggressive or threatening behaviour (physical, verbal or other) failure to treat others with dignity or respect, or to practise in a non-discriminatory way dishonesty or untrustworthiness (such as the misrepresentation of qualifications or professional experience, or the forging of documents or signatures, or theft or making false expenses claims) repeat or serious assessment offences the commission or suspected commission of a criminal offence alcohol or substance abuse/problem anti-social behaviour which adversely affects the proper operation of placement/workbased settings the failure to demonstrate an attitude or demeanour appropriate for individuals working in the profession concerned breach of confidentiality lack of motivation or interest and/or failure to participate in learning activities (e.g. small group/problem-based learning, portfolio development, practice placements, presentations, academic or pastoral tutorials, or multi/inter-professional focused sessions) inconsistent, unreliable or inappropriate behaviour in learning, study or placement/workbased learning settings and where, due to the professional nature of the programme, the University is concerned that the student s professional suitability may be or may become impaired in light of a reasonable suspicion that as a result (for example): a risk is posed to the student s own health, safety or wellbeing and/or that of others the proper operation of the profession is or may be adversely affected a relevant placement or work based setting is or may be adversely affected and/or trust in the profession may be undermined or the profession is brought into disrepute. 8. The University recognises that concerns regarding students professional suitability may arise in a variety of ways (e.g. as result of a disclosure made by the student on an annual statement of good health and character, or from the circumstances of a student s practice, academic performance or his/her conduct, or from issues raised by University staff, other students, health professionals, placement providers or service users). The University may consider and address concerns regarding students professional suitability howsoever they arise and will endeavour to take action to deal with concerns promptly and fairly. Staff to whom disclosures are made or concerns are raised are encouraged to consult with the Head of Department or his/her nominee to discuss next steps. The University recognises that dealing with matters in this way is critical not only to ensuring consistency and that relevant professional standards are attained and maintained, but also to supporting student learning and academic achievement and to the furtherance of a positive student experience. 9. This Policy and Procedure applies to students throughout their period of registration with the University, both on and off campus, and at all times. It is not limited to term time or placement or work-based learning. 10. In implementing this Policy and Procedure, the University will remain mindful of its duty of care and of its obligations to students under the Equality Act 2010 including in appropriate cases to make reasonable adjustments. It will also remain mindful of the often confidential and sensitive nature of professional suitability matters and of its obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.
3 11. The standard of proof applied at every stage of this Policy and Procedure is the balance of probabilities. 12. When dealing with students under this Policy and Procedure, University staff will consider what support and guidance may be offered to students. Students will be reminded of the support services provided by the University through Student and Partnership Services and by the Students Union Advice Centre and will be encouraged where appropriate to seek support from relevant external sources (e.g. local GPs or mental health services) as well as from sources internal to the University (e.g. the Wellbeing Service and Disability Service). 13. Students should be aware that, in the course of dealing with professional suitability concerns, the University may consider it appropriate to discuss and/or refer matters and/or their outcomes to third parties such as PSRBs or placement providers and agencies such as Social Services, the Police or the Disclosure and Barring Service. The University may do so on occasion without notification to the student. Any referrals will usually be notified to the relevant Programme Manager. Where such a third party or agency carries out any investigation or other process, the University may suspend or delay taking action under this Policy and Procedure although it is not obliged to do so. The University will not be bound by the outcome of any third party or agency investigation or other process. 14. Whilst the University anticipates that most matters involving professional suitability concerns will be dealt with under this Policy and Procedure, matters may arise where it is appropriate for the University to implement other University processes (such as its Assessment Offences Policy and Procedures and/or Fitness to Study Policy and Procedure) as an alternative or in addition to this Policy and Procedure and the University is not prevented from doing so at any time. However, this Policy and Procedure is not intended to deal with issues of assessing practice competencies which are managed under the University s Academic Regulations and Procedures. Conduct which may also be a criminal offence 15. If a student s conduct may be in breach of the criminal law, the University may at its discretion refer the matter to the police. In addition, the University may at its discretion suspend or delay taking action under this Policy and Procedure pending the outcome of any police inquiry and/or criminal investigation/prosecution. 16. The University may take action in respect of a student under this Policy and Procedure notwithstanding his/her conviction or acquittal in criminal proceedings. The University is not bound by the outcome of any criminal prosecution although the University may in its discretion take any penalty imposed by a criminal court into consideration in determining any outcome to be imposed under this Policy and Procedure. Conduct which may constitute fraud 17. Where a professional suitability concern involving an allegation of fraud is made against a student who is registered on a National Health Service (NHS) funded programme or is an employee of the NHS, the University may refer the matter to the NHS Counter Fraud Service for its investigation. 18. The following are examples of actions that could raise allegations of fraud: forging signatures (relating to practice or academic work) working whilst absent from the University/placement due to alleged sickness claiming a bursary when not entitled to do so or providing false information in a bursary application or not informing the NHS Bursaries Office when entitlement changes. 19. No internal action will normally be taken by the University other than suspension under paragraph 20 until the NHS Counter Fraud Service has completed its investigations and any subsequent external proceedings have been completed, or the NHS Counter Fraud Service advises that it does not object to the University dealing with the matter.
4 Temporary suspension or exclusion of student to mitigate risk 20. This section refers to the use of a temporary suspension of a student from their placement, workbased learning setting, related learning activities and/or programme, or temporary exclusion from University premises as a means of mitigating risk, not to their use as a penalty. Any temporary suspension or exclusion made under this section is a neutral act and is not a determination regarding any professional suitability concerns raised. 21. Where the relevant Head of Department (or his/her nominee) reasonably believes that a student about whom professional suitability concerns have been raised poses a risk to: his/her own health, safety and/or wellbeing and/or that of others the professional activities of a placement provider or other professional organisation or to a practice situation the property of the University and/or others, and/or the reputation of the University or a placement provider or other professional organisation, and/or its proper functioning and/or its activities and immediate action in the form of temporary suspension and/or exclusion is reasonably required to remove or reduce the risk, he/she may make a recommendation to a Deputy Vice- Chancellor (DVC) that the student be temporarily suspended and/or excluded The DVC will consider the recommendation and, acting under delegated authority from the Vice- Chancellor, may: suspend the student from their placement or work-based learning setting and/or related learning activities for a specified period of time suspend the student from their programme for a specified period of time and/or exclude the student from University premises for a specified period of time pending steps being taken under this Policy and Procedure and/or any police inquiry and/or criminal investigation/prosecution The student will be notified in writing of the DVC s decision, with reasons, normally within 2 working days of the date of the decision. 24. As part of his/her determination the DVC will consider whether specific arrangements can reasonably be put in place for the student in order to minimise the impact on his/her studies, and will liaise with the student s Executive Dean or Head of Department as appropriate. 25. Where the DVC temporarily suspends or excludes a student in accordance with this section, the student may appeal that decision within 10 working days of the date of the written notification of the decision, on one or more of the following grounds: the University has failed to follow the procedure set out in this Policy and Procedure the decision was unreasonable and/or disproportionate material new information/evidence is available which was not reasonably available before. The process for submitting an appeal is set out as paragraphs 64 to 70 below. 26. Where a student is suspended and/or excluded under this section the DVC will review at regular intervals whether it is reasonable for the suspension/exclusion to continue or whether it should be revoked or extended for a further specified period of time.
5 Procedure to be followed at Levels 1, 2 and Concerns about a student s professional suitability will normally be dealt with under the following Procedure which has 3 levels of concerns: Level 1: Initial, emerging or minor concerns Level 2: Serious and/or continuing concerns Level 3: Critical and/or persistent or cumulative concerns. 28. The Procedure may be entered at any level without any requirement for an earlier Level to have been commenced or exhausted, although it is anticipated that most situations can be managed by action taken at Levels 1 and/or 2. At which Level the Procedure is implemented will depend on factors such as the nature of the professional suitability concern, the seriousness of any risk posed and the student s response to any steps taken so far by the University to manage the situation. 29. Students dealt with under this Procedure will be entitled at any stage to be accompanied and/or represented by one member of staff, friend, relative, or representative of the Students Union. This is in addition to any health professional or support worker who may usually accompany the student. 30. Should a student without good cause be unwilling or unable to participate at any stage of this Procedure or attend a meeting/ hearing, the University may nonetheless follow the Procedure in his/her absence. 31. Where in this Procedure reference is made to any named University officer (including the Vice- Chancellor), such reference is to be read as including reference to his/her appointed nominee. Investigations 32. Prior to any matter being determined at a meeting under Level 1 or 2 or a hearing at Level 3, the University may undertake any such investigations as it considers reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. A member of staff will be appointed by the relevant Head of Department (or nominee) to act as Investigating Officer. The Investigating Officer will determine the process to be followed for the investigation and may speak with the student concerned and with other students, staff and where relevant third parties (such as placement providers or health professionals) and call for information. Any investigation will be carried out in a transparent and fair manner. The purpose of any investigation may be (for example) to inform the University of the appropriate manner in which to deal with the matter, at which Level a matter should be dealt with, or to prepare a report to be presented at the relevant Level. The student will normally be informed that an investigation is being carried out and of the identity of the Investigating Officer. Action Plans 33. Where the outcome at any Level of this Procedure includes the drawing up of an action plan, the plan will set out how the matter will be managed and any requirements to be placed on the student. The action plan will state that where the student fails to comply with any requirements placed upon him/her the matter may be referred to be dealt with at a higher Level. The student will be provided with a copy of the action plan. A date will be arranged at which the action plan will be reviewed by an appropriate member of staff at a review meeting who will consider whether the action plan should continue and, if so, whether it should be amended, and whether any requirements have been complied with and, if not, whether the matter should be referred to a higher Level. The student will be invited to the review meeting and the outcomes of the review meeting notified to the student in writing.
6 Level 1 Initial, Emerging or Minor Concerns 34. Initial, emerging or minor concerns about a student s professional suitability will normally be dealt with under Level 1 in the following way. 35. The Programme Manager will inform the student that there is a concern about his/her professional suitability and the nature of the concern and that the matter is to be dealt with under Level 1. The student will be provided with a copy of this Policy and Procedure. The Programme Manager will arrange a meeting with the student to discuss the concern and any support needs the student may have. The student will be given the opportunity to respond to the concern. The Programme Manager may invite other staff members to attend the meeting and may consult with and seek information from other persons in order to deal with the matter and to provide support to the student. 36. The Programme Manager will determine whether or not the student s professional suitability is impaired or may become impaired and any actions to be taken. Such actions may include (but are not limited to) one or more of the following outcomes: no action be taken the matter be referred to another Level support arrangements and/or reasonable adjustments be put in place for the student an action plan be drawn up the matter be referred for consideration under another University process (e.g. Fitness to Study or the Assessment Offences Policy and Procedures) 37. The student will be notified in writing normally within 5 working days of the date of the meeting of the Programme Manager s decision, with reasons, and any actions to be taken. 38. A copy of the decision letter and any associated documentation will be retained on the student s personal file and a copy sent to the Head of Department responsible for the area in which the programme resides. Level 2 Serious and/or continuing or repeated concerns 39. Serious and/or continuing or repeated concerns about a student s professional suitability will normally be dealt with under Level 2 the following way. 40. The Head of Department responsible for the area in which the programme resides will inform the student in writing that there is a concern about his/her professional suitability and the nature of the concern and that the matter is to be dealt with under Level 2. The student will be provided with a copy of this Policy and Procedure. 41. The student will be invited to a meeting with the Head of Department to discuss the concern and any support needs the student may have. The student will be given a full opportunity to respond to the concern. The Head of Department may invite other staff members to attend the meeting and may consult with and seek information from other persons in order to deal with the matter and to provide support to the student. Records of previous meetings under this Procedure and any action plans may be available at the meeting. 42. The student will normally be given at least 5 working days notice of the meeting and will be provided in advance of the meeting with relevant documentation supporting the concern. 43. The Head of Department will determine whether or not the student s professional suitability is impaired or may become impaired and any actions to be taken. Such actions may include (but are not limited to) one or more of the following outcomes: no further action be taken support arrangements and/or reasonable adjustments be put in place for the student
7 an action plan be drawn up the student be withdrawn temporarily from placement, other work-based setting or related learning activity the matter be referred to another Level the matter be referred for consideration under another University process (e.g. Fitness to Study or the Assessment Offences Policy and Procedures) 44. The student will be notified in writing normally within 5 working days of the meeting of the decision of the Head of Department, with reasons, and any actions to be taken. 45. A copy of the decision letter and any associated documentation will be retained on the student s personal file and a copy kept by the Head of Department. Level 3 - Critical, and/or persistent or cumulative concerns 46. Critical and/or persistent or cumulative concerns about a student s professional suitability will normally be dealt with under Level 3 in the following way. 47. The student will be informed in writing that there is a concern about his/her professional suitability and of the nature of the concern and that the matter is to be dealt with under Level 3. The student will be provided with a copy of this Policy and Procedure. 48. The student will be invited to a hearing before a Professional Suitability Panel. Normally at least 10 working days in advance of the hearing the student will be given in writing: notice of the date, time and place of the hearing full details of the professional suitability concern documentation in support of the concern, and a reminder of his/her right to be accompanied and/or represented at the Hearing under paragraph A member of staff from Student and Partnership Services, appointed by the Director, will act as Secretary to the Professional Suitability Panel. He/she will act as a neutral observer at the panel hearing and will provide advice and guidance on procedure. A note-taker may also be in attendance at the hearing. 50. The student may submit to the Secretary to the Professional Suitability Panel, at least five working days in advance of the hearing date, written evidence in response to the concern to be considered at the hearing. 51. Notice of any witnesses to be called by the student and/or the University s Case Presenter at the hearing must be given in writing to the Secretary to the Professional Suitability Panel at least 2 working days in advance of the date of the hearing together with a written statement of the contribution that each witness will make. The Secretary to the Professional Suitability Panel will provide a copy of each party s witness notice and statements to the other party. 52. A Professional Suitability Panel will be convened by the Director of Student and Partnership Services and will normally consist of: A PVC/Executive Dean of Faculty, or his/her Deputy or an Associate Dean (who will act as Chair) one member of academic staff from the Department in which the student is based one independent member of academic staff from another Department within the University, and one member of the relevant profession and external to the University. 53. In some cases, where required or advised to do so by a PSRB, the membership of the Panel may consist of members as prescribed by the PSRB.
8 54. All Professional Suitability Panel members will be impartial. A Professional Suitability Panel will not meet unless all members of the Panel are present. 55. Whilst the order and procedure to be followed at a hearing before a Professional Suitability Panel will be at the discretion of the Chair and will comply with the principles of natural justice, the following will normally occur: A member of University staff appointed to act as Case Presenter in the matter will outline the professional suitability concern and the evidence in support of the concern. The student or his/her representative may respond at this stage. The Case Presenter may call and question witnesses. The student or his/her representative may question these witnesses. The student or his/her representative will present his/her case. The student or his/her representative may call and question witnesses. The Case Presenter may question these witnesses. The Case Presenter will sum up. The student or his/her representative may reply. The members of the Professional Suitability Panel may question any witness at any time during the hearing and may recall the parties or witnesses at any time. The Chair may adjourn or postpone the hearing where in his/her discretion it is reasonable to do so. The Professional Suitability Panel may ask for specific enquiries to be undertaken, additional witnesses to be called and/or additional information to be presented. Minutes will be taken of the proceedings. 56. The Professional Suitability Panel will retire in private to deliberate. The Secretary to the Professional Suitability Panel may retire with the Panel in order to provide procedural advice but will play no part in the Panel s decision-making. Matters will be determined by the Professional Suitability Panel on the balance of probabilities. If a consensus of decision is not achieved, the Chair will have the casting vote. 57. The Professional Suitability Panel will determine whether or not the student s professional suitability is impaired or may become impaired and any actions to be taken. Such actions may include (but are not limited to) one or more of the following outcomes: no action be taken support arrangements and/or reasonable adjustments be put in place for the student an action plan be drawn up the matter be referred to an earlier Level the matter be referred for consideration under another University process (e.g. Fitness to Study or Assessment Offences Policy and Procedure) a written warning be given to the student to be held on the student s personal file the student be withdrawn from placement or other work-based activity or related learning activity the student be transferred to a non-professional programme a recommendation be made to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) that a professional award is withheld or withdrawn a recommendation be made to the Award Board that an alternative non-professional award be awarded a recommendation be made to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) that the student be suspended from the programme for a specified period of time (with or without conditions) a recommendation be made to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) that the student be expelled from the University a recommendation be made to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) that the student be expelled from the University and not be permitted readmission on a professional programme in the future
9 58. The student will be notified in writing normally within 5 working days of the date of the hearing of the decision of the Professional Suitability Panel, with reasons, and any actions to be taken (although the student and the Case Presenter may also be notified verbally in advance of this time). 59. The hearing (and any subsequent meeting held to review progress and/or to provide additional support) will be formally recorded with one copy sent to the student, one copy retained on the student s personal file and a third copy sent to the Head of Department responsible for the area in which the programme normally resides within 10 working days of the hearing. Employment references 60. The University regularly provides student-related references to third parties (such as educational institutions and potential employers). 61. When providing a reference in a professional context (for example, in connection with potential employment in a profession or admission on to a professional programme of study at another institution) for a student who has been subject to this Policy and Procedure at Level 3, the University will refer to the professional suitability concern raised against the student, the associated circumstances, and the decision and outcome of the Level 3 proceedings. Students will be actively encouraged to contact the employing organisation and discuss full details of the case with the prospective employer. 62. The University will not normally refer to issues arising in connection with professional suitability proceedings under Levels 1 and 2 when providing references requested in a professional context, but reserves the right to do so when it considers it appropriate to do so (for example, in a matter involving issues of safeguarding and/or client/service-user safety). 63. The University will not normally refer to issues arising in professional suitability proceedings under Levels 1, 2 or 3 when providing references for students in non-professional contexts. Appeals 64. Students may raise a written appeal to the Head of Complaints and Appeals against any neutral suspension or exclusion imposed under paragraph 20 above, or against the outcome of Levels 2 and 3 of this Policy and Procedure, within 10 working days of the date of the decision letter, on one or more of the stated grounds. The grounds for appeal against neutral suspension/exclusion are set out at paragraph 25 above. The grounds for appeal against the outcome of Levels 2 and 3 are: the University has failed to follow the procedure set out in this Policy and Procedure the decision is irrational and/or a disproportionate outcome has been imposed material new information/evidence is available which was not reasonably available before. 65. The decision of the DVC or Professional Suitability Panel, as appropriate, will take effect and remain in force until such time as it may be changed by the Appeal outcome. 66. The Head of Complaints and Appeals (or his/her nominee) will consider the appeal submission and determine whether there are valid grounds to proceed, and the student will be informed accordingly. 67. Where valid grounds have been determined, the Vice-Chancellor (VC) will invite the student to submit additional evidence within a specified timeframe for further consideration. 68. The VC will determine the appeal, and will make one of the following decisions: dismiss the appeal (in whole or part) and/or uphold the appeal (in whole or part) and (as appropriate):
10 refer the matter back to an earlier level of this Procedure for reconsideration refer the matter back to an earlier level of this Procedure for fresh consideration impose an alternative outcome confirm the original decision 69. The outcome of the appeal will be notified to the student in writing, with reasons, normally within 7 working days of determination of the appeal. 70. The decision of the VC will be final and will conclude this Procedure. A Completion of Procedures letter will be issued to the student. Further information on procedures for external and independent review can be obtained from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education website Revision approved April 2014 Academic Quality and Enhancement Committee
11 APPENDIX 1 Programmes applicable to the Professional Suitability Policy and Procedure Faculty of Creative Arts, Industries and Education Postgraduate Certificate in Education All Initial Teacher Training Programmes Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences Nursing Programmes Midwifery Programmes Physiotherapy Programmes Occupational Therapy Programmes Radiography Programmes Paramedic Science Programmes Healthcare Science Programmes Biomedical Science Programmes Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Programmes Music Therapy Programmes Social Work Programmes Counselling Programmes Psychotherapy Programmes Independent Prescribing Programmes Practitioner Psychology Programmes
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