If you study a course which leads directly to a professional qualification such as Social Work, Nursing, Teaching or Policing there is an additional requirement to abide by 'Professional Suitablity' rules. This is because the profession you wish to enter has a code of conduct for its members which extends to students wishing to enter the profession.
If your conduct causes concern that you may not be fit to practice in your chosen profession, an investigation may be carried out by the University.
The full Professional Suitability procedure (PSP) can be found [here]. Any student who has had concerns raised against them regarding Professional Suitability should be given a fair opportunity to discuss what has happened.
The Professional Suitability Process is serious, and we would encourage you to get in touch with our Advice team ahead of any meetings to advise you on the process and offer representation at meetings. Alternatively, you may wish to request representation from your Professional Union depending on the nature of the allegation.
Allegations, referrals or complaints regarding student professional suitability may be brought to the University’s attention by: any member of staff or student of the University, bodies or individuals external to the University including professional bodies, the Disclosure and Barring Service, placement providers, clients or service users.
Though not exhaustive, some of the most common reasons for concerns of professional suitability to be raised are:
- That the actions of a student have jeopardized the reputation of any part or member of the University, the profession, or a professional body.
- That there are questions about a student's suitability to remain a member of the University and/or to seek registration to a professional body because he/she poses or may pose a danger to members of the public.
- Evidence of a student's inability to practise professionally due to misconduct or health problems, including issues relating to drink or drugs.
- Excessive periods of unexplained absence, recurring and frequent explained absences, from the programme or placement which is significant to the student's professional suitability.
- If a student develops a health condition or disability while on the programme, or a student's existing health condition or disability changes while on the programme, professional suitability may be examined.
If concerns for professional suitability are raised, the Proctor's office will investigate any allegations made, and invite the student(s) involved into an informal suitability meeting to clarify more details regarding the situation.
Depending on the nature of the concerns, you may be temporarily removed from any placement ahead of an initial meeting regarding professional suitability.
An invitation will be sent to attend an informal meeting with the Dean of Students (or nominee), and a member of the department staff, to discuss the professional suitability concerns, and to allow you to give your account of the situation. You can have representation with you at this meeting if you wish to do so. The meeting will usually be recorded and a transcript of this meeting typed up.
If the initial investigation appears to show concerns for professionally unsuitable behaviour, or the student admits to misconduct, one or more of the measures listed below may be implemented. The following list is not exhaustive and it may be the case in any particular faculty or programme that a certain action is inappropriate:
- That any necessary reasonable adjustment required by the Disability Discrimination Act be made in consultation with student and kept under review.
- A warning and/or advice about future conduct.
- A requirement that the student give an undertaking as to his/her future conduct, including within the University and/or on placements.
- A requirement that the student seek appropriate medical, or other necessary, assistance to resolve the issues.
- A requirement that the student undertake one or more specific tasks within the University as determined by the Dean of Students.
- A fine of up to £150.
- A requirement that the student pay for any damage to property, s/he may have caused, or recompense the University for any loss it may have suffered.
- A requirement that the issue be referred to a formal Professional Suitability Panel.
If the decision is to refer to a formal Professional Suitability Panel, you will be informed of this, and be sent a letter outlining the dates for the panel in due course. Further investigation may be made by the investigating officer at this point. You can also compile any evidence or statements which you feel support your stance, and have these added to the panel papers. Our Advice team can provide support on what evidence may be suitable for this.
Prior to a formal professional suitability panel, you will have a copy of the panel papers sent to your nominated address so it is important to ensure this is up-to-date. If you have confirmed that you will also have representation at the meeting, a copy of the papers will also be sent to your representative at the SU. We would advise you to read through the papers ahead of the panel hearing. If you would like to discuss the papers with your advisor ahead of the panel you can contact us to arrange an appointment ahead of time. You should receive a copy of the papers at least 5 days prior to the panel hearing.
The Professional Suitability Panel will consist of four members (five in the case of nursing or midwifery):
- The Chair, selected from a list of nominated senior staff (the list is outlined within the professional suitability procedure.
- One senior member of an appropriate professional partnership organisation in the same profession as the student
- One member of University staff who must be from a different professional programme from the student
- One member or designated officer of the student body.
There may also be present the investigating officer (usually the Proctor), and an administrative officer for the purpose of writing up the panel notes.
At the hearing, you will be given the opportunity to explain your side of the situation, and may be asked several questions by the panel to ascertain details as well. The aim of dong this is to decide if you are professionally suitable to stay on your course, and so we would advise that you answer honestly, and discuss openly with the panel any issues that have arisen. Once the panel, and yourself, are happy that the panel has all the information that they need to make a decision, they will request that the student, any representative and the investigating officer withdraw from the room.
You may be called back in after a certain amount of time; if called back in, the panel may be able to give you a decision immediately with regards to the outcome, or they may not. In either case, a decision is not confirmed until it is sent to you in writing.
The panel will discuss the case and decide if a specific outcome is suitable to implement. The following list are the usual outcomes applied, but are not exhaustive:
- Expulsion of the student who shall not be entitled to apply or enrol for any other University Programme. If appropriate and required by the professional body, a report will also be sent to the relevant professional body, and/or the Disclosure and Barring Service
- Expulsion of the student from the University. If appropriate and required by the professional body, a report will also be sent to the relevant professional body, and/or the Disclosure and Barring Service
- Termination of professional education and training. If appropriate and required by the professional body, a report will also be sent to the relevant professional body, and/or the Disclosure and Barring Service
- Suspension of professional education and training or from a placement for a specified period not exceeding one academic year
- Suspension of the student from attendance at the University for a maximum of two weeks
- Exclusion of the student by selective restriction to certain parts of the campus for a specified period
- Restriction on the holding of any office or committee membership in the University, or recommendation to the Students Union
- A recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor or Domestic Bursar to terminate the student's accommodation contract for University accommodation
- The issue of a written warning
- The imposition of a fine up to a maximum of £500, this figure to reflect the seriousness of the allegations
- That the student seek appropriate medical and/or other necessary assistance or support
- Continuation of studies on terms that the student undertakes special supervision or study or a recommended programme of action
- Continuation of studies on terms that the student seek advice, guidance and support from an appropriate professional and/or Student Futures
- Continuation of studies following a transfer of studies on to a more appropriate programme of study
- That any necessary reasonable adjustment required by the Disability Discrimination Act be made in consultation with the student and kept under review
- That no further action is necessary
- Any other measure to be implemented as deemed appropriate by the Panel.
One of more of these outcomes can be applied, and these will be outlined in writing within five working days of the hearing.
You can request a review against the decision of the Panel. You have 10 working days within which to do this, by writing to the proctor's office under one of the following grounds:
- The emergence of significant additional evidence not available at the time of the Professional Suitability panel hearing which could reasonably have affected the Panel's decision if disclosed at the panel hearing
- The emergence of evidence to show that there has been mal-administration in the conduct of the proceedings
- The emergence of evidence which demonstrates that the measures implemented are too severe, or can be shown to be inconsistent with those imposed for comparable incidents.
The review panel will look at all evidence provided and may retract or impose sanctions outlined above depending on if they deem that the original decision should be changed.
If you are still unhappy with the outcome, you may be able to complain to the OIA regarding this.