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This page provides information on withdrawing from papers on the basis of unexpected and exceptional circumstances, such as sudden and significant illness.  It includes information on how to apply and the standard rules the University uses in considering applications.

What is meant by withdrawal under exceptional circumstances?

Withdrawal under exceptional circumstances refers to withdrawal after the usual deletion or withdrawal deadlines, in the event that you are prevented from successfully completing a paper or papers due to unexpected circumstances outside your control.

Withdrawal under exceptional circumstances is intended to cover significant and unexpected circumstances which arise during the semester such as:

  • serious illness or accident, or severe psychological impairment
  • bereavement
  • critical personal circumstances involving the health or wellbeing of a relative or close friends
  • sporting/cultural commitments (you must be representing New Zealand, or trialling for New Zealand representation)
  • service in the New Zealand Armed Forces, or
  • other exceptional circumstances beyond your control (e.g. natural disaster, damage to significant property, impacts arising from being the victim of a crime, etc.).

Circumstances not covered by withdrawal under exceptional circumstances

Withdrawal under exceptional circumstances will not be approved for:

  • circumstances which do not impact on your achievement in the paper or papers for which withdrawal is sought (e.g. circumstances arising after the completion of a paper)
  • short-term impairment (e.g. missing two days of classes due to illness)
  • circumstances which are more appropriately covered by provisions for Special Consideration in Final Examinations (e.g. short-term illness during the examination period)
  • known impairment such as chronic illness (medical or psychological), injury or disability unless medical evidence confirms that, despite appropriate management, there has been an unexpected worsening of the condition*
  • exceptional circumstances known about prior to the deadline for deletion of papers and for which deletion could have been reasonably sought, and
  • the removal of unsatisfactory results in previous teaching periods or years.

* Where applications are repeatedly made for the same or similar reason, then the application may be declined on the grounds that the reason is not unexpected.

Support to consider before applying for withdrawal under exceptional circumstances

Before applying for withdrawal from a paper or paper(s), it is strongly recommended that you check the University's provisions and support for students with impairments to see if these may assist you in completing your papers successfully.

Due dates for applying for withdrawal under exceptional circumstances

Applications for withdrawal under exceptional circumstances must be submitted before the day of the final examination for the paper from which you wish to withdraw. If there is no final examination, the application must be submitted by the official last day of classes for the paper concerned.  Late applications will not be considered. Supporting documentation must be provided within 14 days of submitting your application (if not already provided when the application was submitted).

How to apply for withdrawal under exceptional circumstances

You can apply for withdrawal under exceptional circumstances through your eVision portal.

  • Log into your eVision portal.
  • In Programme and papers, click on year and programme to display Actions then click on Change of Course.
  • Click 'Continue' then 'Complete this step'.
  • On the Change of Course – withdraw papers page click Apply for exceptional withdrawal.
  • Select the paper or papers and provide the information as requested for your application.
  • Upload your supporting documentation if it is available (this can be provided at a later date but must be within 14 days of your application).
  • Complete the declaration for exceptional withdrawal.

Correspondence about your application will be sent to your student email address.

If circumstances beyond your control prevent you from submitting an application via eVision, visit the AskOtago Service Portal for advice.

Supporting documentation

  • All applications based on medical impairment (illness, injury or mental health) must be supported by an Exceptional Withdrawal supporting medical form, that is to be completed by a health professional. It is strongly recommended that you see a health professional (preferably Student Health) at an appropriate time, i.e. when the symptoms of your illness or injury are apparent. A supporting medical form provided on the basis of a consultation after the impairment has passed is not likely to be considered suitable evidence.
  • In cases of bereavement, appropriate evidence may include a death notice. Where the notice does not mention you by name, you should provide a letter from a funeral director, minister of religion, kaumatua/kuia or the police to confirm your relationship with the deceased.
  • For all other exceptional cases, the nature of the supporting documentation will depend on the circumstances, but might include police reports or a letter from an appropriate third party. If you are unsure of appropriate evidence, visit the AskOtago Service Portal for further advice.

Information provided in support of your application will be kept in confidence in accordance with the University’s Privacy Policy and Privacy Statement.

Information for Health Sciences First Year students

There is an additional processes for Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) students who withdraw under exceptional circumstances, but who wish to re-enter HSFY at a later time. See the Health Sciences First Year website for more information.

Information for international students

If you are an international student, deleting or withdrawing from papers may mean that you no longer fulfil the conditions of your visa. We encourage you visit the International Office, Clocktower Building, Room G01 between 11am and 3.30pm to speak with the Student Visa Services team so that you understand what visa implications there may be before proceeding with your application. International Student Advisors are also available on a confidential basis to assist international students with any issues or questions that may arise during their time at Otago.

Recording of withdrawal under exceptional circumstances on academic records

While your application is in process:

  • If you submitted your application before the last date to withdraw, a standard withdrawal will be processed and the paper will be noted as 'withdrawn' on your academic record.

If your application is approved:

  • The paper in question will remain on your record and will be noted as 'withdrawn exceptional'.
  • In the rare event that a withdrawal is backdated to before the last date to delete papers, the paper will be removed from your academic record.

If your application is declined:

  • If your application was submitted before the last date to withdraw, the paper will remain on your record but will be noted as 'withdrawn'.
  • If your application was submitted after the last date to withdraw, the paper will remain on your record and you will receive a grade for that paper as normal.

Implications for fees, loans and allowances, and immigration status

Deleting or withdrawing from papers may have implications for your tuition fees and/or StudyLink loans and allowances. It may also affect the immigration status of international students.

If approved, withdrawal will normally be actioned from the date your application was received.

In rare cases, the withdrawal date may be backdated to an earlier date than the date the application was submitted. This is only possible where:

  • your circumstances were so serious that you were prevented from submitting your application earlier (for example, because you were hospitalised or experiencing  a serious incapacitating mental health episode), and
  • this is verified through independent evidence, and
  • you submitted your application as soon as practically possible after these circumstances were resolved.

If backdating of a withdrawal is approved:

If you are studying under fees-free provisions you should be aware that any paper from which you withdraw under exceptional circumstances will normally continue to be counted towards your fees-free entitlement, except that:

  • any paper which is deleted will not count towards your fees-free entitlement
  • if withdrawal under exceptional circumstances is effective from before the last date to withdraw from the paper, the paper will partially count towards your fees-free entitlement (the Tertiary Education Commission will be advised of any refunded portion of your paper, based on an equivalent calculation to that used for fee-paying students, as outlined above).

Deleting or withdrawing from papers may mean that you are no longer entitled to StudyLink assistance, or that you may be required to pay back allowances already received, especially if your withdrawal is backdated. If you are an international student, deleting or withdrawing from papers may mean that you no longer fulfil the conditions of your visa. We recommend you seek advice from StudyLink and/or the International Office before proceeding with your application.

Review of decisions

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a withdrawal under exceptional circumstances decision, you may request a review of that decision.  Such requests must be put in writing and submitted within ten working days of the communication advising you of the initial decision.  Requests can be submitted:

  • by post, to the Group Leader Student Administration, Student Experience, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054
  • via email to or
  • in person, to AskOtago in the Information Services Building (ISB).

The request should include the grounds for seeking review, taking into account the information which is provided on this webpage. You may also provide any additional information that further supports your application.

Review requests will be considered by an appropriate party not involved in the original decision.

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