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Fitness to practise

Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures

Last updated: 20 June 2024

Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures

1. Introduction

1.1 These procedures are applicable to learners (students and apprentices) enrolled on any University programme of study which leads to a professional qualification and / or which entitles the individual to register with a Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body (PSRB) and / or to practise under license or in a profession. Such programmes will be referred to as ‘professional programmes’ in this document. Although programmes may have specific external regulatory requirements for determining Fitness to Practise (which may be known by different titles), it is expected that the generic procedures contained within this document will form the basis of all Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise procedures applied to enrolled learners.

1.2 The University recognises that referral through these Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures can be stressful for the learner. Learners who are under investigation within these procedures are recommended to seek advice and guidance from Student Services. They can also seek support from the Student’s Union and relevant Trade Unions. It is the responsibility of the academic course team to ensure that where a learner is under investigation as part of these procedures, that they are advised of where and how to seek support from their Personal Tutor or named member of the academic team.

1.3 These procedures are designed to protect and safeguard the public. However, the University recognises its duty of care to, wherever practicably possible, support the learner to develop their required professional behaviours and meet the learning outcomes of their professional programme.

1.4 Learners must satisfy the University that, in respect of their health and conduct, they do not constitute a risk to themselves, to others, or to the reputation of and public confidence in a profession, and that they meet the requirements of professional bodies. Professional programmes are concerned with ensuring that learners are developing behaviours, values, and standards of professionalism and that they are developing practices in accordance with professional codes of conduct. The University may be required to sign a declaration confirming that an individual is a safe and suitable entrant to the given profession and provide a recommendation of good health and / or character, and that the individual is ‘Fit to Practise’. The University may also be required to have in place arrangements for terminating enrolment on a professional programme, or an element within a programme, where professional suitability concerns are regarded as cumulative, persistent or severe and where the learner is found to be unfit to practise.

1.5 Professional programmes normally require a learner to undertake placements and / or work-based practice / learning and the University has a duty both to the learner and to the public to ensure that any risk or harm is minimised. These Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures apply equally to:

1.6 Requests for any additions to the procedures described in this document, based on the presentation of Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body evidence, should be provided by the relevant course team at validation, or via the modification process for existing provision. Additions should not in any way undermine the principles or diminish the impact of the procedures described in this document, but may add to them. A validation panel will make a recommendation to Academic Board, via the Academic Affairs Committee, to either approve or not approve, including referral for further information. Approved addition(s) should be published in definitive documents, and in particular, the Programme Specification.

1.7 Professional programmes undertaken in or with a collaborative partner institution, but where academic authority lies with the University, shall be subject to the procedures described in this document. Collaborative partner institutions should seek advice on details of implementation from the Head of Academic Registry.

1.8 These procedures operate in conjunction with the other University regulations and procedures including the University Student Code of Conduct, Academic Regulations for Taught Provision, Student Disciplinary Procedures, Student Complaints Procedures and Supported Study Procedures. Care should be taken to ensure that the procedures invoked are appropriate and proportionate to the circumstances. There may be circumstances when more than one set of procedures must be invoked. Where necessary, advice should be sought from the Head of Governance and Secretariat Services, or Secretariat and Student Casework Manager.

1.9 Professional suitability is applicable to all learners enrolled on professional practice programmes. It recognises that an offer of a place by the University on a professional programme may be conditional upon the applicant being deemed suitable for professional practice which could require, for instance, satisfactory completion of a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, or a declaration of the applicant’s good health. Where this is required, the academic School has responsibility for making this explicit to the learner. Once enrolled, a learner must disclose any changes to circumstances which could impact on their professional suitability, for instance, a subsequent criminal conviction, a change in health status, or a complaint or disciplinary matter that arises during a practice placement. Whilst academic Schools may follow different processes for disclosure, it is the responsibility of the School to make the requirement to disclose explicit to the learner. If a learner registered on a professional programme is under investigation by the profession, it is the learner’s responsibility to communicate this information to the Academic Course Leader. The outcome of an investigation by the profession should be reported in writing by the School investigator to the person charged with making a decision at the relevant stage of these procedures.

1.10 Academic Course Leaders must ensure that learners are informed of the standards of academic performance, health, behaviour, attitude, and attendance expected of them for a declaration of professional suitability to be made. In this context, learners must be informed of the profession’s own professional standards and / or codes of conduct which will contribute to the declaration made by the University. Learners are expected to abide by the principles of the relevant codes of conduct, even though they may not be bound by such a code until the point of registration.

1.11 Competence in practice assessment issues should be addressed through the normal assessment of practice procedure, and in alignment with the Academic Regulations for Taught Provision and should not be referred through this process. However, Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures may apply when the learner should be prevented from further contact with service users or learning environments to ensure the protection of themselves and others.

2. Definition of Professional Suitability

2.1 Where a learner is enrolled on a professional programme that leads directly to, or that satisfies a necessary condition of, a professional qualification, and / or which gives the right to practise in one or more professions, the University must ensure that the learner is suitable to enter the programme, and in time, the profession when they complete the course.

2.2 The University has a duty to protect past, present or future patients, children, clients, service users and members of the public, and to safeguard public confidence in the profession. The University must comply with the requirements of Professional, Regulatory and Statutory Bodies and ensure that learners are not awarded a qualification that permits them to enter a profession if they are not suitable to do so. This requires evidence that the learner has developed the skills, knowledge, character and health necessary to act professionally and practise safely and effectively in accordance with standards of the relevant Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body (e.g. Nursing and Midwifery Council; Health and Care Professions Council; Social Work England, Society of Sports Therapists; British Association of Sport Rehabilitators; British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences; UK Strength and Conditioning Association; Teaching Regulation Agency (DfE)).

3.  Concerns regarding professional suitability

3.1 Examples of circumstances that may lead to professional suitability concerns are given below. This list is not exhaustive, and the examples may not all be applicable to every professional programme:

4. Principles and procedures

4.1 The principles underpinning these procedures are that they:

4.2 The University will aim to make reasonable adjustments in order to accommodate learners with a declared disability and / or health condition. However, reasonable adjustments cannot be applied where professional standards cannot be met, professional practice cannot be undertaken, or where this may pose a risk to the safety of others.

4.3 Information about any individual involved in these Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures will be dealt with confidentially and privacy respected. However, it may be necessary to disclose information to others in order to resolve concerns regarding professional suitability and fitness to practise and in these circumstances, the parties concerned should be informed ahead of such disclosure.

4.4 Whoever initiates the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures will not suffer any disadvantage or discrimination as a result of taking such action in good faith. However, if such action is judged to have been made frivolously, vexatiously or with malice, by a learner or University employee, disciplinary action may be taken; and if an employee, or other individual associated with the provider is involved, the University will undertake to discuss the matter with the appropriate managers of the organisation to determine if any further action should be taken.

5. Investigation of concerns relating to professional suitability

5.1 Any allegation of concern that a learner enrolled on a professional programme coming under the scope of these procedures may not be professionally suitable must be made by a relevant registered professional, normally in writing and promptly, and formally submitted to the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success). Should any conflict of interest exist between the case and the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success), responsibility for this process will be delegated to another suitably experienced and trained member of the School academic team.

5.2 Upon receipt of an allegation, the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success) (or appropriately experienced and trained member of the School academic team) should decide (normally within five working days) whether the issue needs to be considered under the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures, or whether there is no case to answer based on the evidence available. In certain circumstances, the Head of School may need to take immediate action to safeguard all parties, but without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation. If the allegations are sufficiently serious, the learner will be temporarily suspended following approval of the Vice Chancellor (or nominee).

5.3 The Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success) (or appropriately experienced and trained member of the School academic team) will consider the concern raised and any available evidence to determine whether the matter should be addressed at a local level through Stage 1 of these procedures, or investigated at Stage 2, or progressed directly to Stage 3. It should be noted that these Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures may be initiated at any stage (1, 2 or 3) without the need to have commenced or progressed through any previous stage. This judgement is reserved for the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success), and / or the Head of School (or appropriately experienced and trained member of the School academic team). Factors such as severity of the concern or likelihood of the risk posed will be considered and detailed in the rationale for the initial stage of procedures which will be applied.

Stages of concern and outcomes

5.4 Stage 1

5.4.1 Where possible and appropriate, initial, emerging, or minor concerns related to professional suitability should be addressed through the use of a local level approach at Stage 1. This approach is focused on providing support and guidance to enable the learner to continue to develop their professional behaviours. Stage 1 will include a formal Professional Suitability learner meeting with the Academic Course Leader to discuss the concern(s), explore any evidence relating to the concern(s) being raised and agree any appropriate outcomes. This meeting ensures learners have the opportunity to respond to the concern(s) and the evidence provided. This meeting may be held as in-person or via remote means. The learner must be given at least five working days’ notice of the meeting.

5.4.2 Should any conflict of interest exist between the case and the Academic Course Leader, responsibility for undertaking the Stage 1 process will be delegated to another suitably experienced and trained member of the course team.

5.4.3 The Academic Course Leader (or appropriately delegated course team member) will inform the learner in writing of the reason for the Professional Suitability meeting and the nature of the concern(s) raised. The learner notification of the Stage 1 investigation will detail any potential impact on learner progression. The Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures will be provided to the learner at the time of notification. The Academic Course Leader will signpost the learner to the Student Centre to ensure the learner is offered appropriate guidance, and effectively signposted to relevant University student support services.

5.4.4 The learner may be accompanied at the meeting by a friend or representative of their choosing, including a member of the Students’ Union or Trade Union. A legal advisor may be the representative to accompany the learner. The role of the individual accompanying the learner will be to support and advise the learner, to help them present their case. The learner must confirm the name and status of the person accompanying them in writing to the Academic Course Leader (or appropriately delegated course team member), no less than 2 working days before the meeting. If a legal advisor accompanies the learner, the University reserves the right to be legally represented.

5.4.5 As necessary, the concerns should be discussed with the relevant module tutor / tutor / supervisor/ line manager in the placement provider before the learner attends the Stage 1 investigation meeting. Where appropriate, any agreed supportive actions resulting from this local level approach should be appropriately recorded in the learner’s practice documentation.

5.4.6 Examples of professional suitability concerns that may be addressed through Stage 1 of these procedures include, but are not limited to, the examples listed in 3.1, at either minor or initial stages of concern.

5.4.7 Appropriate Stage 1 Professional Suitability outcomes may include, but are not limited to:

5.4.8 Stage 1 Professional Suitability outcomes are provided in writing by the Academic Course Leader (or appropriately delegated course team member) to the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success) (or appropriately experienced and trained member of the School academic team), normally within 10 working days of the learner meeting.

5.4.9 To conclude the process at Stage 1, the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success) (or appropriately experienced and trained member of the School academic team) will, normally within five working days, issue a formal Stage 1 Professional Suitability outcome letter to the learner. Where Stage 1 was upheld (i.e. the allegation was not dismissed), the outcome letter will inform the learner that any future conduct and their engagement with agreed actions as part of the outcome will be monitored. The letter will inform the learner that consideration of any future misconduct whilst registered on the professional programme will take previous professional suitability outcomes into account, which may result in any future case being managed at a higher stage of these Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures.

5.4.10 The Academic Course Leader is responsible for informing the learner’s Personal Tutor and, where appropriate, the Placement Lead. Where a concern originated from a practice placement, the Placement Lead will communicate the outcome to practice, if / where appropriate. The Academic Course Leader will inform the learner of this communication process.

5.5 Stage 2

5.5.1 Where a concern relating to professional suitability is considered to be continuing, that is that Stage 1 of the procedures have failed to resolve a matter, or where the concerns are regarded as initially serious, the Associate Head of School (Quality and Student Success), and / or Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team), can initiate Stage 2 of the procedures and a formal investigation and meeting with the learner will be subsequently required. This meeting may be held as in-person or via remote means.

5.5.2 The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will appoint an independent member of academic School staff as an Investigating Officer who will carry out the investigation under Stage 2 of the procedures. The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will inform the learner, in writing, of the reason for the Stage 2 Professional Suitability investigation, the name of the Investigating Officer and the expected timescale for the completion of the investigation. The learner notification of a Stage 2 investigation will detail any potential impact on learner progression. The Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures will be provided to the learner at the time of notification. The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will signpost the learner to the Student Centre to ensure the learner is offered appropriate guidance, and effectively signposted to relevant University student support services.

5.5.3 The Investigating Officer should be a relevant registered professional and must not have been involved in the circumstances leading to the allegation of concern(s) being submitted to the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team). The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) should be assured that the Investigating Officer has sufficient experience and training to conduct the investigation, and that they are independent from the matter to be investigated.

5.5.4 The Investigating Officer will collate necessary evidence to inform the investigation. Reports from experts, for example medical professionals, may be requested by the Investigating Officer in respect of the learner’s health, and these reports may be disclosed to other individuals as necessary for the proper conduct of the investigation and any subsequent proceedings. This requirement may include, but is not limited to, reports from a learner’s Doctor, the University’s Medical Officer, social workers, probation officers and the police. All evidence should be verifiable and not based on hearsay, but names may be redacted if considered appropriate. Any evidence or personal information obtained will be used for the sole purpose of the investigation and will remain confidential and accessible only to those who are directly involved in the decision-making processes related to the case. Once evidence has been collated and reviewed, the Investigating Officer will notify the learner that a Stage 2 Professional Suitability meeting will be held to facilitate an opportunity for the learner to explore with the Investigating Officer the concern(s) raised and evidence available. This meeting ensures learners have the opportunity to respond to the concern(s) and the evidence provided. The learner must be given at least five working days’ notice of the Stage 2 meeting.

5.5.5 The Stage 2 Professional Suitability investigatory meeting will be attended by a member of Academic Services to support the formality of process and ensure contemporaneous notes of the meeting are made. The learner may be accompanied by a friend or representative of their choosing, including a member of the Students’ Union or Trade Union. A legal advisor may be the representative to accompany the learner. The role of the individual accompanying the learner will be to support and advise the learner, to help them present their case. The learner must confirm the name and status of the person accompanying them in writing to the Investigating Officer no less than 2 working days before the meeting. If a legal advisor accompanies the learner, the University reserves the right to be legally represented.

5.5.6 Following the Stage 2 Professional Suitability meeting, the Investigating Officer will produce a report that reflects a balanced investigation and includes a recommendation as to the appropriate Stage 2 outcome. This recommendation will be supported by relevant evidence (e.g., witness statements, placement records, notes of the interview between the Investigating Officer and the learner regarding the concerns raised).

5.5.7 Appropriate Stage 2 Professional Suitability outcomes may include, but are not limited to:

5.5.8 The Stage 2 report and recommended outcome(s) will be provided, in writing, to the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team), normally within 10 working days of the Stage 2 learner meeting.

5.5.9 Upon receipt of the Investigating Officer’s report, the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will consider the outcome recommendation and determine which of the following outcomes apply:

5.5.10 The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will issue a formal Stage 2 Professional Suitability outcome letter to the learner, normally within five working days of receiving the investigation report. Where Stage 2 is upheld (i.e. the allegation was not dismissed), the outcome letter will inform the learner that any future conduct and their engagement with agreed actions as part of the outcome will be monitored. The outcome letter will detail any impact on learner progression as a result of a Stage 2 investigation, such as a need to repeat placement in order to progress, or where there is a referral to Stage 3 of these procedures that will prevent progression into the next academic year. The letter will inform the learner that consideration of any future misconduct whilst registered on the professional programme will take previous professional suitability outcomes into account, which may result in any future case being managed at a higher stage of the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures.

5.5.11 A copy of the Stage 2 investigation report and any related appendices (suitably redacted, if appropriate) will be sent with the formal outcome letter to the learner. Copies of the investigation report, appendices and outcome letter should also be sent by the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) to Governance and Secretariat Services (via: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk).

5.5.12 Where appropriate and where the outcome requires communication to an external party, this will be managed by the Head of School (or the appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team).

5.6 Stage 3

5.6.1 Stage 3 of the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures are appropriate where concerns are defined as severe or cumulative, or constitute an immediate safeguarding risk.

5.6.2 Examples may include, but are not limited to:

5.6.3 Where the need for a Stage 3 referral has arisen due to failure to engage with Stage 2 of these procedures, including Stage 2 outcomes, a further investigatory meeting will not be required.

5.6.4 Where a concern requires a Stage 3 investigation as the initial stage of the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures (i.e. there is a need for an immediate referral to a Fitness to Practise Panel), an investigatory process will be conducted to ensure appropriate collation and consideration of necessary evidence prior to consideration by a Fitness to Practise Panel. The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will appoint an independent member of School staff as an Investigating Officer who will carry out the investigation to inform Stage 3 of these procedures.

5.6.5 The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will inform the learner, in writing, of the reason for the Fitness to Practise investigation, the name of the Investigating Officer, and the expected timescale for the completion of the investigation. The learner notification of an investigation will detail any potential impact on learner progression. The Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures will be provided to the learner at the time of notification. The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will signpost the learner to the Student Centre to ensure the learner is offered appropriate guidance, and effectively signposted to relevant University student support services.

5.6.6 The Investigating Officer should be a relevant registered professional and must not have been involved in the circumstances leading to the allegation of concern(s) being submitted to the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team). The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) should be assured that the Investigating Officer has sufficient experience and training to conduct the investigation, and that they are independent from the matter to be investigated.

5.6.7 The Investigating Officer will collate necessary evidence to inform the investigation. Reports from experts, for example medical professionals, may be requested by the Investigating Officer in respect of the learner’s health, and these reports may be disclosed to other individuals as necessary for the proper conduct of the investigation and any subsequent proceedings. This requirement may include, but is not limited to, reports from a learner’s Doctor, the University’s Medical Officer, social workers, probation officers and the police. All evidence should be verifiable and not based on hearsay, but names may be redacted if considered appropriate. Any evidence or personal information obtained will be used for the sole purpose of the investigation and will remain confidential and accessible only to those who are directly involved in the decision-making processes related to the case. Once evidence has been collated and reviewed, the Investigating Officer will notify the learner that an investigatory meeting will be held to facilitate an opportunity for the learner to explore with the Investigating Officer the concern(s) raised and evidence available. This meeting ensures students have the opportunity to respond to the concern and the evidence provided. The learner must be given at least five working days’ notice of the investigatory meeting.

5.6.8 The investigatory meeting will be attended by a member of Academic Services to support the formality of process and ensure contemporaneous notes of the meeting are made. The learner may be accompanied by a friend or representative of their choosing, including a member of the Students’ Union or Trade Union. A legal advisor may be the representative to accompany the learner. The role of the individual accompanying the learner will be to support and advise the learner, to help them present their case. The learner must confirm the name and status of the person accompanying them in writing to the Investigating Officer no less than 2 working days before the meeting. If a legal advisor accompanies the learner, the University reserves the right to be legally represented.

5.6.9 Following the meeting, the Investigating Officer will produce a report that reflects a balanced investigation and includes a recommendation as to the appropriate outcome. This recommendation will be supported by relevant evidence (e.g. witness statements, placement records, notes of the interview between the Investigating Officer and the learner regarding the concerns raised).

5.6.10 The investigation report and recommended outcome(s) will be provided, in writing, to the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team), normally within 10 working days of the learner meeting. The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team), shall be responsible for determining which of the following outcomes apply:

5.6.11 The Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) should write to the learner, normally within 5 working days of receiving the investigation report, confirming the outcome of the investigation and outlining the next steps. A copy of the investigation report and any related appendices (suitably redacted, if appropriate) should also be sent with the outcome.

5.6.12 Where appropriate and where the outcome requires communication to an external party, this will be managed by the Head of School (or the appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team).

5.6.13 The University may be required to notify a professional body and / or future employers of cases where Stage 3 of the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures are applied. This may be at any point from when an allegation is first made through to its conclusion.

6. Timescales

6.1 The University recognises the potential impact of initiating Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures and is committed to handling cases as quickly as possible. Learner meetings held under Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the procedures should normally take place within 4 weeks of the learner being notified of the concern(s) being raised. In the event that an investigation is complex, for example, at Stage 2 where additional evidence maybe required or a referral to Stage 3 is being made, the 4-week period is likely to be exceeded and the School will notify the learner.

6.2 The University is committed to handling Stage 3 Fitness to Practise cases as quickly as possible and, where possible, to complete the Fitness to Practise process, including any appeal, within 90 calendar days of the learner being told of the concern(s). This includes where a process begins at an earlier stage and progresses to a Stage 3 Fitness to Practise Panel. Within that 90-calendar day timeframe, learners must meet any University deadlines for the submission of documentation and attending meetings.

6.3 There may occasionally be circumstances where it is reasonable for the process to take longer than 90 days, for example, where the case is complex, the learner or witnesses are not available to attend meetings or hearings, or where proceedings are put on hold because of a criminal investigation or the learner’s impending assessments. The University may also sometimes have difficulties assembling a panel with the right professional involvement in the fitness to practise concerns. Where this is the case, the learner and any witnesses will be kept informed about the progress of the investigation and when it is likely to conclude.

6.4 In any case, where a learner’s professional suitability is being investigated at any stage of these procedures, the learner shall not be permitted to pass the next progression point until the investigation has been completed, and the outcome of the case is known.

7. Appeals against Stage 1, Stage 2 or a formal warning issued at stage 3

7.1 If a learner wishes to appeal against a Professional Suitability outcome reached under Stage 1, Stage 2, or a formal warning issued at Stage 3 of these procedures, they should submit a request in writing addressed to the Head of Governance and Secretariat Services by email (to: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk) or by post (to: Governance and Secretariat Services, University of Gloucestershire, Fullwood, The Park, Cheltenham, GL50 2RH), within 10 working days from the date of the outcome decision. The learner must clearly set out the grounds for appeal and provide any appropriate supporting evidence.

7.2 The appeal may only be considered on either or both of the following grounds:

7.3 An appeal against an outcome at Stage 1, Stage 2, or a formal warning issued at Stage 3 will be reviewed by an independent, senior member of staff from another academic School that offers qualifications that lead directly to a professional qualification, and / or which give the right to practice in one or more profession. The decision will be communicated to the learner in writing, normally within 10 working days. The decision will be final as far as the University’s internal procedures are concerned. The learner will receive a Completion of Procedures letter. If the learner remains dissatisfied, they may apply for a review by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), if their case is eligible under its Rules.

8. Establishment of a Fitness to Practise Panel

8.1 The Fitness to Practise Panel has the authority to hear all charges relating to allegations which cast doubt on an individual’s fitness to practise. The Panel shall be established by Governance and Secretariat Services normally within 20 working days of the notification of a case being confirmed.

8.2 The membership of the Fitness to Practise Panel shall be:

8.3 The Panel shall not include anyone who has previously been associated with the case under consideration, in accordance with the OIA Good Practice Framework which states: “fairness requires panels to be free of any bias or any reasonable perception of bias. In the context of a fitness to practise process, a perception of bias might arise where the student has a close relationship with a panel member, or the student has made a formal complaint about a panel member. In fitness to practise proceedings, panel members are more likely to know the student involved because it may be necessary to involve staff members with expertise of the profession and the course. However, the provider must ensure a balance of panel members and those members should have had no previous involvement in the fitness to practise concerns. The panel should include some members who are completely independent and providers may need to invite staff from other institutions. The student should have the right to object to a panel member before information about their case has been disclosed to panel members”.

8.4 The Head of Governance and Secretariat Services or nominee will act as Secretary to the Panel. The Secretary will not be a member of the Panel. A minuting officer will also be present during the hearing and will maintain the formal record of the meeting(s).

8.5 The Panel shall consider cases of learners enrolled on programmes coming under the scope of these procedures on either or both of the following grounds:

8.6 The Panel shall consider advice from any relevant professional body in advance of the formal hearing and may invite any professional adviser to attend the meeting, providing that they have had no prior involvement in the circumstances of the case.

8.7 When a case is referred to the Fitness to Practise Panel, the Head of School (or appropriately trained and delegated member of the School academic team) will provide the following documentation to Governance and Secretariat Services (via: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk):

8.8 Governance and Secretariat Services will provide adequate notice of the date of the Panel hearing and will circulate relevant documentation to all participants.

8.9 The learner will be invited to set out their case in writing prior to the hearing, enclosing copies of any relevant documentation. This must be sent to Governance and Secretariat Services (by email to: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk or by post to: Governance and Secretariat Services, University of Gloucestershire, Fullwood House, The Park, Cheltenham, GL50 2RH), no less than 10 working days before the hearing.

8.10 The learner will be invited to attend the hearing and may be accompanied by a friend or representative of their choosing, including a member from the Students’ Union or a Trade Union. A legal advisor may be the representative to accompany the learner. The role of the individual accompanying the learner will be to support and advise the learner, to help them present their case. The learner must confirm the name and status of the person accompanying them in writing to Governance and Secretariat Services (via: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk) no less than 4 working days before the hearing. If a legal advisor accompanies the learner, the University reserves the right to be legally represented.

8.11 The hearing will normally take place via Microsoft Teams unless the learner wishes for it to be held in person, or there is other good reason for it to be conducted in person, and it is possible for the University to accommodate this.

8.12 On the basis that reasonable steps have been taken to find a mutually suitable date for the hearing, the University will not normally rearrange the date of a hearing due to the absence of the learner or other witnesses unless there is good reason. The Chair will have the discretion to determine what constitutes ‘good reason’ to rearrange the date of the hearing and will decide how the hearing will proceed in the voluntary or unavoidable absence of the learner or other witnesses.

8.13 If the learner does not appear at the hearing without reasonable explanation, and the Panel is satisfied that due notice was given to the learner, the Panel may proceed in the absence of the learner and shall consider at the appropriate stage any representations made on behalf of the learner. The Chair will have discretion to determine what constitutes ‘reasonable explanation’.

8.14 Witnesses may be called by both the learner and by the person presenting the case on behalf of the University. Both the learner and the University’s representative must ensure:

8.15 Where a learner withdraws before these procedures are completed but the allegations in question would normally result in the learner being removed from practice pending an investigation, the process should be completed with the learner invited to participate as described and the outcome recorded on the learner’s record for future reference.

9. Decisions available to the Fitness to Practise Panel

9.1 The Fitness to Practise Panel will have power delegated by Academic Board to decide:

10. Procedures of the Fitness to Practise Panel

10.1 A quorum will be three voting members including the Chair and the practising professional external to the University. A formal record of the meeting will be kept by Governance and Secretariat Services.

10.2 The Chair will provide the Panel with an initial briefing. After the Panel meeting, all parties will be asked to join the meeting.

10.3 The Chair will invite the person presenting the case on behalf of the University to make an opening statement in the presence of the learner and their friend or representative (if applicable), and to call witnesses as previously notified to the Governance and Secretariat Services. The Panel will be invited to ask questions of the University’s representative and witnesses.

10.4 The Chair will invite the learner (or their friend or representative if applicable) to make a statement, and to call witnesses as previously notified to Governance and Secretariat Services. The Panel will be invited to ask questions of the learner and witnesses.

10.5 At each stage of the hearing, the Chair has discretion to allow reciprocal questioning by the various parties. The role of the Chair is to consider the relevance of questions and to ensure that inappropriate and irrelevant lines of enquiry are not permitted. The Chair may call an adjournment of the meeting at any point and would be expected to do so if new information was presented that was not previously known to the parties. Neither party should be expected to respond to new information that hadn’t previously been provided in writing and the outcome of an adjournment may be that the Panel should convene at a later date having considered the new information.

10.6 Once the Chair is satisfied that members of the Panel have completed their questioning, and that the learner has had a full opportunity to convey information to the Panel, they will ask the learner, the learners’ friend or representative (if applicable), the person presenting the case on behalf of the University, and their witnesses (if applicable) to withdraw. Any professional advisers appointed by the Panel may remain whilst the Panel deliberates in private but only to the extent necessary to provide any specialist advice requested by the Panel, and will withdraw before the Panel considers its decision.

10.7 The Panel must refer to the code of professional practice for the relevant profession in reaching its decision.

10.8 Considerations of the Panel will be confidential and, where necessary, its decision will be reached by ballot. In rare instances where the Panel are unable to agree, a majority vote will determine the outcome. Where there is a split decision, the Chair will have the casting vote.

10.9 The decision of the Panel will be confirmed in writing to the learner and to the Head of School by the Head of Governance and Secretariat Services or nominee normally within 10 working days. At the same time the learner will be notified of their right of appeal against the decision of the Fitness to Practise Panel.

10.10 Where required, the decision of the Panel and the evidence upon which it was based will be communicated to the relevant professional body. It is recognised that the body may invoke further action regardless of the outcome of the University’s Fitness to Practise procedures.

11. Appeals against a decision of the Fitness to Practise Panel

11.1 The learner must give notification in writing to the Head of Governance and Secretariat Services, within 10 working days of notification of the decision of the Fitness to Practise Panel, of their intention to appeal (by email to: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk or by post to: Governance and Secretariat Services, University of Gloucestershire, Fullwood House, The Park, Cheltenham, GL50 2RH).

11.2 The notice of appeal must clearly set out the grounds for the appeal and must be accompanied by appropriate documentary evidence.

11.3 Appeals may only be considered on one or both of the following grounds:

11.4 Appeals against a decision of the Fitness to Practise Panel will be considered by a Fitness to Practise Appeal Board. Its membership shall comprise:

11.5 The Head of Governance and Secretariat Services or nominee will act as Secretary to the Panel.

11.6 Governance and Secretariat Services will provide adequate notice of the date of the Appeal Board hearing and will circulate relevant documentation to all participants. Any additional communications or documentation received after the deadline set by Governance and Secretariat Services will not be accepted for consideration by the Panel, except at the sole discretion of the Chair of the Panel.

11.7 The learner will be invited to attend the appeal hearing and will be entitled to be accompanied by a friend of their choosing, including a member from the Students’ Union or a Trade Union. The learner must confirm the name and status of the person accompanying them in writing to Governance and Secretariat Services (via: appealsandcomplaints@glos.ac.uk) no less than 4 working days before the hearing.

11.8 If the learner does not appear at the hearing without reasonable explanation, and the Appeal Board is satisfied that due notice was given to the learner, the Board may proceed in the absence of the learner and shall consider at the appropriate stage any representations made on behalf of the learner. The Chair will have discretion to determine what constitutes ‘reasonable explanation’.

11.9 The academic School concerned will be invited to send a member of staff to attend the hearing and, at the invitation of the Chair of the Appeal Board, to contribute to the hearing.

11.10 The Fitness to Practise Appeals Board will have powers to confirm, modify or remove the penalty or penalties originally imposed by the Fitness to Practise Panel, or to recommend to the Vice- Chancellor any further action to be taken by the University. The learner and the Head of School will be notified in writing of the decision of the Fitness to Practise Appeals Board, normally within 10 working days of the appeal hearing.

11.11 Where required, the decision of the Appeals Board will be communicated to the relevant professional body. It is recognised that the body may invoke further action regardless of the outcome of the appeal.

11.12 The decision of the Fitness to Practise Appeals Board will be final and there will be no further right of appeal within the University.

11.13 The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (the OIA) provides an independent scheme for the review of learner complaints and appeals. When the University’s procedures for dealing with Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise have been exhausted, the University will issue a Completion of Procedures letter. Learners wishing to avail themselves of the opportunity for an independent review by the OIA must submit their application to the OIA within 12 months of the issue of the Completion of Procedures letter. Further details about the OIA are available at www.oiahe.org.uk.

12. Recording, Reporting and Confidentiality

12.1 All information obtained within the process of a Professional Suitability or Fitness to Practise case will be held in accordance with Data Protection legislation and the Student Privacy Notice.

12.2 Learners must note that information will be dealt with sensitively and will be kept confidential, except where the disclosure is necessary to investigate / consider a Professional Suitability or Fitness to Practise allegation, or implement a decision, or where it is required by law or in the public interest.

12.3 Learners should avoid disclosing unnecessary personal information (e.g. medical conditions etc.) during the conduct of the Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise Procedures unless it is relevant to the issues raised. Learners must also avoid disclosing personal data relating to other individuals unless it is relevant to the case and they have been given permission by those individuals to do so.

12.4 On an annual basis, an anonymised report on the number and nature of cases considered under these procedures and outcomes will be presented to the Academic Board and University Council. This process will ensure appropriate monitoring of Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise cases and related outcomes and is intended to facilitate organisational learning.

12.5 The University will record Professional Suitability and Fitness to Practise cases in sufficient, proportionate detail for analysis and management reporting to allow the issues relating to cases to be identified, addressed and, where appropriate, for training opportunities and improvements to be introduced.  The University will keep and dispose of records relating to appeals in accordance with its Data Protection Policy and its Records Retention Schedule.

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