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Fasting and Assessments

In some years the main exam periods fall within periods of Religious Fasting - what does this mean for you?

The University community includes people from many different religious groups.

In some years, either the main examination periods or the deferred/referred examination period overlaps (at least partially) with Ramadan or one of the other periods of religious fasting. Regrettably it is not possible for the University to change the dates of the examination periods as any changes would have very significant impacts on other events in the annual academic calendar and, in most cases, during Religious Fasting it is expected that daily activities (including examinations) will continue as normal.

As a result of fasting, changes in blood sugar may produce hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and an inadequate supply of glucose to the brain can affect brain function including concentration, memory, attention and other cognitive processes plus potential indirect effects on overall mood, anxiety and fatigue levels which can affect studying, revision and the examinations themselves.  Those people who have a diagnosed medical condition, such as diabetes, and in certain other circumstances, are usually excused from the religious requirement to fast.

Individuals will inevitably differ in the extent to which they do, or do not, experience such changes, depending on their individual metabolisms. The cognitive difficulties will naturally tend to be greater later on in the day. It may be that students who are fasting for religious reasons would prefer not to sit examinations in the afternoons or evenings during the period of the fast, because students would not be eating at lunchtime.  Mornings are likely to be less affected as fasting students would have the opportunity to breakfast before dawn, so would be little different to other days.

The University would not wish to dictate to religious students how they should address this situation. However, in order to assist our students, advice has been sought and the following options have been identified: 

  • Some students may decide not to take any particular steps and to continue with their fast as usual.
  • Some students, in consultation with their religious advisor, may consider that their examinations are sufficient justification to permit them not to fast, either just on examination days or perhaps for the whole examination period.  The period of fasting can often be undertaken at a later time or some other arrangement could be considered.  

The University does not normally deem a Religious Fast to be a legitimate reason for claiming Exceptional Circumstances for examinations, unless fasting significantly affects your health and/or you have a medical condition which may impair your performance or prevent you from attending an examination. In such cases you will need to provide documentary evidence to support your claim for Exceptional Circumstances to be accepted with good cause.

Students must be aware that if you sit/submit an assessment, by doing so you are stating that you are fit and well to do so. Therefore, you will not be able to claim later that Exceptional Circumstances have affected your work/performance. 

The National Health Service provides a guide on healthy living and Ramadan which may be found here and there is a helpful Ramadan Health Guide from the NHS and Communities in Action.

The University Chaplaincy also offers some advice on staying healthy during Ramadan here, and can offer support on a range of faith issues.

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