Appendix 6: Bylaw XI D on Suspension and Fitness to Study Procedures

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Scope

    1. This Bylaw contains two procedures.
    2. The first part (Suspension of Study Procedure) is intended for situations where an undergraduate wishes to suspend study on medical or other grounds and it sets out the procedure which the College shall follow when considering such requests. Graduates are excluded because requests to suspend study are considered by departmental and faculty Graduate Studies Committees.
    3. The second part (Fitness to Study Procedure) details the procedures which the College shall follow when there are concerns about the fitness to study of any Junior Member, whether undergraduate or graduate. A College Fitness to Study Panel (the Panel) plays a role in both procedures.
    4. A Glossary of terms used in the Procedures is provided in the Appendix to this Bylaw.

The Fitness to Study Panel

      1. The Fitness to Study Panel shall be chaired by the Warden (or the Sub-Warden if the Warden is unavailable or by another Governing Body Fellow nominated by the Warden if the Sub-Warden is also unavailable), with four other Governing Body Fellows of the College, at least two of whom should be Tutors or former Tutors.
      2. These members shall be drawn by the Chair from a pool of eight Governing Body Fellows who have agreed to sit on the Panel. The Panel shall include both male and female members.
      3. Should any member of the Panel be the tutor of the Junior Member (For this purpose, a tutor shall be defined as someone who has filed or will file an academic report on a Junior Member’s work or has acted as director of studies for an undergraduate, or as College advisor to a graduate student) or have an interest in the case, she or he shall be replaced by another member of the pool (or a member of the Governing Body co-opted by the other members of the Panel in the event that there is no member of the pool available).
      4. The Panel shall normally require the participation of five members but outside of term in cases of urgency special arrangements may need to be made including reducing the number of members to not less than three.
      1. The Senior Tutor shall provide an anonymised annual report on the work of the Panel to both the Warden and Tutors’ Committee and the Graduate Committee.
      2. All individual student suspensions of study shall be reported to the Warden and Tutors’ Committee or the Graduate Committee, as appropriate, for the official record.

General considerations

    1. In operating these procedures the College shall take account of all relevant legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998, the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, and the general rights and expectations of a student of confidentiality.
    2. In cases where Stages 2 or 3 of the Fitness to Study Procedure have been invoked, the Chair shall make a decision about whether the Junior Member’s emergency contact should be informed, and discuss with the Junior Member whether any statutory services should be contacted.
    3. The College acknowledges that as a result of implementing this procedure it will receive sensitive personal data and data of a confidential nature pertaining to the student and other third parties, and shall ensure that all such data is handled, processed and stored in accordance with the College’s legal obligations in this regard.

Part 1: Suspension of Study Procedure

    1. Undergraduates do not have an automatic right to suspend study, though the College will consider sympathetically requests on medical or other welfare grounds and make reasonable adjustments (including with regard to these procedures) in cases covered by the Equality Act 2010.
      1. Suspensions on medical grounds shall require medical certification in support of the request from the College Doctors.
      2. The College shall not grant suspension solely on the ground that the Student is or feels ill-prepared for examinations.
      3. Requests for suspension should be made in a timely manner. Requests should normally be made by the undergraduate but in extreme circumstances the College may permit requests to be made by a representative of the undergraduate.
    1. Cases shall first be considered confidentially by the Senior Tutor, Chaplain, and relevant Director of Studies, with the involvement of other subject tutors if appropriate.
    2. Their review shall not only consider the merits of the request to suspend but shall also work through a checklist of items to ensure the suspension from and return to study are properly planned. The checklist shall include:
      1. Agreement of an appropriate treatment plan with the College Doctor
      2. Appropriate access to facilities while suspended;
      3. Academic plan for catching up on any work backlog and preparing for the term of return, including any collections requirements;
      4. Any expectations regarding the provision of interim reports by the undergraduate;
      5. Consideration of a referral to the Disability Advisory Service;
      6. Review meeting in the term preceding return;
      7. Implications for examinations (over standing for honours, changed regulations);
      8. Conditions attached to return;
      9. The case for repeating any terms;
      10. Anticipated medical and welfare support on return.
  1. The Senior Tutor shall then make a recommendation to the Panel, by notifying the Chair, who shall then convene the Panel.
    1. The College expects shortfalls in completed work to be made up and does not ordinarily permit undergraduates to repeat terms if they have received the full tuition. The Panel shall therefore authorise repetition only in rare cases e.g. where there are material gaps in their tuition.
      1. Where the Panel does not support the request to suspend, or wishes to impose further or other conditions for the student’s return or otherwise, the Chair shall set out the reasons for this decision in writing to the undergraduate.
      2. Where the Panel supports the request, the Senior Tutor shall convey the Panel’s decision and any conditions in writing to the undergraduate and report the resulting suspension of study to the Warden and Tutors’ Committee.
    1. After an approved suspension on medical grounds and before the undergraduate is permitted to resume study, the College must receive a medical assessment from the College Doctor stating whether or not, in their opinion, the undergraduate is fit to resume study.
    2. The College Doctor’s assessment shall take into account reports provided by other clinicians involved in the care of the undergraduate during the period of suspension.
    3. The Senior Tutor, Chaplain and the undergraduate’s Director of Studies shall be responsible for determining, in light of the College Doctor’s assessment, whether the undergraduate is fit to study and whether any other conditions for return have also been met.
      1. If the Senior Tutor, Chaplain and the undergraduate’s Director of Studies are of the view that the undergraduate is fit to return to study and all other conditions for return have been met, the Senior Tutor shall report the undergraduate’s return to the Warden and Tutors’ Committee.
      2. If the undergraduate is not considered fit to return to study or other conditions have not been met, and if no alternative arrangements have been agreed with the undergraduate, the Fitness to Study Procedure may be invoked.
  2. In the event that a request to suspend is not supported, or an undergraduate disputes the Panel’s decision, or the undergraduate is found not to be fit to return to study following a period of suspension, the undergraduate may seek a review. The process to be followed is set out at paragraph 13 below.

Part 2: Fitness to Study Procedure

  1. This Fitness to Study Procedure has three stages depending on the perceived level of risk, the severity of the problem and the student’s engagement with efforts to respond to it. In urgent cases, at the College’s discretion, stages 1 and 2 may be bypassed. A flowchart to illustrate the operation of the Fitness to Study Procedure is set out at Appendix 2.
  2. Throughout the Procedure outlined below, fitness to study is understood as defined by University legislation as:
    1. a student's fitness:
      1. to commence a distinct course of academic study; or
      2. to continue with their current course of academic study; or
      3. to return to their current or another course of academic study; and
    2. his/her ability to meet:
      1. the reasonable academic requirements of the course or programme; and
      2. the reasonable social and behavioural requirements of a student member (whether resident in college or not) without their physical, mental, emotional or psychological health or state having an unacceptably deleterious impact upon the health, safety and/or welfare of the student and/or other students and/or University or college staff (not withstanding adjustments required by law - see www.admin.ox.ac.uk/statutes/787-121.shtml).
  3. The stages of the Fitness to Study Procedure shall be as follows:
    1. Stage 1- Informal Action by the College
        1. Concerns about a student’s fitness to study can arise in a number of situations. Tutors, members of the Welfare Team, the Principal and Deputy Principal of the Postmasters, other students, and/or members of college staff may observe behaviour that suggests that a student’s medical, psychological, or emotional problems are compromising their fitness to study.
        2. Any member of college who has such concerns is encouraged to consult a member of the Welfare Team. The Welfare Team will consult about appropriate action, and may make discreet enquiries about the student’s behaviour and academic performance. If the risk is deemed less severe, the Welfare Team may initially direct the student toward appropriate forms of support.
        1. Should preliminary action in terms of support and guidance be unsuccessful, the Chaplain, along with the student’s Director of Studies or College Advisor if deemed appropriate in consultation with the Chaplain, shall approach the student and explain, in a supportive and understanding manner, that concerns about their fitness to study have emerged. In the case of a student with a disability, a support worker from the Disability Advisory Service may be involved in this meeting.
        2. The student shall be made aware of the precise nature and causes of these concerns. The student shall be given the opportunity to explain their own views on the matter, and be encouraged to think about using one or more of the support services offered by the University. It may also be appropriate to look into the possibility of applying academic arrangements or support to enable the student to study effectively, including making reasonable adjustments in the case of a student with a disability.
        3. At this stage the Senior Tutor shall be informed, if not already aware, that there are concerns about the student’s fitness to study.
      1. It is hoped that in most cases issues can be resolved at this level, and that the student will respond positively, co-operating fully with the process and taking advantage of the support available. It may be necessary to obtain independent corroboration as to whether support offered is being taken up. The responsibility for providing this evidence shall lie with the student.
        1. A review period shall be determined by agreement between the Welfare Team, the Senior Tutor, and the student during which clear, observable and measurable goals for change shall be set. This review period will allow the student to seek advice and support from any appropriate services.
        2. At the end of this period a meeting shall be held to discuss any steps taken by the student to address the concerns. If the concerns have been addressed satisfactorily, this will be noted.
        3. Further meetings may be scheduled to continue to monitor the situation/progress and help ensure that continued support is provided to the student to enable them to study effectively. If, however, the concerns have not been addressed, a further review period may be agreed, or the case shall move to the next stage of the procedure.
        1. The informal discussions, advice and any undertakings made by the College or University and/or the student shall be documented for the benefit of the College, the University and the student, but shall be kept confidential. Copies of documents are to be kept by the Welfare Team.
        2. A letter setting out what has been agreed shall be given to the student.
      2. If a student is unable or unwilling to co-operate with the above process or modify their behaviour, they shall be informed that more formal action under Stage 2 of this procedure may be considered appropriate.
    2. Stage 2 - Case Review Group
        1. If the action taken under Stage 1 has not been successful or if it is felt that the case is too serious to be dealt with informally, Stage 2 of the procedure may be invoked.
          1. A meeting of a Case Review Group shall be convened by the Senior Tutor, made up of the Chaplain, the student's Director of Studies or College Advisor and the Senior Tutor and to include if appropriate the Supervisor in the case of Graduates or Course Director if there is no Supervisor.
          2. A representative from the Disability Advisory Service, or the College’s designated link to the Counselling Services, may also attend for information and advice if felt appropriate by the Senior Tutor and the Case Review Group may consult with the College Nurse if it considers it appropriate.
        2. In both stage 2 and stage 3 processes the Senior Tutor shall be the point of contact with the student and with all other agencies and individuals. He or she shall keep records of the whole process. The Senior Tutor shall appoint a deputy if unavailable to act at any stage.
          1. Before the meeting, a medical assessment may be sought from the College Doctors or another qualified practitioner familiar with the Oxford University system and the spectrum of student difficulties.
          2. The student shall be encouraged to consent to this, as it will ultimately enable the College to address the student's difficulties in the most effective manner possible and make an accurate assessment of risk.
        1. The medical assessment is to be used to determine the following matters:
          1. the nature and extent of any medical condition from which the student may be suffering;
          2. the student’s prognosis;
          3. the extent to which it may affect their fitness to study and manage the demands of student life;
          4. any impact it may have on or risk it may pose to others;
          5. whether any additional steps could be taken by the College, in light of the medical condition, to enable the student to study effectively;
          6. whether the student will be receiving any ongoing medical treatment or support;
          7. whether the condition might be viewed as a disability within the terms of the Equality Act 2010.
          1. The student shall be encouraged to authorise full disclosure of the results of any medical examination to the College of aspects relevant to study.
          2. The College recognises that any such information disclosed will constitute ‘sensitive personal data’ for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 and it shall be handled, processed and stored accordingly.
        1. Information received at Stage 2 may also be used in the Stage 3 of this procedure.
          1. Should the student refuse to undertake a medical examination, or disclose results, the College may continue this procedure based on the information already in its possession.
          2. Should the student wish to furnish medical evidence from a practitioner of the student’s own choosing, the College shall require that this evidence is reviewed by the College Doctor or another qualified practitioner.
        1. The student shall normally be given at least 5 working days’ notice of the convening of a Case Review Group meeting and informed of the purpose of the meeting. This period may be shortened in urgent situations on the advice of the Welfare Team.
        2. The student shall also be provided with any documents that will be considered by the Group, and asked to provide any documentation he or she may wish the Group to consider, in good time for the meeting.
          1. The student shall have the right to attend the Case Review Group meeting and may be accompanied at the meeting by an Oxford SU sabbatical officer, a fellow student, one of the Merton Junior Deans for Welfare, or another current member of the University as an advisor.
          2. A parent shall not normally be allowed to attend as an advisor, except at the College’s discretion.
          3. In addition, a designated support worker, if required, may accompany disabled students.
        1. The student shall notify the Senior Tutor at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting if they are to be accompanied and by whom.
      1. The purpose of the meeting shall be to ensure that:
      • the student is made fully aware of the nature of the concerns that have been raised;
      • the student's views are heard and taken account of and the best way to proceed is agreed upon;
      • the student is fully aware of the possible outcomes if difficulties remain.
      1. The Case Review Group shall order its proceedings at its own discretion and may call witnesses, including University Student Support Services staff working with the student, and institute enquiries to assist its deliberations.
      2. The Case Review Group may make one of the decisions (a) to (e) below:
        1. That no further action is required.
        2. To formally monitor the student's progress for a specified period of time.
          1. In this case an action plan shall be agreed with the student, outlining any steps, which the student will need to take, and/or any support to be provided to the student, to address the concerns identified.
          2. Regular review meetings with the student shall be arranged with a nominated member of College staff, to ensure that the action plan is being appropriately followed and/or that reasonable support to enable the student to study effectively is being provided.
          3. The student shall be informed of the consequences of any breaches of the action plan, which will normally involve their fitness to study being considered at Stage 3.
        3. To recommend that special academic arrangements or support are put in place.
          1. Such recommendations shall be agreed with the student's department and by the student and approved by the relevant University authority.
          2. The student shall be informed that unless these arrangements remedy the concerns to the College's satisfaction, their fitness to study may be considered at Stage 3 of these procedures.
        4. With the consent of the student, to agree that their studies be suspended for a period of time with appropriate application to the relevant University authority.
        5. To refer the case to the Warden, to be considered under Stage 3 of this procedure. This decision will only be appropriate in the most serious of cases, where for example evidence of a serious risk to either the health and safety of the student or others has been identified, and it is thought that the student's suspension of study or banning or medical withdrawal may be the appropriate course of action, or where a particular course of action has been recommended but the student does not agree.
        1. The decision of the Case Review Group, together with a concise record of the meeting, shall be sent to the student as soon as possible and no later than 5 working days from the date of the meeting, and a copy kept on the student's personal file.
        2. A copy of this documentation shall also be sent to the student's faculty or department where relevant.
    3. Stage 3 – Fitness to Study Panel
      1. Stage 3 of the procedure shall only be implemented:
        1. following a referral from a Stage 2 Case Review Group, or
        2. if in the opinion of the Senior Tutor (having consulted as appropriate) initial concerns have been raised which are sufficiently serious as to warrant the consideration of the student's suspension of studies or banning or medical withdrawal (including, but not limited to, if the student poses a potential threat to the health and safety of themself or others, or to the efficient working of the institution).
        1. The Warden shall have the power to temporarily ban the student from the College pending further action.
        2. If the Warden is not available, the Sub-Warden or (in the absence of the Sub-Warden) a Bursar may act on their behalf.
      2. A Panel shall be convened in accordance with these procedures.
      3. At any point in Stage 3 where the case concerns a graduate, the Panel may suspend its procedures and refer the case to the University Fitness to Study Panel.
      4. The Chair shall fix a date for a meeting of the Panel to hear the case and shall invite the student to attend to discuss the concerns and all relevant issues.
        1. Whenever possible the student shall be given at least 5 working days’ notice of the meeting of the Panel. This period may be shortened in urgent situations on the advice of the Welfare Team.
        2. The student shall be informed of the purpose of the hearing.
        3. The student shall also be provided with any documents to be considered at the meeting and asked to provide any documentation he or she may wish the Panel to consider, in good time for the meeting.
        1. The student may be accompanied at the meeting by an Oxford SU sabbatical officer, a fellow student, a member of the Welfare Team other than the Chaplain, or another current member of the University as an advisor. Disabled students may also be accompanied by a support worker where required.
        2. The student shall notify the Senior Tutor at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting if they are to be accompanied and by whom.
        3. A parent shall not be allowed to attend as advisor except at the discretion of the Panel.
        4. The student may make oral representations at the meeting.
        1. The purpose of the meeting shall be to consider the evidence available, including the student's perception of these concerns, in order:
          1. to determine whether the objectives of stage 2 have been met by the student
          2. to determine whether the College has put in place reasonable adjustments to enable the student to continue to study.
        2. If the matter has not been considered at stage 2 because of the severity of the situation, the Panel may also take any actions which would otherwise have been considered at Stage 2.
        1. The Panel shall regulate its proceedings as it thinks fit and may call witnesses and institute enquiries to assist its deliberations, and may request further medical assessments of the student's fitness to study.
        2. It shall also consider any previous assessments of the student’s fitness to study.
        3. The Chair shall ensure that all parties have access to all documents.
        1. The Chair shall obtain a collective decision from members of the Panel.
        2. The decision may include one or more of the following:
          1. To formally monitor the student's progress for a specified period of time.
            1. In this case the Panel shall provide the student with an agreed action plan, outlining any steps which the student will need to take and/or any support to be provided to the student to address the concerns identified.
            2. Regular review meetings with the student are to be arranged with a nominated member of staff (to ensure that the action plan is being appropriately followed and/or that reasonable support to enable the student to study effectively is being provided).
            3. The student shall be informed of the consequences of any breaches of the action plan.
          2. That, following consultation with the academic Department, and subject to the approval of the relevant University authority, special academic arrangements are to be put in place - or an interruption of studies is to be agreed. The student shall be informed of the consequences should these arrangements fail to remedy to the College's satisfaction the concerns identified.
          3. To recommend that the College exercises its statutory power to require the student to suspend or to ban the student or to require their medical withdrawal.
          4. Any other action considered to be appropriate and proportionate.
        3. Any decision regarding suspension, banning or medical withdrawal shall be communicated by the Senior Tutor to the University and to any support services who have been involved with the student.
        1. The student shall be notified by the Chair of the decision, with reasons, as soon as possible and no later than 10 working days of the meeting of the Panel.
        2. Communication of the decision to the Junior Member shall normally be undertaken in person in the Warden’s Office and shall be immediately confirmed in writing.
        3. Support shall normally be made available to the student at the time, preferably from a member of the Welfare Team or the student's Director of Studies or College Advisor.
      5. If the student does not agree with the decision the Panel may choose
        1. to refer to the University’s Fitness to Study Panel for a recommendation on how to proceed, or
        2. to stand by its decision based on the information gathered during this and preceding levels of intervention.
      6. If the student is dissatisfied with the decision, he or she may seek a review. The process to be followed is set out below.
    4. Return to Study
        1. After a suspension of study following a decision of the Case Review Group or the Panel, the student may make a request to the College for permission to return to the course.
        2. The Senior Tutor, in consultation with the Welfare Team and relevant medical professionals (including but not limited to the College Doctors), shall identify the issues of concern that the College may have in respect of the student's fitness to study.
        3. The Senior Tutor shall also contact the relevant medical professional for an assessment of the student's ability to manage the demands of returning to studying at Oxford University, drawing attention to the nature and extent of the student's previous problems and the College's concerns about them.
      1. The student shall be permitted to return only if, after receiving medical or other specialist advice about the likely impact of the student’s condition on their fitness to study, the Panel is satisfied that the student is fit to study and able to comply with any conditions imposed on their return.
          1. in cases where the College has any continuing concerns about the individual's fitness to study, it may require a second medical or specialist opinion.
          2. In this case a student may be asked to submit themselves for medical examinations by doctors or other specialists, including the College Doctor or a consultant, nominated by the College, at the College's expense to allow the situation to be properly evaluated.
          1. In any case where a student has been permitted to return to study following the implementation of the Fitness to Study procedure, the College shall hold an initial meeting with the student to discuss what support measures need to be put into place for the student's return and establish a return to study plan.
          2. This initial meeting shall include the student's Director of Studies or College Advisor; the Senior Tutor; a member of the Welfare Team; where applicable, a member of the Disability Advisory Service, and, in the case of graduates, shall take advice from supervisors and taught-course tutors.
            1. At this initial meeting it may be decided that there should be regular review meetings with the student that can be used to monitor and support a return to study plan. If so, the student must provide their continued cooperation in this respect and such review meetings may continue for part or all of their remaining time at College.
            2. There should be a written record of what is agreed for the return to study plan and a copy given to the student. The Senior Tutor should ensure that, where appropriate, a copy of the plan is sent to the relevant support agencies, who have agreed to help implement the plan and that any necessary support from agencies external to the College is put in place.
            3. The Senior Tutor should make arrangements for monitoring that the support plan is being delivered and accepted.

Review process

    1. If the student is not satisfied with any decision made in accordance with the College’s Suspension of Study or Fitness to Study Procedures, then he or she shall have the right to seek a review which shall be conducted by the College’s Appeals Panel.
      1. In Fitness to Study cases where the Warden has chaired a Panel the Appeal Panel shall be chaired by the Sub-Warden with four other members of the Governing Body, of whom at least two are Tutors. The Appeals Panel shall include both male and female members.
      2. The Members of the Fitness to Study Panel shall not be members of the Appeals Panel (although members of the pool from whom the Panel was drawn may be included on the Appeals Panel). The student’s tutors and any other interested persons shall not be included in the Appeals Panel.
      3. In the absence of the Sub-Warden there shall be five members of the Appeals Panel who will appoint one among their number to act as chair.
      4. The Appeals Panel may regulate its proceedings as it sees fit.
    1. The student shall set out the case for review in writing to the Chair of the Appeals Panel within five working days of the communication of the Fitness to Study Panel’s decision. The student’s case shall set out any alleged procedural unfairness or failures in the reasoning underlying the decision in question.
    2. The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall copy the student’s appeal to the Chair of the Fitness to Study Panel or the Senior Tutor, as the case may be, who shall respond in writing to the Chair of the Appeals Panel within five working days. The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall then copy that response to the student.
    1. The Chair of the Appeals Panel shall convene a meeting of the Appeals Panel giving the student at least five working days’ notice of such meeting, unless the student agrees to shorter notice being given.
    2. The student shall be told in writing of the time and venue of the meeting.
    1. Without prejudice to the Appeals Panel’s right to regulate its proceedings, the following procedure shall normally be adopted:
    2. The Appeals Panel shall consider the basis of the student’s appeal and the response of the Chair of the Fitness to Study Panel or Senior Tutor, as the case may be.
      1. The student may be accompanied at the meeting by an Oxford SU sabbatical officer, a fellow student, a member of the Welfare Team other than the Chaplain, or another current member of the University as an advisor.
      2. Disabled students may also be accompanied by a support worker where required.
      3. A parent will not be allowed to attend as advisor except at the discretion of the Panel.
      4. The student should notify the Chair of the Appeals Panel at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting if they are to be accompanied and by whom.
      5. The student may make oral representations at the meeting.
    3. In the event that the student does not attend the hearing, the Appeals Panel may proceed in their absence.
    4. The Appeals Panel can confirm or amend the decision of the Fitness to Study Panel in question and shall issue its decision in writing.
    1. The College’s procedures with regard to the matter shall be complete when the Appeals Panel’s decision has been issued.
    2. Should the student remain dissatisfied, the matter may be taken to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. Application forms and guidance notes shall be made available from the Academic Office.

Appendix 1: Glossary

Term  
Ban Means that for a specific period of time the undergraduate ceases to be provided with either tuition by the College or to have the use of College facilities or both. The undergraduate remains a member of the University of Oxford and may still enter their name for its examinations as an individual, and may appear in the Class List, provided that statutable residence has been kept.
College Adviser Refers to the senior member assigned to each graduate member of Merton College.
College Doctor Refers to the practice of Dr L Leaver and Partners, Jericho Health Centre or such other medical practice as the College may nominate from time to time.
Director of Studies Refers to the senior member assigned to each undergraduate member of Merton College.
Medical withdrawal Refers to the termination of a student’s course either voluntarily or non-voluntarily on medical grounds.
Suspend The term used by the University of Oxford to describe an intermission in study during which period the suspended individual does not hold student status, including voluntary and non-voluntary suspension on medical grounds.
Welfare Team For the purposes of these procedures the Welfare Team denotes the Chaplain, College Nurse and the Junior Deans for Welfare.

Appendix 2: Fitness to study procedure flowchart

Fitness to study procedure flowchart