Absences and Attendance, Undergraduates

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
Amended Date

Key Contacts

If you have questions, please contact CLAS Undergraduate Programs.



Policy Purpose and Description


All undergraduate students are encouraged to attend every class session. Even one absence can mean that the student might miss vital information.  

  • Individual instructors, course supervisors, and departments determine the details concerning class attendance and absences. This policy should be clearly stated on therequired syllabus. 

  • Attendance policies must be discussed with students during class and throughout the semester as needed, but especially before the due dates of major assignments and before exams. Students with questions are encouraged to ask the instructor for clarification. 

  • It is the responsibility of each student to know the instructors attendance and absence policy. 

  • If an issue arises, CLAS first uses the stated attendance and absence policy on the syllabus to help adjudicate a problem. 

Absences related to Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodations follow different policies and procedures than those below; visit the related website for more information.  

Absences: Illness, Religious Holy Day Obligations, Military Service Obligations, Unavoidable Circumstances 

University policy requires that students be permitted to make up examinations missed because of illness, religious holy day obligations, military service obligations, including service-related medical appointments, or unavoidable circumstances. 

  • The attendance policy must provide options for making up exams missed because of one of the above excused absences.

  • Note the expanded policy concerning makeup work and religious holy day obligations in the UI Operations Manual, outlined below. 

  • Otherwise, instructors use their professional discretion when deciding whether or not to allow a student to make up missed work, other than examinations, because of the differing circumstances around such situations. Approaches will vary, depending on the course size and other issues. 

Shorter Illness 

Students with the flu, colds, or other viruses are encouraged by the health care community to stay home and not to seek care since viruses spread quickly in public places. Student Health does not provide documentation to students for a shorter illness. Do not ask for this documentation but trust the student unless the pattern continues or shows a correlation with exam or paper due dates, for example. 

Please ask the student to use the CLAS absence form to report the reason for the absence; the form is found on every ICON course site under "Student Tools," Absence Form. 

Because medical documentation generally is not available for shorter illnesses, instructors instead should consider using an alternative strategy for these situations, such as the ones described below. Other strategies also are permitted by the College; if in doubt, please consult with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. 

  • Some instructors, particularly those teaching a larger number of students, give students a certain number of excused absences to be used when the student must miss class. After those absences are used, the student must provide documentation for an absence or is held to the consequence of missing class. 

  • Some instructors organize a makeup examination session in advance, allowing students to use this alternative test date if approved by the instructor to do so or to choose the test date that works best for them. Different versions of the test are given but the tests use the same format. 

  • There often is a correlation between a student struggling in class and the student’s number of absences. Instructors should discuss the situation with a student individually, especially before an important due date, referring the student to available resources or suggesting other solutions.  

Longer illness 

  • A longer illness is defined as one where a student might miss three or more consecutive classes or has a random but consistent pattern of missing classes.  

  • A student with a longer illness should notify instructors as soon as possible. Please ask the student to use the CLAS absence form to report the reason for the absence; the form is found on every ICON course site under "Student Tools," Absence Form. 

  • A student should provide a record of appointments or documentation from a health care provider, stating the student has been under the doctor's care. A student's specific medical record should not be shared with an instructor for reasons related to the student's privacy and federal mandates. 

  • Students who visit Student Health have access to their electronic medical records through MyChart. If a student has activated this service, they are able to print a summary of appointment dates and times from MyChart. Faculty who want documentation for a long-term illness generally accept a student's MyChart summary of visits as adequate documentation. 

  • A student who is absent for more than five days because of a serious emergency or a severe illness may request the UI Service Center, 2700 UCC, (319) 384-4300, registrar@uiowa.edu, to notify each instructor about the absence. 

  • The CLAS Academic Programs and Student Development Office, 120 Schaeffer Hall, also may be contacted so that the office can help facilitate communication about the student’s absence. Please call (319) 335-2633 if assistance is required. 

  • An Incomplete may be given only when the amount of work not completed is small and the student is in good standing in the course. Please consult with Academic Programs and Student Development, 120 Schaeffer Hall, (319) 335-2633, if you have questions on this matter. 

  • Students who need ongoing academic accommodations for chronic conditions should be referred to Student Disability Services. Students with SDS accommodations related to attendance should work out an attendance agreement with the instructor at the start of the course. The absence form can then be waived since a specific agreement between the instructor and student has been created. The agreement should ensure that the student is still able to meet the learning outcomes of the course; if this is based on attendance the student may need to find a different course. 

Religious Holy Day Obligations 

Please note the expanded policy concerning makeup work and religious holy day obligations, with the UI Operations Manual specifying the following: “students who notify their instructors of a religious holy day conflict in a timely manner shall be permitted a reasonable amount of time to make up the material or activities covered in their absence, including tests.” A timely manner for notification is defined in the Manual as “during the first few days of the semester or session, and no later than the third week....” If the absence occurs within this three-week period, the student must give at least a one-week notice before the absence. Rather than allowing make-up work and activities, instructors may instead choose to adjust the course grading system so that no student is “penalized for failing to attend class on the days exempted” (Operations Manual, 22.10). The syllabus must clearly state how these absences will be handled. 

Military Service Obligations 

Effective March 3, 2020, the University Operations Manual states that the University shall make reasonable accommodations for students who are absent from class due to U.S. veteran or U.S. service obligations. 

  • Students absent from class or class-related requirements due to U.S. veteran or U.S. military service obligations (including military service–related medical appointments, military orders, and National Guard Service obligations) shall be excused without any grading adjustment or other penalty. 

  • Instructors shall make reasonable accommodations to allow students to make up, without penalty, tests and assignments they missed because of veteran or military service obligations. Reasonable accommodations may include making up missed work following the service obligation; completing work in advance; completing an equivalent assignment; or waiver of the assignment without penalty. 

  • In all instances, students bear the responsibility to communicate with their instructors about such veteran or military service obligations, to meet course expectations and requirements. 

Unavoidable Circumstances 

An unavoidable circumstance is defined as an event beyond the student's control and often involves a serious and unexpected hospitalization, a family tragedy, or a related incident. Such circumstances do not include attendance at a wedding, a family vacation, obligations related to work or other such matters. 

  • Students should contact their instructors as soon as possible to notify them of the event. 

  • If this is a serious emergency that will last longer than five days, the student or a family member may contact the UI Service Center, 2700 UCC, (319) 384-4300, registrar@uiowa.edu. This office will notify the student’s instructors of the absence. 

  • CLAS Academic Programs and Student Development, 120 Schaeffer Hall, (319) 335-2633, also may be contacted to help facilitate the student’s needs and to discuss options.  

  • AnIncomplete may be given by an instructor only when the amount of work not completed is small and the student is in good standing in the course. 

  • Students who need ongoing academic accommodations for chronic conditions should apply for accommodations through Student Disability Services. 

Absences: UI Authorized Activities 

The instructor of a student participating in an authorized UI activity is sent a statement generally by email from the UI official in charge of the event before the absence occurs; this statement will include the specific date and time that the student will miss class. In these cases, students should be given extra time to submit assignments and be allowed to make up any missed exams.  

Activities authorized by UI include participation in intercollegiate athletic teams, in the marching band and pep band, attendance at events scheduled by recognized University groups as well as participation in University field trips, service with the National Guard, and jury duty. 

Activities related to employment, fraternities or sororities, or volunteer activities are not UI authorized activities. 

Absences: Exam Conflicts 

Some courses schedule midterm examinations outside of the regular class period and at times these conflict with a student's other classes or exams. The University has established policies to govern these situations as noted on the Office of the Registrar's website under Midterm Exam Policies. 

A week for final examinations is set aside at the end of each semester, during which time no classes are held. With the exception of changes authorized by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, all CLAS final exams or assessments must be given during this week, according to the schedule announced by the Registrar. Additional information may be found on the Office of the Registrar's website under Final Exam Policies. 




Students are encouraged to use the Absence Form to share the reasons for an absence with the instructor. The form may be found here or on ICON under the Student Tools tab at the top of the page where course evaluations are located. 

The form is being piloted by all UI undergraduate colleges to see if it can help students take more responsibility for attendance and for their learning while also encouraging students to communicate earlier and directly with instructors. Students are asked to hand the form to the instructor rather than to email it in order to encourage further discussion. The form in no way implies the absence is excused; instead, the response at the bottom of the form shows the instructor's decision concerning how the absence will be counted. 


Frequently Asked Questions


Related Information

Operations Manual IV.8.

Revision History