Student Absence Declaration

Information for faculty

In January 2018, the Student Declaration of Absence (SDA) Form was introduced in select courses to replace sick notes for absences of three days or fewer that result in missed or late academic requirements.

The Student Declaration of Absence Form functions the same as a sick note did. As an instructor, you make the decision on whether you will arrange alternate coursework, tests, etc.

Faculty are encouraged to include the new Student Declaration of Absence Form in their Brightspace course information, where students will be able to access, complete and submit their form for missed academic requirements in your course.

Students are required to confirm if the self-declaration of absence option is available to them by checking with their instructor(s) or referring to their faculty, college, school, instructor-specific, or course-specific syllabi and guidelines, and work-integrated learning handbook policies. 

The submission of the form does not provide an automatic exemption from any academic requirements that were missed or late during an absence. Any alternate coursework arrangements for missed or late academic requirements are at the discretion of individual course instructor(s).

Using the form in your course

  • Decide if you wish to use the Student Absence Declaration Form in your course and communicate that decision to your students (e.g. on your syllabus, in Brightspace, etc.)
  • If you wish to use the form, click here to login to Brightspace and choose which courses to add the SDA dropboxes to.
  • This flowchart provides instructions on how and when students can use Student Declaration of Absence Form.
  • Student responsibilities for using the form
  • SDA FAQ's for Faculty and Staff

When the form doesn’t apply

  • If you haven't authorized it for use in your course. 
  • For students with pre-existing accessibility plans that already allow for coursework deferrals or deadline extensions,
  • If the student's absence hasn’t caused a missed or late academic requirement.
  • In the Faculties of Dentistry, Medicine, the Schulich School of Law and the College of Pharmacy, which have separate regulations to cover short- and long-term absences. Students are to refer to their current academic calendars for specific regulations or policies on missed or late academic requirements.
  • The Faculty of Engineering has a separate student absence reporting system. Please visit for details.
  • If the student is absent for four consecutive days or more. Instead, they should contact you as their instructor and refer to the long-term absence section of the academic regulation for Missed or Late Academic Requirements Due to Student Absence
  • If the student's absence means they are missing a final exam. Instead, you should refer to the university regulation for Requests for an Alternative Final Examination Time.
  • If the student's absence means they are missing final courseworkfieldwork, co-op work terms and internships, and skill labs.
  • If this is the third time the student's absence is causing them to miss an academic requirement. They can submit a maximum of two separate Student Declaration of Absence forms per course during a term. (Note: Faculty, College, School, instructor or course-specific guidelines may set a lower maximum.)
  • If the student has a recurring short-term or long-term absence, they are strongly encouraged to meet your Faculty or Declared Major Advisor or your Faculty Program Coordinator.

More about Student Declaration of Absence Forms

Moving away from sick notes

Many health-care providers are starting to withdraw or restrict situations in which they will issue sick notes or medical certificates, as they are often unable to verify the severity of a physical or mental health condition for most short-term absences.

Last year, Dalhousie Health Services managed nearly 2,000 appointments just to acquire sick notes for short-term absences — the vast majority of which occurred after the illness had occurred and, thus, the clinician was unable to verify the severity of the physical or mental health condition.

The move to eliminate sick notes for short-term absences aligns Dalhousie with best practices among Canada’s U15. Nearly all of the U15 group of leading universities do not accept sick notes for short-term illnesses. Five currently have a self-reporting tool similar to the one being implemented at Dalhousie.

Self‐declaration of short‐term absences strengthens student accountability and communication with instructors regarding missed or late academic requirements. It empowers students by instilling a sense of trust that they will act ethically and in accordance with academic responsibility and personal integrity for their absences.


Consultation & approvals

This change is the result of a two-year consultation and research process that included all Faculty Councils, the Deans Council, the DSU executive and many more groups across the university.

This process was piloted with Dal’s Faculty of Computer Science during the fall/winter terms of 2016-17. There were no increases in absences and no complaints received from faculty.

Other universities who have implemented a self-reporting process have not seen a significant increase in reported short-term absences.

The new policy regarding self-declaration of short-term absences was approved by the Dalhousie Senate on September 25, 2017, and will begin implementation in January 2018.

Tracking and sharing of forms

  • Forms will only be used for administrative purposes within Dalhousie;
  • Forms will be kept for a minimum of one year from the date a Faculty member or instructor makes a decision based on the form, after which they will be securely destroyed;
  • Forms may be shared with other instructors, Faculty members, and Faculty administrators within a student’s Faculty, College or School to maximize support of students in successful completion of academic requirements;
  • Forms fall under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) Act.
  • Tracking and measuring usage of the new self-declaration forms within Brightspace is crucial to the assessment and success of the new regulation. Brightspace functionality will be conducted through a two-phased approach:
      2018 FALL TERM: A centralized system has been developed within Brightspace where students will be able to upload their self-declaration of absence form and be able to choose the course(s) it applies to. If you wish to use the form in your courses, click here to login to Brightspace and choose which courses to add the SDA dropboxes to.

Contact information

Krista Cross
Director of Operations, Student Health & Wellness or (902) 494-1252