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Does a instructor have to specify whether or not they accept late assignments? Only now, after three years of college, have I encountered a professor who does not explicitly state his policy for late assignments. Neither on the course outline nor in person. I would like to know if it is strongly suggested that professors set a policy on late assignments. Moreover, does the lack of a late work policy subject the instructor to the risk of students claiming ignorance?

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    A deadline seems like a pretty explicit policy to me.
    – d_b
    Sep 20, 2022 at 2:27
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    I do not tolerate late submissions. If a deadline is mentioned, assume it is final. Most students don't realize that real life is even harsher than university. If you miss a deadline on your job you won't get away with it. Train for that and respect deadlines even if you need to submit incomplete work. Sep 20, 2022 at 7:22
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    Having a late policy can make the deadline pointless depending on what it is. It doesn't stop you from asking for an extension on an assignment ahead of time though.
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 20, 2022 at 16:52
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    @BeniBogosel What I have actually found in real life is that there is a great deal of variation -- NSF submission deadlines are absolutely firm, the IRS will give you a six month extension with no questions asked, I probably shouldn't say what you can get away with as a referee for journals. Students absolutely should learn to manage deadlines, but there is also an aspect of college socialization in learning which deadlines aren't firm and how to appropriately ask for extensions. Sep 20, 2022 at 18:24
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    @BeniBogosel As someone who has worked on many projects in which intermediate deadlines flew past in a blur of Burma shave signs, I'd disagree. Artificial deadlines are common in the "real world" and often can be ignored with a bit of elbow grease and explanation. The difference is, of course, that the work product the student produces for the professor has zero use to the professor, so discarding late work product has no cost; in the real world, late work product is often (not always) 90%+ as good as on-time work product, and discarding it would be stupid. Sometimes, deadlines are real tho
    – Yakk
    Sep 20, 2022 at 20:40

2 Answers 2

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Does a instructor have to specify whether or not they accept late assignments?

No. If an assignment is described as being due by a certain date, then In the absence of any statements to the contrary, you should assume that will not be accepted after the due date. That’s basically implicit in the meaning of “due” and does not need to be stated explicitly, unless the university has a policy requiring this.

does the lack of a late work policy subject the instructor to the risk of students claiming ignorance?

Perhaps, but I doubt that’s something the professor is worried about, or that claiming ignorance would get you anywhere.

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    To your last point, if a student claimed ignorance trying to argue that "due date" doesn't mean the date something is...due, then they learned something new :)
    – BruceWayne
    Sep 21, 2022 at 19:48
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In the UK, this would generally be a decision made at the University or programme level, rather than by individual instructors. There would generally be a duty to publicize the policy, but only via a webpage or student handbook, and again not applying to instructors. To pick an example (found by Googling regulations for a couple of likely institutions) Bristol University has a regulation

17.3 Students must be made aware of the existence of penalties for not meeting submission deadlines in the relevant school or faculty handbook.

The following regulations describe the actual penalty itself.

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  • There is typically a procedure by which exceptions can be made, which varies in the means and difficulty to apply for it. For example, if the student were to have an accident and end up in a coma on the way to submitting their project, maybe their supervisor could apply to the Head of Department for an extension. That is typically mentioned in the rules (eg in the above Section 19 covers extenuating circumstances). In general a student should not assume they have an exception unless one is applied for. Sep 20, 2022 at 17:01
  • Note (although this is clearly an individual case) that this example only mentions penalties, rather than simply not accepting work submitted late. Sep 21, 2022 at 10:02
  • @preferred_anon I’m not going to say no UK university has a “no late coursework” rule (academia is wide and varied, even in one country), but I’m not aware of any. On the other hand some rules are very close to it (e.g. up to 24h late is capped at the pass mark, any later capped at zero). The important part is that lecturers only remind students as a courtesy, and ignorance of the content of their handbook is no defence on appeal.
    – origimbo
    Sep 21, 2022 at 16:11
  • @preferred_anon In the US, "late work receives a 0" is a perfectly valid penalty for late work. (Generally that includes some broad exception for extreme emergencies...although what a professor judges an extreme emergency and what a student judges an extreme emergency is of course a point of contention--but also professors have increasingly moved to online submission open any time up to a specific date and encouraging submission before the very last minute so things like "my car broke down" or "my internet was out" are increasingly irrelevant.) Sep 22, 2022 at 11:33

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