Newcastle students learning about “sensitive topics” such as violence and rape could be offered deadline extensions, exam resits and exemptions from work so that their grades are not affected by the distressing nature of the material.
In its guidance, Newcastle University also warns that learning about misogyny and racism could affect student’s academic performance.
When students are distressed by these subjects, a committee of tutors has the power to alter how they are tested.
But the policy has been criticised by some lecturers. Dennis Haynes, director of campaign group Academics for Academic Freedom and education professor at Derby University, slammed the guidance as “bureaucratic mollycoddling” in The Sunday Times.
The guidelines, which were first instituted last year, follow the introduction of trigger warnings at a number of top UK universities, including Edinburgh, the LSE and Goldsmiths University.
These warnings give students the chance to leave a lecture before topics such as war, religion, self-harm and drug use are discussed.
While many students and lecturers are advocates of this trend, which first began in the US, some academics argue that the best way for students to learn is to face difficult subjects head on.
Writing in the New Statesman, sociology lecturer Pam Lowe said: “It is important for staff to assist and support students while teaching and learning sensitive issues, but we should not be sanitising the curriculum for them.”