Frequently Asked Questions concerning Academic Appeals
Preparing to Appeal
Where do I go for help to prepare an appeal?
The Students' Representative Council provides an advisory pack for students and may assist with the preparation of the appeal. They may be prepared to assist you to resolve your concern informally without the necessity of going to formal appeal.
You should also consult your Adviser of Studies, Supervisor, Course Leader, School/College Administrator or other member of staff to ensure that you fully understand the remedies which are available to you and to establish if there may be a resolution without proceeding to formal appeal.
Can I ask the School to review my results before going to an appeal?
Yes. It is a good idea to discuss your situation with a member of staff.
I am worried about a clash of personalities between the staff and me in my School. What should I do?
Trust the process of anonymous marking and the fact that the External Examiner ensures that the standards are equivalent to the standards in other Universities.
If you decide to appeal, your appeal will be considered by Appeals Committee members who have had no prior involvement in teaching or assessing you.
Power of an Appeals Committee
Can an Appeals Committee raise my grade?
No. Neither a College Appeals Committee nor a Senate Appeals Committee can alter the decision of examiners. The Committee can refer the assessment back to the Board of Examiners to consider it again in the light of the Committee's findings.
I feel the supervision I received was inadequate and this is why my thesis has not been accepted. What evidence do I require to be granted the right to resubmit
Even if there is evidence that your supervision was not of an appropriate standard, the decision of the examiners cannot normally be overturned. You may however raise a complaint about the quality of the supervision through the Complaints Procedure.
Can an Appeals Committee admit me to the Honours course?
No. The Appeals Committee may only refer the application for admission to Honours back to the College or School and request that it be reconsidered in the light of the Committee's findings.
What evidence do I need to persuade the Examiners to raise the award they have made?
Examiners may not "raise" an award however persuasive the evidence. Marks are not added nor is competence assumed, if there is no evidence that the required standard has been reached. The outcome from your appeal may be the opportunity to achieve an improved result through repeating assessment.
Data Protection Act and Subject Access Request
Do I have the right to see my examination scripts?
Yes, you may request access to your scripts by applying directly to the relevant School.
Making an Appeal
What is meant by academic judgement and why am I not permitted to question it?
The University operates on the basis that the Examiners are experts in their field and that they are experienced in determining the level of attainment. Exam Boards follow University guidelines on the moderation of marking/double marking, and External Examiners ensure that standards are comparable with standards at other Universities. Therefore you may not base an appeal on your belief that your work was worthy of a higher grade than the one awarded.
If you obtain the report of the examiners or a marked script, you may not question the points awarded unless there is evidence of a miscalculation when the score was aggregated or if there is evidence that marking was not conducted in accordance with the published marking criteria.
When should I appeal?
You can only appeal against a published decision of an Exam Board. You cannot appeal against a provisional decision.
You must intimate your intention to appeal within 10 working days of the publication of the relevant decision. You should do this by writing to the Head of Student and Academic Administration for the attention of the Head of College. You then have a further 20 working days to submit your full grounds and any supporting documentation.
I need more than 20 working days to prepare my grounds for appeal. What should I do?
As soon as you decide to appeal you should think about what supporting information you may need and make the necessary arrangements. For example if you need a GP letter, you may find that it takes some days to get an appointment at your surgery. You may decide that you need information via a Subject Access Request to the University. If so, you must submit this request as soon as possible as it takes time for the University to gather all the information.
If you are not going to be able to submit your full grounds within the 20 working days, you must contact the Head of Student and Academic Administration and seek permission for an extension of the deadline, showing that you have done everything possible to gather the information within the timescale.
What if I have no evidence with which to substantiate my appeal?
Lack of sound, impartial evidence is bound to weaken an appeal. Consider carefully whether your lack of evidence is because your grounds are not sufficiently substantial.
How long does an appeal take?
Once the University receives your full grounds for appeal, a response is sought from the School and further background information may be required. The Convener of the Appeals Committee will then consider all the information to determine whether the appeal should be considered by full hearing or by preliminary disposal. Then arrangements are made for sufficient Appeals Committee members to consider the case (and for the appellant and any other witnesses to attend where there is to be a hearing). We aim to have appeals considered within thirty days of receipt of full grounds but there can sometimes be delays where people who are key to the process are unavailable. The important thing is that the appeal receives full and careful consideration.
I am due to graduate. Can I still appeal?
If you graduate you are deemed to have accepted the award, so if you wish to appeal you must not graduate until the appeal process is complete. Unfortunately – due to the short time between publication of results and graduation – this usually means that if you appeal against your final degree result you will not be able to graduate with your peers.
May I skip an appeal to College and go straight to an appeal to Senate?
No. The first stage in the Appeals procedure is consideration by the College Appeals Committee.
Grounds for Appeal
What are the admissible grounds upon which I may appeal to the College?
- Defective or Unfair procedure.
- Failure to take account of medical or other adverse personal circumstances.
- New evidence which could not reasonably have been produced earlier.
How can I prove that there was unfair procedure?
Study the Code of Assessment in the University Calendar.
If you can identify an action or an inaction which contravened this Code, this might constitute unfair procedure.
If a Progress Committee refused to permit you to progress to the next level of the programme or to be admitted to Honours contrary to the published progress regulations or there was inconsistency of practice in the application of the progress regulations this might constitute unfair procedure.
Adverse Circumstances/Good Cause and Incomplete Assessment
Examiners knew I had difficult personal circumstances and that I was unwell in run-up to the exam. What evidence do I need to persuade them to raise my award?
If you believe that adverse medical or other personal circumstances have affected your performance in assessments, you must bring this to the attention of the Board of Examiners by submitting a claim of ‘good cause’ within seven days of the assessment date. This is the case even where you think some members of staff are aware of the problems. If you did not follow this procedure and you now wish to appeal against the published result on the basis of those adverse circumstances, you will need to explain in your letter of appeal why you did not follow the correct procedure. If the Appeals Committee is persuaded that there was good reason for your not having submitted full details of the circumstances at the proper time, they may refer your case back to the Exam Board for further consideration.
I didn't tell the Examiners about my personal circumstances and am disappointed in the classification of Honours awarded. What should I say in letter of appeal?
You must explain why you did not provide this information (in a claim of good cause) at the proper time.
Where there are medical circumstances you must provide a medical report and specify which assessments were affected.
I have failed to achieve the grades required for admission to Honours. May I appeal on the basis of adverse personal circumstances?
Yes. It may be that the School has a discretion to admit students whose performance was slightly below that required for admission to Honours. An alternative outcome might be an opportunity to repeat a year or some of the assessment, with a view to achieving the required standard. In your appeal you will need to explain why you did not notify the Board of Examiners or Progress Committee of the relevant circumstances at the proper time.
I don't understand the the rules on Incomplete Assessment and Good Cause. What do they mean?
These rules come into play where a student’s ability to demonstrate what they have learned is affected by some serious and unforeseen circumstances. A student who has been prevented from attending an exam/submitting coursework or whose performance in an exam/a piece of coursework has been impacted by such circumstances may submit a claim of ‘good cause’ to the Board of Examiners. Where the Board is satisfied that the assessment has been compromised or that the student was prevented from completing the assessment, then the usual remedy is to offer another opportunity to take that assessment. In the case of a final Honours year student, if more than 75% of the assessment for the whole Honours programme has been completed, then a classified award may be made on the basis of the work completed.
A good cause claim must be submitted within seven days of the assessment date (exam date or submission deadline) so that it can be considered by the Exam Board or Head of School. If you did not comply with this requirement and you now wish to appeal on the basis of adverse circumstances, you must explain in your appeal why you failed to follow the correct procedure.
I want to appeal on the grounds that the rules on Incomplete Assessment and Good Cause were not applied in my case. What remedy can I seek?
If the Appeals Committee is satisfied that the Exam Board did not apply the rules correctly, it may direct the Board of Examiners to reconsider your case. This may result in a fresh assessment opportunity being offered, or in the case of an Honours awarding Exam Board, the results from affected assessments might be removed from the calculation of the final award.
I suffered bereavement immediately before my examination. Do I have to provide evidence of this?
You should provide a copy of the death certificate or a letter from the hospital or the GP in attendance, and you need to explain in your letter of appeal why you did not notify the Board of Examiners of the situation through the ‘good cause’ procedure.
I visited the GP a few months ago but did not get a medical certificate. Can I get one now?
There will be a record of your visit in the Practice. Think first whether a certificate is going to be relevant to your appeal.
I have a chronic medical condition. Can this be taken into account when assessing my performance?
The Disability Service will advise you on what assistance can be provided to enable you to achieve the standard of which you are capable. For example, you may be allowed additional time for a written examination or a scribe. But this needs to be addressed well in advance of assessment diets, because you will be judged on the performance that you achieve. Examiners may not infer what you might have achieved if you did not have the chronic condition.
If there was an "acute episode" (flare-up) of the chronic condition then this may constitute 'good cause'.
Further Rights of Appeal
I am not happy with the outcome of my appeal to the College Appeals Committee. What can I do?
If your appeal was considered by preliminary disposal and you believe that the Committee failed to consider an element of your appeal, you may request a reinstatement of the appeal for consideration by a full hearing of the Committee. You must submit your request within 10 working days of the issue of the outcome from the preliminary disposal. If reinstatement is not granted, or if it is but you are still dissatisfied with the outcome, or if your appeal has already been considered by full hearing, you may have grounds for appeal to the Senate Appeals Committee. If you wish to appeal to Senate, you must submit notice of your intention to appeal to Dr Jack Aitken, Director of the Senate Office, within 10 working days of the issue of the final outcome from the College Appeals Committee.
What are the admissible grounds which I can appeal to Senate?
- New evidence which it was impossible for you to have produced at College level. Medical evidence which is retrospective is unlikely to be accepted unless the nature of the condition prevented it from being presented earlier.
- Defective procedure at College level in the way in which the appeal was managed. For example, some irregularity with regard to the membership of the College Appeals Committee, a failure to provide the papers within a reasonable time- frame or the failure of some person to attend whose evidence was essential to the consideration of the appeal.
- A decision which was manifestly unreasonable. If you wish to present this as your ground you must explain the manner in which it was unreasonable, for example, in terms of what the Committee failed to take into account or what the Committee took into account erroneously. It is not sufficient to reiterate the grounds presented to College.
How long does an appeal to Senate take?
The timescale for considering an appeal to Senate is similar to that for an appeal to the College. Once your full grounds for appeal are received, a response is sought from the College and further background information may be required. The Convener of the Appeals Committee will then consider all the information to determine whether the appeal should be considered by full hearing or by preliminary disposal. Then arrangements are made for sufficient Appeals Committee members to consider the case (and for the appellant and any other witnesses to attend where there is to be a hearing). We aim to have appeals considered within 30 days of receipt of full grounds but there can sometimes be delays where people who are key to the process are unavailable. The important thing is that the appeal receives full and careful consideration.
What can I do if I am not happy with the outcome at Senate?
If your appeal has been dealt with by preliminary disposal and you believe that an element of your appeal has been overlooked you may request reinstatement of the appeal for consideration by full hearing of the Committee. You must submit your request within 10 working days of the issue of the outcome from the preliminary disposal. If reinstatement is not granted, or if it is but you are still dissatisfied with the outcome, or if your appeal has already been considered by full hearing, you may wish to seek external review. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (www.spso.org.uk) provides an external review of the procedural aspects of appeals. When the appeal to Senate is concluded you will receive a 'Completion of Procedures' letter which will provide the information you require on this external process.