Academic Appeals

You might have received a mark or other academic outcome that, for specific reasons, you feel needs to be reconsidered. The academic appeals process is available for this.

The types of decision you can appeal include your classification, being removed from your course or the result of a specific assessment.

To appeal you must put forward a case using one of the grounds available.

There are four appeal grounds

(a) Mitigating circumstances have affected your studies and you haven't previously told your School about these difficulties. As part of this ground the University asks for credible and compelling reasons to explain why you are only raising your circumstances at appeal. Evidence of your circumstances and your credible and compelling reasons is normally required by the University.

(b) A material administrative error or procedural irregularity in the assessment process or running of your course, which has had a significant detrimental impact on your studies / results.

(c) Evidence of prejudice or bias or lack of proper assessment on the part of one or more of the examiners

(d) Unsatisfactory supervision or training for a dissertation or thesis or equivalent work, which has seriously affected your performance. You will need to give credible and compelling reasons if the issues with your supervision have happened over a longer period but have not been raised in writing with the School before now

If more than one of the above fits your case, you can submit an appeal based on multiple relevant grounds.

It’s important to note that the University does not allow appeals that challenge academic judgement. This means you can’t appeal solely on the basis that you disagree with the mark you have been given. This is likely to be rejected. Take some time to carefully consider your case because we do not advise you to appeal, if you don't have grounds.

Making an appeal

You usually have twenty working days from the date of a decision to submit an appeal. The date of the decision is the day your results were published or the date on the official communication about the decision.

To work out your deadline, count twenty working days starting from the day after the date of your decision. Remember that weekends and bank holidays are not counted. This is a great tool to help you accurately calculate your appeal deadline. You have up to midnight on the date of your deadline to submit your appeal.

The appeals procedure has a number of stages. For the first stage of the process, you are expected to try and resolve the matter informally with your School. Your school may ask you to submit an informal appeal as part of this process. If the School cannot consider your case informally, you should use the next stage, which is the formal appeal procedure.

Informal appeal process

As a starting point, it’s a good idea to speak to a member of staff in your School Support Office. Contact details should be available on your School intranet or in your Programme Handbook. There is also a list of all the Student Support Offices and contact details here.

Your School Support Office should be able to provide guidance on whether you can appeal informally or if you are directed straight to the formal procedure. If there is an informal appeal process, your School should tell you how to follow this.

You will usually be asked to complete an appeal form or provide a written a statement to explain your case. Any evidence you have should be submitted to your School alongside your completed form or statement.

Once you've submitted your appeal, it will be reviewed by senior members of staff on the basis of your statement and documentary evidence.

You will normally be sent a decision over e-mail. There is no set timescale for a decision to be issued at the informal stage. In most cases, a decision is likely to be sent out within 2 to 4 weeks.

If you're unhappy with the outcome, you may be able to submit a formal academic appeal. Your decision letter should confirm if this is an option.

Formal appeal proces

If the School confirm that they do not offer an informal stage or they are unable to consider your case for another reason, you should follow the formal appeals procedure.

The formal appeals process may also be available once you have completed the informal stage of the procedure. In this scenario, the 20 working days deadline restarts from the date of the School’s decision on your informal appeal.

To appeal formally, you will need to complete the University’s formal academic appeal form and submit this with evidence to your Faculty. It is possible to submit your appeal form and your evidence by e-mail.

Each Faculty has a dedicated Appeals and Complaints Team who are responsible for handling appeals. The contact details for each of the three Faculty Appeals and Complaints Teams are:

Once you've submitted your appeal, your case will be assigned to a member of staff (Faculty Officer) from the Appeals and Complaints Team. They should contact you to confirm your appeal has been received. This may take up to 5 working days so don’t worry if you haven’t heard back straight away.

The Faculty Officer will firstly check to make sure your case is based on one of the specified appeal grounds. If you haven't given enough information and evidence to show that you have grounds for appeal, your case may be dismissed at this stage.

If the Faculty Officer decides to investigate your appeal, they will write to your School to ask for comments on your case. You will then be sent a copy of the School's comments and given an opportunity to respond in writing. If the School doesn't support your appeal, this is your opportunity to add any further information or evidence to strengthen your case. The Advice Service can assist you to respond to the School's comments.

Once you've submitted your response to the School's comments, the Faculty Officer and another senior member of staff in the department will review all the information and evidence provided and make a decision on your appeal.

The Faculty's decision will usually be sent to you by e-mail. The University's Regulations state that you should normally be told the outcome of your case within 30 working days of the date the appeal was received. However, it is possible for this timescale to vary.

The decision that you are appealing will stand until your appeal has been considered. For final year students this means you may receive your degree certificate with your original classification. If your classification changes, the University will send you a new updated certificate.

Preparing your appeal

Use the guidance below to help you write your appeal statement. We’ve set out they key points to include for each of the four grounds for appeal, as well as principles to follow when explaining your case.

Mitigating circumstances

We recommend using a three step process for demonstrating the impact of mitigating circumstances on your studies.

1. Describe your mitigating circumstances and the personal impact on you. Start by writing a summary of the issues you have experienced and then the impact of the circumstances on you personally. Describe your health and wellbeing including any physical symptoms, mental ill health or experience of difficult emotions. Provide some examples of how this has affected your day to day life. For example, difficulty getting to sleep or waking up, loss of appetite, feeling upset or anxious for long periods, neglecting your daily routine. Try to quantify the impact on your where possible. State whether you have been affected in the same way for most days of the week or only at certain times.

2. Impact on your marks. Once you’ve given a few sentences outlining your circumstances you need to apply this to your studies and your ability to complete your assessments. Try to explain why your results are lower than your usual standard. Give day in the life examples but with a specific focus on your assessments. Be specific about how the work you needed to complete for the assessment has been disrupted.

3. Credible and compelling reasons. If you didn't tell your School about your mitigating circumstances, you must explain your reasons for this. Setting out your reasons after covering steps 1 and 2 can help to demonstrate what has happened. You will have to show it was understandable that you didn't submit mitigating circumstances before or around the assessment date. The University could reject reasons such as not knowing about the procedure, personal feelings of embarrassment or pride or having concerns about confidentiality. These reasons may only be accepted if they can be supported with evidence.

Material administrative error or procedural irregularity

Start by describing what has happened and explain how this was different from the procedure you were expecting to be followed. You may be able to refer to guidance in your course handbook or other material to demonstrate this. It's then important to explain how the situation affected the outcome of your assessments. Explain why the error or irregularity meant that your results aren't at your usual standard.

Prejudice, bias or lack of proper assessment

Explain the concerns you have about the marking of the assessment(s) in question. Try to show why you believe the results are biased or the work hasn't been assessed correctly. It is important that any allegations you make can be supported by evidence. For example, you may be able to refer to marking criteria or comments in the feedback which don’t match with what you have written.

This is quite a difficult ground to appeal on as you need to make sure you are not challenging academic judgement. Disagreeing with the mark on its own isn't likely to be accepted as grounds for appeal. Bias can also be difficult to argue if you don’t have any evidence to substantiate your claim.

Unsatisfactory supervision

Set out the issues you have experienced with your supervision and explain how this has affected your dissertation or thesis. Your supervisor must adhere to key supervisory responsibilities, which are set out in University policy documents. These responsibilities may include meeting with you regularly or for a set number of times, as well as providing feedback on written work. You must be as clear and concise as possible on why you feel you have received inadequate supervision. Try to give examples where you have been affected by either the quantity or the quality of the supervision. For example, did you supervisor fail to meet with you regularly or was the feedback provided limited or unclear. Explain the impact the issues had on your ability to complete your dissertation or thesis to a high standard. If your supervisor led you to believe your work was of high standard but your final mark is much lower than expected, provide details about this.

There may be an expectation that supervisory concerns were raised at an earlier point in time. If this is the first time you are raising the issues with your supervision, you will need to explain the reasons. Try to show that it was understandable that you haven't been able to approach your School about these issues any sooner. The University will be checking if you have credible and compelling reasons that you didn't raise your supervision issues any earlier.

Key principles for writing your appeal

  • Write your appeal as a formal statement and begin with an introduction that includes the grounds you are using and a summary of your situation. I would like to appeal the decision… I am appealing on the grounds of…
  • The person considering your appeal may not know anything about your case - provide as much detail as possible. This includes setting the scene and providing context to the circumstances you are explaining.
  • Write your appeal in chronological order. This will help to ensure your case is clear for the reader. Try to give exact dates of the circumstances you are describing. For example, include the dates of key events, medical appointments or meetings with University staff.
  • Incorporate vocabulary from the relevant grounds.
  • Refer to your grades if these show a drop in performance at the times you were affected.
  • Be specific about the situation and the impact on your marks and academic performance.
  • Refer to the evidence you are submitting in support of your case.
  • Finish the statement with a conclusion to summarise and highlight your key points.
  • Use the conclusion to explain what outcome you are hoping for. Examples of outcomes that may be considered include the opportunity to continue with your studies and repeat part of the course, that a low mark is disregarded from your average or that your classification is reconsidered and upgraded.

There is no set length for your appeal statement but you may want to write at least two or three paragraphs to explain your circumstances. In most cases, your statement shouldn’t need to be longer than 2 pages of A4.

Evidence

The University normally asks for documentary evidence to support your appeal. This is so your circumstances can be verified. A GP letter is usually considered to be a strong form of evidence by the University but this will vary on a case by case basis. Evidence is also stronger if it is from the time the issues occurred.

If you have had ongoing contact with the University Counselling Service, your counsellor may be able to provide a supporting letter. It’s important to note that the Counselling Service is less likely to provide evidence for ongoing circumstances if you haven’t engaged with them before now.

In some circumstances, you may feel it isn’t always necessary or appropriate to see your GP and you may be other sources of evidence available to you. Depending on your case, evidence can include copies of policies and procedures, e-mails with University staff or examples of feedback you have received.

It's important to include all relevant evidence and information with your appeal submission. The University cannot contact third parties to ask for further evidence or information and will be relying on the documents you submit.

The University asks that evidence not written in English is certifiably translated. This means that the translation is completed by a professional company or a trusted member of the community. The document would usually be marked by a stamp or confirmation that the translation is correct.

If you struggle to gather evidence, explain the reasons within your appeal statement. The University may take this into account, especially if this is linked to the covid-19 outbreak.

Extra Support

If you’re experiencing ill health or a difficult set of circumstances causing stress and affecting your wellbeing, we recommend seeing your GP to talk things through. Although GPs are currently limiting face to face appointments due to the covid-19 outbreak, they should still be offering consultations over the phone or online.

An appointment is also a good time to ask whether the doctor can provide a supporting letter for your appeal. Ask the GP to confirm when you have attended appointments with them, details of your symptoms and any diagnosis and details of any treatment and / or medication recommended or provided. If the practitioner is also willing to comment on the likelihood of your academic performance being affected, they can state this too.

Following the appointment, most GPs will then write up a short summary of what has been discussed and recommended in a letter. Bear in mind that GPs sometimes charge for providing a supporting letter.

Support is also available from the University Counselling Service.

Details of help available in a crisis are available here.

How We Can Help You

The Advice Service knows that students sometimes find that the appeals process can feel a little overwhelming. After reading this guidance, get in touch with us if you have any specific questions or need help with any of the following:

  • Checking your grounds of appeal.
  • Questions about supporting evidence and how to obtain this.
  • Help with preparing your appeal – see below for more information on our draft checking service.
  • Concerns about how long it is taking for your appeal to be resolved.
  • Help to respond to your School’s comments.
  • Advice on your options if your appeal has been rejected.
  • Using later stages of the appeal process or taking your case to the OIA.

Your next steps

Speak to your School Support Office to check if you should submit an informal appeal or use the formal procedure. Your next steps will then be to write your appeal statement and gather evidence.

If you would like extra help and support with preparing your appeal, an advisor can check your case before you submit it. First of all we ask you to have a go at filling in your appeal form, including a statement to explain your case. You can use the guidance on this page to help you with this.

When you’ve completed the first draft of your appeal form, you can e-mail a copy to the Advice team on [email protected]. We will check if there's any further detail you could add and help you with editing your appeal statement to ensure you're putting forward the best possible case. We can also review your evidence if you would like to send this to us.

Draft checking

Please make sure you tell us your deadline for submitting your appeal. We ask that you send your draft at least 5 working days before your appeal deadline as we cannot guarantee to provide feedback at short notice.

Please keep in mind that we can only check a draft once. We may also not be able to review lengthy documents in full.

Due to high demand, we only have a limited amount of time we can allocate to each enquiry we receive. You may have to wait a few days for feedback because of the number of cases we are working on. We are grateful for your patience and ask that you do not e-mail us while you are waiting feedback on a draft.

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