12.2 Academic Appeals: Postgraduate Research

1. For the purposes of this Procedure, an academic appeal is defined as ‘a request for a review of a decision of an academic body charged with taking decisions on student progression, assessment and awards’.

2. It is normally expected that appeals will be submitted by the student, but the student may wish to appoint a representative to submit the appeal on their behalf. The student would normally be expected to provide written consent, by letter or via their University e-mail account, to authorise someone to act on his/her behalf (there would have to be a good, valid reason for this not to be possible).

3. Where an academic appeal also contains within it a complaint, it is possible for the appeal or complaint to be reclassified (at whatever stage they may have reached) and processed under the most relevant regulation or Procedure if this is likely to lead to a more appropriate outcome for the person(s) appealing or complaining.

4. Advice about this Procedure may be obtained from the Assistant Registrar, Academic Quality & Records Office (caostaff@aber.ac.uk) or from a Student Adviser in the Students’ Union (union.advice@aber.ac.uk).

Eligibility

5. Following receipt of the University examination results letter, or upon receipt of a formal notification under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress an Aberystwyth University student studying for a postgraduate research qualification is entitled to appeal against the decision. Students studying under collaborative arrangements at a Partner Education Provider should also follow this Procedure – further information is available in the student handbook.

6. Students will not suffer any disadvantage or recrimination as the result of making an academic appeal in good faith. Only if an academic appeal is judged to have been made frivolously (i.e. with no serious purpose or value), vexatiously (i.e, they are distressing or annoying) or with malice (i.e, the desire to inflict harm or suffering), could disciplinary issues arise in relation to the student. (See Aberystwyth University Disciplinary Procedures).

Grounds for Appeal

7. Appeals will only be considered if they are based on one or more of the following grounds and are accompanied by supporting evidence that was not available to be presented to the relevant Examining Board whilst considering examination performance, or the relevant Department/Institute whilst considering a student’s academic progress under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress:

(i) Exceptional extenuating circumstances which had an adverse effect on the student’s academic performance. Where a student could have reported exceptional circumstances prior to

(a) the Examination Board meeting, or
(b) receipt of formal notification under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress, those circumstances cannot subsequently be cited as grounds for appeal.

(ii) Defects or irregularities in the conduct of the assessments or in written instructions provided or in advice given which are of such a nature as to cause reasonable doubt whether the examiners would have reached the same decision had they not occurred. Where a student could have reported defects or irregularities prior to

(a) the Examination Board meeting, or
(b) receipt of formal notification under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress, those circumstances cannot subsequently be cited as grounds for appeal.


(iii) Evidence of prejudice, or of bias, or of inadequate assessment on the part of one or more of the examiners, , or evidence of prejudice or bias on part of the person(s) administering the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress Where a student could have evidenced prejudice, bias or inadequate assessment prior to

(a) the Examination Board meeting, or
(b) receipt of formal notification under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress, those circumstances cannot subsequently be cited as grounds for appeal.


(iv) Evidence that the supervision provided was inadequate and that there were exceptional reasons why this had not been reported by the student prior to the decision of the Examining Board. Where a student could have evidenced that the supervision provided was inadequate prior to

(a) the Examination Board meeting, or
(b) receipt of formal notification under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress, those circumstances cannot subsequently be cited as grounds for appeal.

8. An appeal will only be considered if the student can provide good reasons why the grounds for appeal had not previously been made known to the University and/or were not made known to the relevant Examining Board.

9. Exceptional extenuating circumstances (whether relating to University issues, personal or medical problems or any other issue) which were not submitted to the Department by the due date may only be considered as grounds for appeal in the most exceptional circumstances (for instance where the student was unable to disclose the circumstances in advance because of a medical condition). Since the University permits the submission of extenuating circumstances and corroborative evidence under confidential cover, the fact that a student did not wish to disclose personal information will not normally be considered as an exceptional circumstance. Students would need to submit evidence to support the reason for not submitting this evidence ahead of the relevant examination board, or upon the request of their academic department or Institute under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress. In cases where good reason for late or non-submission is not established, the appeal will not be considered any further.

10. Any claim made, which a student wishes to use as grounds for appeal, must be accompanied by additional corroborative evidence that has not already been submitted for consideration, and which clearly demonstrates how it affected their performance. This must be dated at the time the student was affected by the circumstance(s) outlined, or, if dated later, it must be clear that the person certifying the circumstances was in a position to verify them at the time they occurred. The following are not considered to be special circumstances and will therefore not be considered at the point of appeal – problems with computers or printing; lack of access to resources; illness for which no medical evidence is available; more than one assessment deadline on the same day; inability to answer question or struggling with material; crisis games, performance productions, departmental study trips; non-academic activities (e.g. military training). Guidelines on special circumstances and acceptable documentary evidence can be found at here.

11. Appeals that fail to meet any of the above criteria will be rejected and will not be considered by the Academic Appeal Panel.

12. Appeals questioning academic judgement shall not be considered. For the purposes of this Procedure, academic judgement is the decision made by academic staff on the quality of the work itself or the criteria being applied to assess the work. Through a variety of means including staff appointment, induction and training procedures, and the appointment of at least one experienced external examine, the University ensures that academic judgements are sound.

13. Appeals based on factors which were already known to the University and/or Examining Board concerned when the decision regarding the student’s performance was determined will be rejected.

14. Appeals based on disappointment or dissatisfaction with results will not be considered, and will therefore be rejected.

15. Appeals based on a student’s inability to familiarise themselves with the requirements of their courses regarding attendance, the submission of work and methods of assessment, will not be considered and therefore rejected.

16. The University cannot operate outside of University Regulations and examination conventions, and appeals seeking such outcomes will not be considered.

17. The University will not consider appeals based on information or circumstances about which the student had not informed the department because s/he claimed s/he did not know they should report special circumstances; s/he did not think they would affect their performance at the time; and s/he did not mention them at the time due to embarrassment and/or shyness.

Submission of an Academic Appeal

18. From the date of formal notification of University examination results, or upon receipt of formal notification under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress, students will normally have 20 working days in which to submit an appeal. Late appeals will not normally be considered unless independent, corroborative evidence is submitted clearly explaining why the student was prevented from submitting the appeal by the deadline.

19. All appeals must be made in writing using the University’s Academic Appeal pro-forma, or the student can e-mail caostaff@aber.ac.uk to request a copy. All sections must be completed fully. Any partially completed forms will be returned to the student.

20. When appealing, students must clearly state against what they are appealing, what element (e.g. supervision/research/viva) has been affected, and must clearly demonstrate the impact of their circumstances on their performance in that element, in the form of an explanation and appropriate evidence. For the purpose of this Procedure, evidence submitted in support of a student’s appeal, must be independent or corroborative, and sufficient to establish any claims or issues raised. A personal statement of what a student believes to be true cannot constitute evidence. Students must also clearly state what they wish to achieve from their appeal.

21. Full documentation to substantiate any exceptional circumstances or claims made MUST be submitted with the appeal form. The evidence must be signed and dated; it must indicate how the circumstances affected performance, and it must be relevant to the affected piece of assessment. The student is responsible for identifying and submitting appropriate evidence with the appeal. The University will not do this on the student’s behalf, unless someone employed by the University is acting as the student’s named representative. Any appeal made stating that further information can be sought on the student’s behalf will not be actioned.

22. All completed applications of appeal against the decision of an examination board must be submitted to the Academic Quality & Records Office, Aberystwyth University, Cledwyn Building, Penglais, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DD or e-mailed directly to caostaff@aber.ac.uk. If the form is submitted electronically, from the student’s own University e-mail account, this will be considered a ‘signed’ document in the absence of an original hard copy.

23. It is a student’s responsibility to ensure that his/her contact details are correct on his/her on-line student record. The University bears no responsibility for letters that do not reach a student due to his/her record not being kept up to date. The primary method of contact will be via e-mail, though letters of outcome at the Academic Appeal stage of the Procedure will also be forwarded to the address on the forms submitted.

Academic Appeal Panel

24. Upon receipt of an appeal based on one or more of the valid grounds outlined above, the Assistant Registrar (or nominee) responsible for academic appeals shall ask the relevant Department to verify the facts to which the appeal refers. S/he will ensure these are verified in time to be presented to the Academic Appeal Panel.

25. The Assistant Registrar (or nominee) responsible for Academic Appeals shall serve as Secretary to the Academic Appeal Panel.

26. Each Academic Appeal Panel shall consist of a minimum of four members which will be selected by the Panel Secretary, taking into account gender balance where possible.

27. The members of the Panel to consider postgraduate research degree appeals shall be:

(i) A Pro Vice-Chancellor (or nominated Institute Director) as Chair;
(ii) One Institute Director of Postgraduate Studies (or equivalent);
(iii) The Director or a Deputy Director of Student Support Service;
(iv) One representative from the Students’ Union.

28. Any panel members directly concerned with the student’s studies shall not be invited to participate so avoiding any conflict of interest.

29. The representative from the Students’ Union will have had no prior involvement with advising students on their appeals. The Students’ Union will have ensured that the adviser(s) and representative on the Panel are different individuals, to avoid any conflict of interest.

30. The Academic Appeal Panel shall be empowered to take either of the following decisions:

(i) To uphold the appeal and determine the action to be taken.
(ii) To reject the appeal; no further action to be taken.

31. If an appeal is upheld following the decision of an Examining Board, the Appeal Panel may also adopt one of the following courses of action:

(i) To recommend to the Examining Board that, for the reasons stated, the original, or a properly constituted, Board should reconsider the decision of the previous Board.
(ii) To recommend that an entirely new Examining Board should reconsider the decision of the previous Board.
(iii) To give the candidate permission to re-write the thesis and to re-submit for re-examination by the original, or a properly constituted, Examining Board within a specified time limit.
(iv) To give the candidate permission to re-write the thesis and to re-submit for re-examination by an entirely new Examining Board within a specified time limit.

32. If an appeal is upheld (or partially upheld) following the decision made under the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress, the Appeal Panel may also adopt one of the following courses of action (this list is not exhaustive however):

(i) That the student be permitted to resume their studies;
(ii) That the student be permitted to resume their studies, but with conditions; for example, changing mode of study, changing degree scheme, temporary withdrawal, etc.

33. A case may be expedited by referral for executive action by the Chair of the Academic Appeal Panel. The only decisions available to the Chair shall be to uphold the appeal. An appeal shall not be rejected by the Chair’s executive action.

34. Any student whose appeal satisfies the criteria for consideration by the Academic Appeal Panel shall have the right to appear before the Panel and may be accompanied by a person of his/her choice, for example a fellow student or a representative from the Students’ Union or a member of the academic staff. If that person is acting as a legal representative, the University must be informed at least five working days before the date of the Committee.

35. The appeal hearing will be conducted as laid out as follows: Where a student has indicated that he/she will be attending the hearing, there shall be no discussion of the case prior to the appearance of the appellant.The Chair of the Panel shall ask the student and any other persons present to identify themselves and shall determine that any individual who is accompanying the student is able to satisfy the stipulations noted under paragraph 32 above.

36. The Chair of the Panel shall then:

(i) Introduce the members of the Panel and other persons present;
(ii) Explain the eligible grounds for the academic appeal, including a reminder that an appeal, which questions academic judgement, cannot be considered;
(iii) State the possible decisions available to the Panel;
(iv) Explain the sequence of events should the appeal be upheld or rejected.

37. The Chair shall invite the student to present the case, summarising the main points so that all present have a common understanding of the basis of the case.

38. Once the student has concluded his/her presentation, members of the Panel may ask questions and explore areas of interest or concern. When all members of the Panel are satisfied, the student shall be invited to add any further points which s/he may wish to bring to the attention of the Panel, and the individual accompanying the student shall be invited to speak in support of the case. The Panel shall then interview any other party who is attending the hearing. They shall also be invited to present his/her views on the case.

39. At the Panel hearing, the Chair has the discretion to declare inadmissible any matter introduced by the student, or by any person accompanying the student, if s/he deems it not directly related to the contents of the academic appeal previously lodged in writing by the student.

40. The Chair also has the discretion to declare inadmissible any evidence or information that has not been submitted and reviewed by all relevant parties prior to a hearing. In the interest of fairness, it is important that all parties ensure evidence is submitted ahead of the hearing, so that everyone has the opportunity to review the evidence and respond appropriately. Only in exceptional cases where the Chair is willing, and all other parties give consent, will new evidence brought to the hearing be considered.

41. The student shall then be invited to respond to the evidence submitted by any other party attending and to add any further points.

42. Once the hearing has ended, the student shall be informed of the timing and method of notification of the Panel’s decision. All parties, other than members of the Panel and the Secretary, shall then leave the room. The Panel shall consider the evidence before it and reach its decision. The Secretary to the Panel shall advise the Panel on the options available to it, if appropriate.

43. The Secretary shall inform the student, in writing, within five working days of the decision on the appeal.

44. Each academic appeal should be resolved within 6 working weeks. If it appears that a response will be delayed, students will be informed why this is, and will be kept informed of progress.

Final Review

45. If a student remains dissatisfied with the decision of the outcome of appeal, s/he can request a Final Review. Students will be directed to this Procedure upon receipt of the formal outcome of their appeal and will have 10 working days from the date of this letter in which to submit a Final Review application. Further details can be found in Section 12.3 of the Academic Quality Handbook.

Monitoring of Academic Appeals

46. It is important that the number, level and range of academic appeals are monitored. The Academic Quality & Records Office shall monitor all academic appeals and will report to the Research Degrees Committee and, via that Committee, to the Academic Board. Any personal details will remain confidential. It shall be the responsibility of the Research Degrees Committee to monitor the data and make appropriate recommendations to relevant bodies or personnel.

47. It shall also be the responsibility of the Academic Board to review the Academic Appeals Procedure and its effectiveness, and make recommendations for changes, where appropriate.