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Information about

Academic Appeals

Independent Advice, Support and Representation


What is the Appeals Procedure? The University has an academic Appeals procedure which students can use, if they have grounds, to appeal a University academic decision. This Information booklet aims to explain how you might go about making an appeal and how the process works.

What can I appeal and when can I do it? An Academic Appeal can only be submitted once you have received formal notification of results (This will be sent to you after your marks have gone through Subject or Exam Boards, and are usually given back to you either on returned assignment coversheets, official University letters or your transcript). Even though you might already have been told informally that you have failed or that a decision has been made about your assessment that you’re not happy with, you will still have to wait until you have formally been told about that decision – although you can still contact the Students’ Union at this time and we can help you prepare your Appeal. Once you have been formally been given your results then you must submit your appeal to the University within ten working days. In theory, students cannot usually use the procedure to appeal against a pass mark, only a confirmed fail. However if you feel that there were circumstances that affected you at a particular point of passed assessment, then you could still choose to submit an appeal – it might be wise to contact the Students’ Union Student Advisor if you are think this is something you might like to explore .


Grounds for appeal The procedure states that students must have relevant “grounds” for Appeal and they may wish to include a sentence or two explaining why they did not make this information known to the Progression or Exam Board earlier. Alternatively, they may want to submit the appeal as a way of confirming whether or not the Board had all the information to hand. Students should try to avoid making an appeal sound like a complaint as complaints cannot be resolved under this procedure. Sometimes, there is an element of complaint, especially if it relates to procedures not being carried out as they should. In these cases, the student does again need to say why they have not been able to raise this under the relevant procedures. It usually happens in relation to placements, especially those at the end of an academic year when a complaint could not be resolved by the time an appeal has to be lodged! Even if the appeal is in the students’ favour, a fail mark cannot usually be ‘overturned’ and made into a ‘pass’. They can usually only endorse a ‘first attempt assessment’ and often can only allow a reassessment opportunity. If a student has already been offered a reassessment opportunity s/he may not wish to pursue an academic appeal as the outcome is potentially going to be the same. However, if the student feels they have been wronged or disadvantaged in some way, the appeal could be used to request an alternative, such as a first attempt submission rather than a reassessment. This can be useful as it means the mark won’t be capped at the pass mark and could mean the difference in degree classification at a later stage’


There are three grounds ‘allowing’ students to make an academic appeal: ii) where there has been or could have been material administrative error or procedural irregularity which has affected the students’ results This could be: • A student not being informed of an assessment deadline • placement assessments not being carried out in line with regulations – e.g. absolutely no indication of cause for concern or failure of placement until very last observation / assessment It is essential that students attach evidence to support this ground – e.g. photocopy page from University booklets/programme booklets etc. iii) where significant new evidence concerning extenuating or mitigating circumstances which for good reason had not been available to the Boards of Examiners … (for example a medical condition which had not been diagnosed at the time of the Board) has been produced This can relate to circumstances outside of the students’ control which they feel affected their ability to perform in any assessment. Students should bear in mind that there is often some time between submitting / taking part in an assessment and the Exam or Progression Board and there could be questions as to why information was not presented earlier. The Academic Office has a formal process in place – “Claim for consideration of extenuating circumstances” – which lets students make concerns known within 5 working days of the end of the module that the assessment is part of.


As with an academic appeal, they should include evidence where possible and as much detail as they feel able – even in difficult and personal circumstances. We also suggest they inform their PAT and even the module leader or equivalent. These staff may then be in a position to support the student at the relevant Board, making reference to the information which the Chair may then be able to take this into consideration when confirming marks and approving reassessment opportunities. Sometimes a student may not have realised that an event or incident had a negative affect on them at the time. They should explain this as fully as possible in their appeal if using the extenuating circumstances ground. Examples of this may be a death in the family (this may require a death certificate) or personal circumstances. iv) where unfair treatment or discrimination is alleged as part of the assessment process which for good reason had not been considered previously under the University Complaints Procedure This is often quite difficult to put through an appeal as again, it states that there must be good reason why it has not been put through the appropriate procedures at the time. Some students are reluctant to make a complaint under these procedures as they believe that the situation will get worse. If a student uses this aspect as the grounds for their appeal, they should explain why they did not initiate a formal complaint at an earlier stage.


Writing a Statement / Letter There is no set way to present an appeal but the following should be taken into consideration: • it needs to be written in a formal tone • We usually advise students to write the main body of their appeal in a letter but students must attach the ‘Formal Notification of Academic Appeal’ form, provided by the Academic Office or which you can obtain from the students Union. • Evidence must be attached wherever possible to support the reasons for appeal. • The Appeal must be submitted within 10 working days of date of notification of results. Although the Students’ Union can provide advice and guidance, the student needs to look at the circumstances and try and identify relevant evidence. The Students’ Union can prompt the student using the information above – in some cases students do not make the connection between what they see as the situation and regulations/extenuating circumstances.


Hints & Tips for students making an appeal •

Start with a note of the situation then look to see if it ‘matches’ with any of

the grounds. •

Try to incorporate vocabulary from the relevant grounds. For example: “I wish

to make an academic appeal on the grounds that I believe I have mitigating circumstances which affected my ability to perform” •

Set out a full and factual account of the circumstances in question. Be logical

and concise but include everything of relevance – if any doubts about whether to include it or not – put it in as long as it is supportive. The Dean can determine whether it meets requirements – it helps to assume that the reader knows nothing about the student or the programme of study. •

Make reference to and attach evidence wherever possible. Take each point in

turn and think about anything that can be attached or refer to that supports it. •

Re: ‘remedy’ i.e. what would the student like to see happen if the appeal is

successful. This can be quite tricky. The Chair of the Appeals Panel cannot normally overturn a fail and can often only offer further assessment opportunities to demonstrate that a student does have the ability. Outcomes must be realistic – such as a first attempt assessment, a reassessment or further time in a placement


Formal Notification of Academic Appeal Form This must be sent with any written information you provide to: Secretary of the Appeals Panel, Registry, The University of Cumbria, Lancaster, LA1 3JD within 10 working days of the date of results notification. Completing the form: There are five sections plus personal details, which must be filled in. 1.

The decision of the Assessment Board against which I wish to appeal is: Insert here the module or individual piece(s) of work you are concerned with. You should copy details like module number and assessment title directly from results notice.

2.

I wish to appeal on the following grounds: Insert here words from the most relevant ground e.g. 1.3.1 (ii) material error or procedural irregularity

3.

I wish to seek the following remedy: E.g. that the above exam/assessment/placement is endorsed as a deferral and that I am able to undertake this as a first attempt. The remedy is often the most difficult part – what can the student ask for!? It has to be realistic and it needs to relate to the failed piece(s) – the above box is an example of a much-used remedy! Students need to remember that a fail can’t be overturned – at best a first attempt assessment, often a reassessment are the outcomes of a successful appeal.


4. Detailed factual statement of the circumstances in support of my appeal (continue on a separate sheet if necessary) Insert here “Please see attached statement of circumstances” if you have indeed written a separate statement. Most students do need more space than given on the form and choose to attach the complete statement as a separate word-processed document. 5. List of documentation attached in support of an appeal (e.g. letters, medical notes, cover sheets etc) This is quite straightforward – make a list of every document you are sending with this form. Some students number each document for clarity. *The make sure you remember to sign the Notification Form What happens next? The Dean of Faculty considers the information provided, checking that there are valid grounds and that there is relevant evidence to support the case. The Dean may feel that there are grounds and sufficient evidence to allow the appeal to go in the students’ favour. The outcome the student requested may be applied, but this will have to comply with regulations. If the Dean doesn’t believe there are grounds, it is passed to a second Dean to look at with fresh eyes. These Deans could both reject the appeal. It is also possible that the Dean believes that there are grounds, but there isn’t enough evidence to fully investigate and decide on an appropriate outcome. In this case, an Appeals Panel can be called and the student would be invited along.


Contacting the Advice Service

If you would like any further information, would like to arrange an appointment or want to speak to a Students’ Union Advice Service staff member then contact:

Students’ Union Student Advisors: email: suadvice@cumbria.ac.uk Trish Lee: 01524 526567 Chloe Merna: 01228 616272 You can also drop in to your local Students’ Union Office on each main Campus to speak to arrange to speak the Student Advisor in person, on the telephone or to arrange a suitable appointment.

If you’d prefer it you can arrange an online chat with the Student Advisor using the virtual receptionist at:

www.thestudentsunion.org.uk/advice email: suadvice@cumbria.ac.uk to arrange an appointment or why not visit the Advice Service section of the Students’ Union website to see what other information and advice we can offer?

If you would like this document in an alternative format please contact Trish Lee On Tel:01524 526576 or e-mail:suadvice@cumbria.ac.uk


UCSU Academic Appeals Information