This document sets out the procedures for the consideration of academic appeals. It should be read in conjunction with University Regulations 2.8 (for research students) and 6.7 (for taught students).
The term ‘student’ in this document includes any former student who is appealing against withdrawal from their studies following academic failure.
The principles underlying the University's academic appeals procedures have been approved by the Senate. They are as follows:
the procedures should be fair and transparent, and decisions should be reasonable and have regard to law;
appeals should be dealt with within a reasonable time;
appeals and complaints should be dealt with in accordance with the University's Equality and Diversity Policy for Students and procedures should be adapted, as appropriate, having regard to that Policy:
information on the procedures, and on sources of advice, should be readily accessible;
a student should have the right to be accompanied, within appropriate constraints, when attending any appeal hearing (see Section 9 below);
all parties attending an appeal hearing should have equality of access to relevant information and documentation;
an individual's privacy and confidentiality should be respected, subject to the need for an open and fair investigation and for the outcome of the investigation to be reported appropriately. This is in order both to protect the privacy of the student and to protect members of staff from unsubstantiated public allegations;
any student who has suffered a wrong has a right to have that wrong redressed, though vexatious or frivolous appeals should not be allowed to abuse the process;
Appeals may be submitted by an individual, or a by a group of named individuals acting collectively if all named individuals have signed up to contributing to it;
procedures should ensure that, where an appeal is upheld, appropriate remedial action is taken;
members of an appeal panel should not be judges in their own case; or act in any case in which conflict of interest may arise;
the University should seek to minimise the cost to a student of pursuing an appeal;
the available documentation should indicate which further procedures, if any, are open to an appellant who remains aggrieved following the outcome of an appeal;
A person who is the subject of an allegation during the course of appeal should have the right to present a case during any investigation;
If attending an appeal hearing, the appellant has the right to be accompanied by a registered student or employee of the University.
Responsibility for considering academic appeals has been delegated by Senate to a sub-committee, the Special Cases Committee. The Committee has twenty members, including the Chair, all of whom are academic staff at the University. The Committee has Appeals Chairs whose role it is to consider appeals at the Formal Stage of the process, in consultation with an ordinary member of the Committee. The Committee also has an overall Chair and Deputy Chair (who is also Deputy Chair for taught students), as well as a Deputy Chair for research students. The Chair or Deputy Chair (or, if necessary to avoid conflict of interest, alternative member of the Committee nominated by the Chair) consider appeals at Review Stage, in consultation with an ordinary member of the Committee. Committee members do not consider appeals made by students from their own academic department or if they have had any previous involvement with the case.
The Special Cases Manager and Special Cases Officers act as case officers in handling appeals. They have delegated authority to dismiss appeals at Part A of the Formal Stage. The Case Officers also have delegated authority to uphold appeals that meet certain criteria at Part B of the Formal Stage. In addition, the Special Cases Managers have delegated authority to reject appeals that do not meet certain criteria at Part B of the Formal Stage (see section 8 below).
A student may lodge an appeal against the following decisions by Boards of Studies, Boards of Examiners or Exceptional Circumstances Committees:
(i) Decisions reached as a consequence of assessment of a student's academic performance, including those relating to the outcomes for awards, pass/fail or processing of individual marks;
(ii) for research students only: that the degree for which the student was enrolled should not be awarded but that, instead, the student should be required to resit an examination or to revise and resubmit a thesis or dissertation for re-examination for the award or for a lesser award, and against the conditions on which such permission is given.
(iii) decisions reached on whether or not, and on what conditions, those who have failed an examination or other assessment should be permitted a re-assessment opportunity;
(iv) decisions concerning student progression, programme transfer or leave of absence (in the case of programme transfers students may only appeal on the basis of procedural irregularity in the process, not against an admissions decision made by a department, which is an academic judgement);
(v) a recommendation that a student's enrolment should be terminated on the grounds that the student is academically unsatisfactory, other than where triggered by failure of the programme or failure to progress;
(vi) a recommendation that a student's enrolment should be terminated or transferred to another programme on the grounds that the student has failed to comply with the requirements of an external organisation in which training or education is undertaken, or of an appropriate professional or regulatory body;
(vii) other decisions concerning requirements of professional or regulatory bodies in relation to the Policy on Fitness to Practise;
(viii) decisions relating to the application of the Academic Misconduct Policy and Procedures;
(ix) decisions of Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment Committees.
A student may also appeal against:
(x) a decision taken by Chair's action, by the Chair of Special Cases Committee or their nominee, not to uphold recommendations to grant leave of absence, repeat study, programme extensions or other exceptions to programme specifications and enrolment requirements that fall under Special Cases Committee's remit;
(xi) a decision of a Standing Committee on Academic Misconduct Investigatory Panel (StAMP).
Some decisions against which appeals may be made are expressed as recommendations from the Board concerned to the Special Cases Committee. This does not affect the procedures to be followed.
5. 1 Students may appeal against a decision reached by the Board of Studies, Board of Examiners or Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment Committee only if:
(i) they believe that a procedural irregularity has occurred, or that the assessment was conducted unfairly or improperly;
(ii) relevant exceptional circumstances exist that could not reasonably have been brought to the attention of the Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment Committee (for students on taught programmes), or the attention of the Examiners (for Research students), and/or could not be evidenced, at the time they occurred.
5.2 Students may appeal against a decision of a Standing Committee on Academic Misconduct Investigatory Panel (StAMP) on the grounds that:
i) The Academic Misconduct procedures were not followed properly;
ii) The StAMP reached a decision that was not reasonable in all the circumstances;
iii) New evidence is available which could not reasonably have been brought to the attention of the StAMP at the time of its investigation;
iv) There was bias or reasonable perception of bias during the academic misconduct process;
v) The penalty imposed by the StAMP was disproportionate or not permitted under the Academic Misconduct procedures.
i) against the exercise of academic judgment, for example, a decision made by academic staff on the quality of work or the criteria being applied to mark the work;
ii) on the basis of dissatisfaction with teaching quality or supervision.
iii) on the basis that they disagree about the way in which exceptional circumstances were considered, unless there is clear evidence that the defined procedures were not followed by the Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment Committee.
5.6 A student may, in exceptional circumstances, appeal on the basis of a disability that has been diagnosed after the decision against which they are appealing has been made. In these cases, those considering the case will take into account the length of time that has elapsed between the student's period of registration and the date on which they are appealing. Students would not normally be expected to bring such cases to appeal more than one calendar year after the decision against which they are appealing has been made, and bearing in mind the usual deadline for submission of appeals outlined in Section 7) below. Additionally, for the appeal to be upheld, the student would need to demonstrate that they could not reasonably have been expected to obtain a diagnosis, or otherwise become aware of, the disability at an earlier time.
The appeals procedures consist of a Formal Stage and a Review Stage.
Students have 28 calendar days (from the date they are formally notified of the decision against which they wish to appeal) to submit an appeal. Special Cases Managers can permit an extension to this deadline where good reason is presented.
Where a student is dissatisfied with the outcome of an appeal to the Formal Stage, they have 10 calendar days to submit an appeal against the Formal Stage decision to the Review Stage.
Both Stages of the appeals procedure should normally be completed within 90 calendar days (see section 11).
Appeals at each stage of the process are never considered by Committee members who have had previous involvement in the case. In cases where a case officer has dismissed an appeal at the Triage level of the Formal Stage, or a Special Cases Manager has dismissed an investigated appeal, the same case officer or Special Cases Manager will no longer act as case officer for the case, or take a decision on the outcome of the case should it proceed to a subsequent stage.
Students wishing to exercise their right of appeal against a decision must submit a Formal Stage academic appeal application form using the online form, normally within 28 calendar days of being notified of the recommendation or decision against which they wish to appeal.
The form should be fully completed, accompanied by supporting evidence, and identify the outcome sought by the student. Wherever possible, documentary corroborative evidence of the circumstances cited in the appeal should be submitted with the form. Otherwise, an indication should be given of the timescale in which the evidence will be submitted. Documentary evidence which is contemporary with events described in the appeal form, rather than retrospective, is desirable.
Where the issues raised in an appeal affect a number of students, those students may submit a ‘group appeal’. In such cases, the group may be asked to nominate one student from the group to act as the group representative. The University will then normally communicate with the representative only and will expect the representative to liaise with the other members of the group.
Appeals by third parties are not normally accepted. Only a student about whom a decision has been made can lodge an appeal against that decision. Any rare exceptions to this rule must be agreed by an Appeals Chair and can only be agreed on the basis that the student is incapable of managing their own appeal at the time or in the near future (for example on the basis of disability). There must be clear evidence to demonstrate that the student is incapable of handling the appeal on their own behalf. In such cases students may be supported by members of staff from YUSU or the GSA.
The University operates a policy concerning communications in relation to academic appeals. This outlines the position in relation to communications with third parties, what is deemed as unacceptable behaviour in communications with staff in relation to appeals, and the University's approach to handling unacceptable communications concerning appeals. The Policy on Communications in relation to academic appeals and formal complaints should be read in conjunction with this procedure document.
Students may contact the Special Cases administration team if they wish to discuss the appeals procedure further. Before lodging an appeal, students are encouraged to seek advice from the Students’ Union (YUSU) or the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA).
Appeals are considered in the first instance at the Formal Stage of the appeals process. If the case is to be considered by an Appeals Chair at the Formal Stage, this will happen at a special meeting, with the decisions taken by an Appeals Chair, in conjunction with one other member of the Committee.
The Formal Stage consists of two parts (A and B below):
Part A – Triage
The Case Officer can dismiss the appeal without recourse to an Appeals Chair, on the following grounds:
In the case of 1. and 2. above, the appellant may be informed by the Case Officer that they have whatever is remaining of their 28-day appeal period to clarify their appeal or to submit a new completed application. However, the 28-day appeal period will not be extended on this basis. If the student subsequently fails to submit a new form after prompting, a Formal Stage Appeal Outcome letter will be issued after the 28-day appeal deadline has passed, advising the student of their right to appeal to the Review Stage.
If a student submits a Formal Stage Appeal form on, or very close to, the 28-day deadline, or at a time when the University is closed or over a weekend, there may not be time for the Case Officer to decide whether or not the submission is valid and/or complete before the deadline passes. Therefore there may not be time for the student to make a revised submission if required. Students submitting appeals in these circumstances do so at their own risk, and the availability of a Case Officer will not constitute grounds for submitting a revised appeal form beyond the deadline, or grounds for appeal at the Review Stage.
If a case is dismissed on the basis of 1. to 7. above, the student will be issued with a Formal Stage Appeal Outcome letter, setting out a comprehensive explanation as to why grounds for appeal have not been established and advising them of their right to appeal to the Review Stage.
The letter will note that any appeal to the Review Stage would need, in addition to establishing grounds for appeal, to demonstrate (as appropriate):
If none of 1) to 7) above apply, Part B procedures will be followed as appropriate.
Part B) – Investigation and full Consideration
The Case Officer investigates the appeal. As part of the investigation the Case Officer identifies possible remedies with the department in the event that the appeal should be upheld.
In the cases of 1.i, ii, and iii above, the case must have been deemed uncontentious by the, Case Officer, it must be possible either to uphold all aspects of the appeal, or to uphold those parts of it that provide the student with the outcome they have requested, and the remedy proposed by the student’s academic department(s) must also be uncontentious. If an agreement regarding the remedy cannot be reached between the Case Officer and the academic department, the case should be considered by an Appeals Chair.
2. Where the Case Officer decides, after investigation, that there are clear grounds to reject the case, they can refer the case to the Special Cases Manager who can, after considering all the evidence obtained as part of the investigation, determine one of the following:
i. That there is no case to uphold the appeal -
- The student is issued with a Formal Stage Appeal Outcome letter, detailing the reasons that the appeal is being rejected. The letter will advise the student of their right to appeal to the Review Stage.
ii. That it may be possible to uphold the case -
iii. That there is not a clear case to reject all aspects of the appeal -
In the case of 2 i. above, it must be possible to reject all aspects of the appeal, and the decision to reject the appeal must be supported by the student’s academic department(s).
3. In all other cases, the Appeals Chair considers the appeal and all information obtained as part of the investigation, and determines one of the following:
iii.That a hearing should be held. This is either on the basis that the appeal is considered to be sufficiently complex and difficult to resolve on paper to require a hearing, giving due consideration as to what the hearing would add to the investigation, or the University Regulations require a hearing -
- Where a hearing is arranged and a student asks for a deferment of the hearing, the 90-day timeframe for completion of the case is suspended until the new hearing date.
- If an Appeals Chair decides that a full hearing of the Committee should be held to consider the appeal, as per point 3 iii. above, a student is always given the opportunity to attend that hearing if s/he wishes. A student not wishing to contest a recommendation for termination of registration may withdraw from the University at any point prior to the meeting of Special Cases Committee at which the case is to be heard. Students who do not withdraw before the meeting and whose registration is terminated by the Committee, cannot subsequently be allowed to withdraw or be deemed to have withdrawn.
Following the outcome of the hearing, the student is issued with a Formal Stage Appeal Outcome letter, which advises of their right to appeal to Review Stage if dissatisfied with the outcome.
Students will not normally be issued with a Completion of Procedures letter at this point since the University’s procedures have not been exhausted. However, should they choose not to appeal to the Review Stage, but wish to take their case directly to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, they can request a Completion of Procedures letter.
Students who are dissatisfied with the outcome of their appeal at the Formal Stage have 10 calendar days from the date of the Formal Stage Appeal Outcome letter to appeal to the Review Stage. Students must submit a Review Stage appeal form in order to appeal against the outcome of the Formal Stage appeal. Students may only appeal to the Review Stage on the following grounds:
a) They believe that a procedural irregularity has occurred at the Formal Stage of the appeal consideration, and can demonstrate this;
b) New evidence exists which the student had good reason for being unable to present at the Formal Stage;
c) That it is possible to demonstrate that the decision made at the Formal Stage was not reasonable in all the circumstances.
Appeals against Triage decisions
Where a student appeals against a Triage decision by a case officer, a different case officer will be assigned by the Special Cases Manager to handle the appeal at the Review Stage.
Where a Review Stage appeal was not investigated at the Formal Stage, the case officer will assess whether the appellant has raised new issues or evidence which merit investigation. In making this determination, the case officer will consider whether the student has raised issues which might plausibly lead to the appeal being upheld. If the case officer believes the appeal now merits investigation, they will conduct an investigation with the Board of Studies/Graduate Schools Board in line with the procedures at the Formal Stage (see ‘Part B Investigation’ above).
In cases where an investigation is carried out at the Review Stage, the case officer will present the findings of that investigation to the student who is appealing, with the option of submitting comments within a defined time-frame. Those comments will then be included in the appeal submission to the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Special Cases Committee.
If the case officer does not believe the appeal merits investigation, they will ask the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Special Cases Committee to make a decision on the Review Stage appeal.
All Review Stage appeals
The Chair, Deputy Chair of Special Cases Committee, or their nominee, considers the case in consultation with an ordinary member of the Committee and decides:
1) To uphold the appeal and apply a remedy (this can only happen in cases where the appeal has already been investigated at the Formal or Review Stage);
2) To instruct the case officer to fully investigate the appeal, then bring the appeal back for a decision once the investigation is complete. This will only happen in cases where the Formal Stage has been completed at the Triage level and the case officer at the Review Stage has decided not to conduct a Review-Stage investigation;
3) To call a hearing (this is only in exceptional cases, where due consideration has been given as to what the hearing would add to the investigation);
4) To dismiss the appeal.
In the case of 1) above, the student will be issued with a Review Stage Appeal outcome letter. Because this is a new decision, students retain the right to appeal against it to the Review Stage in accordance with the principles of natural justice. This is effectively a review of the Review Stage decision and for this reason the Review Stage procedures are applied. This means that appeals against a Review Stage decision must be made within 10 calendar days of the date of the Review Stage Appeal Outcome letter, and can only be made on the basis of a), b) or c) above. Appeals against a new outcome at Review Stage will be considered by a member of the Committee who has not previously had involvement in the case (for example, where the Chair has made a decision, an appeal against that decision will normally be considered by a Deputy Chair and vice versa).
Where a case has been heard at a full hearing (point 3) above) or has not been upheld at Review Stage (point 4) above), no further right of appeal exists within the University. A Completion of Procedures Letter is issued to the student in both these cases, detailing the outcome of each stage of the appeals process and advising of their right to complain to the OIA.
No further right of appeal exists within the University beyond the Review Stage.
In the case of a positive outcome at Review Stage, the student will not automatically be issued with a Completion of Procedures letter (instead they receive a Review Stage Outcome letter). However, they may request a Completion of Procedures letter.
When an appeal is heard at a full meeting of the Special Cases Committee, the student is always given the opportunity to attend the hearing if s/he wishes. However, if a student wishes to attend a hearing, they are expected to attend on the date set for the hearing, except where there is an exceptional reason for being unable to do so. Hearings are deferred if a student who previously confirmed that s/he would attend is unable to do so for good reasons. The Chair of the meeting reserves the right to decide that a hearing should go ahead in a student’s absence however, where the student is unlikely to be able to attend in the foreseeable future or where the hearing has already been deferred.
A student appearing before the Committee has the right to be accompanied by a registered student or employee of the University and/or: a sabbatical officer of the Students’ Union or Graduate Students’ Association; the YUSU Academic and Welfare Manager; a YUSU Academic and Support Development Co-ordinator; or the GSA Representation, Advice and Welfare Co-ordinator. Students may also be accompanied by any other appropriate staff member of a University-affiliated organisation such as, for example, Kaplan, at the discretion of the Chair of the Special Cases Committee (for appeal hearings) or Chair of the Standing Committee on Assessment (for academic misconduct hearings) as appropriate. The Board of Studies or Graduate Schools Board is normally represented at the hearing by the Chair, and the student's supervisor will normally attend, although others may be invited where appropriate. Participants are not permitted to be represented or accompanied by persons from outside the University, for example, by a solicitor, trades union representative, friend or family member. A student choosing not to appear before the Committee may not send a companion/representative instead, except in the circumstances described in the following paragraph.
Normally, students wishing to attend a hearing will be expected to do so in person. In exceptional circumstances where, for good reason, it is impractical for a student who wishes to attend a hearing to do so in person, a video or telephone link may be arranged if appropriate. A student making use of such a facility may be accompanied by, or may have present at the hearing, a registered student or employee of the University and/or: a sabbatical officer of the Students’ Union or Graduate Students’ Association; the YUSU Academic and Welfare Manager; a YUSU Academic and Support Development Co-ordinator; or the GSA Representation, Advice and Welfare Co-ordinator.
The student is invited to submit written evidence if s/he has not already done so and may submit written evidence whether or not s/he chooses to attend the hearing. All written evidence submitted to the Committee is made available to all the parties. Students are strongly encouraged to submit all written evidence sufficiently in advance of the hearing to allow Committee members time to consider it and seek clarification or evidence of points made. Students may also find that they are better prepared to present their case by reference to a written statement. Students may submit written evidence from third parties in support of their case and/or identify those parties whom they believe can contribute to their case. The names of those parties must be notified to the Secretary of the Committee at least five working days prior to the hearing.
Evidence is normally invited from the Chair of the Board of Studies/Graduate Schools Board concerned or a suitable nominee, and from the supervisor. The Committee may invite evidence from any other person it deems appropriate to the case including any such persons identified by the student. The Committee wishes to minimise any conflict of interest between the various roles undertaken by academic staff, and where the Chair of the Board of Studies/Graduate Schools Board and the student's supervisor are the same person, an additional member of staff may be invited to the meeting, following discussion with the Secretary to the Special Cases Committee. This is decided on a case by case basis, where a possible conflict of interest might offend the principle of natural justice in relation to any party.
Full Committee hearings consist of the Chair of the meeting (at Formal Stage this will normally be an Appeals Chair; at Review Stage this will normally be the Chair or a Deputy Chair of the Committee) and three other members of the Committee. The Secretary or other member of administrative staff is present to take minutes of the meeting, and a senior member of Student Support Services is also usually in attendance.
Hearings are normally conducted as follows (in exceptional cases the Committee may decide to vary the following procedures according to the circumstances of the particular case):
The members of the Committee hold a preliminary discussion amongst themselves in private.
All parties are invited into the hearing. The Chair of the meeting introduces the members of the Committee and explains the role of the Committee and the way in which the hearing will be conducted.
The Chair of the Board of Studies or Graduate Schools Board (or nominee) speaks to the Board's recommendation or decision.
The student is invited to present his or her case, with whatever supporting evidence s/he wishes to offer. At this point the student may, through the Chair, seek confirmation of points raised by the Chair of Board of Studies/Graduate Schools Board Chair (or their nominee).
The supervisor is invited to speak, as the person responsible for monitoring the academic and pastoral progress of the student (i.e. there is no expectation that the supervisor should necessarily be supportive of the student's case).
Any person(s) accompanying the student are invited to speak.
When all statements have been presented, the members of the Committee may ask questions, through the Chair.
The Chair will invite anyone present to ask questions or to provide further information, through the Chair.
The student is invited to make a brief final statement.
All parties, except the Committee and any central support staff in attendance, are asked to leave the room while the Committee deliberates and reaches a decision.
All parties are invited to return. Normally the Chair informs them of the Committee's decision and its reasons. There is no further discussion. The decision and reasons are communicated in writing to the parties as soon as is reasonably practicable. However, the Committee reserves the right to take time to reflect on its decision and announce it at a later date.
At the end of the Formal Stage, students will be issued with a Formal Stage Outcome Letter.
Students who subsequently appeal to the Review Stage will be issued either with a Review Stage Outcome letter or, where an appeal is not upheld at Review Stage, a Completion of Procedures letter.
The University aims to resolve appeals within 90 calendar days from the date of submission of the appeal to the Formal Stage.
If a student intends to submit evidence but has not provided that evidence at the time of submitting the appeal, the time between submission of the appeal and receipt of the evidence will not be counted towards the 90-day resolution time.
In some cases it is necessary to exceed the 90-day resolution time. If an appeal at Review Stage is referred back to the Formal Stage for further consideration, this is likely to result in a longer resolution time overall. Other occasions where it may be necessary to extend the 90-day resolution time include (but are not limited to) cases where: a full hearing is called (see Section 8 above); a complaint is being considered simultaneously and it is judged necessary to await the outcome of the complaint before resolving the appeal; procedural reasons prevent resolution of the case, for example, if Special Cases Committee members who have not had previous involvement in considering the case are not immediately available. The full process may also take longer than 90 calendar days to resolve where the appeal is submitted around the Christmas period when the University is closed, or at particularly busy times of year for the Special Cases Committee.
Students who have exhausted the University’s internal appeals procedures but remain aggrieved may be able to make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. Further information about the OIA is available on the OIA website: www.oiahe.org.uk.
Initial version created - September 2015
Updated to reflect revised wording of Regulations 2.8 and 6.7, to include paragraph on appeals on the basis of previously undiagnosed disability, reference to the Communications Policy, and to amend references to Mitigating Circumstances to Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment - September 2016
Updated to reflect permission to be accompanied by affiliated staff member at the discretion of the Chair of SCC or SCA - March 2017
Updated to change 'manifestly unreasonable' to 'not reasonable in all the circumstances' and to add in information about Special Cases Manager authority - September 2018
Updated to reflect changes to prima facie and submission criteria check process and to remove references to the Research Student Administration team - June 2019