11.2 Academic Appeals at Postgraduate Research Level
11.2.1 An appeal is a request for a review of a decision of an academic body charged with making decisions on student progression, assessment and awards. A complaint is different, and arises from a specific concern about the adequacy or quality of the provision of a programme of study or related academic service.
11.2.2 Appeals will be considered under the procedures described below. If an appeal is deemed to be a complaint, the University may then deal with it under appropriate complaints procedures.
11.2.3 The University believes that students should be able to raise matters of concern without fear of disadvantage and in the knowledge that their privacy and confidentiality will be respected as will that of members of staff. In particular this procedure should be read in conjunction with the University’s statements on Equal Opportunities and Harassment.
11.2.4 In dealing with an appeal, privacy and confidentiality will be respected. Disclosure about the appeal will only be made insofar as this is necessary for dealing with the appeal.
11.2.5 Note that matters of academic judgement are not open to review, either by complaint or by appeal.
11.2.6 At any stage the Academic Registrar, with due consultation, has authority not to refer a case to the appeal process if it is considered to be vexatious or frivolous. In such cases the reason will be given in writing to the student as to why the appeal is an abuse of process.
Rights and grounds for appeal
11.2.7 There is no right of appeal against the academic judgement of examiners when this judgement has been applied according to established procedures.
11.2.8 The grounds for appeal are that the decision was unreasonable because it did not adequately take into account all the factors affecting the student’s performance, is procedurally incorrect, has been taken in the absence of all the relevant information (for example, the existence of a medical condition) or that there is evidence of prejudice or of bias or of inadequate assessment on the part of one or more of the examiners such that the result of the examination should not be allowed to stand. Appeals will not be considered on grounds that academic performance was adversely affected by factors such as ill-health if there is no contemporaneous, independent, medical or other evidence to support the application.
11.2.9 An appeal may not be submitted where the grounds concern the alleged inadequacy of supervisory or other arrangements during the period of study; such issues must be raised, in writing and preferably during the minimum period of study and research, under the procedures for academic complaints.
11.2.10 Before submitting an appeal students are advised to discuss the matter with the Students’ Union or the relevant research supervisor.
11.2.11 An appeal should be submitted in writing to the Academic Registrar's Office within one calendar month of the date of the letter notifying the student of the decision against which the appeal is directed.
11.2.12 The letter of appeal must state all the grounds on which the student considers that the decision should be changed and the remedy that the student is seeking. The student should also attach any supporting documents to the appeal.
11.2.13 Where the Academic Registrar's Office considers that the appeal is based on allowable grounds, comments will be sought from the relevant Division, the appellant’s supervisor, the internal examiner(s), the external examiner(s) and other such persons deemed appropriate, a copy of which will be sent to the student. These comments and the student’s appeal submission will be considered by at least three members of the Academic Panel including the Chair. Moreover, at least two such members will have expertise in examining at postgraduate research level and will have not been directly involved in the original decision.
11.2.14 The Academic Panel can reach a view on the appeal on the basis of the information submitted, or it may choose to interview the student. At such an interview the student has the right to be accompanied.
11.2.15 The Academic Panel can decide either to:
(a) rescind the original decision, or
(b) vary the original decision, or
(c) reject the appeal. The student has a right of appeal against the decision of APAC: the student does this by writing to the Academic Registrar, within ten days of receipt of the decision of the Academic Panel, who will refer the matter to a University Appeal Panel (see section 11.2.19-32 below).
11.2.16 Where the decision is that the unamended thesis should be re-examined, new examiners should be appointed to conduct the re-examination.
11.2.17 The Academic Panel shall report its decisions to the. Academic Council by means of the Academic Panel annual report.
11.2.18 The Chair shall have authority to uphold an appeal without reference to the Academic Panel, in circumstances where this is considered to be appropriate.
Final consideration on behalf of Academic Council
11.2.19 The University Appeal Panel (Research) shall consider the student’s appeal. The Panel shall comprise not less than four members, with expertise in examining at postgraduate research level, drawn from a pool of senior academic staff appointed by Academic Council and a student representative appointed by the Students’ Union. The University Appeal Panel (Research) shall normally be chaired by the Deputy Principal (Research). A Panel member will withdraw from any cases involving his or her Division. The quorum for an Appeal Panel (Research) is a minimum of two academic members.
11.2.20 The student appellant and representatives of the relevant Division against whom the appeal is made will be given the opportunity to present oral evidence at an appeal hearing, and will be given at least one week’s notice of the date and time of the meeting of the University Appeal Panel (Research).
11.2.21 The University Appeal Panel (Research) shall have the right to seek comments or evidence from the relevant Division, the appellant’s supervisor, the internal examiner(s), the external examiner(s) and other such persons as it deems appropriate.
11.2.22 The student appellant and representative(s) of the relevant Division may be accompanied by a person of his or her own choosing. The name and status of any accompanying person(s) should be notified to the Secretary of the University Appeal Panel (Research) at least 2 days prior to the hearing.
11.2.23 Both the student and the person accompanying him or her, and the members of staff, and any persons accompanying them, shall be permitted to speak, to see all evidence tendered to the University Appeal Panel (Research) and to question through the Chair any persons providing oral evidence.
11.2.24 If an individual wishes to be heard in person, but is unable to be present, they may nominate someone to speak on their behalf. In these circumstances, the person bringing the appeal will lose the right to be heard personally.
11.2.25 The University Appeal Panel (Research) will consider:
- whether the original decision is procedurally correct;
- whether the original decision was taken on the basis of correct information;
- whether there is any new information that has a bearing on the case, and, if so, whether there is an acceptable reason why it was not available previously;
- whether the student has been treated fairly and reasonably.
11.2.26 The University Appeal Panel (Research) will meet privately to reach a decision and shall have the full authority of Academic Council to confirm or to vary the original decision under appeal. The student, the relevant Head of Division and the Student Administration Office shall be informed of the decision, with reasons, in writing.
11.2.27 Where the decision is that the unamended thesis should be re-examined, new examiners should be appointed to conduct the re-examination.
11.2.28 If the appeal is rejected there is no further internal right of appeal.
11.2.29 The outcome of appeals considered by the University Appeal Panel (Research) will be reported annually to the Academic Council by the University Appeal Committee.
11.2.30 At any point in the above process, provision shall exist for mutual agreement to be reached between the student appellant and the Division to resolve the appellant’s concerns.
11.2.31 If the University Appeal Panel (Research) finds in favour of a student who has brought an appeal, the University will reimburse any necessary incidental expenses incurred by the student in connection with the hearing. This will not, however, include any legal expenses.
11.2.32 The University believes that it is of the utmost importance that appeals from students are considered thoroughly and fairly. While consideration of an appeal will not be unduly delayed, it may on occasion take some time to undertake a thorough investigation and hence to resolve an appeal. The University will aim to have completed its investigation and decision on any appeal within four months of the initial appeal.
External Independent Review
11.2.33 Under the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002, individuals have the right to refer their case to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) when the University's internal procedures for resolving a complaint or appeal has been exhausted. Details of the arrangements for contacting the SPSO can be obtained on request from the Academic Registrar's Office.