A Student Guide

This Guide is intended for use by postgraduate research students who wish to appeal a decision of their School Postgraduate Research Committee on student progression, assessment and award.

You should read this Guide in conjunction with the Academic Appeals Regulations (Research Degree Programmes). Where there is any doubt the Regulations take precedence over these guidelines.

You may appeal against decisions relating to the following:

  1. That you cannot progress to the next stage of a phase of research study, i.e. that your current programme of study is terminated or you are transferred to another course of study.
  2. An appeal against a decision not to award the qualification for which you are registered (i.e. a decision made at the end of your research degree).

You may not appeal against the academic judgement of an examining or decision-making body.  Academic judgement relates to the expertise of the examiners within the subject area, and their judgements on whether or not the work that was produced in the thesis was original, at the forefront of the discipline, and was of the standard required for the research programme.  It is a judgement made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert will suffice. 

How Do I Appeal?

Stage 1 – Appeal to the Faculty Student Research Appeals Committee (FSRAC)

You may appeal on grounds to the Faculty Student Research Appeals Committee (FSRAC) by submitting a FSRAC Appeal Form to Academic Affairs, Level 6, Administration Building, Queen’s University, Belfast, BT7 1NN or by email to appeals@qub.ac.uk.  You must complete all sections of the Form.  You must submit the Appeal Form and any supporting evidence to Academic Affairs within 10 working days of the date of the notification of the decision on your progression, assessment and award which you wish to challenge. 

Academic Affairs will acknowledge receipt of your appeal and will send it to the Head of your School for a response.   

You may only request an appeal on the following grounds:

Grounds for Appeal to FSRAC

For each ground cited you must give details of how your appeal meets the grounds and provide evidence of how this has impacted on your studies.

Ground 1:  New evidence has become available which could not have been provided to the School (evidence which was withheld from the School will not normally constitute new evidence).

You should consider the following: 

  1. Could the “new evidence” have been disclosed to the School and if so what prevented you from informing the School of this evidence sooner?
  2. Was the “new evidence” at any point discussed informally with any member of the School staff and, if so, with whom and when was it discussed?
  3. Were you advised to submit formal notification of the new evidence?
  4. What steps were taken by the School to address the issue/s raised by you?  Were you signposted by the School to appropriate support services (Wellbeing Service, Disability Service, Students’ Union, the University’s Occupational Health Service)?

Ground 2: There has been a procedural irregularity which has had a demonstrable impact on the progress/assessment outcome.

You should include the following: 

  1. Details of the procedural irregularity making reference to the appropriate regulation, procedure or process.
  2. Details on how the procedural irregularity affected your performance and, therefore, impacted on your progress/assessment/award outcome.

Ground 3: There is evidence of inadequate assessment on the part of one or more examiners.

You should include the following:

  1. The date of submission of the thesis.
  2. The date of the oral examination.
  3. Details of any issues raised by you relating to the assessment process prior to submission of the appeal.
  4. The duration of the oral examination (was a break offered?).
  5. Were you given a fair opportunity to defend your thesis?  If not, explain why you consider you were not afforded a fair opportunity.
  6. Details of when you received notification of the outcome and when you received copies of the examiners’ reports. 

Please note the FSRAC cannot make judgement on the academic content of your thesis.

Ground 4: There is evidence of inadequate supervision.  This refers not to the academic judgement of supervisors regarding the quality of your work, but rather to the adherence to University regulations, procedures and codes of practice for the supervision of postgraduate research students.  You will be expected to show that you took action at the earliest possible stage to deal with any alleged supervisory problems, or to explain why you did not take such action.

You should include the following information:

  1. The names of your Principal and Second Supervisors.
  2. Details of any change/s of Supervisors and reasons for any change/s and the stage of research when the change occurred.
  3. Details of any issues raised by you or either Supervisor during the period of supervision relating to supervision.
  4. If there was a delay in differentiation (i.e. year 1 FTE), please give reasons for the delay.
  5. If there was a delay in the submission of the thesis, (i.e. year 4 FTE) please give reasons for the delay.

Preparing Your Appeal

Once you have established that you have grounds for an appeal, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice and assistance on preparing your appeal. The Students’ Union will be able to assist you with the appeal form and a representative will also be able to accompany you to the Committee hearing.

Advice SU (http://www.qubsu.org/AdviceSU/)

Supporting Documentation

As the FSRAC will consider your appeal on written evidence only, it is essential that you provide all the relevant information and supporting evidence to the FSRAC by the appeal deadline.  

The following are examples of supporting documentation the Committee may consider as appropriate evidence:

  1. The written outcome letter of the decision against which you are appealing.
  2. Notes or records of any supervision meetings or APR feedback.
  3. Email correspondence between you and your supervisor(s).
  4. Any further email correspondence that may be relevant to the appeal.
  5. Any medical evidence that could explain periods of absence or non-engagement with the University.
  6. Notes or records of any meetings with the School.

School Response

On receipt of an appeal to FSRAC, Academic Affairs will refer the matter to the Head of your School for a response. 

Academic Affairs will inform you that your appeal has been referred to the Head of your School and that the School may be in contact with you to arrange a meeting. 

The School will provide a response to Academic Affairs, normally within 10 working days. 

The FSRAC will meet to consider your appeal and the School response.  

What happens at the FSRAC?

Your appeal (and any supporting evidence submitted by you) and the School response (and any supporting evidence) will be considered by the FSRAC. The decision on your appeal will be taken on the paperwork alone.  Neither you, nor a representative from the School will be invited to attend a meeting.

Decision of the FSRAC

The FSRAC may:

  • Recommend mediation with your School.
  • Dismiss your appeal, giving reasons.
  • Uphold your appeal in part or in full by varying the progression decision.
  • Uphold your appeal in part or in full (assessment/award) and
  • Declare the oral examination null and void - new examiners will be appointed.
    • Recommend that the examiners reconsider their decision.
    • Permit you to revise and resubmit your thesis or to re-register and undertake more research before re-submitting your thesis.  The FSRAC will specify whether the thesis will be examined by the same or new examiners.  If the appeal is upheld on the ground of inadequate supervision, the FSRAC will recommend that one or more supervisors be replaced for the further period of research
    • Apply on your behalf for a concession to the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes.

You will be notified of the decision of the FSRAC in writing by email to your Queen’s email account, normally within five working days of the decision being taken.

What if I am dissatisfied with the decision of the FSRAC?

Stage 2 - Appeal to the Central Student Research Appeals Committee (CSRAC)

If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the FSRAC, you may appeal to the CSRAC by submitting a CSRAC Appeal Form to Academic Affairs within 10 working days of the written notification of the decision of the FSRAC.

The CSRAC will comprise a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) (or nominee) (Chair) and three Directors of Research or senior academic colleagues from across the University (normally one from each Faculty).  You will have the right to attend the meeting of the CSRAC to present your case.

Grounds of Appeal to CSRAC

You may appeal on the following grounds:

Ground 1:  New evidence has become available which could not have been provided to the FSRAC (evidence withheld from the FSRAC will not normally constitute new evidence).

You should consider whether the “new evidence” could have been disclosed to the FSRAC and, if so, what prevented you from informing the FSRAC of this evidence sooner.

Ground 2: There has been a procedural irregularity by the FSRAC which has had a demonstrable impact on the outcome.

You should include the following:

      i.        Details of the procedural irregularity, making reference to the appropriate regulation, procedure or process.

     ii.        Details on how the procedural irregularity affected the decision of the FSRAC. 

You should include the following information, where appropriate:

  • State clearly what decision you are appealing against.
  • State clearly how you meet the grounds of appeal.
  • Is there any additional information you would like the Committee to know about?

What happens at the CSRAC meeting?

You will be invited to attend the meeting of the CSRAC and will receive copies of the same documentation provided to the Committee. 

You must confirm whether or not you intend to attend the meeting.  If you do not attend and fail to show good cause for not attending, the CSRAC may take a decision in your absence.  Attendance by video conference or teleconference can be arranged if you have a valid reason for not being able to attend in person. You should advise Academic Affairs as a matter of urgency, if you require this facility to be set up for the CSRAC meeting.

Academic Affairs will give you at least five working days’ notice of the date, time and venue of the CSRAC meeting.  You will be required to confirm your attendance.  Failure to do so on or before the stated time may result in your appeal being deemed to be withdrawn.  If you do not attend the meeting of the CSRAC, without showing good cause, the CSRAC has the right, upon being satisfied that you have been duly notified of the date, time and venue of the meeting, to consider the case and to reach a decision in your absence and without further notice.  It is your responsibility to establish good cause to the satisfaction of the CSRAC.  If you establish ‘good cause’ to the satisfaction of the Committee, then the meeting may be re-scheduled unless you have indicated that you wish the case to be considered by the CSRAC in your absence.

You will receive copies of all the documentation provided to the CSRAC.  The Chair of the FSRAC (or nominee) and/or the School representative will also receive the same paperwork.

A further written response may be required from the School or from the Chair of the FSRAC (or nominee) in response to your appeal to CSRAC.  The Chair of the FSRAC (or nominee) will be required to attend the meeting of the CSRAC.  A representative from your School may also be required to attend the meeting of the CSRAC to provide information relating to the provision of the research degree programme and any information regarding your academic performance and the basis on which the progression, assessment, or award decision was taken. 

The Chair of the FSRAC (or nominee) and the School representative and you will enter and leave the room at the same time.  You have the right to be accompanied to the CSRAC meeting by a registered student of the University (which shall include a Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer), a member of staff of the University, or University Chaplaincy. The role is one of support, not representation.

Only members of the CSRAC and the secretariat will be present while the decision is being made. 

The CSRAC reserves the right to request and/or consider further evidence as it deems necessary and may reconvene to allow further information to be gathered and deliberations to be concluded.

You will be notified in writing of the decision of the CSRAC, normally within five working days of the decision being taken.

Decision of the CSRAC

The CSRAC may:

  • Dismiss your appeal, giving reasons.
  • Uphold your appeal in part or in full by varying the progression decision.
  • Uphold your appeal in part or in full (assessment/award) and
    • Declare the oral examination null and void - new examiners will be appointed.
    • Recommend that the examiners reconsider their decision.
    • Permit you to revise and resubmit your thesis or to re-register and undertake more research before re-submitting your thesis.  The CSRAC will specify whether the thesis will be examined by the same or new examiners.  If the appeal is upheld on the ground of inadequate supervision, the CSRAC will recommend that one or more supervisors be replaced for the further period of research.
    • Apply on your behalf for a concession to the Study Regulations for Postgraduate Research Programmes.

If the appeal has been upheld on the ground of inadequate supervision, the CSRAC shall recommend to the School that one or more supervisors be replaced.

What if I am unhappy with the decision of the CSRAC?

The decision of the CSRAC is final; there is no further internal right of appeal.  However, if you are aggrieved by the decision of the CSRAC, you may submit a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (https://nipso.org.uk/nipso/about-us/who-we-are/) within six months of notification of the University’s final decision.

Confidentiality and Data Protection

All appeals will be treated with the appropriate level of confidentiality, with information being released only to those who need to see it.

In accordance with the Academic Appeals Regulations (Research Degree Programmes), all information submitted by you and by the School will be shared with the members of the Committees.  You, the Chair of the FSRAC (or nominee) and/or the School will be sent copies of the information sent to the members of the CSRAC.  You should not include in your appeal any information which you do not wish to be shared.  You should also ensure that your appeal documentation does not contain any information relating to third parties; the names or any information by which a third party could be identified should be redacted, unless the third party consents to the information being shared.  The information must also comply with the University’s Policy on Data Protection.

You should be careful not to make unsubstantiated or defamatory allegations or comments about other persons.  The University may require any such comments to be deleted before accepting your appeal.

 

Right to Be Accompanied

You have the right to be accompanied at any stage in the proceedings by a registered student of the University (which shall include a Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer), a member of staff of the University, or University Chaplaincy. The role is one of support, not representation.