Academic Appeal Regulations (Taught Programmes)

Academic Appeal Regulations (Taught Programmes)

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For Academic Appeal Regulations (Research Degree Programmes) see Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes, Regulation 8

General Principles

1. Students may appeal to the Faculty Student Appeals Committee a decision of their School Board of Examiners about progression, assessment and awards, using the Faculty Student Appeals Committee (FSAC) procedures. The FSAC shall consist of the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) (or nominee who is a senior academic) and two colleagues, at least one of whom is an academic member of staff. If the appeal is unsuccessful, students have the right to appeal this decision to the Central Student Appeals Committee (CSAC).

2. The CSAC is a committee drawn from a panel of senior academics from across the University, which normally convenes three times a year in August, October and March to hear appeals by undergraduate or postgraduate taught students against decisions of the FSAC. A quorum shall normally comprise the Chair plus at least three members, to include, where possible, one male and one female member and normally one representative from each faculty.

3. Additional meetings of the FSAC and the CSAC may be arranged on an ad hoc basis, if waiting for the next scheduled meeting would be detrimental to the student’s academic progress.  The decision to arrange an ad hoc meeting will be made by the Director of Academic and Student Affairs.

4. Appeals submitted by students from the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Stranmillis University College or St Mary’s University College will be considered by an FSAC in one of the three Faculties on a rotation basis.

5. Where an appeal is submitted by a student from the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, membership of the CSAC will include one member of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland and one member of the Law Society of Northern Ireland nominated by the Council of Legal Education.

6. Appeals submitted by students from China Queen’s College will be considered by a CSAC on an ad hoc basis. This is due to the differences in the academic year structure between Queen’s University and China Queen’s College.   

7. The process outlined in these Regulations is set out in a flowchart in Annex 1.

Scope of the procedure

8. Any registered undergraduate or postgraduate taught student, or graduand of the University (see Regulations for Students 1.19) may appeal to the FSAC against a decision of the Board of Examiners relating to their progress.

9. A former student may not lodge an appeal after they have graduated from the University. However, a student may proceed to graduate while submitting an appeal, provided it is submitted within ten working days of the formal publication of the final degree classification.  Should a change to a result be required following the appeal, the transcript will be altered accordingly and, where appropriate, an amended parchment issued.

10. There is no appeal against academic judgement.  Academic judgement is a decision of an academic body about a matter, such as assessment, degree classification, research methodology, or course content/outcome.  It is a judgement made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert will suffice. Marks will not be awarded to compensate for exceptional circumstances.  Exceptional circumstances will normally only influence the consequences of assessment decisions, eg whether a student is permitted to re-take a failed module.  Students will not be permitted to re-sit or re-take passed modules.

11. The FSAC and the CSAC have the authority to consider and address other issues which may not be a substantive part of the appeal, but come to light as part of either committee's deliberations. 

12. In complex cases, where more than one procedure may apply, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall decide which University Regulations shall be followed.

Confidentiality

13. The University will take all reasonable steps to limit the disclosure of information as is consistent with investigating the issue(s) raised and the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and any other relevant legislation.  All staff and students who become involved in the appeal process are required to respect the integrity of the process and the confidentiality of information arising from it both during and after the conclusion of the process, unless there is an overriding reason to disclose information.  Information will only be released to those who need it for the purpose of investigating or responding to an appeal; no third party will be told any more about the investigation than strictly necessary in order to obtain the information required from them. 

Communication

14. The University will normally communicate by email with anyone involved in the University process.  In the case of registered students or University staff, this will normally be to their University email address.  Where correspondence is sent to a registered student by post it will be sent to the current term-time address registered with the University. 

Notification of decisions

15. Unless otherwise stated, notification of a decision will be sent to the student and copied to relevant persons normally within five working days of the decision being taken.  If there is a delay in the decision being made, the student will be advised. 

Defamatory or derogatory comments

16. When submitting an appeal, students should be careful not to make unsubstantiated or defamatory allegations or comments about students, members of University staff or any other person.  If the University considers that an allegation or comment may be deemed to be defamatory, it may require it to be retracted or deleted before accepting an appeal.

Evidence

17. The University reserves the right to request and consider independent evidence, including medical evidence, as it deems appropriate.  Where considered necessary, a committee may adjourn a meeting in order to allow time for such further evidence to be obtained.  

Duty of candour / fabricated evidence

18. It is expected that any person involved in any University process will treat all others involved with respect and courtesy and will behave honestly and with integrity throughout the process.  It is also expected that any evidence (written or oral) provided to the University will be true to the best of that person’s knowledge.  

19. Any registered student considered to have acted dishonestly or to have provided false evidence may be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations and/or the Fitness to Practise Procedure as appropriate. 

Suspension of investigation

20. The University reserves the right to suspend any investigation into an appeal if the student behaves inappropriately.  In such cases the Director of Academic and Student Affairs will suspend the procedures and will advise the student accordingly, including the consequences of this decision on the appeal and any conditions which must be met in order to reinstate the appeal. The student may also be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations.

Right to Be Accompanied

21. Any student has 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), or a member of staff of the University, or University Chaplaincy. At all stages of the process, students will be notified of their right to be accompanied.

Collective/representative appeals

22. The University will accept appeals from one student (the Lead Student) as representative of a group of named students where the issue/s raised is the same or substantially the same in each case.  Appeals by un-named students will not be accepted.  The Lead Student must provide evidence that they are acting on behalf of and with the consent of the other named students.  The Head of Academic Affairs must certify that it is appropriate, expedient and fair that the appeal may proceed as a collective/representative appeal.

23. If the Head of Academic Affairs certifies that the appeal may be accepted as a collective/representative appeal, then Academic Affairs will deal with the appeal under the appeals procedure in the normal way. In the absence of certification by the Head of Academic Affairs, each student may submit a separate appeal.

Equality, diversity and fair treatment

24. The University has a legal, as well as a moral duty, to treat all students fairly.  The University values and promotes equality and diversity and will seek to ensure that it treats all individuals fairly and with dignity and respect.  The University seeks to provide equality to all, irrespective of: gender, including gender re-assignment; marital or civil partnership status; having or not having dependants; religious belief or political opinion; race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, including Irish Travellers); pregnancy, including maternity and paternity rights; disability; sexual orientation and age.

25. Within this procedure, where possible, there will be an equal gender balance on committees. 

Less favourable treatment

26. No person who submits an appeal will be treated less favourably as a result, whether or not the appeal is upheld.  Victimisation shall be grounds for a further, separate complaint.

Standard of proof

27. At all times, the principles of natural justice shall be observed and the standard of proof shall be on the balance of probabilities.

Reasonable adjustments

28. Students will be invited to notify Academic Affairs if they require any reasonable adjustments in order to make the process accessible.  This may include consultation with Disability Services.

Deadlines/Timescales

29. The University will endeavour to meet all timescales set out in this procedure. It may, however, prove impossible to meet these timescales when key staff are on leave, or otherwise indisposed, or where the complexities of the case warrant extended scrutiny.  Where it is not possible for the University to meet the deadlines, for whatever reason, the student will be informed.


Stage 1: Faculty Student Appeals Committee (FSAC)

30. Students may submit an appeal to the Faculty Student Appeals Committee (FSAC) against the decision of a Board of Examiners on any of the following grounds, using the FSAC Appeal Form:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not have been provided to the Board of Examiners Meeting. Evidence that a student chooses to withhold from the Board of Examiners will not normally constitute new evidence.*
  2. There has been a procedural irregularity which has had a demonstrable impact on the academic outcome.
  3. There was inadequate supervision of the thesis/dissertation element of the Postgraduate Taught Programme.  An appeal will not be considered on this ground unless there is good reason to show why such issues were not raised by the student promptly at the time they first arose.

*Evidence which was withheld from the Board of Examiners because it was of a highly sensitive and personal nature is not a ground for appeal. However, it can be referred to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs who will determine if it should be referred back to the Board of Examiners for consideration. Students must submit this evidence to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs, using the appropriate form (available on request), by 12 noon, three working days prior to the FSAC deadline. 

31. The relevant FSAC Appeal Form must be submitted to Academic Affairs within ten working days of the University deadline for the publication of results. The ground(s) for appeal, with reasons, must be clearly stated, and supporting evidence must be included with the form. Only appeals submitted on the correct form and before the deadline will be accepted. Students are expected to have attended their School Support Meeting (or equivalent) to discuss their academic progress before submitting an appeal.

32. The student should consult the University’s Study Regulations and the relevant Programme Specification to ensure that the outcome they are seeking is permissible and, therefore, an option available to the FSAC.

33. It is a student’s responsibility to ensure that all relevant documents have been included with their Appeal Form and submitted to Academic Affairs before the specified deadline.

34. Students who submit an appeal against a decision to require them to withdraw from their programme of study may normally, pending the outcome of the appeal, attend such classes or practical sessions as are deemed necessary for their continuing progression, provided they have attained the academic prerequisites for attendance. Such attendance shall be without prejudice to the outcome of the appeal and attendance shall not constitute enrolment/registration. Students must notify the Head of School that they will be attending classes or other sessions pending the outcome of an appeal. Where circumstances merit it, the Head of School may refuse permission for the student to attend classes pending the appeal. Students who have submitted an appeal against a decision to require them to withdraw from their programme of study may not participate in external placements pending the outcome of an appeal.

35. A student may withdraw an appeal at any time prior to consideration of their appeal by giving written notice to Academic Affairs.

36. On receipt of the appeal, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs, or nominee, and a senior colleague (the Sifting Panel) shall consider the Appeal Form, and any supporting documentation submitted by the student before the FSAC deadline, and shall decide whether

  1. the student has raised a prima facie case

or

  1. the student has not raised a prima faciecase; for example*, where a student:
    1. does not cite a ground of appeal
    2. clearly does not meet grounds
    3. fails to submit necessary supporting documentation (eg medical evidence) before the FSAC deadline
    4. requests an outcome which is not within the remit of the FSAC to grant (see paragraph 28).

*The list is not exhaustive.

If the appeal submitted by the student is determined not to present a prima facie case, then the appeal will be rejected at this stage.

37. If the appeal is rejected at this stage, the appeal will be reviewed by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or nominee) and another senior colleague (the Review Panel) who will either confirm the original decision or overturn the original decision. No further documentation will be accepted at this stage and the decision of the Review Panel shall be final.

38. The student will be notified in writing, using their University email address, whether or not their appeal will proceed to be considered by the relevant FSAC.

39. If it is deemed that the student has made out a prima facie case, the appeal will be sent by Academic Affairs to the student’s School for a response. The decision to refer the appeal to the School for a response prior to consideration by the FSAC should not be taken as an indication that the appeal will be upheld.

40. In responding to the issues raised in the appeal, the response from the School should include copies of all correspondence relating to the case and other relevant information, as required. 

41. The student appeal and the School response will be considered by the relevant FSAC which will come to a decision based on the paperwork submitted by the student and the School.

42. The FSAC may:

  1. Dismiss the appeal, with reasons, and confirm the original decision against which the appeal was made.
  2. Refer the matter back to the Chair of the Board of Examiners, with or without recommendation.*
  3. Uphold the appeal in part or in full, and may permit the student to re-sit or re-take a failed module(s)

* Where matters are referred back to the Chair of the Board of Examiners for consideration, a full meeting of the Board is not required. However, the Chair should normally consult with at least two members of the Board e.g. the External Examiner and the Director of Education, when reconsidering appeals. A record of decisions made through this process must be kept as an addendum to the minutes of the original Board of Examiners meeting.

43. In exceptional cases, the FSAC may decide to refer the case to the CSAC for consideration with the student present. There shall be no appeal against a referral to CSAC as this does not constitute a decision on the appeal.

44. Those students whose appeals are dismissed at this stage will be notified by Academic Affairs, giving reasons for the rejection and informing them of their right to appeal to the Central Student Appeals Committee (CSAC). Students will also be given all copies of information used by the FSAC to form the decision.


Stage 2: Central Student Appeals Committee (CSAC)

45. Students may appeal to the Central Student Appeals Committee (CSAC) against the decision of the FSAC on any of the following grounds using the CSAC Appeal Form:

  1. New evidence has become available which could not have been provided to the FSAC (evidence withheld from the FSAC will not normally constitute new evidence).
  2. There has been a procedural irregularity in the FSAC procedure which has had a demonstrable impact on the outcome.

With the exception of students from China Queen’s College (see Regulation 6), students cannot appeal directly to the CSAC without first appealing to the FSAC.

46. The CSAC Appeal Form must be submitted to Academic Affairs within five working days of the outcome of the appeal to FSAC and not later than the deadline for appeals to CSAC. Only appeals submitted on the correct form and before the deadline will be accepted. Appeal Forms must be completed in full and students must address the ground/s of appeal they have cited.  Appeal Forms which are not fully completed will not be accepted and will not be considered by the CSAC.  

47. Students are required to attend to present their appeal in person before the CSAC. Academic Affairs shall give the student at least five working days’ notice of the date and time of the meeting which they are asked to attend.

48. The student is required to confirm whether they intend to attend the meeting of the CSAC.  If the student fails to confirm attendance within the specified time, the appeal will be deemed to be withdrawn by the student.

49. If a student fails to attend, without showing good cause to the satisfaction of the Chair of the CSAC, then the appeal will be considered on the papers in the student’s absence.  In this event, the student shall not have grounds for a further appeal, or for seeking a further hearing, solely on the basis of their non-attendance at the earlier meeting.

50. Where the student establishes ‘good cause’ to the satisfaction of the Chair, then the hearing may be re-scheduled unless the student has indicated that they wish the case to be considered by the CSAC in their absence.

51. The CSAC may request the Chair of the FSAC (or nominee) to attend the meeting of the CSAC or to provide a written response to the student’s appeal.  The CSAC may also require a representative(s) of the relevant School to attend the meeting to provide information relating to the structure of the course, student performance and the basis on which the decision of the Board of Examiners was taken. If the Chair of the FSAC (or nominee) or the School representative is unable to attend, the CSAC may proceed in their absence. 

52. The student, the Chair of the FSAC (or nominee) (if in attendance) and the School representative(s) (if in attendance) shall be present while the other presents evidence. The CSAC shall not be entitled to inspect examination scripts, dissertations or other elements of assessed coursework. The CSAC reserves the right to request additional information required in order to reach a decision.

53. The CSAC may:

  1. Dismiss the appeal, with reasons, and confirm the original decision against which the appeal was made.
  2. Refer the matter back to the Chair of the Board of Examiners, with or without recommendation.*
  3. Uphold the appeal in part or in full, and may:
    1. Permit the student to re-sit or retake a failed module(s)
    2. Apply, on the student’s behalf, for a concession to the Regulations. **
    3. Take any other decision deemed by the CSAC to be fair and appropriate in the circumstances.

* Where matters are referred back to the Chair of the Board of Examiners for consideration, a full meeting of the Board is not required. However, the Chair should normally consult with at least two members of the Board e.g. the External Examiner and the Director of Education, when reconsidering appeals. A record of decisions made through this process must be kept as an addendum to the minutes of the original Board of Examiners’ meeting.

** Where the Committee applies on the student’s behalf for a concession to the Regulations, the decision on whether the concession will be granted remains with the appropriate University authority.

54. CSAC decisions shall be final and shall be binding on both the School and the appellant.


Central monitoring and record keeping

55. Minutes of the CSAC meeting, including an individual note of each decision, shall be taken as a formal record of the meeting and retained.

56. The Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall make an annual report on academic appeals to the Education Committee.  Individual students shall not be identified in the report.


Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman

57. There is no further internal appeal against a decision of the CSAC. However a student who feels aggrieved by the decision may make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman within six months of notification of the University’s final decision.  


Further information

58. For further information is available on the Academic Appeals webpages.