Academic Appeals: Guidance for Students

Article

Please have a look at this Appeal Guidance before you submit an appeal.

How to fill out your appeal form

An appeal is a request for a review of a decision of an academic body - such as an Exam Board, or Academic Progress Committee - about student progression, assessment or award.

For students challenging an assessment result, an appeal is an argument that the outcome of their assessment should be reconsidered because it was an invalid measure of their achievement. There are only three grounds under which an appeal may be made, which are explained in further detail below and need to be based on supporting evidence.

Please try to write between 250 and 500 words. You must explain:

  • what you are appealing;
  • why you are appealing, and under what grounds;
  • why your appeal is valid;
  • how you would like to see your appeal resolved.

These final two points are important: the grounds of appeal are limited, and resolutions are set out in College Regulations (such as removing a penalty on a retake). Students often request resolutions that are not within the scope of the appeals process. Before appealing you should familiarise yourself with this guidance; understand which of the three grounds you are appealing under and what you can expect from your appeal.

Is your appeal a complaint?

The grounds of appeal are quite narrow. You may feel that a number of issues have affected your academic performance. If you have raised these we will endeavour to investigate under the Appeals Procedure. This may be appropriate if you are seeking an outcome that can be offered under the Appeals Procedure. You will not need to submit a Stage Two complaint and should lead to a more timely decision on your appeal. Remember that complaint issues should normally be raised within 3 months of the events that you are complaining about.

Some matters which students appeal are better addressed through Goldsmiths’ complaints procedure. Problems with module delivery, fees, administration, teaching or feedback should be dealt with through the complaints procedure, where there is wider scope for resolution.

Unless you are challenging a decision of Academic Progress Committee or the outcome of an assessment misconduct hearing, appeals are almost wholly about outcomes to assessments.

When to appeal, and when to expect your Transcript

Appeals must be submitted within 21-days of the date the appelant’s Transcript of Results is published.

Assessments Team will inform you when transcripts will be published online. For the vast majority of undergraduate students, this happens from 1st July. Similarly, postgraduate taught – i.e. MA – students will be informed (usually on October 31st) that their transcripts will be published on November 1st. It is after these ratified results have been published that a student may appeal.

Postgraduate Research students have the right to request a review of a decision made by a Postgraduate Research Committee, including the outcome of a viva or Special Academic Review. Students must have received their Outcome Letter from the Student Centre before they can appeal.

Please note that:

  • Only finalists receive a hard-copy of their transcript. For progressing students it is published online, where it is accessed through MyGold.
  • Appeals received outside of the 21-day deadline will not normally be considered unless there are clear reasons for the delay and evidence to support this. We exercise our discretion but always seek to be fair and reasonable, taking account of the circumstances. Remember that you need to be able to provide evidence to explain why the appeal could not be submitted in time.
  • Previous years’ results will not be reconsidered.
  • Ignorance of transcript release dates or appeal submission deadlines is not an acceptable reason for making a late appeal.

If students would like to know more about when and how their results are published, they may email assessments at: assessments (@gold.ac.uk.)

Grounds of appeal: what are they?

There are only three grounds under which a student may appeal their results. They are:

  1. That their performance was adversely impacted by extenuating circumstances which they could not disclose to the examiners within 7-days of the assessments affected.

An appeal based on extenuating circumstances would usually only be considered if a student is able to provide evidence of extenuating circumstances, for example serious ill health or a bereavement or other compelling reasons. 

In order for extenuating circumstances to be considered on appeal there must be proof that the candidate was medically unable to engage with the extenuating circumstances procedure within the 7-day timeframe. This proof should normally be in the form of a statement from a registered medical practitioner and needs to be in English (or with a formal translation). Extenuating Circumstances has sections in the Academic Manual for Taught Programmes and Research Programmes, including a table about Extenuating Circumstances and Evidence.

Extenuating circumstances that have already been submitted to and considered by departmental boards will not be reconsidered, whether or not they were upheld. 

Extenuating circumstances evidence of a medical nature (doctor’s notes etc.) must contain:

  1. A diagnosis – i.e. not simply a report of symptoms experienced by the student.
  2. Dates of the period for which the student was affected. 
  3. An indication of the affect on the student’s ability to work (or in the case of appeal, to engage with the extenuating circumstances procedure at the appropriate time).

Ongoing medical conditions, disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health conditions are not accepted as extenuating circumstances. Those suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions should seek advice from the Inclusion and Learning Support Team. 

The only situation in which an ongoing medical condition is accepted as an extenuating circumstance on appeal is if there is evidence of an acute ‘flare-up’, which can be proven to have drastically affected the candidates’ ability to engage with their department’s extenuating circumstances procedure. Again, in such an event, medical evidence of the type described above would be needed.

  1. That there was some form of administrative error or procedural irregularity in the way in which an examination or assessment was conducted.

Administrative error could be anything from a miscalculated degree classification to an error in the VLE. Evidence will often be needed, but not always in cases where the error is self-evident – if, for example, there is a discrepancy between a mark as it appears on a transcript and the assessment result as recorded on the student record system. These concerns can often be resolved without the need for a formal Stage Two appeal. Contacting your department may be the best first step in many cases, as these queries can often be resolved at Stage One.

  1. That there is demonstrable evidence of prejudice or of bias on the part of one or more of the examiners such that the validity of the examination is called into question.

This ground of appeal addresses rare cases where there is evidence that an examiner’s judgement may have been affected by inappropriate considerations, such as personal animosity. You would need to have adequate evidence that an examiner was able to identify you and that the marking may have been affected by prejudice or bias. This generally goes beyond an issue of harsh feedback or comments made during supervision.

Remember that you cannot challenge academic judgement. An examiner may disagree with your viewpoint, argument or interpretation of evidence – this is a matter of academic judgement and not bias or prejudice. The design, structure and wording of exam questions are also matters of academic judgement.

How academic judgement is defined

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) provides a useful explanation of how academic judgement is defined under the Higher Education Act (2004):

Academic judgment is a judgment that is made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert is sufficient.

A decision about assessment, a degree classification, fitness to practise, research methodology, or course content or outcomes will normally involve academic judgment. The following areas do not involve academic judgment: decisions about the fairness of procedures, whether they have been correctly interpreted, what the facts are, how a provider has communicated with the student, whether an opinion has been expressed outside the area of an academic’s competence, the way the evidence has been considered, whether there is evidence of bias or maladministration.

Stages of appeal

  1. Preliminary discussion (Stage One):

It is advised that students, before submitting a formal appeal against assessment, discuss the appeal procedure and the valid grounds of appeal with their department as this may be the best first step in many cases. Goldsmiths’ Students Union (SU)Advice Team will be able to offer advice on the most appropriate course of action. 

  1. Formal appeal:

This is the formal appeal stage. Students must submit their completed appeal formand attach any pertinent evidence within 21-days of the date that they receive their Transcript.

  1. Request for review:

This review stage is for those students who are dissatisfied with the outcome of their Stage 2 appeal and would like to request a final internal review. A review will not normally include another investigation. The permissible grounds for a Stage 3 request for review are different to that of a Stage 2 appeal:

  1. There were procedural irregularities in the conduct of the appeal; 
  2. Fresh evidence can be presented which could not reasonably have been made available with submission of the Stage Two Form;
  3. The outcome of the appeal was not reasonable in all the circumstances.

The manner in which a Stage 3 request is considered is also slightly different. In the first instance, the request is considered by someone other than the appeals officer who considered the candidate’s Stage 2 appeal; this is to avoid any conflict of interest or perception of bias. If the officer considering the Stage 3 request finds it to be without merit it is dismissed and a letter or email will be sent to the student, confirming that the College’s internal procedures have been completed (a Completion of Procedures Letter).

If the Stage 3 request is found, prima facie, to be valid, it is referred to a Review Panel. This will be comprised of a Pro-Warden and two senior members of academic staff, who are not members of the student’s department and have no prior knowledge of the case. If the Pro-Warden deems it appropriate, a hearing may convened. Otherwise, the Panel will meet in private to consider the evidence. 

The decision of the Panel will be final, and will be confirmed to the student in writing. A letter or email will be sent to the student, confirming that the College’s internal procedures have been completed (a Completion of Procedures Letter).

How long an appeal takes to be resolved

Typically, a Stage 2 appeal takes between 4-6 weeks to resolve. It may take longer depending on the complexity of the case, the number of faculty members that have to be consulted, their availability and workload, and the current volume of appeals. If a student’s appeal is likely to take longer than expected they will be informed of this.

Students who are appealing modules for which they have been entered into late-summer re-sits should not expect that their appeal will definitely be resolved before they are due to sit an exam or hand in an assessment (nor should they assume their appeal will be upheld). In such cases, students should follow the resit process.

Advice & Support

Advice

Goldsmiths’ Students' Union provides an independent advocacy and advice service on academic matters.

Alternatively, you may contact the Appeals Team at appeals (@gold.ac.uk) for further information.

Support

Goldsmiths' Wellbeing Service offers support to students who are finding it difficult to engage with their studies. The Service offers email support as well as face-to-face counselling sessions.