B5-20 Complaints and appeals procedures

  • 20.1 Complaints procedure

    20.1.1 A candidate who has a grievance against the University in relation to the supervision of the research, the resources provided for it or any other of the obligations of the University in relation to the research (other than the conduct or result of an examination, see Section 20.2) may pursue the matter under the University’s Student Complaint Procedure.

    20.1.2 It should be noted that students are not permitted to appeal on the grounds of poor supervision once they have submitted their thesis for examination.

    20.2 Appeal against an examination decision

    20.2.1 A candidate may in the circumstances set out below appeal against an examination decision, whether at the first examination or re-examination.

    Students have the right to appeal against the following academic decisions made by a supervision team:

    • Not to register a student for a research degree;
    • Not withdraw registration;

    Such appeals will be dealt with by the Faculty in the first instance and should be referred to the Postgraduate Research Tutor of the PVC Dean of Faculty. Where the matter remains unresolved, the student may appeal to the Research Degrees Sub-Committee. No appeal may be made against decisions of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee (Section 12.2 of the Code of Practice for Postgraduate Research).

    20.2.2 An appeal against an examination decision may only be made in relation to a decision of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee made on the recommendation of the examiners. Given the existence of procedures for complaint and grievance during the study period (see Section 20.1), alleged inadequacy of supervisory or other arrangements during the period of study shall not constitute grounds for appealing against an examination decision.

    20.2.3 An appeal against an examination decision may only be made on the following grounds:

    (a) that there were circumstances affecting the candidate’s performance of which the examiners were not aware at the oral examination; and/or
    (b) that there is evidence of procedural irregularity in the conduct of the examination (including administrative error) of such a nature as to cause doubt as to whether the result might have been different had there not been such an irregularity; and/or
    (c) that there is evidence of unfair or improper assessment on the part of one or more of the examiners - a candidate may not otherwise challenge the academic judgement of the examiners.

    20.2.4 An appeal under sub-paragraph 20.2.3(a) will not be allowed unless:

    (a) medical certificate or other documentary evidence acceptable to the examiners is produced; and
    (b) valid reasons can be shown why the candidate was unable or unwilling to make the relevant facts known to the examiners before their original decision was taken.

    20.2.5 Candidates wishing to lodge a complaint or appeal should refer to the University’s Appeals, Complaints and Conduct regulations which are available on the Academic Registry website.

    20.2.6 The appeal shall first be considered by the Academic Registrar, who shall consult with the Chair of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee, and shall determine whether based on the evidence presented by the candidate and having studied the supporting documentation held by the University, there is sufficient evidence to support a case for an appeal. If it is considered that the request is frivolous, vexatious or outside the permitted grounds, the Academic Registrar shall inform the candidate in writing that there is no evidence to support a case for an appeal and the reasons for this decision.

    20.2.7 If it is considered that there is a prima facie case for an appeal the Academic Registrar shall gather such evidence as is considered appropriate and likely to assist a panel in reviewing the case. This may include seeking written or oral testimony from the examiners, from other persons present at the oral examination, from supervisors or other members of the academic staff, or further evidence or statements by way of elucidation from the candidate.

    20.2.8 The appeal shall be considered by a review panel, convened by the Academic Registrar. The review panel shall have the following composition:

    (a) a member of the Senior Management Team as Chair (preferably PVC for Research);
    (b) one Associate Dean or Head of Department;
    (c) one Professor, experienced supervisor or research active member of staff ;
    (d) two research degree students nominated by the President of the Students’ Union;
    (e) the Academic Registrar or deputy as secretary.

    None of the members of the panel shall be a member of staff or a student in the candidate’s Faculty. At least two members of the panel shall have significant experience of research degree examining.

    20.2.9 The review panel shall hear the appeal. The conduct of the appeal is at the discretion of the Chair, but the candidate and the examiners shall have the right to:

    (a) submit written representations;
    (b) appear at the hearing;
    (c) call witnesses;
    (d) examine any witnesses called;
    (e) be accompanied by a friend.

    20.2.10 The Internal Examiner shall be expected to attend the review panel hearing if invited to do so. In these cases the panel will not proceed without the Internal Examiner present to represent the examining team.

    20.2.11 If the review panel decides that a candidate has valid grounds for an appeal, it shall recommend that the Research Degrees Sub-Committee either:

    (a) invite the examiners to reconsider their decision; or
    (b) appoint new examiners.

    20.2.12 A review panel shall not be constituted as an examination Board and shall not have the authority to recommend the award of the degree.

    20.2.13 If a candidate is dissatisfied with the review panel’s decision as indicated in the Completion of Procedures letter, they may be able to refer their complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) providing that the complaint is eligible under the OIA's Rules.

    20.2.14 If a candidate is dissatisfied with a decision of the Academic Registrar under paragraph 20.2.6 above, the candidate may request in writing that it be reviewed by the Director of Academic and Student Affairs. Any such request must be received within two weeks of the despatch of the decision. The decision of the Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall be final.

    20.2.15 If a member of staff, being in possession of material that, by reason of its confidential nature, can not be communicated to the candidate, wishes to appeal on behalf of the candidate, he or she may, with the written consent of the candidate, bring an appeal under these regulations with the substitution of ‘member of staff’ for ‘candidate’ as appropriate.

    20.2.16 Throughout this procedure the Academic Registrar may nominate a senior member of her/his staff to act on her/his behalf in relation to any request for a review.