A Procedure governing the consideration of postgraduate research student appeals

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1 PROCEDURE GOVERNING THE CONSIDERATION OF APPEALS SUBMITTED BY POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENTS FOLLOWING ADVERSE ACADEMIC DECISIONS (this document incorporates guidance to postgraduate research students) (From 1 October 2013) A Procedure governing the consideration of postgraduate research student appeals Candidates wishing to appeal against an adverse academic decision, which does not relate to marks awarded in taught elements of a research degree programme, must proceed by recourse to the procedure set out below (A1 A31). By means of this procedure research degree candidates shall have a full opportunity to have resolved impartially, and in accordance with principles of natural justice and fairness, any relevant matters of concern without fear of disadvantage. This procedure applies to research degree candidates registered at the University of Leeds and at those institutions for which research degrees are accredited by the University of Leeds (Leeds Trinity University and York St John University). In those research degree programmes where taught elements are a requirement, students may appeal against marks awarded for individual pieces of work by submitting an appeal to the Committee on Applications. Anyone who wishes to submit an appeal on that basis should contact the Secretariat in the first instance. A.1 Adverse academic decisions normally fall into one of the following categories 1 : (a) a decision either by a faculty graduate school/school/accredited institution panel or other faculty graduate school/school/accredited institution authority to recommend transfer to MPhil candidature; (b) a decision by either a faculty graduate school/school/accredited institution panel or other faculty graduate school/school/accredited institution authority that a candidate be required on academic grounds to withdraw from candidature for a research degree; (c) a decision by the Examiners to refer or fail a research degree submission or to award the degree of MPhil where the thesis was submitted for examination for award of the degree of PhD. A.2 A postgraduate research student who believes that he/she may have cause for dissatisfaction with an adverse academic decision is advised, in the first instance, to seek advice and support from the Student Advice Centre of the Leeds University Union or accredited institution equivalent (see Section E below) and to discuss the matter with the Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, Head of School or Postgraduate Research Tutor 2. A.3 A student contemplating an appeal following a decision to fail or refer a thesis or to award a lesser degree may request from the University s Research Student Administration a copy of the report of the examiners, which shall be provided after the formal acceptance of the report by the Examinations Group of the Graduate Board. A.4 Initial appeals procedure: Appeals relating to an adverse academic decision under A.1(a) or A.1(b) should be made in the first instance to the Dean of the Faculty/or Principal of the accredited institution in which the student is primarily supervised. Appeals relating to an adverse academic decision under A.1(c) should be made direct to the Secretariat.

2 A.5 The appeal must be in a prescribed form, using the appropriate pro forma 3, advice on which is available from the Secretariat see also C.1 and E below). The appeal must also be made within the specified time-limits (see A.9 and A.15 below); an appeal made out of time may be rejected on this basis alone. An appeal may only be lodged by a student (or former student) and it may not be lodged by a representative or a family member. A.6 Grounds for appeal may include assertions that one or more of the following circumstances adversely affected the decision against which the appeal is lodged: (a) that there were irregularities in the conduct of the examination or process of assessment (including administrative error); (b) that there is evidence of prejudice or bias on the part of one or more of the examiners or assessors; (c) that there is evidence of inadequate assessment by one or more of the examiners or assessors; (d) that circumstances existed affecting the student s performance of which the Faculty/School/accredited institution or examining body had not been made aware, or taken appropriate consideration; (e) that the supervision or other arrangements during the student s period of study were unsatisfactory; (f) that a decision not to grant the student a period of suspension or extension to their studies was unreasonable. An appeal which questions the academic judgement of the examiners or assessors will not be permitted. The Appeal Group/Panel may rule out either (d) or (e) above if it feels that in the particular case being considered it was unreasonable for the student not to have taken action or made a complaint at an earlier stage during the candidature either to resolve the situation or make the examiners/assessors aware of the circumstances. Faculty/Accredited Institution Consideration of an Appeal (see A1) A.7 Faculty/accredited institution consideration is given to appeals arising under A.1(a) or A.1(b). If the appeal in any way proposes action which interferes with the decision of Examiners under A.1(c), then it must be forwarded immediately to the University (under A14). A.8 Consideration of an appeal under Faculty/accredited institution procedures cannot commence until (a) the relevant Group of the Graduate Board has approved the course of action regarded as being an adverse academic decision; and (b) the postgraduate research student has submitted a written statement on the appropriate pro forma 3 to the Dean of the Faculty 4 outlining the ground(s) and evidence for the Appeal and specifying the remedy that is sought (see section C.1). A.9 The student must submit his/her appeal within two months of being informed in writing of the decision of the relevant Group of the Graduate Board (see A.8(a)). A.10 If the appeal submitted by the student raises issues which reflect upon the overall quality of the University s or accredited institution s performance or proposes a remedy which involves the commitment of significant University resources, the 2

3 appeal should be forwarded immediately by the Dean of the Faculty 4 to the Secretariat for consideration under the University s appeal procedures (see A.14) and no further Faculty/accredited institution consideration should take place. A.11 Where Faculty/accredited institution consideration is appropriate, the Dean of the Faculty 4 is responsible for ensuring that appropriate Faculty/accredited institution arrangements are made for the consideration of the Appeal. The Dean of the Faculty 4 will normally request two senior members of staff to constitute a Panel 5 to review the Appeal. Members of the Panel will have no previous significant involvement in the candidature. The Appeal Panel will follow the process set out in A below. A.12 The Faculty/accredited institution Panel will reach one of the following decisions, normally within six weeks of receiving the appeal: (a) to uphold the appeal; (b) to dismiss the appeal 6. In either event the Dean of the Faculty 4 will advise the appellant in writing of the outcome and in the case of (b) will provide brief reasons for the Faculty/accredited institution decision and enclose information about the University s appeal procedures (see A.14 below). A.13 The Dean of the Faculty 4 must forward, for information, details of the outcome of an appeal considered by a Faculty/accredited institution Panel to the Chair of the Graduate Board normally within one month of the decision. University Consideration of an Appeal (see A.1) A14 University consideration is given to appeals arising under one of the following: (a) an adverse academic decision under A.1(c) by Examiners whose report has been approved by the Examinations Group of the Graduate Board (see further B below); (b) an appeal forwarded by the Faculty/accredited institution according to the criteria outlined in A10; (c) an appeal to the Faculty/accredited institution which has not been resolved to the student s satisfaction (according to A.12(b)). A.15 The student has the responsibility to submit any appeal under A14(a) or (c) above to the Secretariat. The appeal must be received by the Secretariat within two months of the student being informed of the adverse academic decision (A.1(c)) or the dismissal of the appeal by the Faculty/accredited institution Panel (A.12(b)). A.16 When an appeal is submitted, the Secretariat shall place it before the Pro-Vice- Chancellor for Research and Innovation who will act on behalf of the Graduate Board to immediately establish an Appeal Group to consider the case. Thereafter the Pro- Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation takes no further part in the appeal process. The Appeal Group will normally consist of three members of the academic staff: a Chair 7 who is not a member of the Board but who is a member of Senate or a Professor; and two other members of Senior Lecturer status or above, at least one of whom will be a member of the Graduate Board or one of its Groups. None of the members will be from the appellant s Faculty or have had any involvement in the candidature or previous knowledge of the circumstances beyond the routine matters that come before the Board and its Groups from time to time. The Appeal Group will follow the process set out in A below. A.17 The Appeal Group will reach one of the following decisions on the appeal: (i) to dismiss the appeal and confirm the result of the adverse academic decision, in which case the appellant shall be informed in general terms of the reasons 6 ; 3

4 (ii) to request the examiners/assessors for reasons stated to reconsider their decision; (iii) to permit the appellant to revise the thesis/transfer document and resubmit it for examination/assessment within a specified time limit; (iv) to set aside the examination/assessment and require a fresh examination/assessment to be conducted; (v) to take such other steps as may be appropriate for the resolution of the appeal. In the drafting of the Report the Appeal Group may take advice from the University s Secretariat. A.18 The Appeal Group will make a final decision on the appeal normally within four months of the date of the appointment of the Group. The Group will prepare a final report which will include a summary of the grounds for appeal proposed by the appellant, details of the procedure followed, its conclusions and final decision upon the appeal. A.19 The Secretariat will inform the appellant and other interested parties 8 in writing of the outcome of the appeal. The appellant will be sent details of the Group s final decision upon the appeal including conclusions and reasoning. A.20 After the appellant has been informed of the decision made by the Appeal Group, the report of the Appeal Group is forwarded for purposes of information to the Graduate Board. A.21 If dissatisfied by the outcome of the appeal, the appellant may, within a period of two months following notification of the decision of the Appeal Group, ask for the matter to be referred for final review by the University. This review, which will be conducted by the Vice-Chancellor (or the Vice-Chancellor s delegate), will normally be concerned only with: any procedural irregularity which has materially disadvantaged the appellant; the emergence of new and relevant material that was not available at the time the appeal was first submitted; evidence that the judgement of the Group established to consider the appeal was perverse. The Vice-Chancellor (or the Vice-Chancellor s delegate) may take such action as he/she deems appropriate, and his or her judgement will represent the University s final decision on the appeal. A.22 If an appellant is not satisfied by the outcome of the review, they may be able to raise a complaint with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), providing that the complaint is eligible under its rules. It should be noted, however, that the OIA will not entertain complaints that relate solely to matters of academic judgement. Further details of the OIA s student complaints scheme are available from the OIA website ( Any complaint must be made within three months from the date of the letter informing the appellant of the outcome of the review (which itself signifies the completion of the University s internal procedures). A.23 If the Appeal is upheld under A18, A21 or A22 above, neither the Appeal Group, the Vice-Chancellor, his delegate, nor the OIA can award the degree. They may refer the 4

5 matter back to the original examining panel or to a new panel of examiners for consideration as to whether the appropriate academic standards have been met so as to fulfil the requirements for the award of the degree. Process to be followed by an Appeal Group/Panel in the consideration of an appeal A.24 On appointment, members of the University Appeal Group/Panel will be sent a copy of the appeal and advised of their responsibility to undertake an independent review of the appeal submitted by the appellant. A.25 The Chair of the Appeal Group/Panel shall have executive authority to send the appeal out for written comment by interested parties 8 and/or to seek further information from the appellant prior to the first meeting of the Appeal Group/Panel if he/she considers this course of action to be appropriate. This action will not preclude the Appeal Group/Panel from asking for further written comments at a later stage if appropriate. A.26 The Appeal Group/Panel shall have the power to determine its own procedure and to seek such further evidence as it considers necessary. This may include seeking written comment on the appeal from interested parties 8, further written information from the appellant, meeting with the appellant, meetings with interested parties 8 and evidence or advice from individuals external to the University. A.27 All written responses to the statement of appeal received by the Appeal Group/Panel shall be sent to the appellant and the appellant will be given the opportunity to comment either in writing or at a meeting with the Appeal Group/Panel. A.28 If the Appeal Group/Panel, at the stage when the appeal is initially submitted or after collecting further written information from the appellant or written responses to the appeal from interested parties 8, believe that the appeal is insufficient it should advise the appellant of this opinion, together with brief reasons, in writing. The appellant should be offered the opportunity to respond in writing. If, after giving the appellant this opportunity and considering any written response received, the Group confirms that the case is insufficient, and therefore bound to fail, it may agree that there is no case for proceeding with its enquiries and rule that the appeal (or a specified ground) is dismissed. The reasons for the decision will be conveyed in writing the appellant, and where appropriate, other interested parties 8. The Appeal Group/Panel s consideration of the appeal will then be completed. A.29 If the Appeal Group/Panel agree a case exists for proceeding with its enquiries it will invite the appellant to meet with the Group/Panel to discuss the appeal. The Group/Panel may also invite interested parties 8 to meetings to discuss the appeal. A.30 If the Appeal Group/Panel holds meetings with the appellant and with other interested parties 8, these meetings will be held separately. A.31 The Appeal Group/Panel will normally allow the appellant and interested parties 8 up to 14 working days in which to respond to its written enquiries. B Background to the examination of research degree candidates B.1 The Examinations Group of the Graduate Board appoints examiners to conduct the academic examination of a research degree thesis after receiving recommendations from the appropriate faculty graduate school/school/accredited institution. 5

6 B.2 The examiners act as an Examining Board to reach a decision as to whether the thesis and the student s performance in the oral examination are satisfactory and whether the criteria specified in the Regulations for the award of the degree have been met. B.3 The examiners decision whether the student should pass, be referred or fail is reached solely on academic grounds. B.4 The Examinations Group of the Graduate Board receives the recommendation of the examiners, reviews it to ensure that the appropriate procedures have been followed, that the examiners have considered the appropriate matters, that the recommendation is clear and unambiguous and, where a referral is recommended, that the Notes for Guidance contain appropriate and clear advice to the student. It is the examiners, not the Examinations Group of the Graduate Board, who make the academic judgement on the thesis and the oral examination. B.5 When students are referred, a summary of the reasons for the referral are contained in the Notes for Guidance, which are sent to the student. Most students will already have had these reasons explained by the examiners. A copy of the report of the Examiners may be requested by the student from the Senior Administrator in the University s Research Student Administration after it has been confirmed by the Examinations Group of the Graduate Board. C Advice on the Preparation of an Appeal C.1 Appeals must be submitted using the appropriate pro forma 3 with all relevant sections completed. The pro forma 3 is available from the Secretariat, University of Leeds, E C Stoner Building 11.72, Leeds LS2 9JT or at Since each case is unique, the form and content of appeals will differ somewhat from case to case. However, the statement of appeal should in all cases be submitted in English, state clearly the decision against which the appeal is made and the ground(s) for the appeal (see A.6 above) and should contain a full statement of the evidence upon which the appellant relies. The appellant should also indicate clearly the remedial action that he/she would wish the Faculty/accredited institution or University (as appropriate) to take in the event of the appeal being successful. The appellant is advised that the Appeal Group/Panel may for the purposes of the investigation decide to copy the appeal to interested parties 8 and that any comments made in the appeal may therefore be read by such parties. C.2 If an appeal made against a decision to refer a thesis for revision and resubmission for a PhD or M Phil or to award an M Phil rather than a PhD is upheld and a fresh examination permitted the appellant is advised that all options will be open to the new team of examiners. Options will include the recommendation to fail the thesis outright. C.3 During consideration of an appeal the Group/Panel may refuse to admit any new grounds for appeal, or any new evidence from the appellant, which could reasonably have been expected to have been included in the original appeal document. The submission of any additional evidence may result in a delay to the appeal process whilst other interested parties 8 are given the opportunity to comment. C.4 The University will meet any reasonable, incidental expenses necessarily incurred by a successful appellant. Before incurring any such expenses, the appellant must discuss what is reasonable with the Secretariat. Appeals for Faculty/Accredited Institution Consideration C.5 Appeals to Deans of Faculty 4 (see A.7) must be submitted in writing, on the appropriate pro forma 3, within two months following the student s notification that the Graduate 6

7 Board has confirmed the adverse academic decision. If the appeal directly concerns actions or decisions by the Dean of the Faculty 4, for example, acting as a supervisor, then it should be addressed to the Secretariat Appeals for University Consideration C.6 Appeals to the Secretariat (see A.14) must be submitted in writing, on the appropriate pro forma 3 within two months following (a) notification to the student that the Examinations Group of the Graduate Board has formally accepted the report of the Examiners and has approved the course of action regarded as being an adverse academic decision or (b) rejection of the appeal by the Faculty/accredited institution Panel. C.7 The statement of the appeal made to the University should be addressed to the Secretariat, University of Leeds, E C Stoner Building 11.72, Leeds LS2 9JT. D. Meeting between an Appellant and an Appeal Group/Panel D.1 The appellant will be given the opportunity to make an opening statement, in which they might summarise the appeal, highlighting the most significant aspects, and/or give their reaction to any comments made by interested parties 8. It is not necessary for an appellant to present the whole appeal as the Group/Panel has received all papers submitted and had the opportunity to consider these in detail in advance of the meeting. Members of the Group/Panel will then ask questions after which the appellant is given the opportunity to add anything and make a closing statement. D.2 It is expected that the appellant will present their own appeal case at the meeting with the Appeal Group/Panel; D.3 The appellant has the right to be accompanied by a supporter (a friend or representative of the Student Advice Centre). The supporter, however, does not have the right to present evidence. Their role would be to help the appellant to present his or her case as clearly as possible. For example, by prompting them if they omit to mention something of importance. The appellant and the supporter may confer during the meeting. D.4 The appellant may, in exceptional circumstances only, appoint a proxy 9 to attend a meeting with the Appeal Group/Panel on their behalf. The proxy 9 may only be supported by a representative of the Student Advice Centre LUU 10. D.5 The appellant or their proxy 9 should make themselves available to attend a meeting at a reasonable time. Failure to attend a meeting without giving adequate prior warning and without good reason or to make themselves available at a reasonable time may result in the meeting being held in their absence. D.6 Neither the appellant, the proxy 9, the supporter nor an interested party 8 can question the Appeal Group/Panel at the meeting. If there are any questions or concerns these should be addressed to the Appeal Group/Panel via the relevant administrator in advance of the meeting. E Further Advice and Support Students seeking advice and support in the preparation of an appeal may contact the Student Advice Centre of the Leeds University Union 10 where experienced staff are available to provide guidance. Representatives of the Centre are also available to accompany appellants to meetings with the Appeal Group/Panel. 7

8 F Student Complaints 11 All students should note that the University has a separate procedure for considering complaints from registered students against the University or any member of its staff. Details of the University Complaints Procedure are available on the University s website or from the Complaints Officer, the Secretariat, University of Leeds, LEEDS LS2 9JT Appeals against adverse academic decisions must be considered under the procedures indicated in Section A above. ST, October A Doctor of Clinical Psychology candidate wishing to appeal against a decision taken by the examiners to fail a supervised clinical placement should follow the instructions given for A.1(c). Candidates are asked to note that the examiners of the supervised clinical placements are not required by the Graduate Board s Examinations Group to complete a report form. The examiners decision is returned to the Group in the form of a mark sheet upon which either pass or fail is recorded for each candidate. 2 In the case of a research student registered at an accredited institution the head of research at the accredited institution 3 The pro forma is available upon request from the Secretariat, University of Leeds, E C Stoner Building 11.72, Leeds LS2 9JT or at 4 In the case of a research student based at an accredited institution the Principal of the institution 5 Membership of an appeal panel established at an accredited institution may be different. However, if this is the case, membership must be in accordance with the published procedures of the accredited institution concerned. 6 A decision to dismiss the appeal may be taken if the Appeal Group/Panel agree that there is no case for proceeding with its enquiries (see section A.28) 7 The Chair of the Appeal Group shall be selected from amongst the membership of a panel appointed by the University s Faculty Management Group. 8 Interested parties may include supervisor(s), internal and external examiners, postgraduate research tutor, Head of School, members of a transfer panel or any other relevant party identified by the Appeal Group or Panel. 9 The Chair of the Appeal Group/Panel must agree to the appointment of a proxy. Exceptional circumstances would include the serious ill-health of the appellant (supported by satisfactory medical evidence) or the distance the appellant must travel to attend a meeting is prohibitive to their attendance. 10 Or equivalent at the accredited institution 11 Accredited institutions of the University have their own separate published complaints procedures. Enquiries about procedures should be addressed to the accredited institution. 8

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