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Should students have more than a week to appeal grades?

A pair of feet in the starting blocks

After years of hard work and dedication, UK students are receiving their final degree grades. It’s possible to appeal grades if things go wrong, but each university has a different timeframe for appeals.

As thousands of students across the country receive the results of their final exams and their overall degree mark, there will inevitably be some who are disappointed. But what can they do?

For many new graduates it’s just a case of accepting disappointing grades. They may choose to focus on other aspects of their university experience, like extra-curricular activities, to further their careers.

There is another option. Those students affected by circumstances outside their control like illness or bereavement, or those who feel there has been a clerical error, can appeal their degree grades.

How quickly do you need to appeal?

The circumstances and timeframes for the appeal process should be available on each university’s website. But, as our new research found, the timeframe for making your case varies massively from institution to institution.

If you’re a student at Oxford you have three months to appeal a grade. Contrast that with a student in Swansea University who has just seven working days to kick-start the degree appeals process.

Many universities also have cross-faculty deadlines which are fast approaching. This means that some institutions have an overall appeals deadline that is the same date for all faculties, regardless of when the individual faculties publish their results. For example, this year the University of Birmingham has a deadline of July 1 2013 for all courses (at 4pm, to be precise).

Disappointing grades + tight deadlines = stress

Having to deal with the shock and upset of a disappointing grade while also trying to pull together a compelling appeal case is stressful and time consuming. It’s especially stressful for the many students who do not realise they may need to appeal until the publication of their results.

Many students will not even know they can appeal, and few will be familiar with their uni’s academic appeals and complaints process until they need to use it. With deadlines varying so much, it’s vital that students are aware of the appeals process before they receive their grades.

At the moment universities follow guidance set out by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). The guidance governs how the process for appealing or complaining should work, and how it should be publicised. However, it does not include any guidance on timeframes except to say that complaints and appeals should be dealt with in a timely fashion.

This means universities can set their own appeal deadlines, which – as we’ve found – vary from a matter of days to several months.

I’d like to see clear guidance from the QAA on the matter, so that students have a universal time in which to appeal. How long do you think appeals deadlines should be?

Kathleen says:
10 February 2014

I have university for 3 years now. I did a big research on sme. I have always felt that I was cheated due to the fact the course director dislike me. I did go to the doctor for stress. The stress ever left me. Up to this day, the problem in my mind has never resolved. It’s like a mental disturbance on my life. I don’t think I will ever get over it. 2010 this happen, the course director was removed. But still injustice has been done to me spiritual and physically . Which is a hard thing to repair, I have tired to walk away. But it’s not working.
Please advice


The QAA code of practice relevant to appeals is here: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/Publications/InformationAndGuidance/Documents/COP_complaints.pdf

Universities will provide students with help if they are considering an appeal. The reason for a short deadline to submit an appeal is to allow cases to be investigated and decided on in a timely fashion, so that graduates are not kept waiting for decisions. Nevertheless, there is a strong case for all institutions to allow the same time to make an appeal.

At present there is little opportunity to make an appeal on grounds of ‘academic judgement’ (for example the marks awarded for an assessment), so appeals should focus on problems with the process, such as failure to take account of mitigating circumstances or because marks for a piece of coursework have not been included when marks were calculated.

Students unhappy with the outcome of an appeal can contact Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA).