Academic study

Academic year

The University’s academic year is based for most students on two semesters applied over three 10-week terms. Within this structure some modules will be taught over both semesters, with final assessment, usually in the form of examinations, held at some point in the final six weeks of the Summer Term. Other modules may be condensed into one of the two half-year semesters, with examinations either in late January or at the end of the academic year. Referred/deferred examinations take place in late August/early September. The programme information received from your School should state clearly the assessment points during the year.

For some students, notably postgraduates and students undertaking training towards qualified teacher status, these arrangements will vary.

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Academic and learning structure

The academic structure of the University is built around two faculties (Taught Programmes, covering undergraduate and taught postgraduate degrees, and Graduate Research, which handles postgraduate research degrees) and 6 Colleges (including the Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry). Programmes of study for the majority of students will be focused on one College, but those of you reading for Combined Honours, Modular and other Inter-College degrees will find yourselves members of two or possibly more.

The learning process comprises lectures, seminars, tutorials and independent study and your programme of study may help to determine which methods are used. Practicals and field work will also be a feature of some programmes.

E-learning is also a feature of many programmes, often through the use of virtual learning environments, used in tandem with more traditional learning methods. You should expect lectures to form a basis for further reading, questioning and thought. Your written work generally forms the subject matter for seminars and tutorials. Seminars are smaller classes in which particular topics may be discussed in some detail by a group of students and a lecturer. Tutorials are even smaller in size and allow an opportunity to discuss an essay or other form of prepared work, argue a point and learn more about evidence and theory.

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Student choice

The University has guidelines for allowing students on taught programmes, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to choose options up to a certain credit value from both inside and outside their College. In practice, most Colleges make it clear that taking such options can constrain future choice within the College. In some cases, professional accreditation requirements limit the freedom to choose from outside your subject area. See the programme handbook issued by your College for further guidance.

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Student academic responsibilities

i What are my academic responsibilities?

A programme of study and its component modules must be an active partnership between you and the University if you are to achieve the educational aims and intended learning outcomes. While staff clearly have responsibilities towards you (see the University TQA Manual for guidelines for staff on good practice in management of programmes of study) you must be in no doubt of your responsibilities toward the staff and to other students. You are not merely a recipient; you are a major contributor to the quality of your educational provision.

The University’s expectations of you as a student in your approach to your academic study can be summarised as follows:

(a) You must regard enrolment on a module and/or programme as a contractual agreement which you are expected to take to its conclusion. You must ensure that you are prepared for a module or programme as a whole in that you satisfy its stated prerequisites and undertake any required preliminary study.

(b) You are expected to attend scheduled activities arranged for your benefit, such as lectures, tutorials, seminars and practical classes. You are also expected to observe common courtesies to teaching and ancillary staff, including advance information if you are unable to attend, or have to be late for, a scheduled activity. If you are prevented by illness from attending a scheduled activity, you should inform the staff concerned as soon as practicable.

(c) You are expected to meet agreed deadlines for assigned work; a penalty may apply for late submission. If you are unable to meet an agreed deadline you should inform staff in advance, but you should not assume that the deadline will be negotiated. Students attending postgraduate and other modules taught through seminars should ensure that seminar papers are available for distribution to the seminar group in good time. See: Procedures for the setting and submission of assessment.

(d) A member of staff who considers that a student is acting irresponsibly toward the staff, fellow students or to the module in general will endeavour to have a reasoned discussion of the situation with the student. If this is not possible, or fails to improve matters, the member of staff will inform the student’s personal tutor, the Student-Staff Liaison Committee or the College Dean as appropriate.

(e) If you consider that a member of staff is acting irresponsibly towards you or to the teaching and learning associated with the module or programme in general, you should endeavour to have a reasoned discussion of the situation with that member of staff. If this is unsuccessful, or cannot realistically be dealt with in this way, you should inform the Student-Staff Liaison Committee or the College Dean as appropriate and without delay. The student complaints procedure exists for a more formal approach to such concerns.

(f) Responsibility for engaging in an appropriate style and quantity of study to complete successfully a module or programme rests with you as a student. If you recognise the need for guidance in these matters, you should approach your personal tutor who will advise on the facilities available for further counselling if necessary.

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Tutorial support

Just as we expect you to meet your academic obligations towards your programme of study, so the University has a tutorial support system to help you meet those responsibilities and to provide support of a more general nature.

The University requires each College to have in place a system of academic and personal tutors, although it is recognised that, because of the differences between Schools, interpretations of this policy will vary. Each student should be allocated a personal tutor responsible for supervising the student’s overall progress. For research students this person is normally referred to as your “mentor”. Your School or programme handbook should indicate the arrangements for such support. Whatever those arrangements, you should be able to speak to your tutor confidentially if you need urgent advice on any matter – academic, personal, financial or social. You can also ask your tutor to liaise on your behalf with other members of staff or with other sections of the University.

Undergraduates will also have the opportunity to complete self-appraisal and development plans under the Personal Development Planning (PDP) initiative. This will help you and your personal tutor to evaluate your progress in academic work and your development in self-management through personal and key skills, and to analyse your strengths and be aware of areas you need to improve.

The University’s expectations of how the personal tutor system should benefit you are outlined in the TQA manual: see the Code of Good Practice - Personal Tutor System for taught students and the Code of Good Practice for the Supervision of Postgraduate Research Students for research students.

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Unfair academic advantage

Another aspect of your academic responsibilities that needs to be taken seriously is the avoidance of gaining academic advantage by unfair means. Cheating is a very serious academic offence and the University has adopted procedures for dealing with such cases with appropriate rigour, including possible expulsion.

These procedures can be found at: Code of Good Practice on Managing Academic Misconduct.

Cheating is defined as any illegitimate behaviour designed to deceive those setting, administering and marking an assessment. It can take a number of forms, including:

(a) The use of unauthorised books, notes, electronic aids or other materials in an examination;

(b) Obtaining an examination paper ahead of its authorised release;

(c) Collusion, i.e. the representation of another’s work as one’s own, without appropriate acknowledgement or referencing. While in plagiarism the owner of the work does not knowingly allow the use of his or her work, in the case of collusion the owner of the work knows of the situation and both work towards the deceit of a third party;

(d) Acting dishonestly in any way, whether before, during or after an examination or other assessment so as either to obtain or to offer to others an unfair advantage in that examination or assessment;

(e) Plagiarism, defined as the act of representing another’s work or ideas as your own without appropriate acknowledgement or referencing. Many College student handbooks contain information about the nature of cheating and how to avoid it. If in doubt, ask your tutor or supervisor.

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Attendance

i When do I have to be in attendance at the University?

The University’s regulations clearly lay out the requirements for student attendance and associated rules for residence, conduct and academic progress. Please see the University Calendar.

You should note the following general regulations for attendance:

(a) All students must be in attendance as appropriate to their programme of study by the first day of term and must remain in attendance until the last day of term.

(b) No student may be absent from classes or other assigned academic activities except for illness without prior permission from the College Dean concerned.

(c) A student who is prevented by illness from attending classes for more than three successive days must complete, sign and send to the College a certificate (available from College Offices). After six successive days of illness the student must ensure that a certificate signed by a medical practitioner is submitted.

(d) Students must present themselves punctually for University examinations in accordance with instructions given to them. A student who is prevented by illness from attending any examination or part of any examination must ensure that a certificate signed by a medical practitioner is sent to the College concerned.

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Unsatisfactory academic progress

The University has a clear set of procedures for dealing with students who are failing to make satisfactory progress in their academic programmes. See the Code of Good Practice for Unsatisfactory Academic Progress. Warnings are initially delivered by tutors or module leaders but if there is no improvement, these will be issued consecutively by the College Dean and the Dean of the appropriate Faculty. Recurrences of unsatisfactory progress could lead to de-registration. Therefore, if you do find yourself facing problems over your programme of study, do not hesitate to seek help at an early stage through your tutor or supervisor.

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Research student monitoring

Research students are required to have regular review meetings with their supervisory team to monitor progress. The aims of this monitoring of your progress are:

  • to provide you with feedback and to assist the College in making formal decisions about your registration;
  • to monitor the nature and frequency of your research supervision meetings;
  • to identify problems either in your programme of study or in the student supervisory relationship.

Research students are also formally monitored on their progress on an annual basis with a report on progress being sent to the Graduate Research Faculty. Details on this can be found in the Code of Good Practice for Annual Research Student Monitoring.

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Withdrawals and interruptions of study

Occasionally a student finds it necessary to interrupt their studies for a period or even to withdraw completely. Such a course of action should not be taken without careful consultation with those available to help in the University such as your personal tutor, your College Dean and the Students’ Guild Advice Unit. The financial consequences of any such move should also be carefully explored, taking advice from the Student Funding Team in Northcote House (telephone ext. 3890) or the Students’ Guild Advice Unit (telephone ext. 3520). Advice on the academic options arising from an interruption of study can also be obtained from the Faculty Offices in Northcote House or from the Students’ Guild Education Unit. All such discussions can be held in complete confidence.

If a decision to withdraw or interrupt is finally taken, a release form (available from College Offices, or Registry Services, Room 153, Northcote House) should be completed and returned with your student identification card to the Registry. The University’s general procedures can be accessed through the following links:

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Taught assessment procedures

For its taught programmes the University has adopted common sets of assessment procedures across the institution and its validated programmes. This is to try to ensure parity of treatment for all students whatever their subject. The programme documentation issued by your College will contain details of the assessment process but the University’s general procedures can be accessed through the following links:

All students who have failed normally have the right to a second chance at passing a module and some students, if there are exceptional circumstances, may be permitted to repeat a year of study.

Taught postgraduate students who have to complete a dissertation as part of their programme should read the University guidelines on the presentation of dissertations for the degree of Masters (excluding MPhil).

For current fee rates for referred assessments please see Referred/deferred exams

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Research students

For research students, the University has a Code of Good Practice relating to the examination of your thesis (and viva, or oral examination). Students are required to submit copies of their thesis (normally two) to: Postgraduate Administration Office, Northcote House. See also the University’s guidelines for the presentation of theses for research degrees.

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Examination arrangements

For students who have to complete formal examinations as part of their assessment, there are comprehensive details on examination procedures available from the Examinations Office website. See Graduation .

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Graduation

When can I graduate?

Students awarded degrees by the University may attend a Degree Congregation and have their degrees conferred in person. You may, however, elect to have your degree conferred in absence at another time of the year and have your certificate sent to you instead. Ceremonies are held on our Exeter and Cornwall campuses in July, and on our Streatham Campus in Exeter in January. Information about forthcoming ceremonies may be found on the Graduation Ceremonies website.

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Academic appeals

i How do I appeal against my assessment results?

Students occasionally feel that they have good reason to appeal against their academic results and their consequences. The University has an appeals procedure in place which sets out the grounds of appeal that will be allowed and the way in which an appeal will be considered. Before preparing an appeal you will need to check if it would be more appropriately dealt with under the student complaints procedure. Note also that there are strict time limits for the submission of an appeal. Advice can be sought from Faculty Services in Northcote House, or from the Students’ Guild Education Unit.

You will find the academic appeals procedure, together with a form that needs to be completed, in the University Calendar.

Details should also be available from your College.