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Academic Appeals

Glossary of common terms
FCT Faculty Cases Team APVCE

Associate Pro Vice Chancellor

UCT University Cases Team ADE

Associate Dean Education

SEP Senior Education Partner APAC 

Assessment, Progression and
Awarding Committee (also
known as an Exam Board)

DEP Deputy Education Partner

A Formal Appeal is the most common type of academic appeal at the University. It is one which is made against an academic decision or recommendation made by an Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee (APAC, also known as Exam Boards). The decisions made at APACs relate to marks and progression on a programme of study, and following the notification of those decisions a student may choose to submit a Formal Appeal where they believe it has unduly affected their academic progress. The Formal Appeal stage is the first stage of appeal following an APAC.

If you feel you have grounds to appealyou will need to submit a formal appeal form, to the relevant team, in line with the timescales laid out in the procedures. There are criteria you need to meet in order for your appeal to be eligible for consideration, and you will also be required to supply any relevant evidence to support your case. If you are unsure about any of this, there are support teams who can help you.

An Appeal Review is an appeal against the outcome of a Formal stage appeal. You can only submit an appeal review form if you have had a formal outcome to a formal stage appeal and you need to apply for appeal review within strict timescales, according to strict criteria.

This is a summary of the three grounds under which an appeal can be made:

  1. Material circumstances affecting your performance which a Board of Examiners had not been aware of before reaching its decision, but only if you can present reasonable grounds why these circumstances had not been presented to the Board before its meeting (i.e. you must provide evidence demonstrating why you were unable to present these circumstances via the mitigation procedures).
  2. Procedural irregularity in the application of assessment procedures.
  3. Prejudice or bias by the Examiners and/or makers.

There are 6 areas relating to the process of assessment which can be appealed, four of which specifically relate to Formal Appeals for Taught Students:

  1. A formal assessment result.
  2. A degree classification.
  3. A decision consequential to an academic failure e.g. termination of registration.
  4. (This one applies just to research students) A decision relating to their registration status, such as transfer to continuation status or early submission of thesis etc.
  5. A decision reached is one which no reasonable body, properly directing itself, could have arrived at (for Mitigation appeals).
  6. (this one must be submitted via the Unsatisfactory progress form) A decision consequential to unsatisfactory academic progress.

There are some things which cannot be appealed. These include:

  • Academic judgement for example of a marker, moderator or external examiner.
  • Dissatisfaction with the Formative assessment of work by academic staff.
  • Matters of dispute (these should be raised by the student under the Complaints Procedure).

Matters pertaining to the provision of a service, misinformation, issues with facilities or the quality of teaching or supervision, should be raised under the Student Complaint Procedure; these are not strictly speaking academic decisions and therefore will not be addressed under the Academic Appeals procedures.

More information on exclusions from appeal is at section 4 of the procedure.

Some students tell us that they had personal circumstances that affected them during their studies but that they didn’t know how to tell the board of examiners. This actually refers to the mitigation policy available to students throughout their studies. These procedures are the way in which the University takes account of situations where students find themselves facing difficult personal circumstances and/or personal health issues.

The options available to student via the mitigation policy are either extension or deferral. During the course of the year the mitigation committee and its delegates will make recommendations on mitigation applications. It is the advice of the Mitigation Committee which is considered by the APAC, and by these means that the ‘Board of Examiners’ are made aware of material circumstances which may be affecting a student’s performance. It is not for the student themselves to present information to the Board of Examiners; so long as you have applied for mitigation at the appropriate time and provided all the necessary information within your mitigation application, due process can be followed.

Please note, the Appeals procedure states under 3.1 a) “It is not sufficient to say that the student was unaware of the procedure for submitting a mitigation request, or that they chose not to do so at the time.” We are unable to uphold appeals where students have simply chosen not to apply for mitigation at the point of their assessment.

Chapter 10.1.1 of the Teaching Quality Assurance Manual notes that the University “measures students’ actual achievement rather than potential achievement”, meaning the mark awarded for a submitting formal assessment cannot be challenged and will not be changed on the basis of material circumstances. It is highly unusual for a student’s grade to be increased as a result of an appeal. The possibility of a deferral in the assessment/module appealed would be more a likely outcome and only if this were applicable to your case. In such circumstances we are careful to remind students that if a deferral were offered and accepted as a result of an appeal, the mark from the original assessment would be discarded and the mark for the deferral - whether higher or lower than the original assessment – would be retained.

For cases where grounds other than material circumstances were in question, such as a procedural irregularity in the marking process, the team would look for evidence that demonstrated that an error had been made on the part of the University. It would still be unusual for a student’s grade to be increased on this basis. It is more likely that the outcome would recommend a review of the marking of the piece of work. In such cases students should be aware that the mark may change as a result of a re-mark, but it may decrease or increase, or it may result in the same mark being agreed upon even after review, so students should not assume that requesting a mark increase is necessarily going to result in the desired end result.

The procedure lists under its grounds for appeal ‘Procedural irregularities occurring in parts of the assessment procedures, or in reaching another academic decision, and that this procedural irregularity, which has disadvantaged the student, was significant enough to have materially affected the decision/recommendation made, rendering it unsound’. This pertains to actions of the University or staff responsible for administering those procedures. It does not account for ‘Human Error’ or procedural irregularity on the part of the student.

Submitting a Formal Appeal does not normally in itself prevent you from attending graduation, but there are strict guidelines on who is eligible to attend. For example, students must have already obtained a certain number of credits to be deemed eligible, (more information can be found here). Therefore, if you do not meet these criteria at the point of appeal it is likely you will not be able to attend the up-coming ceremonies. There may however be the opportunity to attend a ceremony at a later date depending on the outcome of your appeal and any further study you are due to undertake. If you are unsure and want to check whether your attendance at the ceremony has been confirmed, you should contact

If you are in a position where you meet the criteria to be eligible to attend and you are making an appeal about your classification or similar, then it’s likely that you will still be able to attend the ceremony whilst awaiting the outcome of your appeal. You may receive an empty envelope pending final confirmation of your classification, but please be reassured, students are not processed in order of classification at the ceremony, and only your name and degree programme are mentioned when you cross the stage so nobody will be aware that your degree has not been conferred. Therefore, this should not impact on your experience.

If your appeal is subsequently upheld and details of your degree are updated, then your documentation may need to be updated in some way and you may be asked to return the original certificate and / or transcript and your new documents would then be forwarded to you by mail once the outcome of your appeal has been confirmed. This will not be a problem: the Student Information Desk handles this sort of thing.

For advice and information on graduation please visit Graduation | Graduation | University of Exeter or speak to the Student Information Desk.