1.1.1 Students may appeal to the Faculty Student Research Appeals Committee (FSRAC) against a decision of their School Postgraduate Research Committee about progression, assessment and/or award or against an examiners’ decision regarding the outcome of an oral examination. If the appeal is unsuccessful students have the right to appeal this decision to the Central Student Research Appeals Committee (CSRAC).
1.1.2 The FSRAC comprises the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or nominee) and a senior academic colleague who has no prior knowledge of the case. The CSRAC is a committee drawn from a panel of senior academics from across the University.
1.1.3 Members of staff involved in all stages of the process will be independent of the appeal, from outside the School/Unit in which the student is enrolled, with no prior knowledge of the matter. Members of staff involved in all stages of the process shall normally be senior members of academic staff or senior administrators.
1.2.1 Any registered postgraduate research student of the University may appeal to the FSRAC, on grounds, against a decision of their School Postgraduate Research Committee about progression, assessment and/or award or against an examiners’ decision regarding the outcome of an oral examination.
1.2.2 There is no appeal against academic judgement. Academic judgement is a decision of an academic body about a matter, such as assessment, degree classification, research methodology, or course content/outcome. It is a judgement made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert will suffice.
1.2.3 The FSRAC and the CSRAC have the authority to consider and address other issues which may not be a substantive part of the appeal, but come to light as part of the Committee’s deliberations. The FSRAC/CSRAC may refer such matters back to the School Postgraduate Research Committee for further consideration, if appropriate.
1.2.4 In complex cases, where more than one procedure may apply, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall decide which University Regulations shall be followed.
1.3.1 The University will take all reasonable steps to limit the disclosure of information as is consistent with investigating the issue(s) raised and the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, the General Data Protection Regulation 2016, the Data Protection Act 2018, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and any other relevant legislation. All staff and students who become involved in the appeal process are required to respect the integrity of the process and the confidentiality of information arising from it both during and after the conclusion of the process, unless there is an overriding reason to disclose information. Information will only be released to those who need it for the purpose of investigating or responding to an appeal; no third party will be told any more about the investigation than strictly necessary in order to obtain the information required from them.
1.3.2 Students are not permitted to make electronic or digital audio or visual recordings of any meetings or proceedings under these regulations without the express written consent of all participants.
The University will normally communicate by email with anyone involved in the University process. In the case of registered students or University staff, this will normally be to their University email address. Where correspondence is sent to a registered student by post it will be sent to the term-time address registered with the University.
Unless otherwise stated, notification of a decision will be sent to the student and copied to relevant persons normally within eight working days of the decision being taken. If there is a delay in the decision being made, the student will be advised.
When submitting an appeal, appellants should be careful not to make unsubstantiated or defamatory allegations or comments about students, members of University staff or any other person. If the University considers that an allegation or comment may be deemed to be defamatory, it may require it to be retracted or deleted before accepting an appeal.
1.7.1 It is expected that any person involved in any University process will treat all others involved with respect and courtesy and will behave honestly and with integrity throughout the process. It is also expected that any evidence (written or oral) provided to the University will be true to the best of that person’s knowledge.
1.7.2 Any registered student considered to have acted dishonestly or to have provided false evidence may be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations, the Guidelines on Fitness to Continue to Study on the Grounds of Health and/or Safety and/or the Fitness to Practise Procedure as appropriate.
The University reserves the right to request and consider independent evidence or professional opinion, including medical evidence and/or medical opinion, as it deems appropriate. Where considered necessary, a committee may adjourn in order to allow time for such further evidence or professional opinion to be obtained.
1.9.1 The University reserves the right to suspend any appeal procedure if the appellant behaves inappropriately. In such cases the Chair of the FSRAC or the CSRAC will suspend the procedures and will advise the appellant accordingly, including the consequences of this decision on the appeal and any conditions which must be met in order to reinstate the appeal. The student may also be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations, the Guidelines on Fitness to Continue to Study on the Grounds of Health and/or Safety and/or the Fitness to Practise Procedure as appropriate.
1.9.2 Where a student is unable to participate in proceedings commenced under these Regulations for medical reasons, medical evidence will be required to confirm that this is the case. In such circumstances, any proceedings will normally be postponed until the student is deemed fit to participate by a medical professional, or the student confirms that they wish to proceed.
1.10.2 Any student has the right to be accompanied at any stage in the proceedings by a registered student of the University (which shall include a Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer), or by a member of staff of the University, or University Chaplaincy. At all stages of the process, students will be notified of their right to be accompanied. The role is one of support, not representation. The student will be expected to answer questions themselves and make their own representations.
1.11.1 The University has a legal, as well as a moral duty, to treat all students fairly. The University values and promotes equality and diversity and will seek to ensure that it treats all individuals fairly and with dignity and respect. The University seeks to provide equality to all, irrespective of: gender, including gender re-assignment; marital or civil partnership status; having or not having dependants; religious belief or political opinion; race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, including Irish Travellers); pregnancy, including maternity and paternity rights; disability; sexual orientation and age.
1.11.2 Within this procedure, where possible, there will be an equal gender balance on committees.
No person who submits an appeal will be treated less favourably as a result, whether or not the appeal is upheld. Victimisation shall be grounds for a further, separate complaint.
At all times, the principles of natural justice shall be observed and the standard of proof shall be on the balance of probabilities.
Students will be invited to notify Academic Affairs if they require any reasonable adjustments in order to make the process accessible. This may include consultation with Disability Services.
The University will endeavour to meet all timescales set out in this procedure. It may however prove impossible to meet these timescales when key staff are on leave, or otherwise indisposed, or where the complexities of the case warrant extended scrutiny. Where it is not possible for the University to meet the deadlines, for whatever reason, the student will be informed.
Academic Appeals received after the specified deadlines will not normally be accepted. However, late appeals may be considered where a student demonstrates that they were unable to submit an appeal before the deadline due to circumstances beyond their control (e.g. hospitalisation). In such circumstances, students must submit a written statement with supporting evidence (e.g. medical documentation), to explain why they were unable to submit the appeal before the deadline, together with the appeal documentation. The statement and any supporting evidence detailing reasons for a late appeal will be considered by the Head of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee), who will determine:
Students are not permitted to appeal the same decision of the School Postgraduate Research Committee or the same examiners’ decision on more than one occasion.
2.1 Students have the right to appeal to the FSRAC against a decision of the School Postgraduate Research Committee on student progression, assessment and award or an examiners’ decision regarding the outcome of an oral examination, including the following decisions:
2.2 Students may request an appeal on any of the following grounds to Academic Affairs using the FSRAC Appeal Form:
2.3 The FSRAC shall have no authority to alter assessment/award decisions.
2.4 The FSRAC Appeal Form must be submitted within ten working days of the date of the written communication stating the progression, assessment, or award decision. The grounds for appeal, with reasons, should be clearly stated.
2.5 On receipt of an appeal, Academic Affairs will refer the matter to the student’s Head of School (or nominee) for a response.
2.6 In responding to the issues raised in the appeal, the response from the School should include copies of all correspondence relating to the case and other relevant information, as required.
2.7 The student’s appeal and the School response will be considered by the FSRAC. A decision will be reached based solely on the paperwork submitted by the student and the School.
2.8 The FSRAC may:
2.9 If the appeal has been upheld on the ground of inadequate supervision the FSRAC shall recommend to the School that one or more supervisors be replaced.
2.10 In exceptional cases, the FSRAC may decide to refer the case to the CSRAC for consideration with the student present. There shall be no appeal against a referral to CSRAC.
2.11 The decision of the FSRAC shall be communicated to the student within eight working days of the decision being made, giving the reasons in full and advising the student of their right to appeal to the CSRAC. Students will also be given all copies of information considered by the FSRAC.
3.1 Students may appeal to the Central Student Research Appeals Committee (CSRAC) against decision of the FSRAC on any of the following grounds using the CSRAC Appeal Form:
3.2 The CSRAC Appeal Form must be submitted to Academic Affairs within ten working days of the date of notification of the outcome of the appeal to FSRAC.
3.3 The CSRAC shall comprise a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (or nominee), who shall chair the meeting, and three Directors of Research or senior academic colleagues from across the University, to include normally one representative from each of the Faculties within the University, i.e. Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Engineering and Physical Sciences; and Medicine, Health and Life Sciences.
3.4 The CSRAC shall observe the following procedures:
3.5 The CSRAC may:
3.6 If the appeal has been upheld on the ground of inadequate supervision, the CSRAC shall recommend to the School that one or more supervisors be replaced.
3.7 The decision shall normally be confirmed in writing to the student, with reasons, within eight working days of the decision having been taken.
3.8 There is no further internal appeal against a decision of the CSRAC.
4.1 Minutes of the meeting, including an individual note of each decision, shall be taken as a formal record of the meeting and retained.
4.2 The Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall make an annual report on academic appeals to the Research and Postgraduate Committee. Individual students shall not be identified in the report.
4.3 See the University’s Record Retention Schedules.
There is no further internal appeal against a decision of the CSRAC or against any decision stated in the above regulations to be final. However a student who feels aggrieved by the decision may make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.
Queen's University Belfast is committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
For more information please read our Equality and Diversity Policy.
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