Download a printable version of the Academic Appeal Regulations - Research Degree Programmes.
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).
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.
3. Appeals submitted by students against a decision of the Fitness to Continue in Study Panel (see Guidelines on Fitness to Continue in Study on the Grounds of Health and/or Safety) will be considered by a CSRAC on an ad hoc basis. In the case of such an appeal, membership of the CSRAC panel shall be altered to include not only senior academics from across the University, but at least one of the following, as deemed reasonably necessary or appropriate:
The member representing central support services should not have had any previous involvement with the case.
4. The process outlined in these Regulations is set out in a flowchart in Annex 1.
Scope of the Procedure
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 Data Protection Act 1998, 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.
10. 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.
Notification of Decisions
11. 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.
Defamatory or Derogatory Comments
12. 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.
Duty of Candour/Fabricated Evidence
13. 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.
14. Any registered student considered to have acted dishonestly or to have provided false evidence may be referred for investigation under the Conduct Regulations (see Section VIII: 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 (see Section X: Procedures) as appropriate.
15. 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.
Suspension of Investigation
16. 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 (see Section VIII: 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 (see Section X: Procedures) as appropriate.
Right to Be Accompanied
17. 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.
Equality, Diversity and Fair Treatment
18. 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.
19. Within this procedure, where possible, there will be an equal gender balance on committees.
Less Favourable Treatment
20. 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.
Standard of Proof
21. At all times, the principles of natural justice shall be observed and the standard of proof shall be on the balance of probabilities.
22. 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.
23. 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.
32. If the appeal has been upheld on the ground of inadequate supervision the FSRAC shall recommend to the School that one or moresupervisors be replaced.33. 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 as this does not constitute a decision on the appeal.
Central Monitoring and Record Keeping
43. Minutes of the meeting, including an individual note of each decision, shall be taken as a formal record of the meeting and retained.44. 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.
45. There is no further internal appeal against a decision of the CSRAC. However a student who feels aggrieved by the decision may make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman within six months of notification of the University’s final decision.
46. For further information, please visit Academic Appeals.
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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