Each year, this University receives approximately 20,000 UCAS applications for admission to primary degree programmes, and a further 6,000,000 applications for admission to postgraduate programmes. However, the undergraduate intake each year is dictated by a government-imposed cap (the Maximum Aggregate Student Number, or MASN), which means that not all suitably-qualified candidates can be accommodated. There is no government cap on postgraduate places, but in a number of cases postgraduate numbers are in practice determined largely by the availability of funding, which is limited and awarded on a competitive basis.
University policy is formulated by the Academic Council and Senate in line with the University strategic plan. Admissions criteria ,i.e. the entry qualifications and grades for individual courses ,are determined by the Admissions Office in consultation with School selectors for the purposes of implementing the strategic plan, within the overall constraints placed on student numbers by both government and professional bodies.
Most undergraduate admissions decisions are based on transparent academic criteria ,e.g. GCSE and A-Level performance. The Admissions Office website (http://www.qub.ac.uk/ado) contains a detailed description of the various entrance qualifications and grades required for particular courses, but published grades are indicative only and an offer made to an applicant may vary from the published criteria.
Some degree courses require additional evidence of a candidate suitability ,e.g. evidence of motivation and commitment in the case of Medicine and Dentistry, or evidence of artistic ability in the case of Architecture. Interviews are sometimes used to identify whether candidates have the desired attributes, particularly at postgraduate level, but in all such cases selectors are required to have clearly stated selection criteria.
Admissions Office staff are able to satisfy most queries about admissions decisions on a daily basis, and the vast majority of applicants are satisfied with the explanation given. The following procedure has been drawn up to cover cases where unsuccessful candidates do not accept the explanation offered.
2. Scope of the Procedure
This procedure is based on the University-wide Student Complaints Procedure. It covers all applicants to University credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing courses, and thus can be used by persons who are not currently Queen students.
The procedure covers the following types of appeal/complaint:
- complaints about the University handling of a query or an application for admission;
- allegations that admissions criteria were not applied correctly or even-handedly.
The procedure does not cover strategic decisions relating to the overall size and shape of Schools, or to caps on student numbers in particular courses whether imposed by the University, government or professional bodies. Any correspondence on these matters should be directed to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs who has overall responsibility for admissions.
In cases of collaborative provision, i.e. where a University programme is taught jointly with another institution, responsibility for admissions decisions may vary according to the terms of the collaborative arrangement, and enquiries should be directed in the first instance to the Admissions Office at Queen. Where the admissions query relates to a programme designed as an entry route to Queen (e.g. an Access course for mature students), enquiries should be directed to the institution offering the entrance qualification (e.g. a college or institute of further and higher education, in the case of Access students).
3. Submission and Investigation of Enquiries/Complaints/Appeals
3.1 First Stage: Informal Resolution
Enquiries about admissions decisions should normally be made by the applicant in question and should be directed to the Admissions Office in the first instance (telephone 028 9097 5081, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Admissions Office, Queen University Belfast BT7 1NN). If necessary, the Admissions Office will consult with relevant School selectors before responding to the query. A written response will be made to every written enquiry (i.e. by letter or e-mail), normally within ten working days, and this written response will mark the completion of the informal stage.
3.2 Second Stage: Formal Letter to Director of Academic and Student Affairs
An applicant who is dissatisfied with the written explanation should put his/her concerns in writing to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs, Level 6, Administration Building within ten working days of the date of the Admissions Office letter (3.1 above). The formal letter to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs should set out the grounds for dissatisfaction with the response from the Admissions Office, and include any previous correspondence.
The Director of Academic and Student Affairs (or nominee) shall then consult with the Admissions Office and School staff as necessary, and shall undertake such further enquiries as are deemed necessary before providing a written response normally within 15 working days of receipt of the complaint. When a complaint is made about specific members of staff, those staff shall have the right to see copies of relevant documentation, to present evidence to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs or his/her nominee, and to be informed of the outcome of the complaint/appeal.
3.3 Third Stage: Appeal
(i) Any student still dissatisfied after the second stage may appeal to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students & Learning) within ten working days of receiving the Director of Academic and Student Affairs,decision. A Review Panel shall then be convened, to meet normally within 15 working days of receipt of the appeal letter. However, there is no appeal against an admissions decision which, in the judgement of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, results from the correct and impartial application of written criteria. In such cases, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall communicate this decision in writing to the appellant, normally within ten working days of receipt of the appeal.
(ii) Where a Review Panel is deemed necessary, the Panel shall normally comprise:
- a Pro-Vice-Chancellor or Dean (in the chair);
- a Head of School or Director of Education from a School other than the one(s) applied to;
- a senior administrator from outside Academic Registry;
- the President or other sabbatical officer from the Students,Union;
- an academic selector.
Panel members shall not have had any prior involvement in the case. The Panel membership shall be chosen as far as possible to reflect the diversity of the Northern Ireland community.
(iii) The appellant should forward copies of previous correspondence and any supporting documentation to the Panel, and shall have the right to appear before the Panel accompanied by a member of teaching staff from the appellant? present or former school or college. No legal representation shall be permitted at any stage during the procedure.
(iv) The Panel may seek written evidence from any witness or person who in the Panel? judgement may have relevant information to contribute. Any such person shall have the right to see relevant documentation to be considered by the Panel, in advance of the hearing, and shall have the right to appear in front of the Panel if he/she wishes, accompanied by a student or staff member of the University. However, neither the appellant nor any witness shall be required to appear in front of the Panel if they do not wish to appear.
(v) Should the appellant fail to appear before the Panel at an appointed time and without valid reason, the Panel shall have the right to reach a decision in the appellant absence. Minutes shall be taken as a formal record of the meeting and retained.
(vi) The Panel findings and recommendations shall be communicated to the appellant within ten working days of the Panel? meeting. The Panel shall also send a report to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs, Admissions Officer and the relevant Head of School, summarising the Panel conclusions and recommendations.
The deadlines set out in this procedure relate to investigations carried out in semester-time only, and may not prove possible to meet at particularly busy periods for the Admissions Office (e.g. August?eptember). The University will at all times strive to respond to enquiries as quickly as circumstances allow.
5. Confidentiality and Enquiries from Third Parties
All parties to a complaint are expected to maintain strict confidentiality, both during and after any enquiry/appeal/ complaint. Enquiries about admissions decisions should normally be made by the applicant in question.
When an admissions decision is queried by a third party (e.g. a school enquiring on behalf of a former pupil), the Admissions Office may supply a generalised answer on admissions policy but is precluded from discussing individual cases by the terms of the Data Protection Act. However, a more detailed response may be given when the applicant expressly states that the third party is acting on his/her behalf.
6. Central Monitoring of Admissions Complaints/Appeals
The Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall prepare an annual summary of the nature and outcome of any formal admissions appeals/complaints for the second cycle Learning & Teaching Committee meeting each year.