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Why academic appeals get rejected

An appeal can be unsuccessful for many reasons. Find out why your appeal might be rejected.

Academic judgment

Staff at Sussex assess your work using their academic judgment.

You cannot appeal the judgment of someone who marked your work. Academic judgment is a guiding principle at most universities.

This is a common reason for an academic appeal being rejected.

Academic judgment includes:

  • the appropriateness of a mark awarded for an individual item of assessment, or a judgment about whether you have met the requisite learning outcomes or assessment criteria
  • the appropriateness of feedback in relation to the basis for a specific mark awarded
  • a decision regarding your award or degree classification
  • a decision on whether you should be permitted to progress, or be offered a repeat year (or other retrieval opportunity)
  • a judgment that it is necessary to pass a certain module, or combination of modules, in order to progress to the next stage
  • a decision of the examiners of a research degree on whether a submitted thesis satisfies the requirements for the award of the Master of Philosophy but not for the award of PhD
  • a decision on whether a research student has met the required standard to continue on the PhD, or should be required to re-register for the MPhil only
  • a decision on whether the academic performance of a student who is within a borderline zone is sufficient to warrant their classification being raised
  • a judgment of a Progression and Award Board (PAB), or the chair of the appeals board, on the impact of exceptional circumstances on your academic performance, and whether these are sufficient to warrant the offer of a further retrieval opportunity (or the uncapping of an existing opportunity)
  • a judgment of a PAB, or the chair of the appeals board, on whether a mark flagged as impaired is sufficiently out of line with your other marks to warrant the offer of a sit opportunity
  • a judgment of a PAB on whether your marks on a failed module, and elsewhere on the course, are sufficient to warrant the condoning of a failed module
  • a judgment relating to whether the relevant professional standards have been met, including that by a suitability for professional practice panel regarding your suitability for professional practice
  • a judgment by a misconduct panel, school investigating officer or other academic regarding whether an item submitted for assessment contains plagiarised material, and the extent of the plagiarism
  • a judgment by a student progress committee on whether you should be required to withdraw from the University, or withdraw temporarily
  • in relation to a recommendation of temporary withdrawal, a judgment of a PAB regarding at which point during the year you should be required to restart the teaching, or if you’re required to repeat the stage as a whole
  • a decision by a director of student experience or a reasonable adjustment panel on whether a reasonable adjustment is appropriate and, if so, the form this should take
  • identification or agreement of a suitable topic for a student essay, project or dissertation
  • identification of a supervisor with relevant subject knowledge for a student project or dissertation
  • identification of assessors or examiners with the requisite academic expertise.

Other reasons appeals get rejected

We also reject appeals where:

  • an appeal is not submitted within the deadline or is submitted too early (before publication of the official decision). An appeal in relation to circumstances relating to a previous academic year is not permitted as the deadline in relation to the year in question must be met
  • a remedy has been requested that is not available through the appeal process
  • the appeal does not fit within the definition of any of the relevant grounds for appeal
  • the remedy sought is not consistent with the University's rules and regulations
  • an appeal is made on the basis of circumstances affecting your performance of which the examiners were not aware but on investigation it is evident those circumstances had been considered by the examination board (for example, an accepted exceptional circumstances claim for impairment already having been taken into account by a PAB)
  • an appeal is made on the basis of personal circumstances affecting your performance of which the examiners were not aware, but no valid reason is provided as to why the circumstances could not have been presented at the relevant time (the relevant time would normally be through submission of an exceptional circumstances claim). It is not sufficient to say you were unaware of the procedure for making a claim, or chose not to do so
  • an appeal is made on the basis of exceptional circumstances and no or insufficient evidence is provided to substantiate the circumstances, or the evidence is not sufficient to corroborate the impact on your academic performance
  • an appeal is made on the basis of exceptional circumstances but the nature of the circumstances are defined by the University as an inadmissible basis for an exceptional circumstances claim
  • an appeal is made on the basis of procedural error, but there is no evidence that any error has taken place
  • an appeal is made on the basis that there exists evidence of prejudice or of bias on the part of an examiner, but no evidence is provided.

Your financial situation, or domestic and personal arrangements, cannot be considered. This is because academic decisions are made on academic grounds.

In an instance where you’ve been withdrawn from your studies, even if you provide acceptable evidence of exceptional circumstances, you may still be required to withdraw following an appeal. This could be the case where your past performance and engagement levels indicate you would be unlikely to succeed at the next attempt.

Situations where an appeal will be rejected

  • You cannot appeal on the basis of personal exceptional circumstances and expect to progress to the next stage of your course, where you have not met the progression requirement or required academic standard as judged by the exam board. This is because you have not demonstrated the required academic standard.
  • If you appeal on the basis of a long-term or ongoing condition (such as anxiety, depression or other disability) this will not generally be accepted as valid grounds for appeal because you’re expected to seek support from the Student Support Unit (SSU) or other relevant support agencies. In cases such as these, the SSU will evaluate your needs and put in place any reasonable adjustments. If you believe measures or reasonable adjustments agreed by the SSU have not been put in place, you should report this to the SSU so this can be addressed at the time. If reasonable adjustments cannot be put in place in time, you should submit an exceptional circumstances claim.
  • If you think your performance was impaired by academic factors, you’re expected to be proactive in raising these at the time so any issues can be resolved and taken into account before the exam board meets. Raise your concern informally, in line with our complaints procedure. Then, if you’re still dissatisfied, pursue the formal complaints process. If you don’t do this, any appeal will be invalid.
  • You’re expected to take responsibility for managing other aspects of your life outside your academic studies. These include finances, employment, outside interests, housing, visas or family responsibilities. These things will not normally be accepted as a valid basis for a claim of impairment or appeal.
  • You cannot appeal against a mark or outcome decided by the examiners on the basis that you followed the advice of your supervisor or tutor, or that your supervisor or tutor did not advise you, prior to submission of the work, about points of which the examiners were later critical in their feedback. The reason for this is that academic judgment from the examiners is not subject to appeal. You can seek feedback from your supervisor or tutor, although this is only advisory; you have overall responsibility for the quality of the work you submit.
  • You cannot appeal on the basis of your own poor attendance due to ill health or on grounds of disability. If you can’t attend scheduled teaching sessions you’re expected to take responsibility for making arrangements to catch up with what you have missed.
  • Exceptional circumstances cannot be considered as a basis for appeal in relation to academic misconduct. Therefore, you cannot appeal to have a penalty for misconduct removed or reduced on the basis of personal exceptional circumstances or on grounds of disability. This is an important point of principle to ensure a penalty is applied where an act of misconduct has been committed. You are expected to submit an exceptional circumstances claim, seek support from the University or pursue any concerns about the support provided, rather than commit an act of academic misconduct.
  • If you are found guilty of possession of an unauthorised item (such as a mobile phone) during an exam, this will not be accepted as a basis for an appeal where you have signed the declaration form to confirm you did not have any unauthorised items on you. This is because the possession of an unauthorised item is itself considered to be a breach of exam security, for which the minimum penalty of zero for the assessment must be imposed “regardless of whether or not they are accessed or are relevant to the examination” (see our misconduct policy). If the penalty of zero for the assessment results in failure of the module the University considers it reasonable that you’re expected to take the assessment again as a resit for a capped mark in the absence of any further breach.

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