Academic Appeals

Unhappy with a result of an exam, coursework or your degree? You have a right of appeal against academic decisions and recommendations made by your College that affect your academic progress.

Exam board decisions for referral and deferral exams are released for most students on Monday 7th September 2020. This page focuses on providing you with information if you are considering an appeal. Please also read the Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals


Academic appeals summary:

  • Students have the right to appeal various academic decisions and there are University regulations which set out how those appeal processes work.
  • After receiving a decision from an exam board, a student has ten days in which to submit a formal appeal, using the appropriate form.
  • While any student can appeal, they will only be successful if they meet the University's specific appeal grounds. Successful appeals must clearly show how they meet these grounds, and provide evidence to support their argument.
  • Our service can help students to understand the appeals process and support them in preparing their case. We do so by responding to email enquiries and, if we receive them in time, providing comments and feedback on draft appeals. 

The information below answers some common appeals-related questions. Get in touch with us at advice@exeterguild.com with any other queries, or for additional support. Our service is currently closed for training and planning, but we will return on Monday 14th September and we will respond to you as soon as possible after that.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have the right to appeal your results?

Yes – every Exeter student has the right to appeal the exam board decision they receive about their results, progression or award. However, appeals will only be accepted if they meet the relevant grounds - see the information below.


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How does the appeal process work?

The University's Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals set out how the process works.

When receiving an academic decision, you have ten working days in which to submit a formal appeal. To do this, you should complete and send the Formal Appeal Form to the relevant College Cases email address.

Your appeal will be considered and it may be accepted, or not. Further information may be requested, or an appeal panel may be called. After your appeal has been considered, you will receive an outcome letter which explains the decision that has been made. This should normally come within 30 working days of you submitting the appeal.

If you're unhappy with the outcome of an appeal, there is a further review process - see the information below for more detail.


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What is the deadline for submitting an appeal?

You have ten working days from receipt of results to make any enquiries and submit a formal appeal. If you are sent your APAC letter on Monday 7th September, the appeal deadline will be 11.59pm on Monday 21st September.

Late appeals will not normally be considered unless they evidence and explain a good reason why they could not be submitted in time. With that in mind, you should begin to prepare your appeal as soon as possible after getting results and you should make sure that you submit it before the deadline. If you are still waiting on evidence and might not have it before the appeal deadline, you should submit your appeal but indicate that you will be submitting additional evidence, explaining why this evidence is delayed and when it will follow.


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How will the University decide whether to uphold your appeal?

When you submit a formal academic appeal, the person reviewing it will read it and review the evidence you have submitted, to determine whether you have demonstrated that your circumstances meet one of the three grounds on which appeals can be successful. Full information on these grounds is available in section 3.1 of the Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals. To paraphrase, these grounds are:

  1. The exam board wasn't aware of information about circumstances affecting your performance, which would have been relevant in its decision and which you had good reason for not providing at the time;
  2. The University did not properly follow its own processes and this was significant enough to affect the decision made about your results;
  3. There was bias on the part of examiners, which you can prove or which you can show reasonable grounds to perceive.

These are the only grounds on which the University will uphold formal academic appeals, so their decision will be based entirely on whether you have made it clear to them how your appeal meets the relevant ground, and provided evidence to demonstrate this.

Please note that your appeal won't be upheld on the basis that you believe the marks issued were wrong. If you take issue with the marks you have been awarded, you should consider whether you have any reason to believe that the University did not properly apply its processes, or whether any of the other appeal grounds are relevant to your case.


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What can happen if your appeal is upheld?

The outcome of successful appeals depends on the individual case and the reason for the appeal, so there is no simple answer to this question. By way of examples:

  • If a student can show that there was a problem with the marking of their work, they may be granted a re-mark as the result of a successful appeal. In this situation, the marks could be increased, decreased or remain the same.
  • If a student raises compelling personal circumstances that affected them, but which they could not raise at the time, a successful appeal may mean they are able to re-sit any failed modules without a cap on their marks.
  • If a student has been withdrawn due to their academic performance, a successful appeal may mean they are reinstated on the programme.

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How long does the process take?

Students who appeal will normally have a decision within 30 calendar days of submitting their formal appeal. The University should let them know if this will take longer.


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How can you make your appeal as strong as possible?

A good academic appeal is clear, persuasive, well-structured and well-evidenced. It shows which appeal ground applies to your case, and how. Any person reading your appeal should be able to understand the argument you are making, which appeal ground has been met, and why that ground is relevant to your case.

We can help you by providing comments on a draft of an appeal but ultimately, it is up to you to put time into preparation and making sure that you construct your appeal well.

As a starting point, we advise you to think about the following:

  • Is it clear how your case meets one of the appeal grounds? Have you presented an argument that explicitly shows how this is the case?
  • Would anyone reading your appeal understand it, and agree that you have shown how your circumstances meet one of the appeal grounds?
  • Is your timeline of events clear? If there could be any uncertainty, consider including a timeline that explains all relevant events and evidence.
  • Is there strong evidence to support your appeal? Is that evidence from an appropriate and reliable source? Have you clearly explained what the evidence is, and why it is relevant?
  • If you don't have good evidence, is there a way you could get this?
  • How might the person making a decision think about your case? If you can anticipate any reasons why your appeal might not convince someone that you have valid grounds, is there a way you can improve it to address these concerns?
  • Have you considered the tone of your appeal? We tend to find that in cases on the basis of procedural irregularities or bias, it is important to avoid writing in a tone that comes across as frustrated or angry. Instead we find that successful appeals usually adopt a moderate, respectful tone basing an argument on evidenced, objective facts rather than emotiove accusations.
  • Have you sought appropriate help? The Guild advice service can provide comments on draft appeals, if they are submitted in good time, and your friends or family may be able to read over your draft appeal to give feedback on the clarity of your arguments and evidence.

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Is there a particular structure that might help you produce an effective appeal?

It can help to approach your appeal as you would an assignment. You will be presenting your argument to the reader and you need to be clear and persuasive, using evidence to support your argument.

There isn't just one way to structure an appeal form, but we find the following to be an effective option:

  • Start with an introduction explaining what you are appealing and what outcome you are hoping for.
  • Explain why you have grounds for appeal, breaking this down into paragraphs and including references to your evidence or University procedures.
  • Explain any evidence you have included, showing how it is relevant and ensuring the timeline and significance of each piece of evidence is clear.
  • Finish with a short concluding paragraph or statement, succinctly summarising your case and thanking the reader for their consideration.

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How can you get good quality evidence to support an appeal?

Good evidence is an important part of a strong appeal. You need to provide any relevant evidence and the University will not seek this out on your behalf. The more credible the source of that evidence, the better. For example, when discussing any health problems, a letter from your GP or another practitioner will be taken more seriously than if it came from someone unqualified to make the relevant judgements.

Evidence also has to be relevant. You should make it clear how the evidence supports your case and, if it's related to your personal circumstances, why it is specifically relevant to the timeframe your appeal needs to cover. Again, you need to think carefully about how your evidence shows that you have met one of the appeal grounds.

Often we find that students face challenges in getting good evidence relating to personal circumstances that affected their performance, as this evidence needs to help show both the impact of your circumstances on your assessments and its impact on your ability to apply for Mitigation at the time.


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What types of evidence would be helpful to your case?

This will depend upon your reason for appealing.

If you believe that there has been a procedural irregularity on the part of the University (ground b) your evidence needs to support this. This could be emails, instructions, assignment briefs or feedback. You should identify which University process has not been properly followed, and describe how your evidence demonstrates this. Similarly if you are appealing on the basis of bias (ground c), you should provide evidence which shows that you have reason to believe there was such bias in the marking of your work.

If you had mitigating circumstances (ground a) you will need to show what those were and how they impacted you, your ability to study and your ability to follow the Mitigation procedure, or other relevant University procedures. A letter from a doctor to say that you went to see them does not do enough to explain how your ability to study or to apply for mitigation or interruption was impacted.

The University policy states that “late applications for mitigation should only be considered in exceptional circumstances, where there are compelling reasons why the application was not made at the time. Examples may include an unexpected traumatic event, an emerging health condition, the effect of which was not clear at the time of the examination/during completion of the assignment, or a health condition which prevents a student’s ability to understand or engage with the procedures.”

When students have letters from their counsellor/psychotherapist or doctor that states that “based on what the student has reported to us, this would be consistent with a diagnosis of (fill in the blank) and that this would have impacted their studies and their ability to engage with the mitigation procedures,” this can be very helpful in establishing a strong appeal. You may wish to ask a relevant practitioner who has supported you, if they are able to use this wording, or similar, to provide evidence in support of your case.


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What can you do if you're not happy with the outcome of an appeal?

There is a review process which you can use if you are unhappy with the outcome of your appeal. We are happy to advise you on this stage of the process and details can be found in section 7 of the Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals. These grounds are slightly different to the earlier formal appeal grounds and, importantly, you are unlikely to be successful if you simply rephrase or repeat your original appeal.

As with the formal stage of the appeal process, you have ten working days once you are sent the outcome of your formal appeal.

If you are unhappy following a review decision, you can then make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, an independent body which considers disputes between students and their universities.


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Will the information you provide in your appeal be treated confidentially?

If you're considering an appeal, you might have to disclose some sensitive information in order to establish your case. Rest assured that the University will treat your information sensitively and the information and supporting evidence that you provide will not be shared as standard.

There are some occasions when the person assessing your appeal may need to share some information in order to properly investigate your case. In our experience, this has been done carefully with respect to the students appealing and thought about exactly what needs to be said.


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Can appealing make things worse? 

You have the right to make an appeal without concern that you will be detrimentally impacted for this. However, it is important to know that if you are asking for a remark and you are successful, the result of this could be that your mark goes up, stays the same or goes down.

It is also worth stating that your appeal needs to be respectful and must not be frivolous or malicious - appeals which are, can lead to disciplinary processes.

If you're not sure or are worried about the implications of appealing, get in touch with us for some advice on your specific situation.


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Can you make a group appeal?

Yes. The appeals procedure is mainly focussed on individual appeals but it is possible to submit a group appeal where one person acts as group spokesperson. All members of the group must sign and agree to the appeal.


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Where can you get more information?

We would urge anyone considering an appeal to read the University's Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals; they are the definitive document that explains how the appeals process works, and the University has to follow this document in considering your case.

You can contact us for more information, with any questions, or to provide feedback on a draft of your appeal.


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Do you have any questions we haven't answered here?

Contact us at advice@exeterguild.com with any questions you have, that haven't been answered in these FAQs.


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