Students urged to check appeal deadlines

As thousands of students receive their final university degree results, new Which? research finds that there is a wide variation in the appeal deadlines between universities.

In a snapshot investigation of 20 universities in England and Wales, Which? has found that there are huge differences between institutions over the timeframe within which students can appeal a degree grade.

While many institutions have similar grounds for appealing a grade or academic decision, the time in which students were allowed to complain varied greatly, from three months at Oxford University to just seven working days at Swansea University.

Currently the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) does not give any guidance on appeal deadlines. We think the QAA should look into these variations to make sure that students at universities with very short timescales are not disadvantaged.

Individual university deadlines:

In a report published earlier this month, the university regulator, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, revealed they received a record 2,012 complaints about institutions in 2012– up by a quarter (25%) on the previous year – and the majority (69%) were about academic grades.

Students are only able to take complaints to the regulator once they have completed their university’s appeals process, suggesting many students are unhappy with the way their appeal is handled by their university and making it more important than ever to know your university’s policy.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Universities set their own appeal deadlines and our research shows how widely these deadlines can vary. If you’re unhappy with your grade and feel you have a cause for complaint, there are ways to get your grievances heard, but it is important to be aware of your university’s deadline as otherwise you may miss your opportunity to appeal.

“We think the Quality Assurance Agency should investigate the differences we found to make sure that students with very short appeal deadlines are not disadvantaged.”

For help raising an appeal or complaint, students can use the free template on the Which? Consumer Rights website:

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Notes to editors:

1          In May 2013, Which? examined the policies of 20 randomly selected universities across England and Wales as stated on their websites.

2          The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education published its annual report on 13 June 2013.

3          The new Which? Consumer Rights website offers free, impartial advice to help people find simple ways to solve their everyday consumer problems.

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