ACADEMIC APPEALS: The SRC Guide to Appealing An Academic Decision
Want to appeal?
Appeals should be started within 15 working days of an academic decision or result.
If you think you may want to appeal an academic decision or are asking yourself why you got a particular mark, arrange to see your assessment. You have the right under freedom of information, and Section 9 (5) of the Assessment Procedures 2011, to see your assessments and any written comments about your work. Examination scripts must be retained by the uni for 6 months.
1. Ask why the decision was made – Informal Appeal.
Talk to the relevant Academic, or send a polite email requesting feedback and a break down of your final mark. If necessary, arrange a meeting to seek clarification. Also read the course outline.
They should provide an explanation of why you got that particular result. Make sure you understand any scaling or marks deducted or changed for reasons not directly related to that particular assessment or assessment criteria.
Your questions, doubts or concerns may be resolved at this stage, helping you understand how you can improve in the future. Alternatively, you may still feel the matter is unresolved and want to appeal.
2. Appeal to the Faculty.
If you are not happy with the response from your informal appeal, you have the right to lodge a formal written appeal. You have 20 working days from the informal response and/or meeting to submit this appeal to your faculty. Include ALL supporting documentation/evidence.
Each Faculty has a designated person who deals with academic appeals.
3. Appeal to the Student Appeals Body (SAB).
If you are not happy with the response from your Faculty, then the 3rd and final level of appeal is to the Student Appeals Body (SAB). You have 15 working days from the Faculty response.
When appealing to the SAB you should try to identify areas of procedural unfairness or breach of policy with the Faculty’s decision. This may include faults in the formal appeal outcome, or that the Faculty did not fully consider all of the information provided to them.
If you appeal to the SAB, be clear and familiar with your formal appeal grounds, the Faculty’s decision, and the details of any relevant faculty or University policies.
For more information on appeals and faculty specific processes visit sydney.edu.au/students/academic-appeals.html
Things To Consider
1. Be clear about your appeal.
Listen to or read staff comments and reasons for an academic decision closely. Keep these in mind when thinking about your response.
Appeal procedures do not explicitly state what you can appeal, so clearly identify the point of your appeal and write a well-structured argument.
It is advisable to question an Academic’s assessment process rather than academic judgement. Working hard and then unexpectedly failing is not grounds for appeal. An appeal also cannot be based on someone else passing when you did not.
2. Know your desired outcome.
Appeal procedures do not outline what the outcome of a successful appeal can be. You should therefore have a realistic idea of what outcome you want before you start the appeals process and argue for that outcome.
Examples of outcomes may include a second academic opinion, a remark, an extra assessment, a different type of assessment or a change of weighting towards a particular piece of work. Reweighting or averaging is uncommon and usually only allowed for small repeating tasks.
3. Be informed.
Familiarise yourself with relevant information such as course outlines and handouts, marking criteria, University assessment policies and the appeals process.
At each stage the decision maker must provide you with reasons for their decision.
Your Appeal Rights
According to the University’s academic appeals procedures, appeals should be treated with:
- Impartiality; you should not be disadvantaged by virtue of appealing a result
- Procedural fairness
- Representative rights; you are able to access support (e.g. the SRC, a friend or representative)
- Free access to all documents concerning the academic appeal including documentation of reasons for staff decisions at all stages
TAKE NOTE, the appeal process can be a long one. Further, there have been instances when University decision makers have only placed limited importance on their own policies.
Relevant University policies can be found on the Policy Register at sydney.edu.au/policies/default.aspx
- University of Sydney (Student Appeals against Academic Decisions) Rule 2006
- Assessment Procedures 2011
- Coursework Policy 2014
- University of Sydney (Coursework) Rule 2014
The Student Affairs Unit website also has information on appeals at sydney.edu.au/student_affairs/staff/academic_appeals.shtml
Examples of appeals may include contesting marks such as fails, special consideration, or decisions that affect academic progression such as academic dishonesty.
If you have been affected by ‘illness or other circumstances beyond your control’ you have the right to be considered for Special Consideration in regards to your assessment. You need to apply for special consideration within 3 working days of the assessment deadline or exam date. If you submit a request after this time you need to provide ‘a reasonable explanation for the delay’. Requests for late or retrospective special consideration, particularly after marks are released, can be difficult to have approved. Compelling reasons and evidence for the delay are essential.
If you are charged with academic misconduct, such as plagiarism or carrying unauthorised materials during an examination, you can appeal against the charge and/or the subsequent academic penalty. We strongly advise you talk to an SRC Caseworker if you wish to appeal a misconduct matter.
If you have exhausted the appeals procedures within the University and feel that the University has still not followed its policies or there is procedural unfairness you can lodge a complaint with the NSW Ombudsman.
Other Appeal Hints
Keep and refer to any documents, emails or notes of meetings relevant to your appeal. Were you provided with clear guidelines or marking criteria for the assessment task?
If you received a late or word count penalty, check if your faculty has an approved policy for this, and that the penalties have been applied correctly. Talk to an SRC Caseworker if unsure.
If you are unhappy with the course delivery, teaching or treatment you received, rather than an academic decision, you may find the University’s complaints process a more appropriate avenue to raise your concerns: sydney.edu.au/student_affairs/complaints/
Tips for Video (Zoom) Meetings with the University
If you have a video (Zoom) meeting with the University it is a good idea to show them that you are taking the matter seriously, and are respectful of the process. Consider these tips:
- Physical Appearance – Your appearance will set the tone for your meeting. Wear smart casual clothes, e.g., an ironed button up shirt, or a neat jumper.
- Background – The University does not need to see your personal space, so use one of the virtual backgrounds. You can even add your own pictures to personalise your background. Click on the arrow next to “Stop Video” then “Choose Virtual Background” then choose one of the existing backgrounds or click on “+” to add your own.
- Headphones – Using headphones will help you to hear and be heard more clearly. It may also provide you a bit more privacy, if you are in a shared space. If you are not talking, you can “mute” your microphone to stop any outside noise interrupting your meeting.
- Notes – Have a notepad and pen with you, in case you want to take notes of what is said in the meeting. If you need to keep these notes for future reference type them into an email and send it to yourself. That way you won’t have to worry about losing it.
Appeal Letter Template
APPEALS VARY – USE THIS TEMPLATE AS A GUIDE TO DRAFTING YOUR APPEAL AND ADAPT THE RELEVANT SECTIONS TO YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES
Faculty of <…>
University of Sydney NSW 2006
To Whom It May Concern,
Introductory paragraph – I am writing to appeal
State your understanding of why the decision was made. E.g. I understand the Faculty made this decision because… or, The reason provided for this decision was….
Body paragraph – Explain your grounds for appeal and why you think the wrong decision has been made. Reinforce whatever you want the Faculty to consider. Consider… procedural unfairness, or that your circumstances were not fully considered.
Explain the relevant decision/circumstances in chronological order. This might include dates you made contact with or received advice from your unit coordinator or the faculty; dates related to the submission of work you’re appealing; or any other steps or actions related to this issue.
Include documentation/evidence where possible, and relevant.
E.g. Original decision, Letter of support –
(name of writer), Medical Certificate, Statutory Declaration
In summary, <…state your desired outcome.>
E.g. I ask the Faculty to consider the circumstances I have
Some examples of desired outcomes include…
• An independent re-mark, or
• Re-assessment, or
• Late penalty waived/removed, or
• Special consideration
Information updated on 11 May 2020. (ACA)
Important Notice and Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice. Seek qualified professional advice before making decisions about educational, financial, migration or legal matters. This information can change from time to time. Check for the most up to date information.